Want effective online marketing? DON’T build a website.

At least, don’t only build a site.

A decade or so ago, having a website was a huge marketing initiative. If an ad had a URL on it, people would check it out simply out of novelty. A website was a way to give people additional information on your products and services, information that they couldn’t find elsewhere. Initially this helped to foster loyalty, but eventually sites developed to be their own virtual storefronts, when eCommerce allowed people to skip the trip to the store entirely and purchase at the online location. In many instances, the website ceased to be the promotion and shifted to being the product in the overall marketing mix.

A typical marketing campaign needs to hit a variety of channels, and the online budget may be limited. But you’re missing out if you funnel all your money into building a website.

Look back at my second sentence: “if an ad had a URL”. There needs to be a way to draw people to the site, just as to a physical storefront. Social media is a fantastic means for this, and the reason why people are flocking to establish brand pages and groups on Facebook or other social networking sites. Just like the commercial that plays during my favorite TV show, having a presence on a social networking platform may help to raise awareness of your campaign with your target audience.

facebook profile

You also want to be sure that the site is engaging and interesting, and there are ways for site visitors to forward it to others. The ScottsMiracleGro “It’s Gro Time” microsite allows site visitors to upload a photo of their garden, and then forward it to a friend. The site visitor isn’t passing on a message to “learn more about ScottsMiracleGro’s line of products”, they’re showing their friend a picture of their garden.

itsgrotime gallery

Gone are the days when an information-laden site was considered “marketing”. Now it is just expected that a brand will have information available online, and a campaign needs to hit on something more emotional with an individual. This will help ensure it is more likely to be discussed between friends and acquaintances, and garner some online buzz. In this era of rapid information and rich online interaction, only marketing initiatives that cut through the clutter and really connect with individuals will be effective. They must be seen, they must be intriguing and ultimately they must be interesting enough to be recommended to others.

Effective online marketing strategy doesn’t end with “a website.” The web presence itself must be promoted, either directly or indirectly, and the content must be engaging enough to warrant the interest of discerning Internet users. Otherwise, your website-the crux of your entire online marketing strategy-risks becoming the equivalent of an abandoned storefront.

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