Online success can be defined differently by individual marketers, advertisers, and content creators. It depends on each individual’s purpose. I offer these 7 Steps to Online Success as a guide for those who want to operate a successful website. Follow these simple practices and you’ll see how easy it can be to succeed.
The 7 Steps to Online Success:
- Know Your Purpose
- Create Valuable Content
- Optimize Content and Meta Info
- Promote Yourself
- Make Conversions
- Analyze the Data
- Rinse, Wash and Repeat
1. Know Your Purpose
To be successful online, you must know your purpose. Ask yourself “What’s the purpose of my site?” The answer to that question is key for two reasons. First, it helps you determine what your goals are. Setting goals now will allow you to measure your success later. We’ll talk more about goals in Step 6.
Second, it helps you determine your optimal search path. When searching the internet, people are often looking for a solution to a specific problem. They want you to solve it for them. So, by fully understanding your purpose, you can infer how a potential market would come to find you. Therefore, you can optimize for the search path your target market would most likely use to find your site.
2. Create Valuable Content
We’ve all heard that content is king. Some have even said that content is the kingdom. Others claim that content is king and context is the kingdom. Whichever metaphor you prefer, the point is that content is the most important piece of the puzzle. The more valuable the content, the easier promotion and conversion becomes. To be considered valuable however, content must be unique. It must be something that people in your target market want, and can’t find elsewhere. So, create content that helps them in some way or another.
There are many types of content you can provide. The type of content you choose will set the tone of your site. You can publish videos, images, articles, case studies, reviews, etc. Depending on the main purpose of your site, certain types of content may be more appropriate. Look at other sites within your industry to get an idea of which content types they are using. These will most likely be appropriate for you as well, but don’t be afraid to be different. Maybe you can fill a niche by offering content that is unlike your competitors.
3. Optimize Content and Meta Info
After creating your valuable content, you should optimize it before publishing. Content should always be optimized for humans first and search engines second. In order to be optimized properly, research should be done regarding the specific topic, the main purpose of your site, and your particular industry as well as general online search trends. This research will help you see how small modifications in wording could increase the content’s value.
Elements within your content to pay special attention to are the page slug, header, sub headers, alt tags for all images, and use of keywords or key phrases. It’s also a good idea to optimize meta information. This is the information that is associated with your content, but isn’t actually a part of it. For instance, having simple and semantic page titles and well written meta descriptions can increase search ranking considerably.
4. Promote Yourself
So your valuable, optimized content has been published. That’s great! But who knows about it? This is the time to promote yourself. You should share your content in any and all possible ways. This includes social networking, social bookmarking, and social media sites. These are all great places to spread the word. Depending on the nature of your content, certain sites will generate more referral traffic than others.
Other ways to share your content are through web feeds and email newsletters. Also, Guest blogging on another site could introduce you and your content to a new market. Even leaving meaningful comments on other sites or helping other users on forums related to your industry can gain you access to new markets.
5. Make Conversions
All of the work you’ve done so far will be in vain if you can’t manage to get conversions! In internet marketing terms, a conversion is some activity that occurs due to a subtle or direct request from the content creator for the visitor to take the action. It could be a product sale, mailing list signup, software download, or event registration, as long as it helps you achieve your goals somehow.
One way to increase your conversion rate and reduce your visitor bounce rate is by optimizing for usability. A/B testing can be used to determine the best response, but that’s jumping ahead to step 6. However it’s done, a clear call to action is needed. This usually takes the shape of a big button designed to grab attention. Ideally, there should be only one call to action per page.
After clicking the call to action, the prospect is usually asked to insert some kind of contact information into a form. The form should be simple, easy, and clear. You should only ask for information that you really need, and only require information that is absolutely necessary. If you ask for too much, or make it difficult to understand, you risk disenfranchising your prospect. To increase clarity of your form, use descriptive labels, tooltips, and a well organized layout. Don’t forget about feedback for the user after the form has been completed, or if the form wasn’t completed for some reason.
6. Analyze the Data
How do you know if your efforts are paying off? If you’re making conversions, you know something is working. However you don’t really know what’s working or how well it’s working. Setting up some kind of analytics tracking on your site is vital. There are many analytics programs and services out there. Some are free, and some cost money. Many web hosts also provide stats with web hosting packages. As mentioned in step 1, creating goals for yourself is important because they allow you to have a baseline for comparison with your initial analytics data. This is what tells you if you are in fact successful or not.
Whatever program or service you use, studying the data allows you to gain insight into your visitors. You can measure things like overall hits, individual visitors, and page load speed. You can find out the geographic location of visitors, which operating system and browser version they’re using, and even their screen size and resolution. You can keep track of which sites they were referred from and what percentage of visitors become conversions. In this way, you can figure out which methods of promotion are working well and which ones aren’t. You can also discover which search terms were used to find your site and how visitors navigate through your site
7. Rinse, Wash and Repeat
Now go back to step 1 and repeat the cycle. Using the knowledge gleaned from studying analytics data, you may have a better idea of what your actual goals should be. The purpose of your site probably shouldn’t change, but if it did change (for a really good reason) you’ll also need to adjust your goals and optimal search path to match. In step 2, try to create better content or add a different type of content for added value. In particular, keep in mind the previously used search terms as well as the most popular content on your site. In step 3, as well as having a better idea of how to optimize your new content, you can optimize existing content differently. This is especially useful for content that didn’t attract much traffic before. The rest of the steps should be followed as they’re described above. Each time you cycle through these seven steps, your content should become more valuable and your conversion rate should increase.
What does online success mean to you? Regardless of the answer, I hope the 7 Steps to Online Success I’ve shared here can give you the guidance you need to meet your goals, or even surpass them. It might not happen overnight, so stay persistent, stay creative, and stay true to your purpose.