As a website owner, you must always keep in mind that successful completion of website building usually marks the beginning of the real battle rather than the end. Your website will become relevant only once you make it easily accessible to your target audience as much as possible. Therefore, once you complete designing and building your website, you should initiate appropriate website marketing strategies in order to increase traffic to the website and achieve the objectives for which you created the website. Just like any other marketing activities, website marketing is a procedural initiative that involves a combination of different elements of the marketing strategies. You can achieve effective website marketing through different strategic approaches designed to ensure that your website ranks high among the major internet search engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and Alta Vista.

The fundamentals of website marketing

In today’s globalized world, websites represent the most visible face of your organizational or individual initiatives. The question of how you manage the communications and awareness program is therefore a fundamental part of your strategic website marketing task. In deciding how best to achieve this, you need to come to terms with a variety of issues, including the question of how to integrate your communications program with different aspects of routine marketing strategies in order to attain the highest level of synergy. Therefore, as you develop your website marketing strategy, you need to take account of the following key aspects:

• The nature of your target audience;
• Your long-term and short term website marketing objectives;
• The composition of the message to be relayed;
• The communication channels that you will utilize to deliver your messages;
• Your budget priorities;

The nature of your target audience

Determining the target audience of your website marketing plans marks the starting point of communicating your website products and/or services to the right people. You should always avoid haphazard website marketing activities that have not been fine tuned to suit the needs of your particular audience because such initiatives usually achieve very little impact. Therefore, you need to think critically about the ways in which to categorize your target audiences and subsequently, the manner in which you will tailor your message to match the needs of each of your target groups. You may categorize the target audience of your website products or services in different ways that may include: current and potential users of your website; the needs of your target audience; the role of your target audience in the buying process of your services or products; levels of knowledge of your target audience; levels of loyalty among your target audience; and the perceptions of your target audience on the existing websites. It is only against such well informed background that you can make decisions on what to what to say, how to say it, when to say it, when to say it, where to say it and whom to say it in the process of website marketing.

The fundamentals of website marketing – Setting your website marketing objectives

After you identify your target audience, the next step involves setting your communication objectives. Your website marketing objectives may revolve around cognitive, affective or behavioral responses that your campaign is designed to achieve. As a matter of fact, you might be aiming at putting something into minds of your website visitors, change the attitude of your website visitors or encourage your website visitors to behave in a particular way. Basically, you should strive to create a ‘learn-feel-do process’ in which a visitor discovers something in general terms about a website, browses further for a more detailed understanding and finally takes action in the form of trying the products offered by the website and subsequently become a regular user.

Your message composition

After developing a satisfactory understanding of the response that you intend to achieve in your website marketing campaign, you can then begin focusing on the design of your message. The key aspects that you should consider while developing the message for your website marketing include: the content of the message; the structure of the message; the format of the message; and the channels of delivering your message. By so doing, you will simply be deciding upon what to say, how to say it logically, whether to say it symbolically or emotionally and where to say it from. In designing your message, you may choose to use either rational appeal or emotional appeal to convince your target audience to visit your website. In the rational appeal approach, you may state to your target audience that by visiting your website, they will gain distinct and tangible benefits. On the other hand, the emotional appeals approach may take the form of positive emotional appeals or negative emotional appeals. While utilizing a positive emotional appeal, you need to set out a message that associates your website with especially favorable image that emphasizes on issues such as sophistication and uniqueness of the website’s content. For example, if you are marketing a health and wellness website, you need to design a message that highlights to your target audience why they may achieve perfect body health conditions within the shortest time when they visit your website. A negative emotional approach would require that you format messages that may create feelings of guilt, shame or fear, among your target audience. Your message should be structured in such a way that members of your target audience may feel shameful, fearful or guilty if they fail to visit your website. For example, if you are marketing a health and wellness website, you need to design a message that highlights to your target audience why they risk experiencing health complications such as obesity if they fail to visit the website for unique health and wellness tips. However, you must ensure that your message does not sound like a threat if you design your message along the negative emotional appeal approach. Moreover, irrespective of whether the appeal is positive or negative, you must identify a unique website marketing proposition that your campaign is designed to rest upon.

Selecting your communication channels

For your message to reach your target market, you must select appropriate communication channels that match the content of your website and the target audience. You need to select the channels through which you will achieve contact and communication in the most effective way. Personal influence channels and non-personal influence channels are the two main types of channels that you can use ether interchangeably or as a combination. Personal influence channels further consist of advocate channels, expert channels and social channels. You may choose to utilize the advocate channels in situations where you intend to exploit your own marketing experience as an individual or the sales and marketing force who are employed by your company. Expert channels come in handy in situations where you may prefer to utilize the influence of those people whose views are seen to be independent and respected, as is usually the case with consumer groups and opinion leaders. When such expert channels comment on the value of your website to your target audience, then your website will definitely register overwhelming visits. Social channel is one of the most effective and widely used medium of website marketing. Your website stands a good chance of reaching wide and varying audiences through social networks that usually consist of friends, business associates, neighbors and reference groups. If you decide to use non-personal influence channels, you will have to employ the use mass media such as online eZines, magazines and PR organizations. However, you must always bear in mind that although non-personal influence media have the advantage of reaching large audiences, they lack personal element, with the risk of the message being ignored or misinterpreted by the recipients. It would therefore be worthwhile if you combined both personal influence channels and non-personal influence channels to achieve optimum website marketing results.

Setting your budget priorities

Like any other form of product or service marketing, website marketing is an activity that involves recurring advertising expenses. It is therefore very important to base your website marketing activities within budgetary limits according to the size of your business or organization. You may choose to set your communications budget through an affordable approach, competitive parity or a percentage of sales technique. The affordable approach allows you to set your website advertising budget on the basis of what you can achieve as an individual or as an organization. The competitive parity technique allows you to set your website marketing budget at a level that matches the advertising outlay of your competitor. You can also base the setting your budget on the forecast percentage of sales or profits to be generated by your website in the period covered by the appropriation.