How Critical is SEO to a Digital Business’s Success?

Most businesses, especially the ones that fall under the category of Small and Medium Businesses (SMB), equate a business’s success to their SEO efforts. This perception is even truer for those businesses that are in the early phases of digital transformation and are attempting to reach the large audience of the Internet to maximize their reach and sales.

I get asked this question by many small business owners. This group of entrepreneurs believes that SEO can solve all their customer acquisition problems. However, those of us who have tread these waters before know that while at one time SEO had a major impact on a business’s success, the equation has gotten more complex with more variables. Here are some of the reasons.

  1. Based on its definition, SEO, is meant to optimize a website to pull more organic search engine traffic. That traffic may or may not be a large piece of a business’s traffic. The truth is that with social media platforms in play, a business’s primary target audience may not be as active on search as on other platforms.
  2. SEO reflects only one dimension of an organization’s overall digital marketing strategy. An organization’s digital properties such as websites, etc. may also find more valuable audiences by pulling in traffic from PPC, social media, and other sources and thus SEO solely may not be as impactful in pushing a business to great heights. However, we can say that success in digital marketing overall can be more impactful as that means an organization is able to target the right audience, focusing on lead captures and sales conversions, etc. – all factors that together have a much larger impact on the success of a business than just SEO.
  3. Zooming further out, marketing, again, is one part of a business’s operations. Other aspects of a digital business play a role in its success as well. That includes the ability of an organization to create the right products for its market, selling effectively to the right digital audience, agile delivery, customer service, and so on. For example, no matter how much traffic you are able to pull in, if your products and services are not on par to your audience’s preferences, you will have difficulty converting that traffic. Gone are the days of the mantra “if you build it, they will come”.

In conclusion, your vision and focus should always be larger than simply making SEO work for your website or other digital properties. Your ultimate goal should be to deliver on the differentiating value proposition for your business and that means looking at all aspects to make your digital business a success.

Read about Digital execution for digital transformation


SEO importance business

Digital Strategy and its Execution – The IBM Example

An excellent example of how organizations should go about setting their digital strategy and executing it comes from IBM. Any organization looking for some tips and motivation on how to do it should look at how IBM started to address this a few years ago. In IBM’s example, we learn the importance of setting a formal digital strategy (IBM calls them strategic imperatives), establishing a roadmap for its execution, putting in the commitment (dollars and management accountability) behind those initiatives and finally in executing those strategies. For IBM, the proof has been in the double digit returns that they have seen from most of the strategic imperatives that they had charted.

A few years ago, as the world had started to grapple with the waves of digital disruption, IBM recognized the far reaching impact of the cloud platform, and Big data and analytics. As a consequence, IBM established certain strategic imperatives to guide their plans for the next few years around those disciplines and started to invest (and divest) heavily to attain the vision underlying those imperatives.

Fast forward 3 years and we see that after investing billions of dollars to build its cloud platform, IBM is nearing 50 data centers worldwide that are delivering cloud services (Iaas, PaaS, DBaas, and SaaS) to its base of worldwide customers. Accordingly, they also invested in analytics (based on their Watson platform) and now have APIs ready where enterprise customers are able to incorporate ‘cognitive’ capabilities in their  solutions by calling in those APIs. More impressive is the fact that these investments resulted in double digit returns the year after IBM started to invest in these strategic imperatives.

The digital services mentioned above is not a complete listing of the digital opportunities that IBM has been able to capitalize on over the past 3-4 years since they formulated them. The point is for enterprises to take note from the lessons learned, which can be summarized as follows:

  • The need to establish a formal digital strategy based on the disruptive trends in one’s own industry and market
  • Creating a roadmap to execute those strategies
  • Ability to execute those strategies and monitoring the progress
  • Being bold to invest as well as divest accordingly in executing those strategies.

As I have asserted in the past, how organizations are able to execute effectively in the next few years to get through the digital transformation that the world is going through will determine their success and position within their industries.

