When a business asks “how do we get more site traffic?” or “how do we earn more sales?” it is marketing that provides the answer.
Marketing is the process a business takes to promote its products or services.
I created this checklist to provide potent marketing tactics your business can use to solve your promotional problems and challenges. This list should be a starting place, giving you ideas and suggestions that start you on a journey toward marketing success.
Site and App Performance
Your online marketing efforts need a hub, a central point from which all of your promotions are derived and to which all traffic and leads are directed. For most businesses — especially ecommerce businesses — the hub is a website or app.
1. Design for mobile. Consumer-facing businesses and even B2B companies need to look no further than an analytics report to know that a majority of visitors are using mobile devices. Nearly 80 percent of Americans own an internet-enabled mobile device.
This percentage can be higher for some groups. For example, 89 percent of American adults age 30 to 49 have a smartphone, and 94 percent of Americans age 18 to 29 have smartphones.
What’s more, 20 percent of Americans only access the internet from a mobile device. That means that one in five consumers don’t use a desktop or laptop computer at all. The only way your business can reach them is via the mobile web.
Design for mobile first. Then use responsive layouts to produce a functional website or app on any screen.
2. Build accelerated mobile pages. The project behind accelerated mobile pages aims to help web pages load almost instantly. Using a set of guidelines, components, and other techniques, AMPs turn on, if you will, like a light switch.
Your mobile customers will appreciate the performance, and so will Google, which may display accelerated mobile pages in a special AMP carousel. So your site could appear above your competitors in search results.
3. Make it a progressive web app. While you are focused on mobile-first design — including an AMP — you may as well make your site a progressive web app.
PWAs use application programming interfaces such as service workers (background scripts to support offline activity) and push notifications to give your site visitors a mobile experience similar to a native mobile app. You can even place an icon on a visitor’s mobile home screen with your PWA.
4. Use Lighthouse. Google’s Lighthouse is a free, open-source, and automated website monitoring tool. It can be set up to run from a server, and it is built into current versions of Google’s Chrome web browser. Lighthouse tests a page for performance and compliance with optimal practices and requirements.
A Lighthouse audit will provide five categories of feedback.
- Performance. A zero to 100 ranking of how quickly your site loads and how quickly key elements become available to users on mobile. This audit is based on several data points, including when the first elements appear and when the page becomes interactive.
- Progressive web app. Based on the PWA basic checklist, Lighthouse looks at your site’s level of completeness. Google emphasizes PWAs because they improve mobile performance. They may boost search engine rankings, too.
- Accessibility. This score is a weighted average of about 35 accessibility traits. Accessibility is one of the most important things online businesses can monitor, so it is very helpful to have this built in. It’s worth mentioning that not providing an accessible site might be illegal.
- Best practices. Checks for the use of current web development best practices like HTTP/2.
- Search engine optimization. Audits nine SEO basics. This is significantly less thorough than some third-party SEO audit tools or extensions, but it can still help.
Try to optimize your site until you get perfect scores in each Lighthouse category.
After you have a high-performance hub, you need a set of measurement tools to help monitor site or app traffic and track your marketing performance.
5. Use analytics. The term “analytics” describes the discovery and interpretation of data. For your website or app, understand how customers arrive and interact.
Identify key performance indicators your analytics software can track. For example, if you use Google Analytics, you might monitor how much of your site traffic comes from organic search to learn how your SEO efforts are progressing. Or you could analyze traffic coming from online ads.
You might also monitor bounce rate as a possible indicator of how well your content is resonating with visitors. Or compare the bounce rate for users on mobile versus desktop devices to ensure your mobile-first design is effective.
Your analytics tools will help you understand how well your marketing is working and how your business is growing.
6. Set up goal and conversion tracking. Google Analytics and similar tools allow you to create goal and conversion tracking. Conversions can be anything from newsletter subscriptions and landing page visits to an ecommerce transaction.
Since goals and conversions will be the endgame for many of your marketing activities, having a tool to measure them is vital.
7. Monitor promotional campaigns. Analytics software, such as the aforementioned Google Analytics, can be integrated with Google Ads and other digital advertising platforms and tools.
When you monitor promotional campaigns in the same analytics tools you use for site traffic and SEO, you can get an overall view of how your web marketing is performing.
8. Track sales. Ecommerce businesses must track sales. These reports may be built into an ecommerce platform, but there are also third-party sales and retail tracking tools available. Monitor sales trends, shipping costs, and profits.
You may see a pattern in the early items on this checklist. They are all focused on preparing your company’s website or app for success before you invest in driving site traffic.
Your site may only have one chance to make a good impression with a visitor. Make the most of that impression. In this next section, you’ll find suggestions for optimizing for conversions.
