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Don’t Go Into Web Marketing Blind — Use Checklists!
Need to get organized when it comes to your day-to-day work in online marketing? Contributor Stoney deGeyter's got you covered.
Some people are just checklist people. I’m one of them. I do everything from a checklist. I have a chore checklist, a checklist for work, and even one for groceries. Yeah, most people just call that a “grocery list,” but to me, it’s a checklist!
The thing is, I’m a completer. I love being able to complete things. In the grocery store, I’ve been known to add an item to my checklist that I’ve already put in my shopping cart, just so I can check it off. It feels good! I feel accomplished.
I realize not everyone is like me (many consider this a blessing), so the idea behind using a checklist may not be as intuitive for you as it is for me. But I’m not here to try and change your life. You don’t have to use a checklist for your day-to-day routines like I do. (No need to count the brush strokes while brushing your teeth!)
However, I am going to try to sell you on the idea of using a checklist for your web marketing campaign(s), not just because I wrote the book on it, but because I like to tell people about things that work — and let me tell you, web marketing checklists work!
Do a search for “web marketing checklist” and I’m sure you can find a checklist for just about every area of web marketing. Not all lists are equal (or beneficial), so you’ll have to find one that works for you, or create your own checklist, or take one and tweak it to make it your own. It doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that you find the absolute best, most efficient way to manage your web marketing campaign.
But before we dive into the reasons why you need a web marketing checklist, let’s look some other checklist tips and information.
4 Kinds Of Web Marketing Checklists
There are all kinds of checklists, and I’m sure there are many books written about all of them. But for web marketing purposes, there are essentially 4 different kinds of checklists that are the most helpful.
- Problem Finding: Web marketing is all about finding and fixing problems. Well, you can’t fix what you haven’t found. So one of the first checklists that you can employ is one that will help you find the problems you need to fix. This might be a checklist of tools you need to run your website through or common problems that sites within your industry have.
- Problem Solving: Once you know what the problem is, how do you go about solving it? Sometimes you just know, but other times, the solution might not be as quick and easy as you hope. For example, maybe your optimized pages are not getting spidered by the search engines. A problem-solving checklist can help you troubleshoot the issue.
- How-To: I separated this out from problem solving checklists because sometimes you’re not trying to fix a problem, you just need to follow a set of steps to get through a process. How-to checklists walk you through from Step 1 all the way through the final step. For example, you might want a checklist on how to set up a Facebook profile or how to optimize a page properly.
- To-Do: To-do checklists don’t tell you how to do things, but rather they tell you what needs to be done. While they may not be as detailed as how-to lists, they often have greater longevity. Since technologies change pretty fast, a how-to list for web marketing would be out of date pretty quickly; however, the to-dos are pretty much universal with only a few things changing from year to year.
When working for efficiency (“work smarter, not harder,” right?), it’s a good idea to break your checklists into multiple groups. One of the ways to do that is to organize by frequency. When you have separate lists of daily and weekly tasks, you don’t have to worry about which items you’re going to do today and which can wait for tomorrow or next week.
- Daily: Web marketing has a lot of daily to-do items. Some of these might be to check site rankings, make sure your optimized pages are cached, socialize your blog posts, etc. I have a list of things that I do each and every day. It may not be the first thing I do every day, but my checklist prevents me from forgetting anything.
- Weekly or Monthly: Some tasks simply don’t need to be completed every day. There are only so many hours in the day, so we have to prioritize what has to be done now from what can wait. For example, checking rankings daily might be great when running a test, but for normal purposes, once a month is about the most that you need to do that. We also might do weekly or monthly analytics reviews, etc. The goal is to spend time on those things that provide the most value at any particular time.
- Yearly: There are a few things that should be reviewed on a yearly basis. Maybe it’s domain renewals or a complete top-to-bottom analysis of the site over the past 12 months. Whatever it is, these yearly checklists can help make sure you don’t forget between now and the end of the year the things you still need to get done.
Not all action items are created equal, and not every problem is an “essential” fix just because it’s on your checklist. It’s a good idea to organize your checklists by priority, allowing you to focus on those items that will have the largest impact first.
- Critical: Anything on a critical list should be your first and primary focus until complete. Critical items are those that, if not done, will likely be holding a site back from being successful.
- Important: Once your critical items are completed, move on to those that are deemed important. For the most part these are not deal breakers for success, but they will bring additional success none-the-less.
- Low Priority: These items generally don’t need to be done or have very little weight in the overall campaign. It’s more like the “nice to haves,” but you don’t want to do these if they are taking time away from the more important or critical items that need your attention.
Things To Put In Checklists
As much as I love checklists, I don’t need one to remind me to take a shower (most days) or dress in the morning. Those things are routine. Yet, that’s the great thing about checklists, they help you build routines. Once you have the routine, the list is no longer needed. You’ve created a habit.
But not everything we do in web marketing is part of a daily or weekly habit — and even if it is, some tasks are important enough not to risk forgetting a step. As much as I travel for speaking engagements and visiting clients, you would think packing the right stuff would be a habit. But the first time I don’t use my packing checklist, I find out I forgot my phone charger (or worse, clean underwear)!
