With the highly competitive internet market, a fledgling online business should adopt multiple and different advertising methods to promote itself to their online audience. Fledging online businesses, though, are not generally flush with cash, assume they can’t market effectively, and give up soon after launching if their audience doesn’t find them.
Unfortunately, they are right in one respect – this can be an incredible expense if set up incorrectly and left unmonitored. It’s not impossible to do on a budget, though. You can reduce your costs by making strategic decisions based on your budget, by diversifying the advertising efforts, and by monitoring which sources are actually converting into sales.
When undertaking a marketing strategy on a budget, its incredibly important for you to eliminate the ineffective advertising techniques, reduce cost, and still manage compete.
Here’s a few ways to do it.
Search Engine PPC Advertising
PPC, or pay per click, advertising has been available for quite some time now – but since it has been around so long, many businesses are using it, and that drives up the cost. Trust me. You should see the bid for “web hosting” on Google Adwords. You all would be stunned how much we have to pay just to get you to look at our site.
This is not to say, though, that PPC advertising will not work. Some niche companies will be able to be listed very high for a very low cost, and this method will work extremely well for them – but it is not so appealing to a highly competitive market/expensive general keyword. For a small business looking to capture general market traffic, usually, the cost does not justify the sale.
If you’re going to go with PPC and you don’t have a whole lot of money, do some investigation into the “nichiest” (I know its not a word, I just made it up) words that still apply to your business, and see how much they run. By really narrowing down your audience, you save money and can zero in on people that are really likely to be interested in your products instead of shooting blindly at the interwebs.
This can be a money saving strategy, but on the other hand, you may get a much lower frequency of display because the more niche you get, the less popular the keyword so you really have to weigh all the factors.
Google Adwords is still the it girl in this realm, so check them out first.
Buying Website Advertising Space
There are many blogs and websites that will sell advertising space on their site for a certain monthly price or for a certain number of impressions, and if you find blogs that relate in some way to what you sell or are sharing this can be a great way to get the word out about your online business.
Just make sure that the website hosting your ads actually gets a lot of traffic. The general rule of thumb is that your online business will receive approximately between two and four percent of the website’s traffic and obviously, the higher the amount of traffic they get and the more prominent spot you want, the more you will have to pay.
It’s also important to make an appealing ad that people will be tempted to click on, so even if you do your own site, you may want to your ad graphic professionally done.
Instead of buying directly with a specific blog, you can seek out advertising networks that act as brokers. Blogads has a number of categories to target advertising on blogs from baseball fans to lesbians, Click to Blue is a progressive advertising network for left leaning sites, Eagle Interactive targets those on the Right – you can see that there are a wide variety of networks at your disposal to make it easier to find your audience, so make sure to check them and browse what they have to offer.
Search engine optimization has become a necessary component for promoting an online business, and its especially valuable because its free if you do the work yourself.
SEO is really nothing more than targeting a few specific keywords on each page of your website, and making sure the meta-tag reflects the keywords you want. When someone searches for the keyword, your site will come up somewhere in the ranking – the more relevant the page and more popular your site, the higher in the ranking your site will appear.
This will reduce your need somewhat for expensive advertising if done well.
Check out Google’s Keyword Tool, which can look at your content and make suggestions for keywords.
Article marketing is a type of advertising in which businesses write short articles related to their respective industry or site subject, and is a form of SEO in that it improves your search engine ranking, and can potentially be a good way to direct targeted traffic.
Most article submission sites already have a good page rank, and your article will tend rank highly in the search engines because of that (if you treat the article the same as your web site and think about the keywords and its a good quality article). This can drive targeted traffic to your site before you can successfully increase your page rank through other methods.
Two popular sites for article marketing are Squidoo and Hubpages, but be careful – many article submission sites have strict rules about original content and higher quality content, so this won’t be a matter of just prattling off something in 5 minutes with many keywords in it and a link to your site. Think of it as an extension of your site, and work on it with the same eye to detail as you would anything associated with your main presence.
A number of places also have rules against self-promotion, so remember when article marketing that the sites are looking for your expertise to give their readers additional quality content – they don’t exist just to hand you a free venue for self-promotion.
Facebook advertising is a relatively new way to advertise your business. You can target people in specific areas or with particular interests on Facebook. It works in a similar way to PPC advertising except that you pay per 1000 views. It can drive some decent traffic to your site, but you should monitor it to be sure it converts.
If your online business has a product or service to offer, you could set up an affiliate program. This can be done through one of the many affiliate networks across the web, like Sharesale, or with software you install on your own site, like Post Affiliate Pro.
The benefit of having your own affiliate program is that your publishers do all of the work and advertising for you. They will write the ads and assume the cost of hosting them, and all you have to do is pay them a commission after they convert a sale.
If you retain a profit, this is a great way to increase repeat business – just make sure that you offer a high enough commission to attract the decent publishers, but not so high that you’ll get the spammy affiliates. Monitor your affiliates to ensure they aren’t spamming or doing anything sleazy you wouldn’t want them to do.
Social Media Engagement
You need to reach the people, and today, the people are on social media. While we touched on Facebook advertising before, don’t forget about Facebook pages, Twitter, LinkedIn, as well as discussion forums. The name of the game outlined in the first chapter of today’s Internet Marketing Playbook is engagement – engagement with your audience, engagement with your consumers, and engagement with your industry. Sometimes, all at the same time.
Businesses have personalities, and your social media actions give people an idea of what kind of company you are. Do not make the mistake of simply feeding advertising into your Twitter stream and calling it a day. Engage your audience, get them involved, take that corporate veil and rip it off while your hair floats in the breeze.
People don’t buy from corporations, people buy from people, and your persona is one of the main things you need to control and shape on today’s fast moving, highly engaged Internet. Your engagement with your audience doesn’t cost anything but effort and time.
Before you set up any of these advertising or marketing programs, you should absolutely sign up with an analytics program. An analytics program, such as Google Analytics, will allow you to track where your clicks are coming from, including tracking particular campaigns, and you will be better able to decide to keep advertising in that venue or to move on to something else. A good analytics program is an absolute necessity with regard to keeping tabs on your advertising efforts.
Building an online business is only the first step in what is a very long (and often tedious) process of becoming successful. When competing with the rest of the internet, you have to have something that sets your business, service, or blog apart from the rest. Focus on your strengths and innovations. Ask yourself:
What do I offer that others don’t?
Decide what this is and exploit it mercilessly in your advertising.