Your online marketing efforts are destined to be ineffective (a massive waste of time?) unless you first spend a few minutes understanding how search engines work and learning some simple techniques for measuring the effectiveness of your online efforts.
Yes, you can simply start a blog or have a friend set-up a website. But if that's all you do - without considering how users will find your blog or website - and without any plans for collecting user data - many experts will tell you that you might as well not bother.
So what do you need to know?
Let's start with two fundamentals: Search Engine Optimization ("SEO") and Tracking.
How do users find your site?
If they don't have your URL, most users will rely on a search engine. But how does a search engine know about your site? When a movie fan in Kuala Lampur types "low-budget horror film" into a Google search, how is it that your low-budget horror movie shows up?
The search engine that finds your site relies on a number of cues. One key cue for search engines is something web-designers call "meta tags." Meta tags are a great way to provide search engines with information about your site.
Expert Tip: Google no longer uses meta tag information for ranking purposes - but they do use meta data for relevance to a search.
This begs the questions: What exactly are meta tags and where do they appear (hide? lurk?) on a website.
Meta tags are snippets of information hidden in the "code" - the behind-the-scenes part of a website that most human users never see. Search engines read that hidden code and use the meta tags to connect users with pages of interest.
When you are building a website, your web designer should talk to you about the "tags" - i.e., the part of the computer language behind-the-scenes. The code is not just instructions for how the text and images on your site will appear - the code also contains opportunities for you to elaborate on the "title" and "description" of each page. You can think of this "title" and "description" hidden language as an ad for that particular page. What words would you use to entice visitors to click? What would it take you to click through to that page? The meta tags, in particular the words you use as the "title" and "description," are key parts of your search engine optimization.
Here's how search engine consultant Andy Beal explains the correct use of a meta data "title" and a meta data "description": "The "title" tag is very similar to the title of a book, it gives a visitor the first hint as to the theme of the Web site. The "description" tag is comparable to the summary found on the back of a book, providing a brief guide to the content of your Web site."
Expert Tip: "Don’t repeat the title in the description. These are two separate areas, and repetition is just wasting this precious space. Use the description to enhance the title and give a more accurate representation of the information contained on the page."
The third kind of meta data that a user controls is "keywords." According to Andy Beal, "keywords are similar to the index of a book, allowing anyone to clearly see if the Web site contains the information they are seeking."
In addition to meta tags, you need to gather data about how users are interacting with your site: Analytics (e.g., "tracking" how many users come to your site and how they behave once they are there) are hugely important. For example, your webmaster can add a simple piece of code (to the link for each image, tab, button, graphic or even text link) so that you can subsequently track how your visitors are interacting with your website. This kind of tracking tells you which elements are working for your website visitors, and which are being ignored.
As journalist and consultant Rob O'Regan has written: "Track your experiments religiously. Find the combination of metrics that best indicate progress toward your objectives. Allocate more resources toward the projects that are working and either kill the underperformers or, if they’re strategically important, find ways to improve them."
This is just a brief introduction to SEO and tracking - I hope there is enough here to persuade you that these tools are key parts of your online marketing. Talk to your web designer and make sure you understand how to use these tools to increase your bottom line.