Most SEO Companies Don’t Know How to Create 5 Year Marketing Plans
Deploy This Five Year Digital Marketing Strategy & Watch Your Online Visibility Skyrocket
SEO companies today must focus their strategies to best advantage, as resources (both time and money) are often tight. 5 year plans are hard to make these days – digital marketing changes all the time but it is moving at an incredible pace today. It’s true that every business person has plans about how they want to grow their business and where they want to be in the future. When creating or consulting your business plan, don’t forget to add digital marketing to the mix. Your digital marketing strategy for the next five years can keep you on the forefront of SEO and social media trends if you start planning now.
For the very reason that the digital landscape is always changing, SEO companies can find it difficult to write a five year digital marketing plan with any kind of certainty. We will offer you a plan that we believe will still get you where you want to be in 5 years, and provide the flexibility you’ll need to pivot if necessary and get the most you can from your digital marketing investment.
Top SEO Companies’ Best Kept Secret: They Put Together a Set of 1 Year Plans
If you are planning to put your digital marketing house in order for the next five years, that’s an admirable goal. The hallmark of successful goal achievement is the ability to break down a larger goal into smaller, more manageable steps. That’s why we will approach our discussion of 5 year digital marketing plans by breaking that goal into one year increments. Seeing where you want to be from year to year is much more logical from a marketing perspective than seeing where you will be in 5 years. Marketing aside, from a strategic planning perspective, one year goals can motivate most business people whereas 5 year goals may seem more nebulous. With your set of five 1 year plans, you still will be striving toward your ultimate 5 year goal. And with five 1 year plans, you start with a built in step by step process. This marketing process’ outline will work for any business, and you can adapt it further should you require.
Note that there will be some crossover between steps, but each year you can have the main focus be on each of these successive areas. As you move through the steps you can feel free to go back and revisit a step. As your online marketing campaigns grow over the years you will discover that you will need to keep all of the steps going at the same time. It’s a balancing act, but one that you and your agency will learn from as you progress.
1) Website audit
Usability – SEO – Content
Don’t skip the website audit step. If you are interviewing SEO companies looking for an agency, this should be a competency you put high up on your list of ‘must haves’. This is the most important step in your entire marketing campaign. Before you commit to any extensive key phrase research, or updates to code or copy, this is the step that comes first. It’s just amazing how much you will find out about not only the user experience on your website, but about your goals and how you can get there. While you can definitely ask friends or colleagues to help you user test your website, it’s a good idea to recruit a diverse user population to give you the feedback you need. Services such as Loop11 and Usertesting.com let you set up tasks and ask questions of user populations that you can recruit from within those tools, so you will be able to have real people from the demographics you are trying to reach, test your website. With this valuable feedback you will see if your navigation needs simplifying, if your calls to action are effective, and if people can find what they are looking for – plus you’ll get to see what the barriers are to conversion. Why aren’t people downloading your free e-book, or buying your new product? A few hundred dollars (sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on how many participants you recruit and the tasks you ask them to complete) invested in user testing your website is a vital step to getting your house in order before you invest resources in marketing.
Now this is not to say that you have to put the brakes on everything else while you user test your site; what we mean here is not to take on any new marketing initiatives until the user testing is complete. So if you have a blogging schedule, or you are making a new video per week, etc. already, go ahead and keep to that schedule. The point we are making here is don’t make any radical changes to your marketing campaigns until you get the results of your website user tests. You will want to review those tests, and have your agency also perform a website evaluation.
In the evaluation your agency can analyze multiple areas including content format and quality, location and type of calls to action, integration with social accounts, and more. The agency should also be looking for impediments to search engine indexing and conversion. The agency can combine their findings with the user testing results to get a complete picture of how your website measures up as a tool to drive new business and how it satisfies returning customers.
With this data in hand, then the agency can meet with you to discuss updates to your SEO and content marketing campaigns. New key phrase research may be required, and a renewed link development strategy might be needed. Also updates to your site’s navigation, calls to action, and content (both visual and text-based) may certainly be on the list of necessary improvements. Notice how this Step 1 of the five year plan plays out: This is year one of your new 5 year marketing plan. In this first year you will want to take a few months (that’s right, months) getting the website evaluation and user testing completed, the review of the resulting data, and the SEO and content improvements installed. Again, your existing marketing does not have to stop, and if you’re just getting started with a brand new website, then a blogging and social media marketing campaign is the best thing you can be doing in tandem with this website evaluation step. You will keep your marketing going forward and then be able to move even deeper into your campaign once the website audit results are in. The main focus, however, should be on that website audit, with blogging and social media a close second.
