Whether you’re just starting out in internet marketing or have been round the block a few times, creating a strategy that works – and especially that works for you – is essential.
Beginners often flounder and flit from one strategy to the next. Which isn’t surprising given the number of marketers lists that most people sign up to and the skill with which those marketers promote products.
Old timers need to keep on top of things as well – methods that worked a year ago may be getting less effective.
So it pays to create or review your internet marketing strategy on a regular basis to check that it’s still working and that it’s still in line with your own personal preferences.
This list is by no means comprehensive but it should give you a good idea on the strategy you want to create for yourself. Some of the ideas are standalone, others will work very nicely to boost each other. You’ll need to test to work out which are the best strategies for you.
You probably already know that YouTube is one of the biggest sites on the web, is owned by Google and seems to show up everywhere you look.
Videos are in high demand and although it’s difficult to get exact stats (like their owner, YouTube are careful about what they say in public) it’s generally thought that it would take you in excess of 12 days to watch the videos that have been uploaded each minute. Which means that even with over a billion users, the chance of many people watching your latest video isn’t exactly high.
Especially at first, it can seem as though the only person watching your videos is you.
Buying views to pretend that your video is not recommended – YouTube got wise to that and either removes the paid-for views from your count or removes the video altogether. So don’t be tempted to go down that route.
It’s best to treat video marketing in much the same way as you treat content marketing.
That means you need to carefully choose the keywords you’re targeting and tweak your video title and description and tags to match those keywords.
Then let the search engine algorithms take care of putting your video in front of the right people.
You can nudge that along by posting on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as well as adding the videos to your Google+ profile (you knew deep down that Google+ had to be useful for something) to get some easy extra links and hopefully views.
YouTube shouldn’t be your only strategy – the main reason being that it’s not your own site on your own hosting. YouTube is run by a mixture of humans and computers but most regular decisions are automated which means if your channel appears to be generating problems, the first “person” to look at it will be a computer program. You also need to remember that Google can and do retrospectively change the rules so even if something is OK now, it may not be OK in the future and the future rules may be backdated. Which is a pain in the neck if it happens (ask almost anyone who used AdWords and AdSense in the early days).
That said, so long as you don’t fall foul of any rules it can be a great way to promote your internet marketing business.
Essentially the process is this:
- Start a channel – by default, this will be linked to your Google account that you log in with. You can change the name of the channel to something more memorable than the gobbledegook that’s initially set and that’s worth doing.
- Pick a topic – as with any other form of content marketing, drill down in your niche. You’ll maybe get less views than a wider topic video but you’ll show up better when people are trying to drill down in a topic and there probably won’t be thousands of other videos competing on the exact same subject.
- Create a video – it could be a slideshow video or a screen capture or something you’ve recorded on your phone. The video should relate to your topic and should be clear enough that people are happy to watch it. It doesn’t have to be studio quality but – unless it’s intentional – it shouldn’t look as though it was shot when Hollywood was still in the age of silent movies. Picture and sound quality should be at least adequate although it’s OK to have umms and errs every now and then. Just make sure that they don’t make up the majority of the video. And ideally don’t do like at least one video I watched a few years ago where the creator put a caption on that read “Gee. You’d have thought he’d have edited this bit out” over a section that was just watching a progress bar slowly progress. But that did fit with his character so it was probably forgiven by most viewers.
- Upload the video and tweak the title, add a decent length description including one or more links that you’d like people to click on, add tags, strongly consider uploading a caption file, think about adding annotations or cards.
- Watch the video yourself partly just to get to at least one view but also to check that YouTube’s program hasn’t done anything stupid and that you’ve not done anything stupid either, so the video has sound for example.
- Publicise the video – there are plenty of social share icons on YouTube. Use one or more of them to shout about the fact that you’ve just uploaded a new video. Use hash tags as appropriate to help people searching on places like Twitter.
- Consider embedding the video – this means putting it on another website. There are various ways of doing this, including simply pasting the URL of the video into your WordPress page, and there’s plenty of help on YouTube to make sure you do this correctly. If you look at your video stats you’ll notice that YouTube distinguish between people who’ve watched your video on their site and people who’ve seen it elsewhere. It’s one of the many factors that influence where your video is shown in the search results.
As with everything else involved in internet marketing, your YouTube channel needs to have a strategy.
