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Internet Marketing 101: Online Marketing for Small Business

Introduction

You own a small business. Do you need a website? An Internet presence can be a necessity or a resource-draining boondoggle, depending on your business and your target audience. You shouldn’t build or maintain a website simply because “everyone else has one.” However, even if you own a one-person services company and get all the business you can handle through word of mouth, you can still create an online presence with a minimum of time and expense.

If and when you do develop a business website, you’ll need to make some kind of investment in Internet-based marketing. Consumers increasingly and overwhelmingly use the Internet to research and buy goods and services. This means the competition is robust, and if your site doesn’t announce its presence it will simply sit and gather (virtual) dust in some computer’s memory.

If you’ve convinced yourself that you need to enter the web marketing arena, the following report provides a fundamental primer on the most widely used tactics for both paid and free Internet advertising. Just remember that each of the topics introduced here is complex enough that there are entire books written about them, so if something appeals to you do some additional research before jumping in.

Before You Start

There are two main questions you must ask yourself before starting any marketing efforts, whether on- or offline: “Who is my audience?” and “What are my objectives?”

Audience

The audience for most business marketing activities is obviously past, present, and future customers. However, as in traditional advertising and marketing, it helps to narrow down who you are trying to reach, segmenting your market by age, geography, gender, interests, occupation. Certain methods of Internet marketing, such as pay-per-click ads, allow you to target your customers based on this type of segmentation.

Objectives

We can assume that the overall objective of most marketing is to sell products and/or services, but you may have additional objectives for online marketing. These related objectives will hopefully end up driving increased sales, but they can be more subtle than simply asking customers to buy right now. For example, your online marketing plan might include goals such as these:

  • Support and increase visibility of your company’s brand.
  • Improve search engine rankings.
  • Offer reference information related to your business sector.
  • Increase number of registered users or newsletter subscribers.
  • Drive traffic to your company website.

After defining your audience and marketing goals, you can begin to formulate an Internet marketing strategy and tactics. When getting into online marketing, it is important that you maintain brand consistency. Build on the reputation that you have already established. Your on-line presence should mirror that of your “brick and mortar” presence. Use the same logo and tagline so that people will understand that you are the same company. Having an online presence is a way to build on what you have already accomplished.

In the remainder of this report we’ll look at the most common ways you can use the Internet to deliver your message and start increasing your sales.

Table of Contents

websites

E-Mail

Newsletters

Other Announcements

Search Engine Marketing and Display Advertising

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Pay-per-Click (PPC)

Display Advertising

Social Media and Networking

Decide: Who, What, Where, When, and Why?

YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Etc.

Twitter

Blogs

Forums & Discussion Groups

Article Placement / E-Zines

Other Internet Marketing Outlets

Wikipedia

Directories

websites

We won’t get into the vast topic of how to build and manage a website, but if you aim to use the techniques described below, it is nearly essential to have one. Most of your marketing efforts will have a “call to action” that involves your audience visiting your website to research products or services, find contact information, sign up for a newsletter, or place an online order. Whatever you are asking people to do in your online promotions, make sure the website allows them to easily complete that task. One other vital component of any business website is an analytics program (Google offers a fairly robust application free of charge), so you can track how well your marketing efforts are working and calculate the return on your advertising investment (ROI).

How can you develop an online presence at little or no cost? There are several companies that offer free site building tools and hosting services. If you go this route, select a company that has a proven track record, so your hard work isn’t wasted when the company goes out of business or suspends the service. A couple of reliable options are Google Sites and Yola. If you have any money in your budget at all, you should probably just spend the less than $100 per year it takes to buy a personalized domain name (for example, “mybusiness.com”) and a Web hosting service. Another potential option, depending on your business and marketing goals, is to create a free blog (see below for more details). The most popular free blogging services as of this writing are WordPress and Blogger.

E-Mail Newsletters

E-mail newsletters provide one of the most highly performing avenues for marketing. You can collect customer e-mail addresses by asking visitors that come to your website to subscribe, by requesting e-mail addresses from anyone who visits your physical location, or by purchasing an e-mail list. To generate a higher rate of readership, make sure the audience is narrowly targeted and has some vested interest in your product. By sending out your newsletter on a regular schedule (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) you can counteract the transient and temporary nature of Internet users by continually reminding them of your company’s existence. Affordable services like Constant Contact can be used to manage mailing lists, statistics, and opt-in/out functions.

Caveat: Sending commercial e-mail messages to people who have not agreed to receive your mailings can result in severe fines and penalties from the federal government per terms of the CAN-SPAM Act.

