How Public Relations Drives People to Your Website.
Everyone and their mother (unfortunately) are online now. How do you stand out? How do you make your website a premier stop on the Internet Superhighway?
By Karla Jo Helms
There are many companies who are setting up an online presence partially to save money in an unstable economy, but also to take their business to the next level by opening it up to a larger audience. The Internet is such a huge part of driving leads, opportunities, and prospects for your business yet very few companies know the proper way to go about doing this.
Although e-commerce is growing at astounding rates many businesses don’t have a clue as to how to go about establishing their company reputation and brand online. This is understandable since e-commerce is fairly new and Internet marketing protocol is constantly changing as online commerce grows in popularity. It is no longer just about setting up a website and submitting it to the search engine in hope you will begin to receive visitors.
The Internet is all about focusing on your target market just like you do when you run a brick-and-mortar business on the street. The difference is that the Internet requires your marketing to be laser-focused. This means doing thorough market research, creating a rock-solid business plan, a PR strategy that includes both traditional PR and PR that is designed for digital media, a marketing plan that includes both online and offline strategies, and a website that is carefully planned to serve a targeted market with very specific needs.
So how do you tie all of this together and where does the PR professional fit into the scheme of things? Well, let’s take a look at how you properly set up a business online so you can get a better idea of why you need a PR professional to become successful online.
The market research that you do to set up a business online is much different than the market research you do to open a business on the street. The process for finding your market online starts with keyword research to gain an understanding of how people search for your product online and the reason for their search. It also involves researching the market online by listening to people in forums and on social media sites to become familiar with what they are looking for and the places they hang out on the Internet. Market research online also involves sizing up your competition by reviewing their websites to figure out how you can do things differently (aka Unique Selling Proposition).
Planning a Website
Once you know who your market is and where they are located as well as what you plan to achieve, what you want your brand reputation to be, and how you want to position yourself in your industry online, then you can plan your website so it speaks directly to your target audience. This means working with a website designer to ensure your website is laid out properly and then planning the content you want to offer on your site. The site should also have a plan for how you are going to lead your visitor to your product.
Website design and how your website is actually created and designed is crucial. You may have the best product, the best service in the world – you can pour all this money into advertising dollars, get the guy to arrive, but if your site isn’t laid out correctly he’s going to leave. People who are on the Internet are looking to get their answers quickly, so you have to design your site so that it gives people the answer quickly and to the point, without clutter and without confusing the visitor so he can navigate the site and get to what he wants.
You also don’t want to give your prospect too much information or you lose the opportunity for him to reach for more data. You need people to become interested in finding out more so you can get them to take action. This is a highly-skilled technique and must be done right in order to gather identities of people who want to receive your marketing messages.
If you give him too many options or if you put too much on the site and it’s not clear, he’s going to go off to your competition. They key point is being clear – not everyone responds to the same thing so you need enough variety in what information you are offering to appeal to different people, but you also cannot junk up your site with too much all at once. It’s quite a balance. There are many people competing on the Internet, so you better provide your visitor the right way to navigate your site.
Internet Marketing and the PR Professional
The great part about the Internet is there are many tools online for delivering your message. However, if you do not know how to create a plan for each tool you are going to use to create a buzz about your brand, you are going to run into trouble before you even get started. Additionally, you must have a working knowledge of proper Internet marketing procedures and how organic searches work or your business could acquire a bad reputation very quickly.
For example, if one of your tools for getting the message out is email marketing, you have to know your business. A lot of email marketing gets treated as spam because people don’t know how to use it properly. There is a whole technology behind email marketing and when it is used properly with an opt-in list it can be very effective. But you have to have a strategy to find people interested in your product who want to receive your messages. You cannot simply blast out messages in social media either as there is an entire art to establishing your brand through social media and helping people find your messages through organic searches
These are only a few examples. A PR professional who really knows their craft can help you tie all of this together. The Internet is a very fast form of communication and if you do not get started off on the right foot, you only have one chance to make a good impression – literally – since word travels much more quickly online than it does with a business on the street.
What’s more, you need a PR professional with street smarts in both traditional PR and online PR because both of these concepts go hand-in-hand when it comes to establishing your brand online.