- • Know the algorithms the search engines use to achieve better value for your costs.
- • Pick the right keywords, ones that define you well and are able to be found easily in organic SEO results.
- • Watch out for possible black-hat SEO methods. Every search engine has a different policy, so learn their policies in order not to be classified a black-hatter. For example, BMW.de is blacklisted by Google because BMW websites were using techniques to artificially boost search-engine rankings (http://news.cnet.com/Google-black lists-BMW.de/2100-1024_3-6035412.html).
- • Although SEM techniques can boost companies’ brand awareness in digital markets, strong synergy effects can be achieved if SEM is supported by e-mail marketing campaigns. In other word, addressability and findability should work together to optimize your message and brand awareness on the Internet.
Content: Although companies can successfully bring potential consumers to their websites by utilizing connectivity features, not many websites turn a consumer visit into a memorable or unforgettable experience. Thus, the content of a company website plays a very important role in creating market value. Many well-known online companies were born with this understanding of the value of innovative and interactive content that allows more consumer involvement in content-creation processes.
Website Content and Interface Website content functions like shelf space does in real-world retail stores. The website content is the first real exposure of the company’s products, brand, or services, and thus it is a representation of the company’s business philosophy in the digital world. The clarity and attractiveness of the website design and interface will play a crucial role in overall e-marketing and e-branding success in digital markets.
Well-crafted website content that meets consumer needs helps companies to reduce possible consumer perceptional biases and perceived risks.20 This, in turn, ultimately improves the company’s website branding. There are two aspects to consumption of website content: ease of use, that is, consumer perception of the effort needed to navigate a website and satisfy their needs; and usefulness—consumer perception of the degree to which using the website will improve their satisfaction. Each component is used to understand consumer acceptance of web-based technologies21 and website quality.22 If the website content includes a user-friendly design, interactivity, and useful features enabling online consumers to satisfy their needs, then the company is probably one step away from successful website branding.
Banner advertisements can be a part of a company’s website content. If a website reserves too much space for banner ads, consumers might not be able to see and understand the values and meanings provided by the website. Also, consumers might avoid looking at banner ads (banner blindness) or not remember what they see.23 Placing the right banner ads with the right amount of information and features, at the right time, on the right website, for the right potential consumers is a real challenge for companies seeking to maximize advertising revenue while enhancing and protecting their brand reputation and image.
An effective way of providing a user-friendly and useful consumer experience is to shift control to consumers, allowing them to determine their own website preferences. This personalization of website features requires at least some control of content to be given up, as is also the case in UGC applications.
Personalization Website content should meet the specific task of increasing consumer involvement with the website and improving the consumer experience. These goals can be reached with personalization. Although not every consumer likes to personalize their website operations, the lack of a personalization option is sometimes seen as poor website design.
In general terms, personalization is like going to your favorite cafe and having your favorite drink ready when you appear at the door, even before you order it. Personalization is a process intended to predict individual consumer needs and consequently provide appropriate services through the website to satisfy those needs. Personalization requires a high level of interactivity with consumers, and very accurate information collection about current and future consumer needs. Once the individual consumer preferences are specified by the website user, the process is entirely computer driven. The personalized website content depends on the level of knowledge about the consumer and their preferences, needs, and tastes that the system has. The interaction between system and consumer needs to be efficient and build a strong relationship with the website user if it is to better serve both consumers and the company.
User-Generated Content Consumer control over content is generally limited as regards both website design and personalization. This limitation gives companies more control over their message and helps them to determine the level of their relationship with consumers. However, in the case of UGC, consumers are provided with platforms where they can freely generate their content and define the intensity of the relationship with companies, fellow consumers, and their brands. Most UGC is predominantly generated in the “blogosphere” and on social networking sites.
In UGC applications, a digital platform and the vast majority of content are provided to consumers to develop their own messages and value systems. Blogs are excellent examples of UGC: “one study showed that four of five bloggers post brand and product reviews” (Lamb et al. 2011: 251). Since many blogs also link to company websites, and constantly discuss products and brands, this eventually boosts company SEM efforts. In these digital environments, consumers can easily change or add new information to a website and achieve real-time and up-to-date communication with their audiences. Companies can pick words and phrases used by bloggers, and add them to their metatags for better findability. Consumers are also purchasing directly through blog links and posts.24 Because most of the content is created by consumers, website owners just need to deal with organizing and providing new content opportunities around the website. In this way, companies who are the subject of the content-creation process can easily follow consumer thoughts and feelings about their brands and operations, in real time, with significant objectivity.
Because content is created by real consumers and the information sources are real persons, the message credibility is higher than for marketer-generated messages and content on the Internet.25 Specifically, consumer-produced brand-related messages and information sharing are perceived as highly credible.26 Many companies are trying to work with opinionated consumers and/or bloggers to positively promote their brands and stay ahead of the game. Hiring a blogger who can promote a company, an idea, or a brand is becoming a regular practice in today’s markets. In the last national election in the USA, it was claimed that the Obama campaign hired 400 bloggers to influence the public (http:// www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_ all&address=132x5990249). The more control is transferred to consumers, the more credible your message and influence in the markets will be (see also Fig. 8.1). Similarly, the more places your brand and company are discussed with positive attitudes the better chance you have to be promoted by search engines. This feedback loop brings more traffic to your website, and potentially more revenue.
On the other hand, many companies are also monitoring websites in the blogosphere and social networking sites to learn more about possible consumer complaints before their brands are damaged.27 Most importantly, because of the lack of control mechanisms on UGC websites to check the accuracy of such postings, hardly anyone knows when posts are false or include defamatory content. The credibility of this kind of sneaky
Fig. 8.1 Level of consumer control and credibility over content
advertising is, in fact, questionable, and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) in the USA recently discussed the full disclosures of money or gifts received from companies by hired bloggers (http:// www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/business/media/06adco.html?_r= 1&scp=2&sq=bloggers&st=cse).