In Above the Fold, an excellent book on the nuts and bolts of web design, author Brian Miller tells the story of how Vince Lombardi, the Packers coaching legend, would start every season.
“Gentleman, this is a football,” he’d say as he it held it up for all to see. He’d describe the football’s size and shape and talk about how it can be thrown, kicked, and carried. He’d then point at the field and say, “This is a football field.” and proceed to describe its dimensions and shape, before eventually arriving at the rules of the game.
It was Lombardi’s commitment towards fundamental football, not gimmicks, that helped make him a legend. Despite how experienced a player already was before joining the team, Lombardi made sure that the very basics were never overlooked.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a big football fan or indifferent to it all, there’s still a big lesson here.
I’ve noticed at times an all too common lack of an appreciation and disregard when it comes to online marketing and its fundamentals. Maybe it’s because the whole online marketing space itself is still growing and somewhat of a mystery to the uninitiated, but to be frank that’s only a small technicality, and a fraction of the problem.
The real problem is rooted in education, or a lack thereof.
When a person graduates from a top tier college in a specific field it’s safe to say that no matter where the degree was obtained that the curriculum is somewhat universal. If I get a degree in economics (and assuming I paid attention) I’m going to know like the back of my hand the ins and outs of what a supply and demand curve is and how it apply it.
These fundamentals, the simple building blocks of study, however aren’t always as clear when it comes to online marketing, yet some of the basic should be blatantly obvious.
For example, do you know how a search engine works? Yes, we all know how to use Google, but do you know how it actually works? (what a search engine looks at when determining SERPs, the importance of meta tags, etc…)
Do you understand the difference between CPC and CPM, and how it relates to your CPA (cost per acquisition?)
Do you know how to decipher data within Google Analytics? What do the variables represent and why are they important?
Have you spent any time – any time at all – learning a thing or two about HTML / CSS, Photoshop, or a CMS such as WordPress?
OK, but what if I already know all of this really well?
But do you know how to apply it?
This is the million dollar question.
Your understanding on the fundamentals should be to the point where you’d feel comfortable teaching a class on it if you had to.
Can you build a site up from scratch, one that has clear copy with consistent branding that fulfils a core business objective such as selling a product or servicing customers, and also increase its traffic and unique visitors month over month, while all the while keeping track of its progress and making adjustments as needed? Can you do all of this consistently while also reporting on it periodically?
This material isn’t a quick order. It takes months and years to absorb and you’re never really finished. The basics are always going to be a part of the game, regardless of the many small new rule changes or tricks that emerge.
There’s no shortage of distractions in online marketing, but the brass tacks are here to stay. Fundamentals are fundamentals. Don’t skimp over them.