Elements of a Successful Digital Marketing Strategy - Part One

By Wolfgang Jaegel and Gregory Smyth

Let's get the bad news out of the way first: there is no quick fix for getting higher Search Engine rankings, no magic bullet that will propel your website to the first page on Google. You will not secure those all-important rankings within a week of launching a new website or starting a digital marketing campaign, no matter what you may see advertised. Getting a high profile on the major Search Engines takes time and effort. But the good news is that it can be done.

As I said, there is no magic bullet. If there was a single technique for higher Search Engine rankings then everyone would be doing it. Higher Search Engine rankings come through a range of techniques, conducted both on-site and off-site, the ultimate goal of which is to convince the Search Engines that your website is more relevant than those of your competitors for high-value keyphrases. In this two-part article I will explore the elements that are essential to a successful Digital Marketing strategy.

The very first element of a digital marketing campaign is strategic analysis. This stage is essential, as without a thorough understanding of what work needs to be done and for which keyphrases the site should be optimized, no campaign can realize its full potential. This involves analysis not only of the website to be optimized, but also of competitor websites. By understanding both the website and its competitive market it is possible to accurately assess the scope and complexity of work necessary to gain high rankings. The more competitors there are and the better they are optimized, the harder it will be to get placements above them. The other major task at this stage is keyphrase research and analysis. That does not necessarily mean the keyphrases that register the most searches. Of far greater value are keyphrases which send actual converting traffic. These tend to be specific rather than general, for example "luxury hotel Sydney" rather than "hotel Australia". After all, what's the point in generating traffic if none of it converts?

On-site optimization, also known Search Engine Registration (SER), can begin once strategic analysis is complete, and it lays the foundation on which to build a successful Digital Marketing campaign. In a nutshell, SER refers to the range of techniques and fixes conducted on a website to make sure that it can be fully and easily indexed by the major Search Engines, without accruing any penalties for usability and coding problems. These include:

Website Usability - how easy is the website to navigate and use? Search Engines look at information architecture, navigation, design conventions and load speeds to assess how usable a website is. Problems in any of these areas will result in penalties that affect a website's quality score, and consequently its rankings. Search Engines pay attention to usability as they want to send visitors to websites where relevant information is quick and easy to find.

Code, File and Directory Structure - Has your website been constructed in such a way that it can be readily indexed by the Search Engines? Coding problems (for example gaps in the code), will have a negative effect on Search Engine quality score.

Metatags - Are the meta elements on your website present and correctly formatted? Many Search Engines (e.g. Google) no longer give a positive weighting to correct metatags, but they will penalize a website in which they are incorrectly formatted or stuffed with too many keywords.

Internal Link Structure - Search Engines look at the link structure inside your website. They penalize sites in which there are broken links or deep pages (i.e. pages which take more than four clicks to access from the home page).

Keyword Density and Proximity - Search Engines look for keywords when they assess a website, but they also look to make sure that keywords are present in proper numbers. If a keyword occurs too frequently, or in too many instances close together, the website will be penalized for "keyword stuffing".

W3C Errors - The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international standards body that has set up guidelines for website development. Although these guidelines are not compulsory, the Search Engines pay a lot of attention to them. Websites that do not meet W3C standards will not achieve optimum rankings.

The goal of all on-site optimization techniques is to make a website as Search Engine friendly as possible, to ensure that it can be readily and fully indexed and that all pages end up in the Search Engine indexes. At the same time, on-site optimization helps ensure that no penalties are accrued that will have a negative effect on website quality score.

On-site optimization carries a weighting of approximately 25% against Search Engine quality score. Although this is a lower weighting than off-site optimization, on-site is essential and must be carried out if off-site optimization is to succeed.

In the second part of this article I will discuss off-site optimization, including directory listings, content syndication and on-going link-building.