Web marketing is one arena where small businesses can compete against larger companies within the same field. While the size of a budget does influence the amount of money that can be directed towards marketing costs, on the Internet, every company performs on the same stage. With these web marketing tips, you can help your small business thrive and succeed.
For Internet users, access to more than 644 million active websites is no more than a few mouse clicks away, according to a study conducted in 2012 by Netcraft, a UK-based computer security firm. If you run an online small business that’s trying to stand out from the crowd, the sheer size of that number may make your breath away.
Don’t panic. Despite the ever-increasing crush of so many online neighbors, it is still possible for even the smallest business to get noticed thanks to the magic of thoughtful, creative marketing.
Online Marketing Magic blankets the Midwest as SES Chicago kicks off this morning. Audience members packed the room and gulped coffee anxiously awaiting to know what Avinash knows.
Curious to know what makes Avinash Kaushik (Digital Marketing Evangelist, Google) roll out of bed each morning? Surprisingly, it’s not data.
If you want to grow your small or home-based business sales on the Internet, below are my top 10 tips you can put to use right now.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) To get your website noticed in the search engines, you need to optimize your website for Google, Yahoo, Bing so that your website will be on page #1 when people search for your business specialty. My SEO Secrets book gives you step-by-step instructions you can do to get your website listed on page #1 ahead of all your competitors.
Compelling Content Updates Once you have started your business and you have your website on the Internet, if you don't ever do anything further, your website may be doomed for failure. The thing that makes a site interesting and keeps visitors coming back to visit is compelling content where they can find "waht’s in it for them". In order to keep visitors and the search engines happy, you'll want to update at least once a month to keep things fresh and interesting. Writing fresh content can be very difficult unless you do professional writing for a living, so consider handing it off to a professional who writes content every day. This will take the burden off of you and get those updates completed more frequently.
Inbound Links There are 2 types of links associated with your website. "Outbound Links" are the ones where there is a link on your website that links to another website. "Inbound Links" are the ones where another website links to your website. To give your website the most advantage with the search engines, you want as many "Inbound" links as possible because each inbound link is seen as a "vote" of confidence for your website. There are many link building strategies you can use, but one simple one is to ask all of the companies you do business with to place a link on their website to yours. You can reciprocate with them by placing a link to them on your site.
Networking Running a business can go easier when you have others that are involved in your situation where they know details about you and your business. Years ago you had to rely on in-person meetings with individuals and groups. Today, networking with your peers and business advisors is so easy through social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and others. This is how you stay connected and involved with others and they can do the same with you.
Free Advertising One the biggest benefits of Internet marketing is that you can use free services to advertise your business. Sites like Yelp and Kudzu offer free classified style ads where you can upload your business information and place links to your website. Another great place to get free advertising is with Google Places where visitors can find directions to your front door and have the chance to leave reviews. And when it comes to "free", be sure to take advantage or promoting your business everywhere you can. Place a reference to your website, email address, and all social media accounts on your business card, in your email signature line, and every piece of promotional material you produce.
Paid Advertising If you have a little money to burn, then you can pay for some key advertising slots that will increase traffic to your site and bring customers pouring in. Some of the more popular paid advertising ventures include things like Google Adwords, where you purchase text links and pay by the click up to a set amount. You may also want to try Stumble Upon and purchasing direct banner sales on sites with customers you'd like to target. Competitors probably will not sell to you, so it should be related but non-competitive.
Social Marketing Social marketing centers aroung creating content that attracts the attention of your website visitors and encourages them to share it with their social networks. Your message spreads from user to user and is viwed as valuable because it's coming from a trusted source, as opposed to coming directly from your company. Social marketing is a powerful platform that opens doors for your business to increase its brand awareness and hold conversations with your customers. Social marketing is free for most accounts which can't be beat as an inexpensive platform to implement marketing campaigns. The dominant social marketing play is to have a business page on Facebook. You can gain additional exposure using Twitter for shout outs, and YouTube for visual communications.
e-Newsletters Email newsletters are the essential foundation of staying in communication with your customers. Once your business has established a relationship with a customer, email newsletters are how you keep them informed of what is happening with your business. If you sold them a product, the newsletter is where you tell them about new products. If they bought a service from you, the newsletter is where you tell them about new services. Email newsletters are incredibly affordable, but you need to be very careful to use a professional email delivery company to assure that the effort you invest in your newsletter, does not get lost because the email could not be delivered. While social marketing comnpanies rise and fall, email newsletters will stand the test of time by being a consistent voice you have with your customer.
