Launching an online marketing campaign can be quite a challenge for most companies. Many companies hire experts to help them achieve their rankings, boost their profits and optimize conversion funnels. Hiring someone to take care of all these things is a common struggle among small and medium businesses, who often have to work with a limited budget in place.
Ben Oren, Director of Web Marketing at WhiteWeb
To dig deeper on that subject, I asked a few tips from Internet marketing expert Ben Oren, Director of Web Marketing at WhiteWeb. With over a decade of experience under his belt, he specializes in helping brands strengthen their online presence using both traditional and innovative marketing techniques. His clients include Caesar's Entertainment (WSOP), Babylon, Bouclair Home and more (including many start-ups).
His insight can help us to make the most of a startup's marketing budget. He will also discuss the do's and don'ts for any website as well as the areas to focus on when launching an online marketing campaign.
Online PR Campaign "Must Haves"
Ben believes that any business with a limited marketing budget should adopt a hands-on, DIY approach. Thus, he recommends things any business should do, even before considering hiring a professional.
1. Open a Google Business account. "Follow Google's instructions, which are pretty straightforward," he said. This is a relatively simple way to gain some exposure for your business, not only in Google search results, but also in Google Maps, Google Local and Google +.
2. Make sure your website is search engine-friendly. He suggested to check out this list from the Search Engine Journal, on how to improve a site's optimization. Ben said these advanced on-page SEO techniques will do wonders for your organic visibility online. These strategies "will improve your rankings even without a large number of incoming links," he said.
3. Read at least one post about internet marketing per day. Ben, whose specialty is marketing of the creative variety, believes that reading will open your mind to new ideas and best practices. It will "give you a better handling on the subject matter when you decide to launch a campaign," he added. Start with these high authority sites: MOZ blog, SEJ and Search Engine Land.
4. Reach out to major publications in your niche. He said the purpose of this is to offer to write a post on a relevant topic for an e-magazine or a top blog. "You'd be surprised how many authoritative sites out there are searching for quality content to publish, which could help businesses like yours immeasurably," he said. With that, he came up with two simple steps to follow. First, find blogs in your niche. He advised to check out this list for the leading search modifiers. This makes Google work like a scalpel, instead of a club. The second step is to use a web scraper to gather a list into CSV. "I use WebHarvy.com. Find reviews of each site, find contact info and email a pitch. This is called outreach, and it's important you bring something new to the table. Something you heard and read about that is 'up-and-coming'. Big publishers love that kind of approach." he added.
How to Enlist "Great Content" for Your Business
Ben understands much has been said about the idea of "content marketing" and creating "great content." Many business owners are simply frustrated as these terms are so ubiquitous now. He believes SEO and content have always gone hand in hand, adding that the confusion stems from a vagueness surrounding the purpose of said 'great content'.
"I'd go as far as saying most businesses that have branched out into "Content Marketing" do so because they read or heard that it's important, without setting clear objectives," he said. What do we need in order to obtain the desired results from a content marketing strategy? According to Ben, it's necessary to define the main target audience first, then define the content they're looking for, as well as the content they want.
The next question we should be concerned with, is who would share this content, and to what end? "If you can't answer this question, it may indicate your content strategy should assume a different direction entirely," he emphasized. He believes that each particular content piece should create interest, and have the potential to create renewed interest. This is commonly achieved by generating content showcasing a new angle, point of view or seldom heard opinion.
"Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it's vital to consider methods of distribution,"he said. The process is the same, in principle, although it varies slightly from niche to niche: locate the most influential content platforms in your field, examine the types of content they circulate, publish and share, and try to produce something they'd snap up.
An Unexpected Journey
Ben shared that he started in SEO somewhat unexpectedly. "In 2004, a business-owning friend of mine told me he was paying a large sum every month for SEO, and wanted me to dig a bit deeper to see if it was worth it." He did it, and the rest is history.
While he does not follow many individuals in the field, he regularly checks out professional websites that publish the most cutting edge content from various experts, including comprehensive guides and important Google updates. "Namely, I find I stay up-to-date by writing for, and regularly reading, Search Engine Journal," he mentioned.
He continues to do many things himself because, according to him, that's the number one way to stay ahead of the game. Ben narrated how many advisors stop performing actions altogether, focusing on consulting - which is counter-productive in such a dynamic field. Simply put, Ben believes that if you don't get your hands dirty, you'll soon find you've forgotten how to do the most crucial of tasks - and it'll be very difficult to catch up and adapt.
The Typical Small Medium Businesses Mistakes
Ben agrees that there's a lot of information on the web about SEO, and it's not all accurate. The following are the most common widespread misleading information he had encountered. These often results in some very costly and time consuming mistakes.
a. Content stuffing: this is the act of generating short pieces of content for the sake of cultivating a 'content strategy' targeting various search keywords. This method stopped working very early on, around 2006, and it certainly doesn't work nowadays. Actually, publishing short, superficial and uninteresting texts will be detrimental to any web marketing effort, by putting the site at risk of receiving a Google penalty. If you're going to invest in content, it's best to invest in quality over quantity - nix short, generic pieces, instead publish few but highly relevant, thorough, interesting and engaging pieces your site's target audience will enjoy.
b. Treating SEO as a separate marketing channel: times have changed, and nowadays SEO is an integral part of a business' online marketing strategy. Online and offline marketing channels should be as streamlined and in synch as possible, meaning that the business' marketing messages should be uniform throughout a potential client's funnel, from exposure-to-conversion. Essentially, this means that all your marketing channels - PPC, social media, PR, TV - should have common goals, a common language, and a common look & feel.
c. Doing the bare minimum: treating online marketing as a necessary evil is the most common form of wasting time and money among small businesses. Online marketing is no longer about a series of technical actions; it requires a lot of creativity, forethought, attention to detail and impeccable execution. By opting to hire a low cost marketing firm, employee or intern to cover the bases, some small businesses are setting themselves up for failure. Online marketing is not cheap, but when done right, it can be a major stepping stone for any business.
A Few Words to Small Business Owners
Although Ben has worked with some major brands, he's also helped small businesses and startups. He has the faith that SMBs can compete with more established companies for the contracts of very large brands. Though Google tends to favor big brands when ranking, over the years, it has shifted its approach when it comes to the way search results are presented - offering a surprising advantage to small businesses.
"I'll illustrate my point using an example. A couple of years ago, if we had searched for the phrase "best running shoes", we'd most likely see big brands such as Nike and Adidas dominating the first page of search results with popular product pages, whilst local stores and small brands had no real chance of appearing in those coveted top spots. Go ahead and Google it now, you'll see blog posts from Runner's World, and not just a list of shoes from Walmart and Foot Locker," he concluded.