As we enter the final quarter of 2017, organizations are budgeting for next year. According to Forrester, digital marketing budgets are growing at a pace of 11 percent annually, but we're no longer in the "spend to see what works" stage of digital marketing. Sophisticated analytics and tracking platforms have allowed digital marketing spend to be more efficient than ever.
While there will always be "trendy" digital marketing avenues to pursue, making sure that your organization's digital presence is well-positioned is essential. Below is a checklist to walk through when planning for 2018:
- Responsive Design - if your site isn't designed to be viewed from all devices, you're already behind the curve. Depending on where you look, responsive design adoption rates vary, but a 2016 survey reported that 79 percent of small businesses that had a website delivered a mobile friendly version of the site. Furthermore, as of 2015, Google began penalizing sites in search rankings that did not deliver a responsive or mobile-friendly site.
- Site Security - Site security is becoming increasingly important in this era of almost-weekly data breaches. Because of this, as early as 2014, Google began giving secure sites (HTTPS) a minor rankings boost. An SSL certificate will protect your users, stay compliant with modern browsers, and ensure your ranking potential is optimized.
- Site Speed Improvements - You may start seeing a trend here, but websites with longer loading times tend to perform worse in Google. This doesn't necessarily have to do with Google's algorithm quite yet, but when users abandon your site because it takes too long to load, Google picks up this signal and thinks that the user didn't find the right resource when clicking on your search result; therefore, your site gets negatively impacted in the rankings. Take a few seconds and run your site through Google's Page Speed Insights tool to see how you perform. Not only does page speed affect rankings, it also affects user experience, conversion rates, and in turn revenue.
- Content Updates - When was the last time you audited and updated the content on your site? If it's more than six months ago, odds are that some of it is outdated. If it's been several years, odds are that a lot of it is outdated. And if you have a website through which you can't edit the content yourself, it's definitely time to upgrade to a content management system (CMS) like Umbraco that allows you to make quick and easy updates to your site's content. Budgeting time and resources to ensure your content is current is essential, not only on your website, but across all of your web properties (including social media).
- Website Integrations - If you're like most businesses, you have a few software applications running your business: CRM, ERP, E-Commerce Platform, Email Marketing, etc. But do these applications all tie into your website and/or connect with each other? Or are you manually sending data back and forth through painful Excel sheet spreadsheets? Integrating your applications with your website can mean significantly less work on your end, and big benefits for your users who can see and engage with real-time data and content.
- Software/Plugin Updates - If you're still using the same platform for your website that you were 10 years ago (or even five), then you're not taking advantage of some of the huge benefits of modern web platforms. And you may have a long list of plugins running that are all ready to be updated, slowing down your site and potentially not running correctly.
- Technical Site Audit - Do you know how your site is performing under the hood? A typical technical audit that Aztek performs reveals a number of issues that may be impacting your site's ability to rank higher, render pages correctly, and present an ideal experience for your user. As a website ages over time, links change, images move, content gets neglected, and these issues can be easily resolved once identified.
- Usability Study(ies) - How are your users interacting with your site? Are there problem pages that aren't performing as intended? In-depth user testing using a variety of methods can help identify the issues with an under-performing site or page, and present solutions for how to drive users to the intended outcomes that are beneficial for your business.
- Marketing Automation - A scary fact: You will never interact with about 97 percent of the visitors to your site on average. They won't identify themselves through filling out a form, calling your business, or purchasing a product. However, using Marketing Automation, you can build robust programs to capture more leads, identify anonymous visitors, and build engagement programs to nurture leads throughout the sales process.