The second reason you want to blog instead of using social media is even more important, although more philosophical in nature. You want to “own” your platform. You want to have full access and control over your content, how it is displayed, and how it is searched. By creating your content on a social media platform, you are really (and legally) granting them full control over your content. Social media platforms come and go (Remember MySpace? Me neither…) and we don’t know what will be the popular platform with your market in a couple years. By owning your content creation space, you can simply use the new social media platforms to direct traffic to the same place you’ve been sending them for years. And all the content you’ve created for years stays put, increasing the depth of your gravity well over time. Which brings me to another important point…
There is no such thing as a website launch for an OMP
An Online Marketing Platform never actually “launches”. There is no date on which you site is “complete” and you can then forget about it and move onto other marketing projects. An Online Marketing Platform is never, ever finished. It is always a work in progress.
Certainly, you may have a “Go Live” date, in which the public can begin accessing your new site, but this is not the single event it used to be in the days when we put brochures online for customers and called them “websites”. In fact, this is perhaps the single greatest difference between a website and an OMP. A website is a presentation, whereas an OMP is a conversation. You don’t have a conversation with someone by walking into the room, reading a paragraph or two, then walking out. That would actually be just a bit weird.
However, that is exactly what traditional websites do. They wait for people to show up, shove information at them, and then wait for the people to leave. In today’s world, you have to engage your visitors, finding out what they want, and then deliver it to them in bite sized morsels. The website interaction is more like dating, where you slowly get to know each other, and then after a respectable amount of time, decide whether or not you’re going to get into the relationship.
A blog let’s you do that. People can see your material, reply to it either on your site, or perhaps on social media, and you can answer their questions, or reply to their comments. It’s the next best thing to having someone walk into your showroom. In fact, it may be better, because evicting troublemakers doesn’t involve calling the police: you use the “Trash” button and the offensive reply just disappears. You’ve got the power.
A website is a static event. You pay someone to create it, like a written report, and then it is published and you are done with the project. An Online Marketing Platform is a constant effort, and this is a GREAT thing. The ability to constantly and consistently adjust and adapt your message is what real marketing is all about. We used to have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to bring in focus groups over and over and over again until we had a marketing message that “worked”. Now, we can experiment and adjust to the changes in the marketplace every day. Let’s explain the difference by using a real world example: the introduction of the Affordable Care Act.
Whether you approved of the law or not, this legislation had a massive impact on insurance agents nationwide. The difference between a successful agency and a failure can be understood by how they were able to respond to the rapid change in their marketplace.
A traditional agency, with a normal website, needed to wait until they had a full grasp on Obamacare, all of the legislation’s nuances and loopholes, and only then could they launch a new website with definitive information on what their clients should do under the new law. As it stood, this process took almost a year.
Contrast that with an agency that had a dynamic Online Marketing Platform. The OMP agency started on day one, grabbing articles from the web and “interpreting” the meaning of the latest rules, based upon the best understanding at the moment. Clients from their agency had immediate access to a professional opinion on the important elements of the law. As the law changed, or as the media discussed different aspects, the OMP agency was able to respond within minutes, if they felt it was important, to the latest revelations. Their client base could be assured that this insurance agency was staying right on top of the issue.
But it’s not only the OMP agency’s clients that would know this. The agency with the static website also had clients that had the same questions. When doing Google searches for answers, the OMP agency would show up because they had some of the newest, most pertinent answers to their questions. The static website agency had their usual customer service phone number on their homepage, and they just hoped people might call if they had questions. As more people went to the OMP site for answers, you can be assured that when it came time to sign up, they were, by and large, going to work with the agency that had been an authority in the field, rather than an agency which only appeared to be adding Affordable Care Act information when they could no longer avoid talking about it.
But what if you publish information that is wrong?
This is MUCH less of a problem then you think, and in fact is just another opportunity for success. If you have an article that contains bad information, you don’t actually delete the article! Instead, you add a note to the TOP of the article, saying that the information has now been updated and they can find more information on the subject in the NEW article you wrote, and then you provide a link to the new article. Don’t give up the SEO of the old article, nor sacrifice the opportunity for an internal link to a related topic. Changing your mind in your blog isn’t a problem; it’s a gold mine.
