As a small or medium sized business owner, you’ve probably been hearing about Internet or Online Marketing. But what does it mean for you and your business? What are all the options and where do you begin? To kick off our new blog, we’ll be introducing our readers to online marketing with a series of posts on the topic, starting with the very basics. I guess the first and most basic question to address is, “why should I bother with online marketing?”
Unlike traditional media advertising ( television, newspapers, billboards, etc.), the internet allows you to communicate directly with people who are already in the process of researching a future purchase. Statistical studies show that over 82% of local searches are made by customers who follow up offline via an in-store visit or phone call – and 61% of those searches result in purchases. Your customers are out there searching for your products and services – you need to make sure they can find you. Business owners now have a way to engage customers with measurable proof of what works – another advantage over traditional media. And typically online marketing is much cheaper than traditional. If you’re already spending money on prints ads or radio time – or if you’re simply curious about online marketing vs traditional marketing trends– you may want to check out this presentation by Forrester Research, U.S. Interactive Marketing Forecast 2009 – 2014.
You’ve probably already invested in a business website – that’s a great start, but is it enough? Does your website appear on the first page of search results when potential customers type in a keyword or phrase associated with your type of business? If not, then you’re likely missing valuable sales opportunities. So, what gets your business ranked highly in the search engine results? Many things (which we’ll explore in future posts), but it all begins with your website. Most web designers/developers are not marketers and do not create websites with your marketing strategy in mind. You may have a slickly designed website, but unless it appears on the first page of your customers’ search results, it’s not serving its purpose. That’s why SEO – Search Engine Optimization – is a vital aspect of any online strategy.
It’s common practice for companies is to hire one vendor to design the site, then another to do the optimization. Unfortunately, this ultimately costs more and may even require that your website undergo a complete rebuild – especially if yours is a Flash-based site. A better approach is to develop a website with sound SEO techniques incorporated from the outset: a clear navigational hierarchy, meaningful content incorporating just the right number of keyword phrases in the copy, page titles and description tags – even your domain name factors in to your website’s success. It may sound like a simple thing for your webmaster to implement, but search engine technology changes constantly, so it makes sense to engage a professional online marketer – someone who keeps abreast of the rapidly-evolving search engine marketing technology, continually monitors your website traffic, and makes the necessary tactical adjustments.
As I talk to my own potential clients, I’m surprised by the number of them that have invested a lot of money, time and effort in building their websites but have no idea whether anyone is visiting or where they rank in the search results. Website analytics tracking is a must — how will you be able to determine whether your online marketing investment is paying off if you aren’t watching the numbers? In our next post we’ll talk a little more about website analytics, and how to effectively leverage the data to boost your sales.
Check out our follow up post, “Online Marketing Considerations for Small Business Owners in 2016” for the latest on online marketing considerations.