Newsletter content should appeal to your defined audiences, with industry- or product-related news and events, company-specific news and events, practical reference information, and interesting statistical and demographic information. The newsletter copy should publicize links to appropriate pages within your website.

You will need to maintain one or more separate lists for the purpose of sending targeted messages to particular audiences (see Other Announcements below). You might combine all your lists to send a monthly newsletter, and send other bulletins to past or potential customers as appropriate.

Other Announcements

Other announcements are e-mailings that can consist of press releases, coupons, special notices, or anything you want to communicate specifically to members of one or more e-mail lists.

Search Engine Marketing, Pay-per-Click and Display Advertising

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization means constructing a website that is easily crawled by search engine spiders, and it encompasses a variety of techniques designed to improve your site’s (or page’s) ranking in the search engine results page. The goal is for your site to be found by searchers who are looking for sites related to a certain keyword or phrase, for example “little red wagon” if you are in the business of selling toy wagons. SEO can be divided into on-page activities (e.g., amount of content, metadata, links, programming methods and structural issues) and off-page activities (most importantly, obtaining links from other websites to your site).

Pay-per-Click (PPC)

Pay-per-click advertising refers to text ads displayed on search engine results pages (versus “organic” results achieved by SEO) and other sites, usually in the margins. In the case of Google AdWords and Microsoft’s adCenter, you can open an account and specify the keyword(s) that, when searched for, will generate an ad that links to your website. You pay only when a searcher clicks an ad and is directed to your site. In the example below, the key phrase is “little red wagon,” and pay-per-click ads are located at top (in yellow) and in the right-hand column (subtitled “Sponsored Links”). The first organic listing is “Little Red Wagon Foundation.”

A few of the benefits of PPC advertising are that you know exactly how many people view your ads, how many of those viewers click through to your website, and (if you are using a site analytics tool) what they do once they reach your site. You can also start and stop running ads at a moment’s notice, experiment with any number of ads you like, and fund your campaign with as little as $10 to start.

Display Advertising

Display advertising, also called banner advertising, means purchasing ad space on another website and placing a text and/or graphic ad with a link to your site. This technique is generally more complex and expensive than pay-per-click, but can be very powerful if the right message is shown to a tightly focused audience. To achieve optimal click-through rate (CTR), advertise on websites where you assume your target audience is visiting, rather than a general interest website. Most marketers don’t purchase ad space directly from another website, but use a banner ad network to automatically place ads on appropriate websites. A couple of the biggest names in display ad serving are DoubleClick and BurstMedia.

Social Media and Networking

Social networking is the latest buzz in the modern marketing arsenal. If you have any doubt about its impact, especially on the under-40 population, read this list. Small businesses with limited resources should weigh their time spent and the potential benefits carefully, however. It can also be difficult to measure the return on your investment for some of these tactics.

The general principle of “marketing” on social networking outlets is that people who have similar interests will virtually congregate around Web content that discusses that interest. They may be interested in product information in the form of reviews or personal opinion, but hard sale approaches are mostly discouraged and unproductive. Your goal is to become a trusted advisor-which usually means revealing your identity and at least some part of your personality. If that premise makes you uncomfortable, you might still find social networking sites valuable for market research purposes. Find out what people are buying and why, then use that information to help shape your other marketing activities.

The following section describes the more popular social media outlets and sites, but keep your eyes open for new virtual spaces where you might get more attention by getting in on the ground floor.

YouTube, Facebook, Etc.

YouTube allows you to post videos on your own “channel,” a distinct Web page that can be customized and allows for posting links back to your own website. A major positive aspect of this venue is that the number of views is posted and viewers can submit comments, so you know whether your videos are popular and why.

Facebook is considered the model for modern social networking sites. Facebook allows you (individual, corporate, non-profit, etc.) to create a page, attract “likes” and reviews, communicate with followers by posting status updates, photos and videos, and so on.

Although the previously named sites are the most popular in terms of visitors, there are a couple of business-oriented networking sites that may be more useful for making business connections. LinkedIn helps you develop a network of clients, service providers, and subject experts; find business opportunities and partners; post job openings; and more. More detailed advice on best practices for using LinkedIn can be found in many online articles and blogs.

Twitter

Think of Twitter as a mini-blog (see below) that allows you to broadcast messages of 140 characters or less. The messages appear to your “followers” on their phones or computers, as well as on Twitter.com. The biggest challenges are to gain a useful number of followers and to think of something engaging to write to them. If you are a speaker, writer, or performer Twitter can be used to let your fans know what you’re doing and when. If you have a retail store you might let your followers know that you’re offering a discounted item or running a special sale. You should post a Twitter sign-up link on your website, and within your signature line in outgoing e-mail messages. You can also gain followers by following people who work in or comment on your industry, as some Twitter users will follow those who follow them.