Ideally a strategy that isn’t just “I’ll put up another video on any subject I fancy when I get round to it”.
Like most things, a reasonable level of consistency helps and the subscribers that you gradually build up will start to spread the word by Tweeting, pinning your videos, linking to them on Facebook & LinkedIn, etc. But since it’s at least partially a numbers game, you’ll need to build up to a reasonable quantity of videos for this to take effect.
Content rules the web.
You’re reading content now.
If you watch a video or listen to a podcast, you’re consuming content.
In this section. I’m going to focus on written content – because that’s what the search engines index best – but the principles apply to any other content you create.
You can apply these ideas to anywhere you add content – your own website, Facebook, Tweets, LinkedIn, forums, etc. – but my main focus will be your own website because that’s the one where you’ve got most control.
If you don’t own the domain and the hosting it’s placed on, you’re not really in control of your business because you’re subject to the whims and changing corporate goals of someone or something else.
With your own site, you are totally responsible for the content that’s on it and unless you do something really stupid (such as steal a competitor’s content) then your site will stay on the web for as long as you keep renewing the domain and paying for the hosting.
Which is why there’s a lot of peach of mind in this approach, even though it can be tempting to go the cheapest possible route and use services like Blogger or Weebly or even Facebook to host your content. You really do need to go into control freak mode about this.
If you haven’t already got a domain and hosting for it, get that sorted first.
Then use the quick install option to set up WordPress and tweak it so that your site is ready to use.
After that, it’s a matter of creating content (writing posts and pages) regularly so that your site gradually starts to get a glimmer of traffic.
The content you create needs to be informative and there needs to be lots of it. Various studies have shown there’s almost a straight line correlation between long content and the position in the search results.
I’ve tried confirming that recently for some of the niches I’m involved in and it seems to hold true, even at a very low level of competition. The keyword phrases I typically target when I’m involved in a niche don’t show up on the radar in the keyword planner, they’re that low on the scale, but they still get traffic. Just not enough for Google to want to distract potential advertisers away from more popular phrases that will likely earn it more cash.
If you want a longer version of this checklist, go to this page but this is the executive summary:
- Choose a topic for your page – you need to drill down in your niche because that way you won’t be competing with millions of other pages all vying for the top slot. My ideal topics are selected using the suggestions that show up as you search. If you’re too lazy or too rushed to do that, this free tool does a reasonably good job of grabbing them. Or you can get suggestions for potential titles from this free tool. Don’t spend forever choosing a precise topic – go with one that you’re happy with. I like to actually use Google rather than a tool because I can see how many other pages are really competing for the phrase – Google bolds the words and it’s rare to see all of them bolded next to each other when you do this.
- Choose some sub-topics – unless you’re a robot when it comes to writing content, it’s worth doing this. For the page you’re reading now, I wrote the introductory paragraphs and then put in some “placeholder” headings with a few blank lines between each so that WordPress didn’t get carried away and copy the formatting down into the areas where I was planning to write. I then wrote one section at a time – that meant I could take a break and come back to the next batch of writing refreshed and ready to go. The bullet point sections I just wrote “on the fly” but if you’re not that confident you could write the first part of the bullets (the parts that are bolded in this section) and then expand those.
- Write your content – write naturally, as if you’re explaining the topic to a friend. Don’t get hung up on sentence structure and be prepared to use short sentences and short paragraphs because it’s easier on the eye for your eventual readers to do that. I don’t aim for a specific word count but most of my recent writing is well above 2,000 words for a page and this one will likely be in the region of 5,000 words once it’s completed. Whilst there’s no specific optimum length of content, my aim is to write roughly 100 words in each bullet point sections like this one and to write between 500 and 1,000 words per main section that I’ve decided to use. The trick is to write as much as is necessary to explain the section without boring your reader.
- Read it through before you press the publish button. Whilst this isn’t absolutely necessary (my habit is to read as I type but I’ve been doing this kind of writing since before the web was a glimmer in Tim Berners-Lee’s eye) it’s well worth doing, especially for your first few pieces of content. I’m in the habit of checking spellings in Google as I type, some browsers will highlight words they think aren’t spelled correctly (that doesn’t always work when you’re using, say, English spellings and the spell checker thinks you should be using American ones) or you can copy and paste your content into your word processor and run the spell checker on that. If you really must, correct the grammar as well but that’s very much an optional extra.