This is just one way in which a blog can be used to attract and retain new customers. Don’t expect every blog article you post to grab thousands of readers right away. The fact is, the more articles you write for your blog, the deeper and deeper your gravity well becomes. It’s not just Google that will measure your gravity well, either. If I’m a prospective customer and I see you have written two articles on a subject, I might consider you knowledgeable on the topic, depending upon the content. However, if I land on your page and I see you have authored sixty-five articles over the span of five years, I’m going to see that you are not only quite aware of many facets of the topic, but that you have been in the business for years, and are a reputable, reliable source of consistent service for your clients. You’ve sold me with your thoroughness and your consistency.
What I’m really saying here is that your Online Marketing Platform should never, ever be finished. We no longer call it “site design”, but rather “content design”. We are far more interested in taxonomy instead of aesthetics, as this is a reflection of how your prospective customers might find your information. Therefore, let’s talk a little bit about taxonomy.
Taxonomy: How people find stuff on your OMP
Growing up, you probably only ever heard the word “taxonomy” used in biology class, where we were learning how to catgegorize plants or animals. You know, tarantulas were under the category “Eracnid”. Restaurant menus have great categories. Sandwiches and salads might be under “Lunches”, while fried green tomatoes and hummus and chips could be under “Appetizers”. The human brain, in fact, automatically creates taxonomies. It’s how we categorize the (literally) millions of things we see in our lifetimes. We don’t provide any more detail to a taxonic category than our needs require. There may be 17 different models of a Hyundai Sonata for 2015, but unless you own one, you probably just categorize ALL Hyundais under the heading “Hyundai”.
The point is, how you categorize the information in your OMP should be directly focused on how your customers would think to look for it.
Let’s look at the two basic ways a WordPress OMP runs its taxonomy: Categories and Tags.
Categories function exacly as you would expect them to work. If I have a website about birds, I might have categories of Land Birds or Water Fowl. Or I might decide to have “Exotic Birds” and “Wild Birds”. These distinctions are important because your business needs to deliver the categories in the way your customers would search for it. If I’m running a farm-focused website, I might have categories of Chickens and Ducks, or Layers and Broilers. You know what your categories are for your business, and it is absolutely crucial that all your posts, pages and products are categorized appropriately for your customers.
Making sure your categories are right has two huge benefits:
- Good categories make it easy for prospective customers to find exactly what they want on your OMP
- Well constructed categories make it easy for Google to understand what’s available on your site, and give weight to the things that have the most entries under a specific category.
By creating your categories properly for your customers, you are engaging in exactly the kind of efforts that search engines reward heavily with high rankings. It’s a win/win.
Tags are words or phrases that serve as a secondary way of organizing the information on your site. These are things that may not be “big” enough to have their own categories, but will really help prospective customers find specific things that interest them.
Sticking with the restaurant example, you may have several items on the menu that are vegetarian friendly. Instead of creating a whole category for a few vegetarian options, you can use a “Vegetarian” tag. Then, when someone clicks on that word in your tag listing, all the dishes that you have tagged as “Vegetarian” will come up. You may not want to overtly advertise that your firehouse chili is actually made with soy crumbles, but a vegetarian will be ecstatic to find it in a tag search.
Keep the number of tags you use across your site to a minimum, though. Not every detail deserves a tag, and your important tags shouldn’t be lost in a deluge of “Gluten Free”, “Made with some organic ingredients”, “Contains dairy”, “No preservatives”, “Cooked to order”, and “Fresh made daily”.
Let’s go in to a little more detail on how we use categories for an Online Marketing Platform. In working with a restaurant, we decided that the previous website had used a taxonomy that didn’t really fit how people hunted for food. It had reflected the way the restaurant owners ran the business, rather than how the patrons ordered the food. So, rather than having the OMP categorized by “Food”, “Drinks”, “Catering” and “Entertainment”, we created master headings for “Lunch”, “Dinner” and “Drinks”, then provided sub categories for each heading, with things like “Sandwiches”, “Pasta”, “Seafood” or “Desserts”.
Fortunately, a WordPress-based OMP allows you to easily create these results pages for the headings, and a single item can appear in multiple places without having to be entered multiple times. By using a category of “Sandwiches”, and making sure the “Sandwich” heading had “Lunches” as a parent category, we could easily create the necessary results pages within the OMP. You click on the header “Sandwiches” on the home page, and you will be sent to a page that lists all the sandwiches available.