Blogs

The word blog originally came from the term “Web log.” There’s no real standard for what a blog is, but most commonly authors use them to comment on (and link to) other online news items, websites, or other Internet content. For the most part, direct selling on a blog is frowned upon and is probably a recipe for driving away potential readers. What do you write about, then? Well, if you run an Internet marketing firm you write about trends in Web marketing, what the search engines are up to, tips for do-it-yourselfers, or what you thought of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Seriously, read some blogs and you will find all sorts of personal opinion mixed in with professional advice and commentary. The goal of your blog, however, should most likely be to establish yourself as an expert and trusted advisor in your chosen field.

You might also pursue getting your products, services, or website mentioned in related blogs by other industry experts. When a high-visibility blogger mentions a website on his or her blog, the site is exposed to a potential audience of new viewers. Often, blog postings are simply press releases that are picked up by sites that discuss topics related to a particular product or industry. More opportunities (and traffic) in this arena can be realized by developing relationships with individual bloggers.

Additional Tips:

  • Post an article that was written by someone else, just be sure to provide a link to the original article and give credit to the person wrote it. You can then give your commentary on the topic of the article or find a way to relate the information to local trends or challenges.
  • Ask colleagues to be “guest bloggers” by writing articles for you to post, again giving them credit and adding their byline and a link to their website. Using links is a good way to drive additional traffic to their sites so it’s a good trade-off for both parties.
  • Nick Francesco of AskNick.com said, “A blog gets people’s attention and Twitter keeps it.” Consider using these two outlets together.

Forums & Discussion Groups

A forum (also known as discussion group, message board or bulletin board) is a component of a website where users can ask questions, offer advice, or share experiences with others about a certain topic or topics. Nearly every hobby on earth has a number of popular forums wherein members offer their thoughts and feelings on all aspects of their favorite pastime. Contributing a comment (with a link to your website) in discussion groups related to your products or services can create a small surge or spike in traffic, but usually has little long-lasting effect. To maximize effectiveness, target forums on high-traffic sites that have 1,000+ users, and reply to topics with larger numbers of views (relative to other posted topics).

You can easily build your own bulletin board/forum component on your site with free or low-cost software. User forums have the potential to greatly increase the “stickiness” of a site, given a critical mass of traffic required to generate new discussions and keep participants interested in returning. You can start by “seeding” topics on your own, but there won’t be any results until traffic is directed to the forums. The conundrum for small businesses may be the time required to moderate a forum once it becomes successful. One solution is to seek out a volunteer moderator who exhibits a keen interest in your field. A sample of a baseball trading card forum is shown in the screen shot below.

Article Placement / E-Zines

Another avenue for generating incoming links and traffic to your site is the free article market. Article submission (or e-zine) websites allow you to publish articles on a variety of topics. Examples include EzineArticles and ArticleCity.com.

Depending on terms of use, these articles may be used as content on other websites, or collected on the site where submitted. The main objective of most article contributors is to increase their search engine rankings with the placement of backlinks on other reputable sites. Providing reliable and accurate reference information is secondary, and the traffic potential from article readers is questionable.

Obtaining links from article submission sites isn’t likely to improve your site’s search engine rankings much. However, existing content from a print newsletter or other written material can be re-purposed with a relatively small time investment. Be aware that creating articles from your website’s content verbatim may cause search engines to penalize your site, as the search engines take a dim view of text that is republished multiple times (“duplicate content” in search engine optimization terms). Submitting articles to sites with the most traffic will give your site the best chance to be discovered by new readers.

Caveat: Once an article is submitted, you have little or no control over who uses your content and for what purpose, depending on the copyright policies of the site on which the article is posted.

Other Internet Marketing Outlets

Wikipedia

Wikipedia is, essentially, an online encyclopedia. The unique aspect of Wikipedia is that users generate the content, though content must be approved by volunteer editors. Traffic will grow if and when others link to the entry. If you add content, your time commitment will be relatively minor, and the benefits might include improved search engine ranking and a slight increase in traffic to your site. As with other forms of Internet communication, a Wikipedia entry that is essentially a commercial for a product, service, or company will not be viewed positively and is unlikely to be approved by editors.

