All businesses need an online presence, and setting up an eye-catching website is high on the list of priorities for a business start-up. However, investing in internet advertising is another matter. Before flinging large amounts of money at internet advertising, review the options available and plan a profitable but cost-effective online marketing strategy that is uniquely tailored to your business and budget.
Advantages of internet advertising
The advantages of an effective advertising campaign are many. A business has the opportunity to gather potential customers by savvy marketing. Internet marketing can be extremely cheap – compared to TV advertising it is possible to target interested buyers for negligible sums. Marketing via the internet is also instant, with no days or weeks of waiting for a print publication to carry your advertisement.
Disadvantages of internet advertising
It's easy to get carried away by persuasive marketers who promise the earth if you sign up for their course. One of the most profitable areas of online marketing is the one that shows you how to achieve massive earnings for little effort by using “Search Engine Optimisation” (SEO) techniques. Unfortunately the massive earnings usually go to the business offering the SEO course or selling the book. Additionally, practising some of those techniques could actually harm your business.
It's also tempting to be seduced by banner advertising. Plastering your website or blog with bright banner and display advertising seems like a good idea – after all, that space in the sidebar may as well be used for something. However, people have become almost immune to banners on websites; they don't even see them any more.
Google's influence on small businesses
Whether companies like it or not, Google is the leading search engine and where your business ranks in search results is all-important. Recent updates have meant that websites that employ dubious “black hat” techniques to game the system are being penalised to the point of extinction. Therefore it makes sense to keep your business on Google's good side by playing nice.
Google also runs “Adwords,” small adverts that show up on blogs, social media and websites. Google attempts to link up the adverts to the content on the page by the use of keywords – advertisers purchase keywords from Google and pay an agreed amount for each unique visitor who clicks on the advertisement. Effectively, you are paying for each visit to your website. The cost of this can be from a few pence up to £20. This can work for many businesses, but it can also cause problems for others as they attempt to compete with big-spending companies.
Social media advertising
One area of online advertising cannot be ignored, and that is social media. Sharing sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube are places where a company can hit the jackpot. If you strike lucky and your page, post or video “goes viral,” visitors will flock to your website, and your business may even attract media attention. Even if that doesn't happen, social media pages can ensure a steady stream of traffic (visitors) to your business website.
A small business can generate a lot of interest using content marketing. This strategy can encompass a main website, a company blog and social media. Content can range from regular tweets to long articles and blog posts. It can be informative, newsy and entertaining. Google loves content. It also favours content that is written in a natural style and regularly updated. Another type of content is the email newsletter: persuading people to sign up for a regular weekly or monthly newsletter is easy if you have already provided worthwhile content. If they enjoy what you've offered, or find it useful, then they'll want more. Once they have signed up, you have acquired a captive audience. Keep them interested and informed, and they will be very kindly disposed towards your product and will think of you when they are ready to buy.
- Search Engine Marketing Group: Did You Know That Unethical SEO Practices Could Hurt Your Reputation?
- Forbes: Online Display Ads – The Brand Awareness Black Hole
- New York Times: Small Players Seek an Alternative to the Expense of Pay-Per-Click; Darren Dahl; October 2012
- Smallbiz Technology: Advertising on Facebook: Good or Bad for Small Businesses?
- Curata: Content Curation Adoption Survey (requires registration)
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images