9. A/B test call-to-action and buy buttons. Use A/B or multivariate testing for all important conversion steps on your site or app. This should include testing buy buttons on product detail or category pages. It should also include buttons on shopping cart and checkout pages.
You want to understand how everything from free shipping offers to content to button placement impacts your site or app’s ability to convert browsers into buyers. A/B testing allows you to learn what your site visitors — potential customers — like and respond to. You can challenge some of your assumptions and get real data.
In each case, choose a single variable to test. Pit your current version against a challenger and learn which version converts better.
10. Test and optimize site or app search. Depending on the survey, somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of ecommerce visitors will navigate via site search. So you’ll want to optimize it.
Check site search for response accuracy. Is the search returning the best results for popular queries? Are the search results in the best order for conversion? Are you providing enough information in the results for shoppers to make a buying decision? Search results should lead a shopper to products and help encourage a purchase.
Also, optimize for synonyms and misspellings. Don’t let a typo cost your business a sale.
11. Test and optimize product presentation. In a 2015 blog post, Optimizely, the testing platform, briefly described how online lingerie retailer Adore Me tested nearly every aspect of product presentation, including the models it used in its product photography and how those models were posed.
“According to internal research, a slight change in the model’s position, such as shifting from a hand on the hip to a hand on the head, can double sales.”
Using an A/B testing strategy, optimize product images, headlines, and product detail page layout.
12. Use live chat. Live chat gives site visitors easy and fast access to customer service. If you did nothing else, answering a visitor’s questions immediately will improve your company’s conversion rates. But live chat can also be a reliable source of optimization feedback.
As your customer service agents chat, they should track the locations on the site where shoppers had difficulty navigating or proceeding. Once identified, remove or improve these trouble spots to make buying easier.
13. Use a Net Promoter survey. Your business’s Net Promoter Score may be the single best measure of overall performance. And improving it may be your most important conversion optimization task.
Net Promoter Score is a simple-to-understand customer loyalty indicator closely associated with sales and profit growth. Online sellers can use this metric and associated customer interactions to improve customer service, encourage loyalty, and increase growth.
A Net Promoter survey will ask one important question:
How likely would you recommend our [company, product, or service] to a friend or colleague?
The answer is measured on a scale of zero to 10. A zero represents “very unlikely” (or “not at all likely”). A 10 is “extremely likely.”
Respondents are divided into three categories.
- Promoters (score 9-10) are consumers who are extremely likely to recommend your company. They will buy from your business and encourage others, too.
- Passives (score 7-8) are satisfied customers, but uncommitted and unenthusiastic. These folks may buy from a competitor.
- Detractors (score 0-6) are unhappy customers who may hurt your business’s reputation and impede growth.
To calculate your company’s Net Promoter Score, subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters for a given period. The result is expressed as a whole number, not a percentage.
When you improve your company’s Net Promoter Score, you improve your business.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization is the act of communicating a page’s purpose and relevance in a way that helps search engines index the page and understand when it should be presented to searchers.
14. Write engaging page titles. Write a descriptive, accurate, and engaging title for each page on your site. The title should be meaningful for site visitors and explanatory for search engines.
“The title tag is typically the most weighted on-page element, so it’s important that you optimize it correctly,” said SEO practitioner Greg Gifford in a lecture from SEMrush Academy’s SEO Fundamentals Course.
“Skip the old school tactic of ‘keyword phrase bar keyword phrase two bar keyword phrase three.’ Remember, this is going to be your blue link in the SERP – you need to write something interesting that will entice people to click through to your site.’
Think of the tag like as an advertising headline. It will not only help your page rank in search engines, but it can also encourage someone to click when it does appear on a search engine results page.
15. Write traffic-generating meta descriptions. The meta description tag found in the head section of an HTML web page may no longer have an impact on how search engines rank your page. But the description can still appear on a search result page.
Google and other search engines include descriptive text below the link to a page for each result. This descriptive text can come directly from your page content or, in most cases, it is simply the meta description.
When you write a meta description, be brief. Try to keep it about 160 characters. Use active verbs. Don’t be afraid to start the description with a word like “shop” or “try.” Include a call to action, even asking potential customers to buy. And don’t forget to use important keyword phrases that answer the search query.
16. Include appropriate headers. Search engines want a page’s content to be organized in a clear way. Several years ago, search engine bots preferred a single H1 tag and a predictable hierarchy of header tags. But this is no longer a requirement.
Simply use keyword-rich headers to accurately describe a page’s content. Remember it can be best to have a clear topic for a page, but a clear topic may be described with several header tags, including H1 tags.
Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller states this fact clearly in a December 2017 video.
17. Include alt text in images. The alt tag may help your images appear in image results on Google and other search engines. It is also vital for accessibility, for vision-impaired users. Thus alt tags benefit SEO and site visitors.
18. Use structured data markup. Structured data markup helps search engines identify product information and other content on your site. Moreover, search engines could display some of that information in search results, potentially increasing how many clicks a particular page will earn. Structured data markup may also make it possible to appear to special sections on a search-result page.
There are a couple of options for adding structured data markup to your page. But Google has begun to prefer JSON for Linking Data or JSON-LD. It is easy to work with and can be integrated into your site templates.
19. Produce clean, accessible URLs. Your site’s URLs should be keyword-rich, unique, and brief. They should also be easy for a person to read, accessible to users with disabilities, and free of clutter.
There are three parts of the URL to focus on: the domain, the sub-domain, and the slug.
The domain is your name for the site. It can be helpful to have an important keyword in your domain name.
The subdomain is still part of your site, but Google and other search engines may treat a subdomain as a separate entity when considering site authority. So be careful how you use subdomains.
The slug is the part of the URL that describes the particular page in view. It may include the year, category, or similar, but it should also describe the specific page in view.
Separate the words in the slug with hyphens, remove common words like “an” or “the,” and avoid using a keyword more than once. Google hates keyword stuffing.
20. Employ HTTPS or HTTP/2. Search engines prefer secure websites and may rank a secure site above a non-secure one when all other ranking factors are equal.
The reason is simple. Search engines want to protect users.
“HTTPS helps prevent intruders from tampering with the communications between your websites and your users’ browsers. Intruders include intentionally malicious attackers and legitimate but intrusive companies, such as ISPs or hotels that inject ads into pages,” wrote Kayce Basques of Google’s Chrome Dev Team.
Simply moving your site from HTTP to HTTPS (or even better HTTP/2) will protect those communications, help keep private information private, and help your site rank better in search results.
20. Monitor crawl errors. The Google Search Console is a free service that allows you to check the indexing status of your website. One of the features to use is the “Crawl Errors” report. This report shows you if the Google search bot is having trouble reaching any of your pages. It can be a key to identifying technical problems.
Correct these errors. Better indexing (and perhaps better ranking) should follow.
Link Building Strategies
Link building is one of the most important things you can do to help your pages rank on SERPs. But link building can be a lot of work. It often includes contacting other site owners or working hard to develop content.
21. Link from sites you control or influence. In a video describing how to get the first few links for a site, Moz founder Rand Fishkin explains how you might search Google for the name of your business or the name of its founders to identify sites you can control or influence. These sites may allow you to link directly to your site.
Examples include LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. If you are a founder or leader in the company, you should have a link in your profiles.
22. Blogger and influencer outreach. In blogger outreach, you contact influencers such as site owners or YouTube vloggers and encourage them to create content that will link to your pages.
“Outreach fundamentally involves an exchange of value,” said Fishkin in a Moz video. “As you are going out and attempting to earn a link from someone directly through link outreach, through that one-to-one relationship…if you don’t provide value, if you’re simply asking for something, your success rate is going to be extremely low.”
“Value can be a bunch of different things. Value could be in the ego that it boosts. It could be in the problems that it helps solve. It could be in the form of what you’ve given them in exchange. Lots of things.”
Fishkin’s point is that blogger and influencer outreach is not about contacting bloggers and asking them for a favor. It’s about an exchange of value.
23. Broken link building. A broken link simply points to a page that is no longer available. Broken links make for a poor user experience. Sites should avoid them.
Identify broken links on pages that may be authoritative in the industry your business serves. You can use tools like the W3C’s Link Checker, Dead Link Checker, or PowerMapper’s SortSite to create a list of sites with broken links.
Next, create content that genuinely replaces the no-longer-available content each broken link pointed to. With your new content in place, contact each publisher. Point out that there is a broken link on one of her pages. Ask her to consider your new and fresh content as a replacement.
24. Unlinked mentions. Positive mentions of your business on other websites or social media can help to promote your store and may send curious shoppers your way.
When you locate a mention of your business that does not link to your website, simply contact the site owner, thank him for the mention, and ask for a link.
Content marketing is the act of creating, publishing, and distributing articles, podcasts, or videos with the goal of attracting, engaging, and retaining customers.
Content marketing gives your audience of customers and potential customers something of value so that they feel inclined to reciprocate, to eventually buy something from your business.
25. Identify content your customers will value. The content you create should be useful, informational, or entertaining. But how do you know what is useful or entertaining for your potential customers?
