Report of the book “42 Rules for a Web Presence that Wins”, by Philippa Gamse, CMC and Jim Blasingame
The book “42 rules for a web presence that wins” provides tips and suggestions to take into consideration before and while developing and managing companies’ presence on the web. The rules are grouped into five sessions: Part 1 - Management-Level Issues; Part 2 - Setting Strategy and Tactics; Part 3 - Creating Content That Makes Connections; Part 4 - Measuring Results; and Part 5 - Afterword.
In my point of view, many of the rules mentioned on the book are basic and considered best practices for running every business decision and/or action. These rules work more as reminders to keep in mind when dealing with digital media decisions. Some examples of those rules are: “Think Outside Departmental Boundaries”, “Beware of Benchmarking and Best Practices”, and “Monitor the Regulatory Landscape”. In this report, I will focus on information mentioned on the book that is more specific for web presence activities. However, as an overview of other general rules mentioned, I strongly advise you to treat your web presence decisions as you treat any other decision in your business; it must have a goal and a strategy. You should not go online just because everyone else is out there.
In part 1 of the book, some interesting rules are “Make Informed Technology Choices”, “Weigh High-Tech against High-Touch”, “Decide Whether to Network Publicly or Privately” and “You Really Do Get What You Pay For”. In order to make smart decisions regarding technology, the author mentions that we must focus on the purpose or problem which the new technology will serve or solve. He provides three key words to guide the decision maker: Need (do you want it? Or do you need it?), Greed (can you make money from it?), and Speed (how long will it take to implement and run it in your company?).
Even though technology is helping organizations serve their clients quickly and be available 24/7 with less cost, companies must balance high-tech and high-touch methods. Personal contact can improve relationships with customers and the probability of repeated business, positive reviews and referrals.
Companies are developing their communities online to keep connected with their stakeholders and enhance relationships. The key decision is whether to build their own platform or use a public platform such as Facebook and LinkedIn. The author mentions some benefits of creating a private network. You can personalize the platform to be consistent with your corporate image, have more control over it, synchronize the platform with internal databases, and better measure the results. On the other hand, it is costly, you must have someone working to manage it, and have a strategy to keep members engaged.
Although everybody is jumping into Social Media mainly due to the availability of free platforms, there are several drawbacks to take into consideration before using a free social media platform. The support will probably be electronic and will rely mainly on prewritten postings. The platform administrator makes all the rules and has total control over your page.
In part 2 of the book, some interesting rules are “Know If You Need a Touch-up, or a Complete Makeover”, “Learn to Tell the Baby from the Bathwater”, “Identify All of Your Online Audiences”, and “Leveraging Everything”. The author suggests some reasons for tweaking a site and other reasons for redesigning it. You should make only some changes on your website if your search engine rakings are dropping; if you website can’t be viewed on mobile devices or in some browsers; if you don’t have clear calls to action; and if you want to integrate you site with your social media. On the other hand, you should redesign your website from scratch when your brand, business goals, vision and/or mission change and your website no longer reflects your positioning; when your new content doesn’t work with your website design and is confusing users; and when your website doesn’t show that you are keeping up with business, creative, or technical trends. However, before making changes, you should know what works and what doesn’t work on your site. You should understand the whys and leverage the positive aspects and mitigate the negative aspects of your former site.
Think broadly and develop content and strategies for all of your potential visitors, not just the obvious ones. In order to strategize for each kind of visitor, you should build descriptions of several potential visitors and create personas. You must understand the specific reasons that bring the visitors to your website, how familiar they are with your offerings, how they think and make decisions, and how they navigate online.
Every page of your site should have a strategy. Every piece of your website should have its own reason to be there, defined goals, and desired outcomes. You should know the paths that you want visitors to take, and provide links and calls to action that consistently move visitors forward. If you fail to do so, part of your traffic will either leave or be distracted with other content.
In part 3 of the book, some interesting rules are “Spread the Good Word”, “Keep Your Landings Smooth”, and “Press Releases Aren’t Just for Journalists”. As you know, viral marketing and word-of-mouth have advanced in many forms due to the internet. Online reviews, videos and social media recommendations have strongly influenced and driven consumers’ actions. Companies have little control over what is said about them; however they must mitigate bad comments by responding and clarifying them. In addition, companies should leverage positive customer testimonials on their website and social media.
Companies must understand the mindset of visitors and leverage every landing page. The “landing page” is the first page that visitors see when they arrive at a website. The traffic reports should point out which keywords bring people to a specific landing page, and thus give you same clues about visitors’ mindset. There may be opportunities to engage visitors in the website content, and perhaps to turn them into paying customers.
The internet has changed press-releases distribution, readers and potential impact. Press-releases can become significant landing pages for your website. Here are some tips to take advantage of press-releases: include each release as a regular page; optimize it for search engines with title, key words, and description tags; format all references to your offering for which you have further information on other pages; and build in clickable calls to actions at every point where the reader may be ready to fulfill the outcomes you are looking for.
In part 3 of the book, some interesting rules are “Drill below the Dash-board” and “Find Your ‘Leaks’ and Fixed Them”. Analyzing traffic reports is essential to assess and advance your web performance. The web performance dashboard is an executive summary intended to give busy decision makers a fast overview. However, it is dangerous to rely only on the dashboard. The information about what is really happening on your website is contained in the detailed reports. If the data is correctly interpreted it can be used to successfully evaluate results, set future strategy and see areas where the website is losing potential. Almost every website has “leaks” which are often hard to find without in-depth investigation. Therefore, go beyond the surface and drill down into details of you traffic reports. You may have only small “leaks” or some “leaks” which are really undermining your online efforts and you must take action.
Part 5 of the book is a wrap-up which contains three rules: “Look to the Future”, If You Only Follow One Rule, Follow This One: you must have a clear strategy for your web presence at all time”, and “These Are My Rules – What Are Yours?”
This book is very easy to read (friendly) and it can be a good “toolbox” for someone who doesn’t know much about digital marketing. I enjoyed reading it. However, don’t expect detailed material with steps to follow. The book is very useful to obtain a general idea of the subject and identify opportunities or areas that you may look for further information later on.