- Check any SEO suggestions from Yoast or whatever other SEO plugin you use. It comes up with suggestions and modifies them when you press the Save Draft button again. Yoast’s suggestions are generally quite good and I like the traffic light colours that highlight the areas you should be concerned about or at least looking at in more detail. For instance, it’s nagging me that this page doesn’t have any images – that’s pretty much my “house” style for this site but would be useful on some of my other sites where I do like to include some eye candy.
- Publish and promote. Publishing is a simple matter of pressing the publish button and waiting for your website to respond. Then click the “view page” option to check that all is well. If you’re using a social share plugin like AddToAny then click on the various icons and use those to promote your site. Most of the time I’ll send out a Tweet and a message to my list. Sometimes I’ll mention the post on Google+ and LinkedIn. If my site was more photogenic I’d use Pinterest. And if I was more public about the site I’d use Facebook. Get in the habit of sharing every piece of content you create – you can pick up extra site visitors that way.
- Repeat. No matter how great it is, one piece of content isn’t going to cut it. You need to keep creating more content. Get in the habit of doing this on a regular basis. Google’s robots will learn your routine and will regularly crawl and indx your new content without you having to open up Webmaster Tools and tell them. At first, it may take a few days between publishing a new post and it getting crawled – that’s normal. Rather than constantly pressing refresh, spend that time productively. Either by creating more new content or by making your written content work extra hard by turning it into a slideshow video. Or by bragging about your new content on social media and forums, making sure not to be branded a spammer.
Monetising your website should be part of your overall strategy and affiliate marketing can be one of the easiest ways to do that.
I’ve dropped in a few affiliate links on this page as well as links to my own and (maybe!) other people’s content.
I prefer this to using tools like AdSense – maybe that’s partly a control freak attitude but mainly it’s because I figure that I can get more money by cutting out the websites who are advertising via Google or whoever.
Sure, the income is “lumpier” because I usually only get paid per sale rather than per click but on some of the offers I promote I’m regularly getting the equivalent of $2.50 commission per click made. That’s difficult to achieve with programs like AdSense as you’re sharing the commission with Google.
The affiliate products you promote should fit with your web pages. Amazon (always assuming you’re allowed to join their program) can fit with almost anything but their percentage commission paid isn’t great. Some people make a healthy living from promoting Amazon products so it’s possible to do but. like every other form of affiliate marketing, it takes effort and personally – although I do promote the occasional Amazon product – I prefer programs with a higher commission per sale.
For my niche sites, most of the programs I promote pay between 35% and 70% of the retail price.
I don’t tend to use Clickbank much any more. Their recent changes seem hell bent on reducing sales and cutting out affiliates. On top of that, I’m relatively lazy about checking whether or not the programs I promote are still live on the platform I’m linking to.
Most affiliate programs are fairly passive about letting affiliates know whether a product is still available or not. Usually the first you hear is when a potential buyer emails asking for the correct link. But chances are that there will have been lots of lost clicks and potentail sales before you get such an email.
If you’ve only got a handful of products you promote, it would be worth setting a diary note for once a month to click on each one and check it’s still live.
Once you get too many to check sensibly then a reasonable second-best is to check the links on most popular pages on your site(s). That’s a good 80/20 compromise and is what I tend to do. I’ll also re-click on a link if I’m about to use it in a new post – that’s what I just did with the book linked in this paragraph.
Finding affiliate programs to promote once you get outside the usual suspects of Clickbank and Amazon takes a bit of time and effort but it’s usually worth it.
Probably the easiest way is to search for your main niche keyword phrase and add in the word “affiliate”.
Most of the time that will bring up some results to check.
Years ago, affiliate program directories like this one were useful but I’m less certain nowadays. I just checked it for some of the programs I promote and make money from and they were nowhere to be seen – probably because people with an affiliate program tend to let Google send them the traffic now. Things change on the web and that’s definitely one of them.
You should also keep a look out for any site you visit in your niche to check whether they’re promoting affiliate products or offering their own affiliate program. It’s usually a small link near the bottom of the page and may say “webmasters” rather than “affiliate” but you can usually figure it out fairly quickly.