There are enough items to remember in web marketing that I don’t want to overlook anything, habit or no habit. With that in mind, here are some things you might want to make sure wind up in a checklist:
- Unobvious Things: Web marketing is full of little odds-and-ends and this-and-thats. Some stuff is painfully obvious when looking at a site, and other stuff, not so much. A checklist of unobvious things helps you remember to do or to assess things that you don’t often think about but still need attention.
- Very Important Things: Just because something is important doesn’t always mean you’re going to remember it. If it’s important, it’s worth jotting down into a checklist so you can make sure you do it.
- Things That You Typically Forget: I’ve been known to forget a thing or two, and, honestly, I hate it. It doesn’t matter how important it is, sometimes things slip your mind at the worst time ever. Making sure these frequently forgotten details are immortalized into a checklist to ensure that you never have to say “oops” again.
- Everything in Between: You may not need a checklist for everything, but why not have one anyway? It ensures nothing get’s forgotten. Ever.
Why You Should Use a Web Marketing Checklist
If all the points above weren’t enough to seal the deal, here are 7 reasons why you should start using a web marketing checklist today:
1. You Never Have to Remember, “What’s Next?”
For me, this is the biggest issue with web marketing. While performing a site analysis, we can often use our findings to create a solid list of things we need to do. But once the tools stop running, we often find ourselves trying to remember all the other things we can do, or what tool we should run next.
Sometimes we can get drawn into the minutia of genuine, yet small problems. Next thing we know, we’ve spent too much time majoring on the minors, neglecting more important issues. When you have a checklist to refer back to, it can help you prioritize your tasks so you can focus on those things that matter most. The idea is to make sure that your time is well spent on the tasks that will give the most immediate gains.
2. Faster Results
We all want fast web marketing results. When you use a checklist you are able to scan through your list to pull out what’s most important for any particular site you’re working on and spend your time there. By spending less time thinking about “what’s next”, you spend more time doing. And the more you get done, the quicker you’ll see results!
SEO is less about looking for the next problem to solve, but solving the next problem that you find. Using a checklist keeps your brain power focused and moving forward from action item to action item.
3. Fewer Errors
We all make mistakes, but checklists help us reduce the number of errors we can potentially make. Why? Because by following a checklist, you are just adhering to the directions that you have already determined are important. You’re just going through, step by step, everything necessary to make sure it’s done right. The chances of skipping a critical step is reduced to almost 0%.
While most web marketing errors can be fixed, some can have devastating long-term consequences. Using a checklist helps you prevent disasters and helps you continue to produce great results.
4. Consistency in Analysis
Web marketing isn’t an exact science, so consistency in procedure isn’t necessarily life threatening. However much of what we do is based on educated opinion. Any item in your checklist that you deem important for web marketing can be confirmed with consistency in your implementation.
This is how testing is done. You try to make all things equal with the exception of a single variable. If you’re not consistent with all your web marketing efforts, your analysis will be flawed. If you are, you have a better chance at understanding the importance of any given web marketing tactic.
Maintaining consistency with your web marketing campaign ensures that you continue to focus on what works. This is especially important for marketers working on multiple websites. Without a checklist, one of your sites may be failing and, without a detailed analysis, you won’t know why. On the other hand, if you are consistent in your implementation, you can rule out a lot of things simply because they were already checked off as complete.
5. Easier Delegation
If you’re working with a team or have someone working with you on your web marketing project, checklists make delegation considerably easier. No sense having the new guy or gal recreate the wheel. Instead, give them a checklist to get them started.
Once you’re confident the noob has the chops to run on his or her own, that person can start adding to or updating the checklist themselves. No sense letting someone with less experience messing with a process that you already know works. Keep them focused on the tasks you’ve already established and let them learn from strength rather than starting from scratch.
6. Nothing Gets Missed
With a list already in front of you a checklist ensures that nothing important is overlooked. Yes, even when delegating to the noob, the checklist keeps them on track and accountable for success. But even experienced marketers such as myself often overlook the obvious. A checklist comes in real handy to make sure I’m not leaving anything out.
7. Continued Improvement
The checklist you have today is not the checklist you’ll have tomorrow. It should be ever evolving. Each day as you learn something new, or Google changes something in their algorithm, items on your checklist can be added or removed. This allows for a continuously improving process. Without a checklist, the new stuff you learn today might be forgotten in a few weeks simply because you didn’t write it down or have not created a new habit with your web marketing processes.
Whenever something needs to change with your checklist, make sure it gets documented. Let your checklist evolve with your processes.
People like me who live by checklists have a hard time imagining a world without them. But what’s really puzzling are those who scoff at the notion of needing or using a checklist! Photographic memory or not, would you want your airline pilot to do his pre-flight check from memory? Not me.
Neither do I want my business in the hands of someone who is just making it up as they go each and every time. While web marketing isn’t a life or death issue, it is one of survival for most businesses, and that checklist could be just the thing that keeps you from driving a business into the ground with so many lives at stake.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.