MOST companies now consider a corporate website as an integral part of their businesses. The common perception is that if you get a web developer to do up your site, fill the site with product information and your company's contact details, jazz it up with some fancy graphics and wait for business to come knocking on the door.
This is unlikely to happen. First, your customers will have absolutely no clue that such a website exists. The few visitors that stumble onto your website are more likely to be the competition checking out the market and you or your staff going through the content.
Frustrated, your company might choose to up the marketing budget to promote a new, snazzy URL to the public. There will be a spike in traffic to the site but still no increase in sales.
What you may not know is that people checking out the site are confused about how to navigate through the content or been thoroughly discouraged by the lack of relevant information available, categorising the website to their memory under "rubbish".
At this stage, you will probably want to bring in a third-party service provider to salvage the situation. Unfortunately, you will encounter another obstacle.
Online marketing has now evolved into a subject that has a whole slew of jargon and technical talk like Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Sitemaps, PageRank, Conversion Tracking and Web Analytics.
Search Engine Optimisation
Search engines like Google, Yahoo, Baidu and MSN Live serve as gatekeepers to the popularity of websites.
They are akin to the modern phone directory and anyone who needs to find anything depends on the search engines to present the results.
Obviously, appearing on the first few pages of the search results means better visibility for the site and, more often than not, more business.
The science of SEO involves using the understanding of the ranking algorithm of the search engines to achieve a higher ranking for websites. You can thus get better rankings by helping search engines do their job.
This can involve having an accessible website with a detailed sitemap; descriptive URLs, title tags and meta data that are compelling and relevant; and content that comprises well structured and visible text.
A well-thought-out website that is both navigable by both machine (the search engine webcrawler) and humans (your customers) is one that is optimised.
Search Engine Marketing
The search engine people (Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page as well as Jerry Young from Yahoo) saw the opportunity for advertisers to pay for placements of ads on the first few pages of their results.
These people are now rich, lauded for their insight and hailed as major influencers in the corporate arena.
No charges are imposed for ads appearing. A cost is applied only when the ads are clicked on. However, a different set of complexities has surfaced. With the realisation that each click will cost you money, it is now crucial to ensure your campaigns are well run and managed so as to achieve a good return on investment (ROI).
A hypothetical (and extreme) negative example would be a fruit distributor advertising by using the keyword "apple" and getting lots of enquiries from IT fanatics clamouring for their iPhone fix.
Having a good SEM campaign is all about monitoring and tracking the keywords and ads that are used. Doing keyword research, replacing ineffective keywords and revising ad copy are part and parcel of the work involved. Unsurprisingly, SEM and Conversion Tracking are intrinsically linked.
Conversion Tracking, Web Analytics
To measure ROI, you must delve into what visitors actually saw and did on your website using various software tools.
What was the combination of SEO, SEM and website design that would result in a higher percentage of visitors doing performing "desirable" actions such as registering or buying online?
By answering questions like these, you can extract optimum benefits from advertising online.