I like two tier affiliate programs like this one – if someone signs up as a result of that link and subsequently sells some products, the introducer (me) gets a small “thankyou” commission. This doesn’t affect the amount paid to the affiliate making the sale and of course it doesn’t affect the price paid by the customer. The affiliate network just treat it as a cost of doing business and a way of getting new affiliates that they don’t have to actively recruit.
Some affiliate networks automatically approve new applications, others need to take a while to go through your application and approve you (or not).
Most affiliate programs outside the internet marketing arena (which always seems to be slightly different) have a delay between the initial sale being made and payment to you. This is to allow time for potential refunds or even disputed transactions.
Payment terms vary – one program I’m in pays out on the first day of the following month, another on the 15th day, another a set period after the sale is made. That doesn’t much matter so long as they are long established and reliable – you’ll get used to the payments arriving on different schedules.
Another advantage of affiliate programs that are run directly by the website you’re promoting is that they’ll usually have a dedicated support team that you can turn to. Most of the ones I promote have a support ticket system but when I’ve been successfully promoting for some time I also tend to get sent extra – unpublished – email addresses so that I can get any issues resolved quicker. I’ve gone down both routes on more than one occasion and have saved the sale (and therefore my commission) because a problem a customer was having was solved fast.
With affiliate programs, you’re relying on other people to create products and sales pages.
Once you’re a bit more established in a niche, you may decide it’s worth going to the next possible step in your strategy:
Creating your own product
This can sound scary.
But if you follow a (quite) detailed process then creating your own digital product can be reasonably straightforward, gives you up to 100% of the sale price (give or take any commission you pay to PayPal and any promotional costs) and has the potential for other people to join you as an affiliate and help grow your list as commission only sales agents.
My expertise lies in digital products. I’ve created software, a WordPress plugin, eBooks, Kindle books, audio products and video products.
The only ones of those I wouldn’t suggest unless you’re a programmer or good at outsourcing are the software and plugin options.
That’s because you probably won’t have the skills to write a program or a plugin – they’re not everyday things.
But you can create a book or an audio or a video. Near enough anyone can do that.
For books, write them in your word processor and choose the Export as PDF option if it’s there. If not, get hold of a free program like LibreOffice and use that.
For audio, use Audacity and a reasonable microphone.
And for videos, Screencast-o-matic is plenty good enough – free if you’re OK with the limitations otherwise $15 a year for a licence to use it.
Regardless of whether it’s a book, audio or video product, the process of creating it is near anough the same:
- Choose a niche and a topic in that niche. You’ve heard that before on this page and the same principles apply here. One difference is that you’re almost certainly aiming to solve a problem that your market has. You can use forums, Facebook, Yahoo! Answers, Quora and plenty of other places to find the questions they’re looking to solve. If you’ve got a list in your niche you can use that as well. Or you can just read the sales pages of some of your competitors.
- Decide what you’re going to cover. An outline works well and makes sure that you deliver what you promised you were going to deliver in your product. You can also use the outline to help you create your sales page.
- Set aside the time to research and write. Most digital products you create will need some research. There were occasions when I was writing this page where I opened another tab and did some research and chances are you’ll need to do the same. Then set aside the time to write. Even if you’re creating an audio or video product, it’s probably wise to write out what you’re going to say unless you’re super confident and can work from a few bullet points.
- Don’t edit while you write. The best way to write is just to brain dump onto the word processor or (if you’re old fashioned) the sheet of paper. Write away without worrying about spelling or grammar or even whether what you’re writing makes sense. Obviously you’ll need to know enough about your topic to be able to do that but you should have done the research process before this so hopefully that’s a given. The reason for doing this is that writing uses the creative side of your brain whereas editing uses the analytical side and the two don’t particularly work well together. Most of the time they stifle each other.
- Let the content “rest” then come back and edit it. Letting the content rest gives your mind time to break state. Overnight is good but even an hour or two works OK. As I mentioned, editing uses a completely different part of your mind and is best done separately from the creative process. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at how little editing you need to do when you let the creative side of your brain do it’s thing.