 


 

Staff, Roles, and Teams in a Digital Organization

 

The following are some of the roles in a digitally oriented organization.

Digital Strategy Director or Chief Digital Officer – This person is usually responsible for the overall digital strategy of the organization.

Content Developers – This person is usually part of the content marketing team, and responsible to create content.

Social media – These individuals are responsible to maintain an organization’s presence and to maintain its image through social media channels.

 

Critical factors in formulating an organization’s digital strategy

 

The ‘digital domain’

Before devising an appropriate digital strategy, we must recognize the overall domain of digital. The broader thinking and conversations in the boardrooms should be focused on the following:

  1. Digital landscape
  2. Digital ecosystem – What will be our organization’s digital ecosystem?
  3. Digital channels and media – What digital channels and media platforms will be part of our organization’s strategy? For example, will your organization be active on Facebook? If yes, in what way?
  4. Digital devices – What digital devices will be at the center of our business? What is our mobility strategy? What about BYOD and other related initiatives?
  5. Target audience – Do we know our digital audience? Do you know how your traditional audience has transformed to the digital landscape?
  6. Digital assets and properties – What digital assets and properties (websites, apps, etc.) will be at the center of your digital strategy in terms of serving both the customers and the internal organization?
  7. Digital Platforms – What digital platforms (IT platforms) will be at the core of your organization’s digital transformation?

How should an organization set its Digital Strategy?

Digital Drivers

More  specifically, an organization should address the following when devising its digital strategy.

  • Digital channel strategy – What is your digital channel strategy? What type of engagement do you plan across channels? It’s not about simply having a Facebook strategy or a Twitter strategy but rather a strategy that transcends various digital channels and considers the global digital audience, its needs, and engagement goals.
  • Organizational culture – What specific methods has your organization taken to transform its culture to that of digital?
  • Organization business processes – What specific business processes will change to potentially disrupt the internal and external operations of your organization.

 

How are organizations transforming to being digital?

Organizational transformation is more than introducing a few digital devices and becoming active on social media. The overall domain of digital transformation is broader and encompasses much of the organization and the broader ecosystem that its a part of. Specifically, digital transformation encompasses a change in organizational culture, products and services, and its business processes enabled by digital technology and people with a new mindset.

Advances in consumer technology is one of the primary factors driving this transformation. Today’s consumer requires advanced services on a mobile phone, wants interaction on social media, and develops perception about brands at different levels of the complex digital universe. Serving audiences in this complex universe of digital requires a new organization with new platforms, agile and technologically advanced delivery capabilities, innovative business processes, and overall a new organizational culture the likes of which didn’t exist earlier.

In general, organizations are becoming digital by taking on a number of initiatives. These include the following:

  1. Mobile – Organizations are porting their external facing systems and the products and services they offer on those systems to their audiences by making them mobile responsive.
  2. Social – Wherever applicable and value-added, organizations are turning to social media. This may include moving their customer service and marketing processes to social media and related channels.
  3. Analytics – Organizations introduce analytics and data driven feedback in all aspects of their  operations.
  4. Digitization of business processes – This involves automating business processes by using mobile, social, cloud, and analytics as the primary drivers.

The move to digital, therefore, needs to be strategic and transformational in nature. Implementation of that strategy then requires a longer term road map with clearly defined goals. The road map should lead to a clear organizational digital maturity positioning the organization to handle the new consumer of today and tomorrow.

 

Website design considerations for achieving a maximum sticky factor

Website design can have a major impact on driving traffic to your site and on achieving your conversion goals. Here is a list of some key points that can help you achieve website usability and conversions.

Redesigning a website is a key step that involves a number of people from your organization that can include your technical website team, SEO team, digital marketers, copywriters, sales teams, content marketers, social media managers, and others. Their input is key in the overall design of the website, its structure, and overall navigation design.