Google Adwords If your business website is not ranking well with organic search engine optimiization, you can leverage the power of Google Adwords. The process is simple. You establish an account with Google, set a threshold of money that can be spent each day, then create your ad. When someone clicks on your ad, the cost of the ad is deducted from your daily spending limit, and then the user is sent to a page on your website. To achieve the highest conversion rates, instead of sending the user to your home page and making them figure out what to do next, you should send the user to a landing page that is created specifically for your offer.
Facebook Ads Now that Facebook has overstepped Google with 500+ million registered users, another powerful way for your business to reach potential customers is with Facebook Ads. The process is to design your ad, target who the ad will be presented to, and then select the pricing and scheduling. The power with Facebook comes in step #2 where you can target specific demographics for your ad. This feature opens up so many segmenting possibilities that you can really narrow the focus of each ad to determine, over time, which demographic offers the greatest return on investment. Be sure to send the user who clicks on your ad to a landing page that is created specifically for your offer. Between Google Adwords and Facebook Ads, your business can reach an audience of incredible numbers.
Looking for some basic Internet marketing tips for your small business? While there are hundreds of suggestions we can make, here’s a list of 10 tips that we think 90% of small business owners will find useful.
1. In the words of Ron Simon, “What the hell are you trying to do?” What is the goal of your website? Ultimately, it should be to drive more business, but how exactly will it do that? Start with one goal – such as increasing the number of phone calls – and branch out from there. It’s important to set goals, but it’s just as important to come up with a system for measuring those goals.
2. Evaluate your website’s content – Content is King. What does your website say? Is the content unique and useful? Will people learn anything when they visit your site? When was the last time you added new content? Does your website have content worth reading? Does your content match your business goals?
3. The <title> tag. Visit your website. Look at the very top of your browser window. What do you see? Does it describe the page you’re looking at? Is it a unique description? Does it contain the keywords you want people to associate with that page of your website? If you’re a local business, does it contain your key local search keywords? If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to all these questions, check out this article all about title tags.
4. Call tracking and analytics. You can’t improve upon what you can’t measure. Analytics provide a tremendous amount of incredibly useful data, such as where your website visitors come from, how long they stay, and what they do on your site. Google analytics is free and pretty darn good, and we recommend it. We also recommend you make sure you can track every lead that’s generated by your website.
If you don’t have a dedicated phone number for the website that you can track calls on, visit HostedNumbers.com. They’ll issue you a unique tracking phone number and then forward every call you get to your main number while tracking the number of calls you receive, who called, how long the call lasted…etc. It’s surprisingly inexpensive.
5. Take advantage of free local business directories. There are a few great local business directories that are completely free. Visit GetListed.org, enter your business information, then take a moment to submit your business info to each of the directories shown.
Additionally, we do not typically recommend paying for directory placements…we suggest starting with the free listings and then seeing how it goes.
6. Check out your competition. Visit your competitors’ websites. Do searches for keywords related to your business. Find out what others in your vertical are doing and saying. This is a great way to get ideas and take stock of your own company’s online marketing efforts.
Does this dog look ugly to you?
7. Repeat after me – “I have an ugly baby.” A lot of business owners love their websites, but the first step to improving your website is to admit that it has some deficiencies. No website is perfect, and every website can use improvement. If you have a website, you have an ugly baby [sorry]. Just how ugly your website is, however, is open to discussion.
8. Start blogging. Every business, and we mean every business, has something to gain by blogging regularly. The list of benefits is long, but here’s a short list of reasons small businesses should blog.
9. Post online video. Video is still a little cutting-edge for some, but the benefits can’t be understated. Online video is the wave of the future, and every business needs to have something on YouTube, Metacafe, etc. If you’re concerned about expense here, keep in mind there are some low-budget options that won’t damage your brand while still providing concrete benefits.
10. Read as much as you can. There are hundreds of resources online rife with excellent marketing advice. Some of our favorites include:
There may be countless Web sites competing for your ideal customer’s attention, but there’s likely only a few dozen icons beckoning him from the glow of his smartphone screen.