- Record or send to PDF. Depending on whether you’re creating a book or an audio or visual product, you may need to record it. With a book, chances are you’ll send it to PDF unless you’re publishing on Kindle & CreateSpace in which case you just upload your document inside the Amazon publishing area. I like to keep most of my recordings to under 10 minutes – I find that length of time relatively easy to record and if I fluff my lines too much it’s not too bad to re-record (which I find quicker than figuring out how to edit the recording). When you’re starting out you may prefer to aim for 5 minute recordings. And as you grow in confidence you may think about making longer recordings – one person I follow regularly does an hour in one “take”, usually recorded live. But it’s personal preference and your buyers will almost certainly be happy regardless of the precise format.
- Create a sales page. This can be as simple or as complicated as you want. Truly good copywriting is an art that takes years to learn. But good enough copywriting is something that you can learn fast. Use a headline generator if needed. Then liberal use of bullet points – much like these – can be a good format. Let your personality come through in what you write and don’t be afraid to give away “secrets” on your sales page – that’s actually something that a lot of world class copywriters do on the basis that people assume that if you give top value on the sales letter then the product will be excellent as well.
- Add a payment button. If you’re using somewhere like Warrior Plus or JVZoo then their website will create a snazzy looking sales payment button and will handle the process start to finish. If you’re happy to just use PayPal then that works fine. Or choose something else if you prefer or if your country means you can’t use PayPal. But make sure people can pay you and they get taken to the appropriate download page when the payment goes through successfully.
Once you’ve created a product, promote it to your list and anywhere else that you’re likely to make a sale.
Building a list
This wouldn’t be a proper page about creating an internet marketing strategy if I didn’t tell you to build a list.
After all, everyone teaches that the money is in the list.
To a fair extent that’s true but there are exceptions. Some are obvious – one time purchases like a funeral plan for instance – others less obvious where there’s a good chance that your market will either get their problem solved by the product that you recommend or where the purchase is sufficiently intermittent that they don’t need to re-buy the item in the however many years between purchases (house buying for instance).
Not all lists are equal – buyers lists tend to be more valuable than freebie seekers lists. And there are differences between the quality of lists even if they’re made up of all buyers or all freebie seekers.
And even once they’re created, lists can “rot” at different rates.
You know from experience that with a lot of lists you move from something approaching enthusiasm when you first join them through to relative indifference after a while and quite often delete on sight mode once you’ve been on the list for too long.
Yes, there are exceptions to that but they tend to prove the rule.
That means you need to treat your list building like the (probably) important part of your business that it is.
- Choose a professional autoresponder (list) company. There are quite a few available. My preference (the one I’ve used for years) is Aweber. But you may prefer it’s main competitor, Get Response. Or, if you’ve got high end needs, you may prefer something like Infusion Soft to look after your lists. Whoever you choose, it’s probably a company you’ll be with for years – changing autoresponder service is about as easy as changing banks.
- Set up at least one list. The precise way to do this will vary according to your provider but they all have good help and good support – that’s a benefit of using a paid for service that has a high lifetime customer value. There’s a whole process of screens to go through where you set up the name of the list, the email address associated with it, the confirmation message (if any), the first “thanks for joining me” message that will be sent out and any sign-up page you want to create.
- Set up a “subscribe” form. Most autoresponder companies have a variety of forms that you can use and these can be embedded in your web pages or they can host the basic form with you just providing a link. They’re generally not as swish as forms created with programs such as LeadPages but they are provided free by most autoresponder companies (or at least included in the monthly price you pay).
- Get people to join your list. Most of my lists are from people who’ve bought a product I’ve created or have signed up for a free product such as this one. Other people use solo ads or ad swaps or Facebook etc to find leads. Your strategy will determine which of these works best for you.
If you still need help with your internet marketing strategy
Hopefully by now you’ve got enough information to develop your own internet marketing strategy.
But if you still need some help you can go down a few different routes:
- Get free advice on forums and Facebook groups. So long as you’re able to differentiate between the people really giving advice versus the fake-it-until-you-make-it crowd versus the ones who are really just trying to sell you their “must have” product or program, this can work well.
- Get cheap advice via products that fit your strategy. That can work nicely but you can end up being on more lists than you ever thought possible and end up buying products that don’t fit your strategy or your needs because the sales pages are good. I’ve got lots of products that you may find useful here.
- Get a coach or mentor. At face value, the most expensive option but it could save you a lot of wasted time, money and effort so could actually work out cheaper in the long run. There are lots of people around who can help you with this including myself.