2) Content creation – social media & email marketing outreach: Now you have arrived at year two. After studying your website audit, blogging and working social media in year one, you’re ready to take the next step on the path to maximum online visibility. Some SEO companies will tell you that you should focus on content creation from day one; we agree; but this step is about ramping up your content output. You will step up your content creation; and this schedule is different for everyone and can be approached in multiple ways. If might be time to hire a contract writer to help expand your ability to blog more often, or maybe you will want some of your internal team to begin or add to an email newsletter. In other words you will be continuing what you started in step one with content creation and distribution, only in year two you will commit to higher quality (more in-depth, feature length type articles) and higher frequency. If you and your team can handle the increased workload, great, but this is a good time to lean on your SEO company. Have them add more content to your campaign; and that includes one or two minute how-to videos, Vines, infographics, images – content is a whole universe of interactive and stimulating stuff. Explore all of the possibilities and make your content helpful, fun, interesting, engaging – this is your mantra for year 2 in your marketing campaign.
At this point your campaign should be planned with content calendars that help you schedule creation and distribution of blogs, articles, videos, and more, but if you need help with that, here is a top tool that can make your life easier and help you look back at what works and what doesn’t with your audience: It’s called Postcron and it provides a handy Google Doc template for your content calendar. (You can update the fields with your own information).
If you have worked with SEO companies over the years, you likely know that there are dozens of content scheduling tools out there with loads of collaboration bells and whistles. Sometimes those tools can be a turn-off for teams who are already burdened. Especially if you have a small team, a simple Google Doc to track content is fine.
3) Combine content with social: If you aren’t already doing this as part of your content marketing and throughout your digital marketing campaigns, year 3 should emphasize this. Continue your creation and distribution of quality content and hopefully you are already sharing it on your social accounts and getting some great feedback (and hopefully building trust and sales). In year 3 we’re talking about finding all the places where you might not yet be introducing social, and then make that a priority when you create and share content. This is a top example that you can benefit from: Did you know that even Fortune 500 companies make these two critical errors with their content; sometimes over and over again, thereby losing multiple opportunities to improve trust and make sales? In year 3 of your marketing campaign (and all the time, but especially now that your campaign is mature) watch for these two issues and don’t let them happen to you:Forgetting to write a subject line for your email newsletters
a. Forgetting to write a subject line for your email newsletters
This is frankly one of the biggest missed opportunities in online marketing. If you have built an email list over the years you want to market to your customers with offers that appeal to them. Your customers will never know if your offer is appealing if you don’t tell them what it is. What’s their incentive to open your email when they see the subject line is ‘No Subject’? When most people see that in an email newsletter, it’s a big turn-off and they don’t open the email. Ensure that your team or your agency always, always, always includes a subject line in email communications. Your agency should know which words motivate people to open emails and which may cause emails to get routed to the spam folder. If you need some hints about this, consult MarketingProf’s article ‘The 10 Best (and Worst) Performing Words in Email Subject Lines‘.
b. Overlooking social integration opportunities
Yes there are marketers who do not remember to integrate social media with everything they do, but you aren’t one of them, right? Even if you’re doing a great job reminding people to interact with you on social, watch for extra ways to get people connected.
Examples: Email and social media are natural together – always include social sharing capabilities in your email newsletters. Put your social links in your email signatures. Link your social accounts together; ask people on Twitter to Like you on Facebook. Amazingly this tip is one that even some of the best SEO companies forget about.
Bonus tip: This one is for offline, but it still works to get people connected to you. Add ‘Connect with us on social media’ to your direct mailings. It’s amazing how many SEO companies and marketers neglect to do this; we see examples of it every day. You will beat competitors by remembering to add social sharing components to all of your marketing materials.
4) Create Even More Visual Marketing Campaigns
As a consumer you know that video is compelling, and it is possible you have already created some videos with SEO companies you have worked with in the past; or you may be creating them now. In year 4 of your digital marketing plan, keep everything going that you have built so far, and now step up your frequency of video creation and distribution. You don’t have to worry if you’re not great in front of a camera. Your SEO company can make the video for you, or coach you to do it yourself if you would like. Then there are always tools for DIY and one that’s about as easy as it gets is Raw Shorts. It’s free (they have premium plans, too). Customize one of their templates and make a video today. Embed it on your website, share it on social media and link to it from multiple sources. Don’t forget to include a powerful call to action at the end!
5) Repeat step one and review.
Yes, you read that right. Repeat step one. In the fifth year of your plan, you will want to go back and review your website, content, SEO, usability and your entire digital marketing strategy. Your agency should keep tabs on all of this for you on an ongoing basis and be reporting data to you so you can make decisions for improvements along the way. But year 5 is the year when you dig in and do a wall-to-wall deep dive review of all the moving parts. The ultimate question you need the answer to is: Have we built a solid foundation and grown our trust level and customer base within these last 5 years? If you have followed the outline in this article, you absolutely placed yourself in the best position to win. Keep it going!
Not all SEO companies can see the big picture. Need help putting together a custom 5 year marketing plan and an agency that can execute it with you? (Notice we didn’t say for you; as you and your team will be an important part of its success.) Talk to us about your goals and let’s create your 5 year digital marketing plan today.