Initial Steps

Before you get started, ensure you have done the following:

  • Appropriate market research related to your site, your audiences, and the general business ecosystem.
  • Relevant keyword research to get an idea on the influence search engine traffic can have on your site.
  • Document your audience profiles.
  • If available, get historical data from various analytics tools.
  • A listing of the various types of your site conversion goals.
  • A listing of conversions goals for the specific pages of your website.

Site Design Tips

  • Keep the layout simple that allows showcasing of your primary message clearly and in clear sight
  • Allows highlighting of key information related to your business prominently
  • Ensure that your website targets your audience or audiences. It’s not uncommon for many sites to target multiple audiences.
  • Test with multiple types of content including images, video, infographics, virtual reality, and so on.
  • Enable posting of content that can drive your audience to share content on social media.
  • Ensure that your content is fresh and relevant to your site and audience.
  • On relevant pages, allow user generated content that can add value to your site
  • Depending on your site, provide access to a multitude of content and resources to your visitors. This can include guides, FAQs, and other related information.
  • Provide links to partners and others who may help in boosting your brand image of your business and website.

Technical considerations

  • Technical SEO considerations such as page load times,
  • Other SEO considerations such as title, meta tags, etc
  • Links and link profiles

Perform a Digital Audience Analysis to Get to Know Your Audience

One of the factors behind achieving success in the online word requires a better understanding of your digital audience. This post reviews some of the ways an organization can better understand its audience and as a result improve its digital offerings and digital platforms to deliver its offerings.

Use Analytics Tools

One of the most common ways to understand your audience is to heavily employ the use of analytics tools. These tools can provide you a thorough analysis of the audience that is visiting and interacting with your digital assets. Using these tools you can get to know the following:

  • who is visiting your sites (gender, age groups, etc.) – demographics
  • psychographics (attitudes and opinions)
  • locations where your visitors are coming from
  • their interest in your products and services (bounce rate)
  • Channels that bring them to your websites and other digital assets
  • and so on

However, these tools may not give you enough information about the audience that is not visiting your websites. You can look at the data related to referrals (sites that directly or indirectly refer to you) and use that information to see where your audience may be hanging out. You can then use the limited information about those sites to get to know a little more about where your audience may be found. You can also use this information to drive your marketing decisions. For example, if you find that most of your conversions are from audiences that come through referrals than search engines, you can invest your advertising dollars on those sites rather than on PPC efforts.

When trying to analyse an audience’s digital behavior, it’s important to give proper attribution to sites that drives traffic to your website. For example, just because your conversions show visitors coming to your website from search engines may not give you the complete picture. It may be that visitors learned about your products and services elsewhere but then used the search engine simply to locate your website information. In this case, therefore, search engines only had a little role to influence your audience’s decision to visit your website.

There are various data you can use to give you deeper insights into your audience. For example, if you running an e-commerce site, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • the amount of research your audience does online before heading to the shopping cart
  • what activities do your users engage in before adding items to the shopping carts
  • What types of users are driving more sales
  • What’s the cart abandonment percentage?
  • Are your users prone to do more research on your website before they are making a buy decision?
  • Are visitors using your site for research buy buying elsewhere? (some sites provide enough information on their websites to help their users make a decision but then their conversion process isn’t optimized)
  • and so on

Performing this types of audience analysis can give you better insights into your audience’s digital behavior and can help you design your systems and business accordingly. Some of what we have found include the following tips:

  • You should also ensure that data related to search engines is used in the right context (e.g. it may not be just some magic keywords that are helping you in getting sales).
  • Don’t rely on first level of data analysis that includes demographics and psychographics information. Deeper analysis is needed to unearth detailed user behavior.

Conduct Market Research

Market research can hep you identify trends related to your potential audiences.

Engage in Social listening

You can use a number of social listening tools to analyse conversations related to your brand.

 

How is digital changing enterprise business models

 

What is a Business Model?

