I, like millions of others around the world, indulge in an annual competition of knowledge, guts, and  luck to see who is the biggest of all fans. I am talking, of course, about fantasy football. Fantasy football was developed back in the 60s in the minds of my favorite team’s front office workers and members of the press. As there are many types of leagues, scoring formats, and rules, I will describe it thus: Drafting from a pool of active NFL athletes, participants comprise a lineup of players from all teams that “compete” weekly to accumulate stats and determine whose lineup is superior.

In preparation for my league’s draft, I read up on new draft picks, off-season training camp reports, and past performances to determine who I see in the perfect lineup. There are publications dedicated to following the NFL with fantasy in mind and major sports networks feature daily shows discussing which players are set to go off. It’s a billion-dollar industry that rewards winners in monetary terms as well as bragging rights/trophies to own for a calendar year.

Now, what else takes proper preparation, research, execution, and a smidge of luck? This definitely describes how people should manage their Internet marketing efforts.

Let’s break it down:

Building a Team

Before you start deciding which player to take, you need to know how you plan to build your team. Are you betting on strong quarterback play to take you to the finals? Are you more comfortable in the soft hands of a star wide receiver? Your knowledge of what works in fantasy, based on prior experience, will help determine your draft strategy even if some strategies seem to be on their way out. Just like in business, you need to know what type of marketing strategy works for your customer base. Do you simply need to lead visitors to your site or do you require them to contact you to make the visit worthwhile? Are you an ad-based, e-commerce, or brick-and-mortar brochure site? Knowing what you want to get out of your website (or lineup) allows you to make an informed decision.

Knowing what you want out of your site, you now need to find the team to comprise it. Some will pick those players who have performed well in the past; others may be looking for rookies that have the chance to break out. Veteran stars have a solid resume and years of experience, but that will end up costing you as your opponents have seen their success as well and may be willing to pay more to get them on their team. Rising stars lack proof of their skills, but when given a shot, can be drafted for far less. Just like in business, you get what you pay for and you will only know how they did once the dust has settled and your investment is spent.

Working the Wire

Your team is up and running and things are going well! Don’t let the success get to you–unforeseen injuries, suspensions, and cuts can gut your lineup. In fantasy football, undrafted players or those cut from your competitors’ lineups are available to be claimed during the week before next week’s games on the Waiver Wire. This provides an excellent opportunity to fill a hole in your lineup or upgrade a player that hasn’t worked well for you.

It’s just like your website–you may find that conversion elements or ads that were successful have suddenly stopped working. There are numerous strategies out there (link building, PPC, social media) that you can sub in to complement what you have been using. Just because you haven’t won with them before, doesn’t mean you never will.

But just like the Waiver Wire, when picking up a new player you have to clear someone on your roster to make room. If that second-string running back on the wire suddenly snatches the starting job from the incumbent, his ability to help you win is now there for the taking. Now you have to decide which player carries less value and can be replaced. As with your site, some strategies which had worked in the past seem to lose their luster over time. It takes confidence to make the switch but the payoff can be huge.

Savoring the Win

Sixteen weeks later, you have been crowned champion of your league–congrats! You have been showered with adulation from your league-mates, cashed that winning buy-in check, and rested firmly upon your mantle the trophy from which all future conversations must stem.

But you’re not done! Most leagues are played annually and when next fall rolls around, you don’t have to start from scratch. My league has a rule called “keeper picks.” Essentially, I get to carry over a portion of my roster from year to year to reward me for picking players that are successful. This is how dynasties, much like in real NFL play, are formed. Selecting these keepers is a delicate art as I must assign value to which players not only worked this year, but will continue to bring me the W.

This is the case for your Internet marketing campaigns; there will always be some whose value continues to deliver year after year. Even in these cases, it’s a good idea to look back at performance from year to year to look for trends. Like with my running backs last year: did they score less than in previous years? Is there a noticeable drop in the number of carries they got this year than last?

In your web traffic, did you see a lower volume of non-paid search leads? Did the number of page views go down from display network traffic? By identifying trends in performance, an informed decision can be made whether you’re evaluating a running back or a marketing effort.

While fantasy football is a game and your marketing endeavors can keep your business afloat, both require you to create a strategy, look for upgrades along the way, and evaluate performance year after year.

Do this, and you will always be able to afford your buy-ins with the extra money your site earned you!

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