Developing a marketing plan can seem like a daunting task. There are so many things that need to be taken into consideration, even for well-established businesses.If you want your company to continue to grow, you have to develop something actionable that you can start working on today. But how do you even get started? Start by analyzing your current situation. It’s important to understand where you are now in order to build a plan for your future. So in this article, I’ll take you through the most important things I review when analyzing a client’s marketing plan.
1. Google Analytics
If you’ve ever googled what you absolutely need to make your website successful, I guarantee Google Analytics was on the list. With this tool, you’ll find there is an extraordinary amount of data for you to analyze (check out this post if you want to see my top picks). In fact, if you’re not careful, you can get lost in the details. My advice is to review only the reports that help you to understand the overall story the data is telling you. Try to answer these questions:
- Are people coming to my site and leaving immediately? This is your bounce rate. This metric should be around 50-70%, but the lower the better ( just a warning – if yours is at 20%, you need to check your setup and make sure Google Analytics is properly measuring activity on your site).
- Do visitors ever return? You should have about 25% returning traffic and 75% new traffic.
- What path are my users taking through the site? Use the Behavior Flow report for this. Are they returning to pages they’ve already visited? This is usually a bad sign because, rather than your site clearly guiding your users down a path that leads to a conversion, they’re uncertain what the next step of the process is and end up bouncing around randomly until they leave.
- What types of people seem to stay the longest? Make sure your target audience is the most engaged. For example, are you targeting women between 35 and 49? If so, are they actually responding to your content?
- What platform am I seeing the most success on? Do more people visit your site from Facebook or email? Why?
You could ask yourself questions like these forever. So do your best to avoid getting stuck in the mud, answer the basics, and use that to power the rest of your plan.
Email is a complicated subject. In the marketing world, there are two main uses: mass emails and automation. Both types of email have a place in your marketing strategy, however, neither should be overused.
If you’re emailing a huge list of people, the first question you should ask is whether they’re interested in your content. You’ll have the answer easily by looking at your overall open rate (the percentage of recipients that opened your email) and CTO (the percentage of openers that clicked on a link in the email). If people aren’t opening your emails, it’s either due to poor past content or an uninteresting subject line. Review both of these things over your email history to get a clear view on where best to improve.
This form of email is sent to potential customers as a “drip”. They take specific actions and your system sends them an email as a result. For instance, let’s say you, as a website visitor, are interested in a free eBook on a financial advice website. You click on the link, add your email address, and download the book.
Once you enter your email address, a series of actions occur behind the scenes. You’ll be automatically added to a group that is sent information over time designed to get you to come back and pay for their financial services. Depending on the way you respond to this email (whether you opened it or clicked on the link) you may receive different, more personalized communications that relate directly to the actions you just took. Effectively, automations are a highly personalized way of pushing marketing content while also collecting massive amounts of data on users.
One More Thing
Don’t forget to pay attention to your deliverability rate (often referred to as your sender score). If you send too much too often, or your emails are marked as spam, you’ll get a low sender score (anything below 90%). That means Google won’t deliver your emails as effectively and, if you behave poorly enough, you may end up in GMail purgatory – where you’ll be emailing a blackhole spam box that users can’t even check.
3. Social Media
Of course, there are hundreds of social media sites, and the more of them you’re on, the more successful you may find yourself (depending, of course, on your niche). So let’s stick to two principles that you can use no matter the site to measure your social outreach efforts.
The simple question here is, “are people responding positively to my content?” You can tell based on a simple equation:
(Likes + Comments)
The rate changes based on your number of followers. If you’re in the upper echelon (more than 100,000 followers) then it’s reasonable to have a low engagement rate of around 2-3%. However, if you’re just starting out with a low number of followers, that rate should be significantly higher – around 20-30%. The idea behind this is that, while you have fewer followers, they’re your core, rabid fanbase.
Follower growth will always be slow when starting out, but there should be a tipping point where you start to see your engagement rate rise more quickly. If you aren’t seeing this, you need to revisit the quality and type of content you’re delivering and adjust to the needs of your audience.
4. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is a monster topic, and it’s something that’s ever-changing. The idea here is to hone your website to include the information people are looking for on Google searches. If you’re paying attention to your keywords, your links, and your content, you’ll start to see your page rise in the ranks to be one of the top 10. I really advise staying up on the most recent influences with Brian Dean’s blog. But the basics are always the same. Here’s what you need to make sure your pages all have:
A Focus Keyphrase
You need to focus your content around a single idea in order to grab people’s attention, especially when they’re looking for the main topic of your page. For example, my focus keyphrase for this post is “marketing plan,” because when people are looking for ways to build a marketing plan, I want them to find me first. This phrase (and its synonyms) should be sprinkled throughout the text, in order to show Google that the content is really there, and it isn’t just an old attempt to whitewash text or include keywords in <meta> tags (neither of which work, by the way).
The amount of text on the page has to be large enough that Google has a way to categorize you. The general wisdom here is that you should have a minimum of 300 words on the page. However, consider that, as long as you’re providing good content, more is generally better. In fact, the ideal length of a blog post, as several studies have now shown, is 1600 words.
There are a lot of different links you need to consider in your marketing plan. Each is equally important. The first is an outbound link – a link to information on a quality site outside your own domain. This is important because it helps Google to better identify the niche that your page fits into. And, beyond that, it builds up your trust score with Google, enabling your content to reach wider audiences easier.
The second type of link is an internal link. This type of link provides Google a clear path to the rest of your website (and provides you the ability to keep people inside your ecosystem longer). You need at least one of these per-page.
Just stringing together a bunch of keywords will get you nowhere, and Google will see through it. The algorithm is set up to search for grammar and paragraph structure. If you don’t transition between sentences enough, don’t speak in active voice enough, or even if your sentences (or paragraphs) are too long, you might get “flagged”.
Title & Description
I’m not talking about the title of the article or the page header here. I’m talking about the title that people see when they come across your link on a Google search and the description below it. These areas should be keyword rich and enticing to attract people to the page. You can edit each inside your HTML code using the <title> and <head><meta> tags respectively, or edit them inside your website builder, such as WordPress or Squarespace.
Google will verify that what you say your page is about (aka what the title and description are advertising) is actually represented on the landing page. If you search for advice on how to chop an onion, and you see a link titled “The 6 Easiest Ways To Chop An Onion | The Onion Lady”, you expect to get 6 easy ways to chop an onion. But if you then click the link and see ads about Chuck Norris’ Total Gym Workout, you’ll probably be irritated and leave immediately. Google doesn’t benefit from you doing that, and so it will rank you lower because the quality of the page doesn’t meet the basic expectations of a user visiting from the provided link.
Google Search Console
Outside of metrics, I highly advise installing Google Search Console on your site as soon as possible. Once you go through the installation process, you’ll start to see data (even historical data!) instantly. You can see your general rank, rank by page, best keywords, and more. For even more granular data, think about SEMRush as well. This is a paid service, however the amount of data they provide and the way it’s presented makes it definitely worth the money. This is a complicated area, so any advantage you can get is all for the better.
Conclusion (Of Part 1)
We’ve covered a lot. Much of what we’ve looked at has been back-end and quasi customer-facing. I always start here because these things are as important as the customer-facing metrics, and often overlooked. So take this in and keep your eyes open for the second part of this series.