Twenty-some years ago, the Internet was used mostly by the military and other government agencies – and maybe the really geeky guy in your neighborhood who lived in his mother’s basement and hadn’t been seen in years.
In just 20 years’ time, though, that number has increased to 3.6 billion Internet users, with more than 80 percent of Internet-connected people in the United States doing online research before buying products or services. So, that means that nearly every business today really needs an online presence – and, because the Internet is now so crowded, it also means that nearly every business needs to engage in digital marketing so that potential customers can find them, rather than finding their competitors.
Here’s a question that people often ask about digital marketing: “How can I outrank and otherwise beat my competitors online?” I respond by asking if the competitors have been involved in digital marketing for a longer amount of time – and the answer is almost always yes. So, here’s an analogy.
Picture a foot race. Your competitor starts running before you do – maybe years before you do. So, when you start running, catching up isn’t going to be instantaneous. You will either need to be faster than the competitor or smarter than the competitor – preferably both. It can help if your competitor stops competing or gets a race penalty, but you can’t count on either of those happening.
This analogy resonates with people and helps them to quickly understand how they need to be more strategic in their digital marketing to catch and pass up competitors – and they may also need to run faster, which translates into devoting more resources to the effort. I’d like to say that isn’t so, but it’s important to be realistic. Sometimes, successful competitors do quit investing in their digital marketing once they get ahead – and, in that case, it’s easier for you to catch up. Other times, Google penalizes them for a black hat strategy, which again gives an edge in the race to you.
Now let’s focus on strategy. One foundational element of digital marketing is search engine optimization – also known as SEO – where you employ best practices to use relevant keywords in website copy and in front-end and back-end tags that send signals to Google about terms for which you should be ranking.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say you put a new blog post on your site, using a keyword that’s important to your business. Google sends out spiders, which are programs that travel the Internet looking for new content. Google spiders crawl the content and, if the content has value, Google indexes that blog post’s URL. When a piece of content has been indexed, that means that, when people search on keywords used in the post, it can appear in search result pages. In other words, someone can find you online.
Your content must be of quality to be successful – and, the more quality content you provide, the better. Here’s why. Picture your building being located right next door to your biggest competitor. Customers are crowding in front of your building and that of your competitor, and they’re ready to buy. But, if your competitor has 100 front doors and you only have one or two, who will get the most customers? The same is also typically true when your competitor has more quality content than you do. Each piece of content is like a front door to your site.
SEO is just one of several digital marketing techniques and it’s usually best to use a combination of them. I have also created a video discussing video marketing and another one on social media marketing, so consider watching both of those. And then there is content marketing, email marketing, pay per click and so much more!
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