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Web Marketing Strategies

There's a little childish game I play with each visit to Starbucks: each time I order a 'medium size latte'. Now for the benefit of the few readers who have not yet visited Starbucks, the key is that there is no such thing as 'medium-sized' at Starbucks. Their marketing folks have come up with a scheme for describing the size of their cups as 'Tall, Venti, and Grande' to replace the 'small, medium and large' designations used by ordinary mortals. It's a slick marketing ploy which enables them to avoid the word 'small', and use the words venti, and grande (pronounced gran-day) to suggest something foreign, exotic, larger-than-life, and worth extra money. It's part of a very successful program, and has made Starbucks one of the outstanding marketing successes of the past 20 years.

But it is exactly the wrong strategy for marketing on the web.

In the web environment, it is always the customer who initiates the dialog. It is the customer who is active, rather than the salesman/marketer. There are no street signs, no billboards, and no thumping rock music to attract their attention. There is no local mall, where you can set up one of a hundred or so stores. The web turns some traditional marketing strategies inside out. Because it is the customer that is the active participant in the dialog, the search terms they use becomes the focal point of all of the marketing effort, and the crucial element of any marketing strategy. Any web campaign that does not use this tenet as the centerpiece of the strategy will not be successful.

For example, suppose you own a microbrewery, and in a previous marketing campaign you described your product as 'amber nectar brewed from barley still moist with dew'. That phrase might be combined with a visual of a slowly poured beer, accompanied with the appropriate sounds or pouring and subsequent enjoyment. But the odds that anyone looking for your beer will search for the term 'amber nectar', 'barley', or 'moist' is very near zero.

This kind of misstep is not uncommon in companies with strong willed marketing executives who are steeped in the traditional marketing methodologies that have very successful for them in the past. Their knack for creating a phrase to enhance product identification and branding is an excellent technique, but it simply doesn't work on the web.

One of the worst mistakes is the use of 'corpo-speak' to describe a product on the web. Those types of slogans may work just fine within the corporate environment but are poorly understood and not usually in the vocabulary of the average buyer.

Gorilla Snot


Successful web marketing campaigns are centered on selection of key terms that are proven to be sought by potential buyers. These key terms selected impact copy, images, title, tag sets, content, directory choices, file names, and category choices. An excellent example of this is the product 'gorilla snot'. Now gorilla snot is a rosin product that rock 'n' roll musicians use to help them hold their drumsticks and guitar picks. It is also the name of the gooey rubber substance that holds your automobile windshield in place. Now if one looks for 'rosin adhesive' or 'gooey rubber adhesive', one gets thousands of sites, none of which are appropriate to our real search. However a search on 'gorilla snot' will turn up many sources for exactly the product we are seeking.

In the past it has been the practice of webmasters to load key phrases, especially ones like this which are not politically correct but are, in fact representative of sought ofter terms, into the meta tags of html documents. There insued a free-for-all using this method to see how many times one could stuff a strategic key phrase into the meta tag listing. The more times is appeared, the higher the page ranked when that term was called. After a while, the engines got wise and began to penalize for this obvious abuse. Bear in mind that the meta tags are not even seen by the reader, and that there was no control to assure even what appeared in the tags was even remotely related to the page content.

Nowadays, there is a trend away from using meta tags as locators of material on the web. Since all search engines index all the text on a page anyway, tags are redundant. In fact, some of the larger search engines don't even read meta tags. Today, there is a strong current towards using key phrase loaded conent in the main body of the page text in building the ranking formulae. And external links (from other sites) pointing to your site are becomming very powerful ranking factors.

The Three Ring Sign of Successful Web Marketing Strategy


The accompanying Venn diagram depicts the challenges of marketing on the web. The three goals of business objectives, site content, and search-oriented criteria are both competing and overlapping. A successful web campaign will focus in trying to achieve the greatest overlapping of all three areas - making the black area as large as possible. Short changing any of the areas will lead to sub-optimal results. If search is compromised, the result will be an excellent site that few buyers see. If content is cheated, there will be many visitors, but few buyers. And if business goals is short-changed the result will be short-term sales success, but longer term declines in branding, and development of corporate marketing efforts.

Superimposed on this 3-goal matrix is a modification of the normal marketing process:

  •  Identification of targets
  •  Identification of competition and how they reach those targets
  •  Measurement of share of market
  •  Measurement of share of voice

Finally, manipulate the goal matrix to gain an optimum common area for your business, and develop your marketing plan to select the precise themes, set expectations, and to build metrics to evaluate the continuing success of the site.
Please be sure to visit these other related articles.
Website Secrets 1
Website Secrets 2
Website Secrets 3
Web Services

Chris Kemp
April 11, 2002


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Chatham, NJ
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This page revised   May 23, 2006
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