A business model is an abstract representation of how an organization creates and delivers value for its customers and how it sustains itself financially over a period of time. Critical components of a business model include customer audiences, value proposition, products and service offerings, business processes, the overall business network (ecosystem), and the technological and other infrastructure that the organization needs to operate the business and deliver that value proposition.

Why are Business Models Important?

The topic of a business model usually comes when discussing an organization’s business strategy and when establishing a business’ overall objectives.

Whether you are a small or a large organization, you should not only know your business model but you should be confident about its viability. You should know whether your business model is still valid for the business environment that you operate in.

A validated business model can help you in setting up the course of your business moving forward and will provide you the confidence in making your business investments. Businesses that fail to make the right adjustments are taking the risk of inching closer to the edge of a cliff.

That’s what happened to businesses such as Blockbusters, Borders Bookstore, and others. These businesses failed to see how their audiences and their behaviors had changed and thus their ongoing business practices, processes, and offerings failed to change with them leading them to lose business value quickly.

If you are new in business or going through a change, taking the time to reassess your business model is more than required.

Businesses that are undergoing changes due to the digital transformation need to take a hard look at their core and their business models and need to establish a new course for themselves to ensure they are rightly aligned with the future.

A good place to start is to document your organization’s business model. A documented business model helps surface both challenges and opportunities in the way an organization creates value for its customers and shareholders.

Business Models Disrupted by Digital

Over the past few years, digital has disrupted more business models than any other phenomena in history. If you have not yet reassessed the viability of your business model in the digital era, perhaps this is the tine to start.

Let’s review some of the business models that have been disrupted over the past few years because of digital. Reviewing this list can help you understand whether your business is next and whether you are ready to absorb that impact.

  • By offering courses online, Coursera is on a collision course with the offerings of business schools. The question remains to what extent will this disruption dent the revenue of business schools and how will they change to tackle this challenge.
  • Amazon Web Services revolutionized the notion of organizations not having to own or invest in their technological infrastructure. Rather they can rent and pay for what they use. Amazon was able to offer this service by relying on technological advancements and perfecting technological and business execution arming them with new business capabilities.

 

 

Success Stories of Businesses who transformed to become digital

 

Read about Steps of creating a digital strategy

Questions to ask about your business model

Here are some questions that your business should ask when assessing your business model in the context of digital.

  1. If your business has been based on a bricks and mortar business model, how will this transform to bricks and clicks business model? Have you identified all the scenarios to operate in both or will you be transforming to an all clicks and digital model?
  2. How will your business create value in the new era?
  3. How are various aspects of your business being digitized? This includes customer acquisition, lead generation, conversions, customer interactions, building customer relationships, staffing and resourcing, and so on.
  4. Customers are hungry for more information to help them make better decisions. What tools and information can you provide them to make those decisions? Providing this information shouldn’t be regarded as a risk of having them turn away. Instead, you may earn their trust that will make you a prime candidate for them to throw their support behind you.
  5. In the new digital economy, products, services, and offers are rolled out at a much faster pace than ever before. Has your organization transformed to become agile in rolling out products and services at a much faster pace to the marketplace?
  6. Are you focused to make your organization’s brand disruptive?

Asking such questions will get you thinking about your business model and to make any necessary adjustments.

 

 

 

Understanding and delivering on ‘business value’ in the digital world

In this article, I will focus on the topic of delivering business value in the realm of the digital world. First, let’s revisit the definition of business value. Business value refers to any activity or results from that activity that is aligned with the strategic objectives of the organization. Within the digital context this means that the activities that an organization engages in the hopes of achieving certain results must be aligned to the overall digital strategy of the organization. The results are about what we normally would discuss in the context of basic business fundamentals such as increasing revenue, improving profit margins, optimizing business processes, improving shareholder value, and so on. However, when discussing business value in the context of the digital world, we usually mean getting the basic business fundamentals to work in the context of the overall digital world in which the business operates.