It starts with identifying your target customers and understanding the sorts of things that will motivate them. Some marketers use customer personas. Some use behavioral data. Others start with a broken link strategy, as described above.
What all of these approaches have in common is a desire to identify the topics your target customers care about.
Consider asking a couple of questions related to your potential audience.
- Who can you help? Who will benefit from the products or services your company offers?
- What makes your company different than the other business that could also help these folks?
26. Create content. Once you know which topics will be useful or entertaining for the people you want to reach, create quality content for them. Or, put another way, write for them.
Writing well is a learned skill. Whether you are creating blog posts, writing whitepapers, or scripting a video to publish on YouTube, learn how to write and then practice what you’ve learned.
There are, perhaps, a few ways to learn.
- Read more. When you read you discover how others communicate. You pick up pacing and vocabulary. Read articles similar to the ones you want to write.
- Study writing. Copyblogger media publishes articles and podcasts about writing. It offers courses to become a better writer. Take some of these courses or similar ones.
- Write. You won’t get better at writing until you start.
27. Publish and distribute your content. Publish the content you create (a) on your company’s blog, (b) as a guest post on someone else’s blog, (c) as a video on YouTube, (d) or as a podcast on SoundCloud or iTunes.
Once published, it can be distributed on social media or on other blogs or sites. Share your content on as many platforms as makes sense for your business.
Email is among the oldest and most productive forms of web marketing.
28. Ask for subscribers. “If you want to get subscribers to your email [list], you’ll need to work hard at it. Include a subscription form on every page of your website. Promote sign-ups through free whitepapers, ebooks, or other products,” wrote Dr. Ralph Wilson, the founder of Web Marketing Today and the original author of this checklist.
“If you have a local business, ask customers to sign up for your email list to get ‘special Internet-only offers.'”
Use a double opt-in for email subscriptions.
29. Develop a welcome series. The welcome series consists of at least three email messages triggered when someone subscribes to your email list.
The first message should be sent moments after the subscriber completes a double opt-in registration. This message lets your subscriber know he has been added to the list and explains what he can expect.
About two days after the initial message, send another that encourages the subscriber to engage with your business. This may be an invitation to connect on social media, discover content on your blog, or shop on your site.
If your new subscriber has not made a purchase in the first week, send a special offer. Maybe this is a free shipping offer or a discount on a first purchase.
30. Create a post-purchase email series. There are several email messages to send a customer after a purchase. The goal is to communicate about the order, encourage feedback about the buying experience, and earn additional orders.
These messages will include:
- An order confirmation thanking the customer and confirming all of the order information. This message should include links to customer service personnel and other ways the customer could contact your business.
- A shipping notice when the order ships. Don’t forget the tracking information.
- A delivery confirmation that could also include an invitation to a Net Promoter survey.
- Once the customer has the order for a few days, send an email asking for a product review and encouraging the customer to share her shopping experience on social media.
- Wait one more week and send a personalized product recommendation, inviting the customer back for another purchase.
31. Use shopping triggers for email automation. Using a pattern similar to the welcome series and the post-purchase series, create additional trigger-driven email messages.
For example, you might want to send customers who have not purchased in 60 days a re-engagement series. Or, perhaps, start an email series when someone downloads an ebook or whitepaper.
32. Send segment-specific messages. Not everyone on your email list is the same. This seems obvious, but many businesses send the identical email message to every subscriber.
There are times when this is acceptable. But for the most part, segment your email list to better serve your subscribers. So send regular (perhaps weekly) email messages, but create several versions of those messages aimed at specific audience segments.
Marketing expert Neil Patel has a good list of 10 quick email segments to consider. And Pat Flynn, the founder of Smart Passive Income, created a helpful video on the value of email segmentation.
The Performance Marketing Association uses a broad definition of performance marketing, calling it, “a comprehensive term that refers to online marketing and advertising programs in which advertisers pay marketing companies when a specific action is completed; such as a sale, lead, or click.”
Thus the key differentiator is that with performance marketing you — the advertiser — pay for the ad after it has performed. You only pay for the conversion, such as a click or a sale.
Performance marketing gives you significant control of your return on advertising spend.
33. Run a Smart Campaign on Google Ads. In June 2018, Google announced that it would rebrand its venerated AdWords platform, calling it simply Google Ads.
As part of the rebranding, Google will promote its Smart Campaigns ad type, which was previously available on the display network, to the default.
Smart Campaigns rely on machine learning to put your ads in front of your target customers as efficiently as possible. According to Google, Smart Campaigns could boost results by 20 percent with the same average cost per action.
