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Webspace – A new paradigm in online marketing

Ben Dickens, July 22, 2013

Successful online marketing is about building a great website, then promoting it through advertising, optimising it for organic traffic and getting some journalists to write about you, right?

Nope. That’s more like what you do if you have an offline shop.

Online marketing is about optimising multiple properties to function as an interrelated digital ecosystem. I call that a webspace.

Up until fairly recently, online strategy has been dictated by the ‘rules’ of marketing of an offline, pre-internet world. But, due to more digitally savvy marketers gaining senior positions and the sheer volume of data available today to measure success, this is changing.

A key paradigm shift that has taken a long time to gain mainstream traction is that in the online environment, we’re not limited by space in the same way that we are offline.

Having multiple properties or outlets is a huge investment of time and money in the offline world, demanding stringent viability assessments. This isn’t the case online, but the single property concept has remained strong, and there are few brands taking advantage of the unlimited online environment.

With the introduction of packaged CMSs like WordPress and the rise of social/UGC platforms, the cost of having multiple interacting web elements is very small. This has opened up a whole new world of marketing tactics and opportunities for savvy online businesses that are only now being realised in a big way.

Success online is so much more than marketing a website. It’s about taking a holistic view of your entire existing and potential brand footprint, including website, blogs, social platforms, and even third party media, and looking at how all the elements can work together to create a cohesive brand ecosystem focused on building profitable audiences.

Online, brands exist within a digital network of networks, passing data, traffic, link equity and many other factors between themselves. All of these elements are interrelated and need to be looked at as such to be optimally effective.

Great audience-focused content on blogs attracts traffic from effectively managed social properties. That traffic is engaged on the blog and incentivised to share the content to incrementally drive visibility and traffic.

Other blogs and media link to the original content, which, as well as driving referral traffic, has organic search benefits, providing increased visibility and traffic.

Analytics data and sophisticated audience profiling allows brands to optimise cross-platform conversion rates, constantly moving users through sales paths, so that all this additional traffic is providing an optimised level of opt-ins and sales.

I regularly come across companies with separate PR, branding, search and social departments, with no oversight to ensure that they are all working together; in some cases they are even fighting each other for budgets. This is an insane cannibalism that completely misses the point of how to market in a digital ecosystem.

Brand’s need to think of their entire online presence as a single ‘webspace’, each part functioning to communicate to audiences at different stages in their buying cycles, acquire audience and drive conversions.

 

A blog should attract traffic, links, drive shares and capture audience (data); email should drive traffic to sales pages; social should promote blog content and build audience (fans); third party media coverage should drive visibility and organic search traffic for large numbers of keywords; and PPC should support specific content campaigns. Apps should provide simple mobile access to the sales process on a website.

Within an effectively optimised webspace, organic search traffic becomes just one of the channels that are driving awareness and visibility, meaning that Google addiction becomes less of a threat as the brand is not dependant on that channel for the entirety of its traffic.

An effective webspace is completely ‘audience focused’. I’ve worked in marketing for 15 years now and I’ve heard that term bandied about since I started, but never has it held more relevant than in today’s world of user-controlled online journeys. If you’re not constantly looking at how to integrate your webspace into the personal webspaces of your target audience, then you will be irrelevant and ignored. Simple as that.

This trend to complete user-controlled consumption will continue with people increasingly getting better at using tools to filter out non-relevant communications.

For the brand’s that truly understand this, there is a huge potential to become a valuable element in user’s personal webspaces. Think of it like bees and plants: users are the bees, hungry to consume, and plants are dependant for survival by attracting the bees and getting their pollen transported. Successful plant species evolve around the bees’ requirement for nectar. They became essential parts of the existence of the bees. Those that didn’t don’t exist anymore.

As a brand, you need to think about why your customers come to you. Is it to help you pollinate? Or is it actually for the nectar?

Optimising not just your website but your whole webspace around this concept of communicating and providing what your target audience is looking for is essential to succeed in the evolution of business on the internet.

If you’d like to discuss the concept of webspace and how this applies to your brand, please  contact us.

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