By creating and giving away an indispensable app aimed squarely at your target market, you can earn some of that iPhone real estate. That puts your logo in front of your prospect every single time he thumbs through his phone, and it can also offer him one-click access straight to your Web site.
Concerned that a mobile app won’t get you in front of customers often enough? Don’t be. According to a recent report on Marketingland.com, 40 percent of Internet traffic now takes place over mobile devices.
Instead of lamenting YouTube’s ability to draw tens of millions of daily visitors while you struggle for traffic, start looking for ways to leverage its success to get your brand in front of some of those users hungry for the latest viral video.
You provide the video and let it provide the infrastructure. If you serve a niche that tends to hang out in a few highly-targeted online forums, then leave helpful, relevant comments on that site’s popular posts.
While you’re busy building your mobile apps and trying to get meme’s incorporating your product or logo to become the latest Facebook sensation, use good, old-fashioned Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices throughout your Web site.
Strategically building long-tail keywords into your site’s copy, properly structuring your pages and providing a steady stream of useful content will make search engines love you—and bring traffic to your virtual doorstep.
While your online marketing efforts should lean heavily toward getting the word out about who you are and what you do, it’s critical to keep an eye on your online reputation. Set-up a Google Alert to email you when your business is mentioned online.
Keep an eye on consumer review sites like Yelp! and know what customers are saying about you. Monitor social media channels such as Twitter and offer to resolve customer complaints quickly and easily.
You may conduct your business online, but your customers live in the “real world.” They still want to do business with people they know, like and trust. So go meet them and give them the chance to know you.
Look for conferences and trade shows that match your niche. When you find one that looks promising, attend. If the show offers a large potential audience or is capable of bestowing some prestige on your brand, offer to present or speak.
If these gatherings don’t sound appealing, brainstorm. There are certainly other ways to get out there and meet targeted prospects.
1. Build Out Your Brand
Establishing a recognizable brand image is critical to the growth of your company. Part of a building a brand is associating the name and image of your company with quality in the minds of your customers. When people see a brand image they know, they are reminded of the reasons they trust the company, and they may feel compelled to choose your products or services over those of your competitors. To begin building your brand, place your logo on company social networking pages and use the image in all of your marketing materials online.
2. Make the Most of Your Marketing Budget
To compete against larger companies who may have a marketing budget that is exponentially larger than your own, choose your marketing avenues wisely. For example, paid search campaigns are one arena that can be easily won by throwing large amounts of cash at keywords. Instead, your money may be better spent on other strategies that stretch the value of your marketing dollars, such as content marketing or natural search engine optimization improvements. You can also use social networking sites directly to speak to customers instead of paying to advertise on them.
3. Stay Ahead of Search Engine Updates
When a search engine updates the way it returns search results for keywords, businesses everywhere can experience massive losses or impressive gains in rankings. For buying-orientated keywords in popular niches, this can substantially change the amount of a traffic directed to a site from search results. To avoid being on the losing end when Google releases an update, keep the content on your site fresh and interesting. Update your pages frequently, and optimize each page according to best practice standards. Quality content never goes out of style, and search engines will reward you for making it enjoyable for visitors to read your site.
4. Engage Your Customers
Social networking sites offer your company the opportunity to interact with your customers in ways that were not possible a decade ago. Customers with problems can contact you directly on Twitter, giving you the chance to positively resolve their issue in a very public way. You can use Twitter and Facebook to open up a dialogue with your customers to find out what they want from your company and get feedback on the services you offer. When your company releases new products or has news to share, you can post the updates on social networking sites. Customers that find the information useful may share it with others, and you can use this to your advantage by announcing sales and deals to people willing to connect with your company on social sites.
5. Combine Strategies
To succeed with web marketing, you need to use more than one strategy. A killer web page is great to inform customers about the services you offer, but without marketing they will never find your page to know about your company in the first place. You need to combine social, search and content strategies to reach your customers in every way possible. Additionally, within each marketing area there are more approaches to take.
6. Include Testimonials
Potential customers that read glowing testimonials of your company are likely to be interested in learning more about what you provide. Testimonials are powerful, and you can feature them on your site by linking to review sites such as Yelp, or you can ask your customers who give you feedback if they are willing to allow you to display their comment on your site. Google reviews are also important to building trust in your company. It is a good idea to stay aware of the reviews your company has received, so you can make improvements and learn what is working for you and what needs to be changed.