34. Plan PPC keywords, ad groups, and landing pages. Beyond Google’s Smart Campaigns, build some pay-per-click campaigns manually. Consider additional PPC networks, such as Bing and Yahoo. And don’t forget about Product Listing Ads on Google Shopping.
Start your PPC campaigns with keyword phrases. Emulate the language your target customers will use when they search for products or services like yours.
Next, build out ad groups, perhaps using one keyword phrase per ad group. Then test your way to success.
Don’t forget that there is more to PPC marketing than just bidding high. While ranking factors can differ, Dr. Wilson described the process well.
These PPC ads appear on the search engine results page, typically both above and to the right of the organic or natural search engine results. Since they are keyword-driven, they can be quite relevant to what a searcher is trying to find. Your ranking in this list of paid text ads is determined by (1) how much you have bid for a particular search word compared to other businesses, (2) the click-through rate on your ad, and (3) your Quality Score, which reflects the relevance and quality of your ad and the landing page it points to.
35. Create a remarketing campaign. Remarketing allows you to show ads to potential customers who have already visited your website. Using an advertising platform like Google Ads, you can re-engage with these shoppers as they visit other sites in the Google advertising network.
Here are a couple of resources to help. First, Google published a short video in 2015 explaining the basics of remarketing.
Second, Tom Holder, a PPC professional, described how to set up a remarketing campaign in Google Ads.
36. Place performance ads on Facebook. The popular social media platform is now the second largest performance-based advertising network.
Search engine ads are based on a user’s search intent. Your ad appears next to that intent. This is why ads focused on buying work so well.
Facebook is different. “The people on Facebook are looking to connect with their friends,” explained Neil Patel. “They are looking for pictures, videos, and people’s walls. For that reason, your ads won’t convert the same way that they would on Google.”
But if you want to engage a new market and specific interest segments, Facebook is a solid choice.
“If you want to go after women who are interested in beauty because you want them to know about your new beauty product that is revolutionizing the industry, Facebook is amazing for that.”
37. Advertise on YouTube. YouTube ads can connect your business with a massive audience of potential customers. And the video format provides helpful latitude in how you communicate the value of your products and services.
Create a YouTube channel for your video ads. Define campaigns that make sense for YouTube, create your video ad, define your target audience on YouTube (it has extensive demographics), and run your campaign.
As with all performance marketing, monitor your campaign and optimize it for conversions.
38. Create an affiliate marketing program. Affiliate marketing is a promotional model that connects businesses with independent marketers who are willing to invest time and money to sell a company’s products.
As with other forms of performance marketing, your company only pays when affiliates deliver a specified customer action. In the ecommerce context, that action is typically a purchase. This makes affiliate marketing very cost effective.
Setting up an affiliate program takes some work. There are providers that can help. But you still need to define your campaigns, set the payment (commission) per action, monitor how affiliates are promoting your business, measure campaign effectiveness, and otherwise optimize conversions, sales, and profits.
While affiliate marketing takes a bit of work, it can be very productive for your business.
As traditional as direct mail marketing may seem, it remains a helpful tool for web marketers. A well run direct mail or shared mail campaign may even produce some of the best results of any tactic on this list.
39. Use shared mail promotions. One of the most recognizable shared mailers in the United States is Valpak. Each month, the company sends an envelope full of coupons to millions of qualified homes nationwide.
National brands such as Best Buy, Target, Old Navy, Macy’s Lowe’s, and Sam’s Club are regular shared mail advertisers.
For your shared mail promotions, create a coupon code that customers can use on your site. Then simply measure how many of the coupon codes are redeemed. Create a conversion hypothesis, update your coupon, and test again in the next month.
Broad offers tend to work better than narrow ones. But, again, test offers over time. Some brick-and-click retailers have reported earning more than $20 in sales for every dollar invested in shared mail promotions.
40. Attract new customers. Leading online retailers such as Hayneedle, Wayfair, HelloFresh, and many more use direct mail marketing to acquire new customers. You can, too.
Start by purchasing a mailing list from a leading list provider. Your list may be focused on a geographic area or on demographics.
Develop a campaign to target these prospects and send your message directly to their homes or offices.
As an example, furniture retailer Wayfair sends a direct mail postcard to consumers who have just moved to a new house. The offer “welcomes” the new homeowner to the neighborhood and provides a promotional code for an extra 10-percent discount.
This Checklist’s Lineage
Internet marketing pioneer Dr. Ralph F. Wilson wrote the original Web Marketing Checklist for his popular online magazine Web Marketing Today, which was published from 1995 to 2016.
Wilson sought to help businesses understand how to succeed online. Many companies benefited from his work. In 2012, Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today. Then in 2016, Web Marketing Today’s content was merged into Practical Ecommerce.