Now that the Internet is the new "black" and everyone is hopping online in the hopes of finding their gold online, there are a few things that need to be considered before jumping headlong into an online campaign.
We've been doing "online" for a long while now and we've seen many changes, but one thing has remained consistent: regardless of where you go or how you pitch, you must know your market and understand how to effectively reach them and abide by the rules of the online road. Here are a few to consider:
1) The importance of research: when it comes to marketing online, there's a term I am often reminded of: "spray and pray." What this means essentially is that you spray a whole bunch of stuff out there and hope that it works. Guess what? It doesn't. The Internet is big, there's no argument there. But just throwing stuff out online and hoping it'll work will only waste your time and probably upset a few bloggers you actually don't want to tick off. Do your research. Find the sites appropriate to your market and then get to know what they review, what they don't review and how to pitch them. Most sites have targeted guidelines for submitting pitches and review copies. Abide by them.
2) It's all about relationships: remember that much like offline promotion the Internet is all about relationships. Make them, hone them, and keep them for the life of your career. So how do you go about making and creating relationships? By networking. Online networking or cyber-schmoozing is a way of getting to know who's out there and who you could help with your message. Getting to know topic-related blogs, e-zines and websites and engaging with them is important. Follow your market on Twitter, follow other authors in your genre, follow the trendsetters. Make sure that you're reading their blogs, commenting on their blog entries and offering helpful advice. Which leads me to point #3:
3) Networking online: Want to know the difference between networking online vs. in person? Online you can be in your bathrobe and slippers and no one will know the difference. Lead with helpful information, don't lead with your book. No one (but your mom) cares that you wrote a book. Your audience, whether it's your reader or a blog dedicated to your market, wants to know what the book can do for them. Be helpful. You'd never go to a live networking event, walk up to a group of people and say: "Hi, please read my fabulous book." You shouldn't do it online, either.
4) Understanding page rank: Page rank is important, more so than most people realize. Whether you're marketing yourself online or you've hired a company to do this for you, make sure that you are targeting sites with decent page rank. So, what's page rank? Well, it's a number between 1-10 that Google assigns a site to indicate its "importance" online. By importance I mean sites that have a lot of (quality) sites linking to them and sites that are getting a significant amount of traffic. If you or the company you hired is pitching you to smallish page rank sites (i.e. 0, 1, 2) you should consider it a wasted effort. Generally speaking we won't go after sites that are below a 3 page rank unless it's a niche topic/smaller market. Our company website sits between a 5 and a 6. The lower the site's page rank, the less exposure you're going to get. It's that simple.
5) How to manage the prize vault: to some book bloggers books are boring. Well, not boring exactly, but if you're giving away a prize you might want to consider pairing your book with someone else. Consider the partnerships you have and see what you can pair with your book. We recently paired a title we worked on with a Brita water pitcher because the author had a relationship with the company. When I called Brita to arrange this they jumped all over it and sent us more pitchers than we knew what to do with. Prize packs are a great idea if you can pull together some fun giveaways. But don't bribe bloggers to review your book. Offer them the prize packs for their readers. Bribing and reviews aren't kosher, especially online (yes, we've seen it done, it's not pretty).
6) Touring on blogs: there are a lot of blog "tours" that will take you on a tour online for two weeks, then you're done. Guess what? Another waste of time. Online marketing isn't done lickety split, it's done over a long (or at least longer than two weeks) period of time. A short two-week tour is fine and fun, but trust me, you'll need more to create a buzz online - which leads me to #7
7) Slow growth over time: despite all the hype, the Internet doesn't respond well to quickie, instant success, in fact most online folks really dislike this type of marketing. The key to a really successful campaign that has legs (meaning buzz) is a slow growth. Now, I don't mean years of growing an online campaign, but definitely longer than 48 hours as some online companies may want you to believe. The objective is to create a presence online and to dig into your market. Relationships, whether offline or on, take time. Grow them, nurture them, and they will repay you back over months and years to come. So how do you grow slowly? Well dig into Facebook, start a Fan Page and add friends, network, engage. Start a Twitter page and really work the Twitter-sphere. Engage, entertain, enlighten and always, always, always be helpful.
8) The big Internet secret: Understanding backlinks: I will write a separate blog on this topic, but for now understand that the importance of backlinks is significant. So what's a backlink? Well, it's a link going from a site appropriate to your topic back to your site. And how many of these do you want? As many as you can get. The biggest and best push with online marketing is the link building, but again, this needs to be grown slowly over time. Adding thousands of links in a week or a month will only get you in trouble with the governing body of the Internet: Google. I mean let's face it, 78% of us use Google as our default search engine and if Google pulls your site for overly aggressive link building, your online marketing campaign will come to a screeching halt.
9) Your website: I'm really surprised at how many Internet marketers overlook this important point, but many do. Your website, the place your online world calls "home", is very important. If you're working so hard online via networking and link building and then sending your readers to a site that's sending them into "surf shock" (i.e. the kind of shock you go into when you land on a ghastly site), then what's the point of marketing yourself online? Sending readers/buyers/fans to a website that is repelling them instead of attracting them is like advertising and bringing visitors to your beautiful store then locking the doors and not letting them in. I will address the importance of a good website in a separate blog post in the coming weeks, but for now know this: if your site isn't converting the traffic you're sending it then what's the point in sending people there? By converting, I mean getting readers/fans to do something, whether it's sign up for your ezine, your blog RSS Feed or follow you on Twitter. Studies have shown that less than 7% of web visitors are prompted to buy the first time they land on a site so don't expect immediate sales to correlate with your traffic. Getting them to come back is the key to making the sale. And how do you get them to come back? By getting them to sign up for something (permission-based marketing) and then keeping them in your loop or inner circle.
Wondering why I said eight tips in the article title and offered nine? Well, that's another piece of advice: always, always, always over-deliver online. There are too many people short selling their consumer with faulty or misrepresented ads, low quality product or promises they don't deliver on. While it may sometimes seem tempting, don't subscribe to shortcuts. Not only will they not get you anywhere, but they can damage your reputation. Often permanently.