March 4, 2021
Digital Marketers are always excited to hit the ground running on new campaigns and projects, but some issues can quickly turn into roadblocks. Luckily, some basic strategic planning can help you avoid throwing time and money into marketing campaigns that lack a solid foundation. Here are some of the commonly missing fundamental features that can get in the way of your digital marketing success:
1. Website Features
If your marketers want to create on-site blog posts, but your website doesn’t include a blog, that will obviously hamper their plans. Luckily, this can be easily addressed depending on the software platform used to create your website.
Some marketers will also be looking for more advanced features, like Rich Snippets. These allow you to add particular information to web pages. This information can be displayed in search engine results. Examples include author information in the case of blog posts, and product prices in the case of eCommerce items.
Whenever possible, involve your marketers in the project plan for building or rebuilding your website. If you’re hiring a new marketing agency, be sure to ask them what features they think your next website should include. You’ll learn a lot. If they tell you something drastic, such as that your site isn’t mobile-friendly and that it needs to be rebuilt, do the math with them. When marketers don’t want to start marketing immediately, there’s usually a very good reason. Remember that they have a vested interest in starting your marketing campaigns.
2. Access & Flexibility
Having features is one thing. Being able to use them effectively is another. If you aren’t able to share necessary access to your web hosting environment and website administration software, you’re essentially leaving your marketers locked out in the cold.
This often happens when you don’t own your website, or you’re working with a vendor that won’t share access to your site.
Before beginning on a digital marketing campaign, it should be clear who will be responsible for things like placing tracking codes within your website, posting content, or making other adjustments. It’s ok to limit certain access for security and accountability reasons, but it’s crucial to have a plan of action that everyone has agreed to.
Learn what access your marketers will need before planning any marketing campaigns, and review this information to make sure that you can indeed provide it. When needed, come up with “Plan B”, having your marketers work hand-in-hand with your website developers and or website administrators. When all else fails, move on to “Plan C”, and consider new hosting and/or web development vendors. Your business shouldn’t be consistently held up by a vendor. Successful marketing requires a certain degree of freedom and flexibility in order to keep the momentum growing.
Having a working website on a normal day is not the same as having a working website during a traffic spike. Websites fail during peak traffic events for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s because of coding or resources within the website itself that aren’t built to support large bursts of traffic. In other cases, it’s because your web hosting infrastructure, configuration, and optimization aren’t sufficient to meet your peak traffic needs.
Start with a website load-test to identify bottlenecks that will arise as your site experiences more traffic. In some cases, you’ll need more hosting resources. In others, you’ll need to make adjustments to your website itself.
Your website’s loading speed will impact a wide range of marketing outcomes. Website visitors are likely to bounce off of your website if your site isn’t fast enough to meet their expectations. In fact, according to Google, “as page load time goes from one second to 10 seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing increases 123%.”
Page speeds will also impact marketing campaigns before folks have a chance to visit your website. Google and other search engines take loading speeds into account when determining where you’ll rank in organic search results.
Paid advertising platforms like Google Ads take your site speeds into account when coming up with an automated Landing Page Score, which is used to determine the quality of your campaign. Low Landing Page Scores will lead to paying more for clicks and having your ads shown less often or less prominently.
Run website speed tests on your site to determine how you fair. JetRails provides a Time to First Byte (TTFB) test that can help identify if your web hosting is a major contributor to your loading speed challenges. Other popular testing solutions include GTMetrix, Google Web.dev, and WebPageTest. Once you know what’s holding you back, have your web hosts and web developers can work to alleviate the issues. This may include everything from upgrading hosting to deploying a content delivery network (CDN) like Cloudflare, to better optimize the loading of your website.
Marketing can make up for a lot of shortcomings, but a security incident isn’t one of them. If your site is hacked, it will cause harm to your brand and in many cases your search engine rankings and other marketing deliverables.
On a more basic level, every page on your website should be loading securely over HTTPS, not HTTP. Website visitors don’t trust filling out forms or taking other actions on sites that don’t have even this most basic of security protocols in place. Similarly, search engines can take this into account as well when determining your rankings.
Be proactive about security. Run a website security test and be sure that your hosting account includes basics like a properly configured Web Application Firewall (WAF), Malware Scanner, and Intrusion Detection System (IDS). Better yet, work with a web host that monitors these for you 24/7. At the same time, be sure that your site and any website plugins or extensions that you have installed are up-to-date, and your hosting software, like Linux and PHP, are up-to-date too. Also, be sure your site is being backed up to a secure off-server location just in case you ever need to restore a copy. This may sound like a lot to manage, but good vendors will make take care of all of this for you.
Beyond scalability and speed, website visitors expect a consistent, error-free experience on your site. If your website itself or your web hosting are generating errors, expect your conversion rates to be impacted. Such errors can also cause issues for website crawlers, like the bots that search engines use to read your website. This can lead to poor search engine rankings.
Reliability and stability issues are caused by a variety of factors and issues. For instance, if you’re on a shared hosting server, you’re sharing resources with other websites on that server. If you have a “noisy neighbor” that’s using up resources, your site may be impacted.
Since such issues can be intermittent, you can have a problem festering for a long time before you realize that you have a problem that needs to be addressed.
Work with your web host and web developers to check your website and server logs for errors. Ideally, these should be monitored on an ongoing basis. On the server-side, software like New Relic can help your web developers uncover coding issues. Beyond turning to the professionals, have your own team test your site on different devices and in different web browsers to ensure that the user experience is consistently good. Additionally, if you’re still in a shared or multi-tenant web hosting environment, look for a dedicated, single-tenant hosting solution that will help you avoid being impacted by others.
If your site isn’t tracking basic data correctly, you don’t have a baseline for your marketers to use to set expectations. A solution like Google Analytics can easily help to track how many people are visiting your site, how they’re finding you, what they’re doing while they’re on your site, and much more.
This kind of data is important in order to not only manage your expectations, but to identify existing successes that can be built upon, and existing failures that should be fixed or avoided.
Make sure that you not only have a solution like Google Analytics set up, but that it’s tracking data properly. It should be connected to key systems like Google Search Console and configured to track important events, like lead forms being filled out or eCommerce purchases occurring.
Your website should be working with your other key systems. That may include communicating with your e-mail marketing platform or CRM. Perhaps you’re using an online review platform that should be incorporated into your site. If you’re already running paid ads with a platform like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, or Reddit, chances it should include tracking codes.
The goal here is two-fold. Firstly, it’s to get your data where it needs to be for you to act upon it in meaningful ways. Neglecting to collect such data can lead to missed opportunities.
Secondly, it’s to avoid repetitious manual work and human errors. For instance, if your marketers have to keep manually adding e-mail addresses to your e-mail marketing platform for you, that’s not a great use of the time you’re paying them for. You’d be much better off if they were working on other things for you.
Review the key systems that you’re using, and identify which are connected to your website, and which are not. Then determine a plan of action to integrate any key systems that have not yet been connected.
A pattern that you may have noticed in this list, is that it’s about going the extra mile to ensure the highest possible likelihood of success. Digital marketing is not a product. It’s a service that’s highly intertwined with technology and data. That’s why having your website set up for success will significantly impact your new marketing campaigns.