In an earlier post, we discussed four components of an organization’s digital strategy. They are as follows:

  1. Digital Channels – Refers to the channels of the Internet and the digital world through which audiences (customers, visitors, etc.) touch an organization.
  2. Digital Audiences – Refer to customers, prospects, visitors, users, etc. of the digital world.
  3. Digital Experiences – Refers to online experiences that digital audiences experience while interacting with digital assets and properties of the digital world.
  4. Digital Platforms – Refers to the digital systems, apps, websites, blogs, etc. that organizations build to serve their audiences.

The figure below illustrates delivery of business value in the digital world. The business value in this case depends on the interplay of the four components through the internal business processes and its organizational culture.

digital business value delivery

This diagram on delivering business value in the digital world essentially forces an organization to ask the following questions:

  1. Do your digital audiences like your products and services?
  2. Do your digital audiences trust your business enough to conduct business transactions?
  3. Are you reaching out to your audiences and potential customers on all possible digital channels where they may live?
  4. Are you offering the right digital experiences to your digital audiences on all the digital channels on which you conduct business?
  5. Are your digital channels up to the task of delivering the above in an optimal fashion?
  6. Have you re-engineered your internal and external business processes to align with the above?
  7. Have you established an internal organizational culture in line with your strategic objectives and the realities of the digital ecosystem in which you operate?

By taking a hard look at these questions will help you formulate appropriate business strategies that will help you in growing your digital business.

A few points about maximizing business value in the digital world are mentioned below:

  1. Optimal digital business value delivery is about using the traditional practices of leadership and discipline – only in a different environment.
  2. Competition in the new digital environment has necessitated new rules for delivery that include agile and lean practices.
  3. Business value in the digital environment is about defining new business capabilities that are relevant to the digital world. The newly defined business capabilities must be aligned to an organization’s strategic objectives.
  4. The new digital environment (including new digital processes, etc.) necessitates new ways of measuring business value that must be done at various levels of the organization.

 

Content Marketing – What types of content can be posted to grow online traffic?

Content marketing is an essential component of the digital marketing process. Here we list the various mechanisms that online marketers have at their disposal when formulating an online content marketing strategy.

1. Post relevant information on your products and services

The more information you can provide on your products and services, the more empowered your prospects will feel and the more comfortable they will become with purchasing your products and services. Unless you have something to hide, you should be generous in providing as much information as possible to your shoppers. This information should include information as text, images, video, infographics, and more. As a case in point, see Amazon.com’s products pages. They provide plenty of information to get visitors and prospects deeper in the sales funnel.

2. Provide ‘how to articles’ to make both the pre-sales and post-sales process simpler

The simpler you can make a customer’s life pre and post sales in terms of using your products and services, the better they will feel buying from you. Providing this type of content is thus a definite plus and being used by businesses in almost all industries. For example, more popular e-commerce sites not only provide you enough information on how to use their sites and systems but also how to succeed in running your digital business.

3. Post on related forums and blogs

Take the time to look into popular forums and blogs where your ideal audience may be lurking. Help them with the answers and when acceptable by the local terms and conditions of those sites, post information about your products. Quora.com is a good example where people ask various types of questions and people who reply don’t hesitate to provide recommendations for products and services.

4. Post content related to your business and products on Social media

If you maintain a social media channel related to your business (you should have no excuse of not having one with a built-up audience), then post content related to your products and service regularly. Although it may not be possible to post the same products repeatedly, you can post the supporting content for that product (e.g. how to articles, info in the press, and so on.) Besides, posting on social media will enable you to find your audience’s perception about your products and services and those insights will help you improve your products and services and improve their market positioning.

5. Promote your products and services to increase your social media reach

With various social media channels (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) boasting their reach in the hundreds of millions (and more than a billion for Facebook), you should consider constantly promoting your posts, especially the ones that have a higher user engagement rate. This promotion can help your brand increase its reach and provide you with enough brand exposure.

6. Post frequently and consistently

One of the most important aspects of content marketing is to post frequently and consistently. The more your audience engages with your content, the deeper you can push them into your sales funnel.

 

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