Directories

Online directories allow Internet users to browse through categories of topics to find websites related to a certain subject. There are directories for businesses, blogs, websites in general, and more. Many directories are free, and some only list you if you pay. The mother of free directories is the Open Directory Project, and by all accounts the best paid directory for business is the Yahoo! Directory ($299 annually). Be aware that you might wait a long time for some of the free directories to list your site, as they may rely on volunteer screeners. Directories not only allow consumers to find you in their listings, they also help get your site indexed in the major search engines. If you submit your site to a directory, make sure to read the submission guidelines and follow them exactly.

Tips and Tricks for Online Marketing and SEO – How to Promote Your Business/Website Online

There are various ways to promote your website online, some of which just need a bit of your time, while others burn a small hole in your pocket. Needless to say, if you can own and build a website, promoting and marketing for it online won’t be much of a pain.

So basically, my online marketing strategy revolves around these few points:

SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) refers to an internet marketing technique that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages. It basically involves two methods:

a> Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising

b> Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Pay Per Click is a method of paying a search engine to show your website more frequently in search results as a user searches for a content, while SEO is the method where you actually modify or rewrite your websites’ content manually to achieve higher rankings in the search engine result pages.

CONTENT MARKETING

It is a form of marketing where media and contents are created and published in order to communicate with and acquire prospective customers. The content may be in the form of images, newsletters, how-to-guides, case studies, etc. The main aim of content marketing is not to sell a product directly, but to keep in touch with existing and to-be clients and provide them with needed and helpful information so as to earn their loyalty. The most common and traditional way of content marketing is to write descriptive articles or ad-content on sites like EzineArticles, Squidoo, ArticlesBase, GoArticles, etc. Some of them even pay for writing articles.

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING

Social Media Marketing is a way of popularizing an event, product, service, brand or a company with the help of social networking sites. It is an unpaid marketing method because it depends upon the quality of the content and the how much the readers share it. The most common platforms of social media marketing are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, MySpace, etc. Most of these sites offer a dedicated page for your business that can be used to promote your company, product or service. Furthermore, words of mouth and shares by the users play important role in doing the same.

MOBILE MARKETING

Mobile Marketing, as it’s obvious from the name, is the form of marketing where cell-phones are the bridge between a company and their clients, or future clients most of the times, where customers are provided with personalized and customized information, offers, or deals about the product or services. There are quite a lot of ways of mobile marketing, but we will keep it just to the most common and most effective methods here.

a> SMS: There are a lot of bulk SMS providers that, unlike the telecom companies which have a cap on the maximum number of SMSs sent, allow users to send a large number of SMS and guarantee a delivery. So this bulk SMS service may be used to send messages related to products and services to a large number of users in a very short time, plus, it is highly cost effective.

b> App-Based Marketing: As the usage of smartphones increases, use of mobile applications have also increased proportionally. So the concept is to make mobile applications for iOS, android and symbian platforms and distribute them free over the online apps market. Sending Push notifications adds to the advantage as the users receive alerts and notifications on new products, services or information instantly.

E-MAIL MARKETING

It is a method of direct marketing where commercial messages are sent to a group of people using e-mails. The mails may be sent to a database of existing or potential customers with a view to promote a new or old service or product, or to provide a deal or offer so as to solicit repeat business, or instant business. Most of the times, companies send out promotional e-mails where a deal is provided for a limited time and the customers get a discount if they avail of the services or products within that period. Sending online newsletters at periodic intervals also brings a sense of loyalty into the existing customers.

ONLINE CLASSIFIEDS

There are a number of online classified sites where we can post advertisements about our products and services for a very small or no price at all. The classified sites may be recognized or active on a local, national or international level. Keeping in mind the Indian online market, the ones that come to my mind are Quikr, Click.in, Olx… and the list never stops. Locanto and Craigslist are two of the giants in international online market, needless to mention that there are a lot more in this category. Each of the ads that you publish in these sites remain active for a certain period and then you have to either renew/repost them, or publish another ad if still required.

LINK EXCHANGE PROGRAMS

Link Exchange refers to the method where the administrators of two(or more) websites agree to display each others advertisement or link on their own site for their mutual benefit. The method also implies to the process where a number of administrators, or Webmasters register their site on a central website that serves as the host and provides reciprocal links to the participating websites to show on their pages, So, if you register yourself for link exchange programs on such a site, the link to your website will be placed in a number of other similar ranked websites, and in turn, you need to place their links in your own site, simple, isn’t it? Generally, this service comes free of cost as it runs on the principle of reciprocity, both of the parties benefit mutually and almost equally, but at times it needs a bit of your fortune if you opt for premium and fast services.

