If you own a small business, you should be taking advantage of all the latest tools and techniques of Internet marketing. Even if you don’t have a huge budget, as long as you are willing to learn and put in some good old fashioned elbow grease, you can grow your business online. Unlike classic radio, TV and print marketing, Internet advertising and promotions are very low cost and is traditionally much more targeted than any other marketing channel available.
Online marketing for your small business allows you to focus your efforts on people who are already searching for products and services related to your business. To help you on your way, here are some of the most important tools and effective ways to create a successful advertising plan for the Internet.
Create A User and Sales Friendly Website
Presentation is everything. There is a very big difference between creating a “quick and dirty” website and developing a website that will improve your sales / leads. If you spend half an hour with a free website host and web page generator, you can make a truly hideous website that no one will want to visit. Not the best way to kick of your internet marketing efforts. Your website is often the first and only impression that consumers have of your business, and it is the center of your online marketing plan. A business website needs to be attractive, easy to use and have plenty of information about a company and its products or services.
This means that you do not have to spend enormous amounts of money on your small business website. A simple design that is easy to navigate is often far better than bells and whistles that confuse many web users. There are also a number of attractive pre-made commercial website template sites that can be customized with a company’s logo and graphics courtesy of a freelancer. Quality, branding, messaging, SEO and user experience are pretty much a pot luck scenario, you get what you pay for.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
One of the major goals of your small business online marketing plan should be to get your website to be at the top of search engine results. Search engines drive the majority of Internet traffic, and more than 90 percent of Internet users do not go past the first page of search engine results. If your website is not among the very first results people see, it is effectively invisible. Search engines order website results based on a number of criteria, including keywords, geographic location and how recently a site was updated.
SEO is a very successful and inexpensive way to advertise your business and website, but it presents a number of challenges for small businesses as well. Google, the largest search engine and the basis of most online marketing plans, is constantly pulling the rug out from under website owners. The search engine seems to change its mind on a daily basis as to what it considers most important in a website and how to rank them. For example, Google recently decided that social media has such a large influence on people’s browsing that social media activity is now a factor in ranking websites.
Still, there is method to Google’s (seeming) madness. They usually do a good job of adapting results to the way that people browse, and major changes in the way that websites are ranked are not common. Additionally, websites that are updated on a regular basis, have well written content that relates to chosen keywords and ensures that coding is SEO friendly generally do well. You may check out our list of SEO Tools as well as WordPress Plugins For SEO.
Pay-Per-Click Ads (PPC)
PPC ads are exactly what they sound like. When someone sees an ad for your site, if they click on it, you pay for it. If they do not visit your website, there is no charge. Previously, people advertising their website had to pay every time someone saw their ad. Using PPC ads for online marketing now ensures that money is not being wasted on people who do not even see your advertising. This type of online marketing is great for small businesses that are waiting for their SEO practices to bring in traffic from search engines, but it can be costly if not done correctly. PPC ads require testing, optimized landing pages and keyword research to provide a return on investment. You may take a look at our post on how to get more conversions from AdWords.
Consider A Blog and a Content Management System (CMS)
Blogs are a great tool for small businesses because they provide a place for keyword content to go, and they also provide great landing pages and a natural source of social media content. Blog posts are a great place to describe products, post discounts and specials and even solicit feedback. Additionally, since you can tailor them for a particular product or service and put in a prominent call to action, they can also be used as landing pages for PPC ads.
Content management systems have become increasingly popular because they make posting new keyword content and blog posts so easy, even for novice webmasters. They also make organizing different content simple, making a website easy for visitors to navigate and reducing the issues of repeat content. They are also an excellent way to manage and run a blog since each entry into a CMS is automatically formatted with appropriate coding. Any widgets, links and feedback forms that are on your website are generated with each blog post, saving you enormous amounts of time. There are some things you may want to consider before choosing one though.
The Importance of Keyword Selection
Your small business’s online marketing plan will revolve around keywords if you are using SEO or PPC. Keyword selection is extremely important because it can make the job of advertising your business online either very difficult or very easy. You should select a handful of keywords that you want to focus on associating your website with, and it is often easier to pick key phrases than generic keywords. This is to make increasing your search engine ranking easier, and it also ensures that people find what they are looking for when they arrive at your website.
Before you begin creating keyword content for your website or selecting keywords you want to associate with your PPC ads, you need to be sure you find the keywords that will best match your small business’s products and services. If you select terms that are too generic, you will have problems achieving high search engine rankings, and if you do, most of your visitors will leave your site when they don’t find what they’re looking for. Should you select keywords and phrases that are too specific, you may attain high search engine rankings for something no one searches for.
For example, if your small business sells children’s shoes online and at a physical location in California, you would not want to focus on the keyword “shoes.” To begin with, the competition for a keyword like that is so high that you are unlikely to ever get a high search engine ranking. Additionally, a large portion of the people searching for the term “shoes” are not searching for children’s shoes, live in California or make their shoe purchases online. On the other hand, keywords and phrases like “children’s shoes online” or “girls shoes in California” are likely to send the right visitors to your site. Here is some more information on using location targeting to lower cost-per-click.
How To Incorporate Social Media Into Your Online Marketing Plan
Social media can be a tough nut to crack for many small businesses. Still, it is an important part of SEO, and it can provide a solid return on investment given enough time. Since search engines are now using social media activity as a part of their ranking systems, webmasters can no longer afford to ignore social media. To help increase your social media activity, you should be sure to include share buttons for major social media sites on your blog. You can set a CMS run blog to do this automatically.
Another way to improve your social media success through your small business online marketing plan is to incentivize visitors to follow or friend your business on social media sites. This can include things like offering discounts or sharing coupons on your social media profiles and feeds.
Taking Advantage of Analytic Tools
Google Analytics is one of the best online marketing tools that a small business has access to, and it is free. Analytics data can tell you where your visitors are coming from, in terms of website referrals and physical location, how many visitors you are receiving and which of your pages get the most hits and people spend the most time on. This information is invaluable because it can tell you which of your pages or blog posts are the most successful and which need more work.
Further, Google Analytics allows you to track your conversion rates. Conversions are simply when a visitor does a particular task. This could be anything from joining a mailing list to making an online purchase. Each step of the path visitors take is recorded, so you can see which pages lead to the largest number of conversions and adjust other less successful pages accordingly.