As already pointed out in the first part of this series, an organization’s website is the lynchpin for most successful online marketing strategies. After all, the goal is to direct more traffic to your website. A Facebook company page or similar tools cannot substitute a company’s owned web presence. There are three powerful reasons why. This part of the series explains them all.
It is true, there are some examples of being successful without a website. And Facebook, as the ubiquitous social network, certainly has extended its options for achieving this in recent years. But at the very least, this depends on the industry you are in. Facebook and the likes are not suitable for everybody. And even industries that fit should keep some serious disadvantages in mind.
To get specific: The German edition of men’s magazine FHM scrapped their website in 2010 and tried to rely completely on Facebook. Their domain just redirected to the Facebook company page. But about a year later the publisher canceled this strategy without fanfare. I can only suppose this experiment did not come quite cheap. As far as I know the company never discussed the whole matter at all. I would argue, though, that some possible gains (less hosting costs, less coding efforts) were more than set off by the following downsides.
When you get rid of your website and have to rely on your social media presence alone, the first thing you lose is control. You make yourself dependent on some 3rd party service. The terms and conditions might be changed any day if the social network chooses to. If you decline to accept the new terms, you will have to say good riddance and start from scratch with your website. Additionally, you will lose all clients’ data because they are stored on the network and stay there.
But there is more to file under dependency. Even with some more options for company pages available, the design framework is pretty limited in general. And again, if the network modifies the design for some reason – well, stuff happens. Case in point being when Facebook changed to its new timeline. No surprise here: changes are not done for the benefit of the company page publisher but Facebook’s bottom line. It is not „How could we maximize the outcome of the publisher?“ But rather „What can we do to get more out of the network for us?“
The next one may seem far-off when talking about juggernauts like Facebook or Google Plus. But it is still a valid question: What happens if one of these services stop working next week? All data is lost, and you have to start over again. That also applies to hosting companies providing user-friendly website template builders. Should they cease to exist so does your website. You cannot just save your data and upload the whole site to another server. It doesn’t matter if you prefer a self-designed framework or an up-to-date CMS. That one is decided by functionality and personal taste. But you need to make sure that any transmission goes smoothly.
2. Data Security and Data Sovereignty
Opting for a social network site only also means sharing all data with them and losing access to customer data. The network will only provide you with data it deems necessary. Furthermore, you may not care if the network in question complies with your country’s jurisdiction, but your customers may well do, remembering some data leak scandals of the recent past. Only with running your website you can guarantee it abides by the respective laws. Add to it your access to all data including analysing, keeping, and applying whatever metrics you fancy to it.
Although it is possible to close deals via social networks nowadays, it may put off other customers. So-called F-commerce is still in its infancy. In contrast, having established interfaces and trusted payment standards, like PayPal or credit cards, available on your site still feels way more trustworthy to most clients. Lastly, don’t forget – your whole target audience may be online today, but they do not all use the same social network.
3. Layout and Conversion Rate
This is not just arguing for your website. Above all, it is why this site should be on the top of your online marketing agenda. Only if the site is designed appropriately, and maintained properly it can be the lynchpin for your online marketing success.
It’s not just because you alone call the shots for layout and design. This is just the starting point. After all, whatever you do online marketing-wise (be it SEO, ad campaigns, social media marketing etc.), what you aim for is to increase the traffic to your site. But that only makes sense if your visitors use the site as you intend them to. Like buying a product, subscribing for a newsletter, getting in contact with you, etc. This is called Conversion Rate, a kind of holy grail in online marketing.
For your website becoming a success it firstly has to be able to generate a reliable high number of visitors for different marketing channels. Secondly, it has to achieve a high conversion rate. These two metrics determine the website’s structure.
How To Structure a Successful Website
When you look at the two aforementioned key metrics your main targets become obvious: You have to reach out to both an engine – namely the search engine Google – and humans.
To please Google, you need to fine-tune your website according to the search terms people use when looking for your services or products. Various tools will help you to find out which terms are popular in different regions. Not least, Google itself offers its free AdWords Keyword Planner.
Afterwards, you will have to come up with content convincing Google these search terms are indeed the most important on your site. You do this by mentioning them in your copy, and putting them in your page title, description, URL, headlines and metadata. (For more on this see the link at the bottom of the article.)
To be attractive to your human audience and to turn visitors into paying customers you need: an appealing and ultra user-friendly design on all pages while speaking directly and convincingly to your target group’s needs at the same time. Imagine yourself clicking on an online ad for men´s leather boots – and being directed to an online shoe shop, yes, but with only high heels and flip-flops on its homepage. You would certainly think you’re wrong and leave the site.
Successfully delivering useful content to prospective customers also means offering them real solutions in an appealing way. (For more on treatment and design see the links at the bottom of the article.)
What’s Next in Our Online Marketing Series?
The next part will introduce you to Social Media Marketing. We will present the most important social media channels, their target audiences, and we will tell you which is good for what purposes. Additionally, we will discuss the basics of communication and interaction regarding to social networks, forums etc.