FORUM DISCUSSIONS

Discussion forums are a great way of advertising yourselves to a group of targeted customers. Online discussion forums/boards are present for almost every topic you can think of, so at this place you get a group of people that are actually(and only) interested in the same topic, product or services that you are offering. Thus, all the people present in that discussion are your potential customers, pitch high and bang at the right moment is all you need to do. Google and yahoo also have their own dedicated discussion/Q&A forums, writing and promoting your articles where can fetch good results.

VIDEO UPLOAD

Written, printed or messaged media are good ways of marketing, but short videos on your services or products are great way of marketing. Here, people just need to look at your video for a few seconds, or maybe minutes, and understand what they are actually meant to. In this way, they quite easily omit the traditional and comparatively boring way of reading the advertisement, newsletter, or promotional messages. The most common platform is YouTube where you can upload your own custom made videos for free, or opt for paid promotion where very short promotional videos are inserted(by YouTube) between other videos which may already be a bit known to people and thus there are more chances of people seeing the promotional videos.

DIRECTORY LISTING

Web directories or link directories are the directories on the world wide web(www) that link to other web sites and categorize the websites according to their content. In simple words, directories are not search engines, but just an online directory showing the list of websites based on categories and sub-categories. There are a large number of web directories that offer free, paid, reciprocal and affiliate linkings depending upon your choice. If categorized correctly, directory listing is a great way of online marketing. DMOZ, Yahoo, Digg are some of the most famous directories online.

ONLINE DEALS

Discounts always attract customers, even if they have not much to do with the product. They stop to have a look on what is being offered. Sometimes this paves the way for the person to think deeply and consider availing the deal just because they are getting it at a great price. There are a lot of websites where services/products are offered at discounted rates. Consider visiting Snapdeal, Groupon, Timesdeal and few others.

AFFILIATE PROGRAMS

After all these efforts, if there is still a hitch left in the sales process, affiliate marketing is always there to promote direct sales of the product or services where a small share in the profit is given to the publisher or vendor that promotes sales. It is a performance based marketing system and the affiliate gets a percentage of profit for selling or helping in selling an article by applying any of the above listed or his/her own marketing techniques. One of the common ways is to place advertisement links or banners on others’ sites upon their permission, and if a sale occurs from their website, we need to pay them a definite amount or percentage.

Having a bit of experience in publishing and promoting websites, I hope these factors may be actually helpful when you try to do some marketing for you new website. Forgive me if I forgot to mention something important, of course you can comment and rectify if I have committed any errors. Good day.

Processes of Developing an Online Marketing Strategy

“Market” as per its elementary conceptual economics definition is the place or structure where sellers and buyers exchange various types of goods, services as well as information. “Online Marketing” is the extension of the same concept but using the platform provided by the internet (or emails – which itself is a product of the internet), for marketing, enabling direct sales transactions to occur through the medium of e-commerce. With the aid of technological developments that the internet provides, online marketing has the advantage of drawing upon powerful software tools and processes to promote products and services, differentiating it from traditional marketing in terms of availability of multiple channels and marketing methods.

One of the immediate questions that arise in the context of online marketing is about its perceived specific benefits compared to traditional marketing modes. The usually mentioned benefits that come to mind are:

Ease and Flexibility for both the Marketer & the Buyer: It is not necessary for the buyer and seller to meet or interact at fixed times. While the seller may put up his advertisement or sale notice at his convenient time, the consumers may analyze and make their purchase decision at their own leisure.

Vastly Lower Outreach costs: Significantly larger audiences can be reached through internet, while spending almost a fraction of the cost involved in traditional advertising, and at the same time it affords sellers to put up appealing consumer ads.

Facilitates Statistical Analysis: One of the very useful by-products of online marketing and advertising is that, it generates a very useful lot of data on buyer patterns including demographic preferences enabling the pin point targeting of consumer groups, and all this happens without any additional costs.

Offers Several Optional Modes: With the advancement of software tools multiple options are available not only for the advertisers to obtain responses, but also for accessing the product or service details by the consumers.

Location Specific Targeting: With location sensors now becoming common place, it lends itself very easily to demographic targeting of consumers, this being much more effective than it was ever possible on traditional or offline marketing.

On the flip side, however, the main drawback of online marketing is the absence or lack of tangibility, as the customer may at best see how a product looks but not have the option of knowing how it feels, especially in case of items of clothing. One of the innovative solutions for this has been the offer of very lavish return policies to assuage such buyer apprehensions.

It has to be said in summary that as of now online marketing is still evolving but doing so at a very rapid rate. In fact, it has already outdone traditional marketing and continues to be one of the very high-growth industries.