7. Update Old Content
Today, visitors to your website will arrive expecting to learn something from you in addition to finding out more about contacting your company or the services you offer. You can give them a reason to work with you by refreshing your existing content. You can create videos to feature on your site, and you can integrate content that is likely to be shared on social networking sites. Adding useful content helps build your brand image as well. When you provide potential customers with tips or tricks that are relevant to what they knew they needed when they searched for your site, you begin building a trusting relationship with people that may ultimately convince them to give you a call to find out more about your services or products.
8. Test New Site Features
The changes you make to your site by incorporating new web marketing strategies should be tested for viability. Customers become used to the way a site operates, and changes often cause a temporary dip in sales as people learn to interact with your site in a new way. To minimize the impact of changes on your company, test each feature as you roll it out. User interface changes can lead customers towards the areas of your site you want them to see, and you can try out the placement of calls to action within your content pages to discover any changes that should be made.
9. Try Different Approaches
As the web marketing industry grows, new and innovative techniques are being developed to help you expand your business. Even if the tried and true methods are working well for your company at the moment, you can stay one step ahead with a willingness to try out new ideas and take different approaches to the same problems. If you are unsure of where to go next with your web marketing strategy, consult an Internet marketing company. The industry is old enough at this point that many companies are highly specialized in a specific area, so you can benefit by finding out the different approaches taken.
What other tips would you give when it comes to helping your business gain more exposure through web marketing?
#1 – Solve problems related to Influence, Experience and Value Start by identifying the 3 W’s: What influence you have and what influence you will need going forward to have an impact. What’s the current visitor experience on your website? Where can you make it more audience-centric and less sucky? What business value is created by your digital footprint; website, social etc?
#2 - Don’t Obsess Over Data Data should be collected and analyzed is service of Influence, Experience and Value.
#3 – Move Beyond the 2% Most companies spend a lot of time and money acquiring web traffic (owned, earned and paid). If you are in the top 50 websites in America, the average conversion rate is 2% What about the 98%? Stop ignoring them.
#4 – Pay attention to Micro-Conversions We need to identify Revenue along with the value coming from interactions of those who don’t immediately buy.
#5 – Understand Economic Value Identify the other types of success from your website. Newsletter signups, Wish Lists, Reviews, Social Interactions, Sweepstakes.
Of those who signed up for the newsletter, how many ended up buying something within 1 month, 3 months etc. You have to be tracking this to get beyond short-term value.
#6 – Create an Economic Value Map What creates Near Term value? Midterm Value and Longterm Value? We can’t truly understand the impact of marketing activities without understanding micro-conversions and who eventually converts months later.
#7 – CPC’s are not a metric of success!
#8 – Identify Converting Paths on your Website It’s more complex than you probably think. That’s ok. Check out this site to help you make sense of the data. http://d3js.org/
#9 – Create and Repeat this 3 Step Process
#10 – Stop Shouting at People The efficiency in marketing isn’t the ability to shout louder and more frequently. Let’s find the intent of our audiences and serve their needs. Each day we are losing our ability to find people and shout at them a little more. The ability for friends / networks to influence each other is what is and will continue to grow.
#11 – Twitter Is Twitter as another PR channel the best we can do? Something to think about.
#12 – Facebook Stop being a ‘Like begger’. Give them content of value and they will like or share. They already liked your page, stop being so needy.
#13 – Increase your Social MediaEffectiveness Start measuring the following.
#14 – Stop Ignoring Mobile Do you understand what the mobile platform allows? And that you have the opportunity to become a part of your audiences’ lives?
Check out Beneful’s site on your mobile device. The first 2 options are tools to help you find places to eat and play with your dog. The second is about dog parks. They get that you likely aren’t looking to buy dog food from your phone.
Now you know what Avinash and the audience at SES Chicago knows.
To make this advice manageable, it’s a good idea to identify which items are likely to have highest impact and are the most feasible to execute. Then, feel free to put the others on snooze until you’re ready.
I use the Bloglines, Technorati and Google Blogs pings to update those services immediately and not wait for services like Pingomatic to notify them hourly.