Plain and simple, you MUST market your business online or it WILL become obsolete. If people cannot easily find your business online, then consider your business to be virtually invisible to prospective customers. On top of that, if people do not perceive you or your business as a reputable resource or authority for what you provide, then your business WILL get passed up for one of your competitors who have properly established their reputation on the Internet.
We can throw statistics and data at you all day as to why you need to market your business online if you are still not convinced, but really all you need to realize is this: “When someone needs something (info, advice, prices, reviews, etc) they go to Google.com, type in a search phrase and then click on the results that come up the highest on the page and that seem the most relevant to them”. If your website is not somewhere in those top results, then your competitors are getting first crack at your prospects.
Top 4 Online Marketing Strategies
Without further ado, here are the top 4 online marketing strategies that you MUST implement immediately if you want your business to remain competitive. Doing all 4 would be fantastic, but this is often not possible for many people, especially those just now jumping into online marketing, so start with a few (we have prioritized these for you) and work your way to doing all 4 of them in the very near future.
#1 SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
Over 80% of all transactions start online, usually with a search engine. Google currently (as of 9/10/09) has a market share of over 65% over other search engines. People click on the natural / organic results in Google over 60% more often than the paid / sponsored results. All these numbers mean is this:
YOUR WEBSITE MUST BE RANKED WITHIN THE TOP 1-5 ORGANIC RESULTS ON GOOGLE
Here’s how to get there:
1) Optimize your website to meet the guidelines provided by the search engines. Here is a great document provided by Google detailing what they recommend to every webmaster – Google SEO Starter’s Guide
QUICK TIP: Optimize the title tags, alt tags, meta tags, headers and urls of every page of your website. Do NOT stuff keywords into these tags. Make them something natural and useful.
2) Consistently add new, relevant, quality content to your website. Copying and pasting content from another website and putting it on yours does NOT count. Changing and updating existing content can be useful, but adding new pages that are targeted and well written will be much more valuable.
QUICK TIP: If you’re not a writer, get one. It will be the best investment you make for your website. Check Craigslist to start your search for a quality writer. You can get a quality writer for less than $40-$50/page.
3) Get other, quality, relevant websites to put a link on their website that points back to your website. The search engines value backlinks from other websites to yours as they show the search engines that other websites are voting for your website as a popular, authoritative resource.
QUICK TIP: Like referrals, ask for links from other people often. Put link requests in your email signatures, on your website and anywhere else that reaches people you communicate with often. Make it easy for people to link to you by providing explicit instructions on what they need to do. Before any of this though, make sure your website is something that someone would want to link to first. Set your standards high and aim to make your website as authoritative as a site like Wikipedia. People naturally link to Wikipedia often because it is a great resource for just about anything.
Check out our post on Best Practices for First Page Rankings to learn more about how to use SEO to really help your business gain the exposure and business it needs to be competitive.
#2 SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
YouTube has just as many videos as the number of people in the world. Facebook and Twitter have more than 500 million users between them. People, between the ages of 18-35, spend more than 40% of their day on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube. All these numbers mean this:
YOU MUST INTERACT WITH PEOPLE ON THE TOP SOCIAL NETWORKS TO REMAIN RELEVANT
Here’s how you get there:
1) Setup accounts on Facebook and Twitter. For Facebook, setup a PROFILE for yourself and a FAN PAGE for your business. For Twitter, setup an account for yourself as a representative of your business. For both Facebook and Twitter, select a good username (i.e. your full name or your business name). Once you learn the ropes, post useful information and post it often. By any means, DO NOT advertise your products or services on these networks right off the bat. You must build authority first before this is even an option for you.
QUICK TIP: Before your start engaging people or posting updates on Facebook or Twitter, LISTEN to other users on these networks first. You will learn how people talk on them and, more importantly, you will learn how to effectively engage other users to build your following and authority.
2) Start a YouTube, Vimeo or Viddler account and start uploading your own videos. If you can afford a professional video production service, then put them to work immediately. If you cannot afford one, then buy a quality HD video camera like the Flip Camera and shoot your own footage. The goal is to get short (30-60 second videos) online that represent your business. These videos should not be traditional product commercials because no one will watch them. Instead, get creative and make some fun, funny, entertaining, viral videos that people will want to pass around to their friends.
QUICK TIP: Once you have some videos created and uploaded tell the world about them. Embed these videos on your website somewhere, grab the url of the page of your website where the video sits and then use Facebook and Twitter status updates to let your friends and followers know about your videos. This will help to drive traffic to your business website or blog and will also start to build your reputation online.
3) Setup a blog on WordPress. More importantly, write in it, a lot! We are huge proponents of WordPress for so many reasons that a large of community of millions of users will support. Just take our word for it, WordPress IS the cream of the crop when it comes to the best blog platform to use. One recommendation we do have is to hire a professional to create a great looking design for your blog as the default WordPress design is not the most aesthetically appealing. If you need a reference for a company to use for this, please leave a comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
QUICK TIP: A blog is essentially a website, which means that it too needs to be optimized. Check out our post on SEO for WordPress to get your blog optimized the right way. Once you have optimized your blog and posted a lot of great content on it, the next step is to let the world know about it. Take advantage of Facebook and Twitter to promote your blog posts to these two widely used social networks.
Check out our post on How to Generate Leads with Social Marketing to learn more about how to use social networks to really help your business gain the exposure and business it needs to be competitive.
#3 PAID SEARCH MARKETING
There is no faster, more immediate way to get targeted traffic to your website on a consistent basis than with Paid Search Marketing, also known as Pay Per Click. Google AdWords provides the most popular pay per click platform for advertisers looking to get valuable exposure on Google’s search results pages as quickly as possible. Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing both take some ramp up time, which is where Pay Per Click marketing can become extremely valuable.
Working much like a newspaper or magazine ad, the more you pay Google for each key phrase the higher your chances of your advertisement showing up in the search results for the key phrases you bid on. Bid price is not the only factor as Google uses ad and landing page quality to place ads appropriately. The playing field is leveled for all advertisers, large or small, and we highly recommend that every business utilizes a strategically setup PPC campaign to advertise their business online.
We have noticed that businesses with a 1st page result in the search engines AND with a sponsored ad on that same first page receive 6 times more traffic then if they just had one or the other. This is all about branding and exposure so take advantage of it. This data means this:
THE MORE EXPOSURE YOUR BUSINESS HAS ON THE SEARCH ENGINES THE MORE LIKELY SOMEONE WILL FIND YOUR WEBSITE
Here’s how to get there:
1) First learn the ins and outs of the platform you are using (Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing, Microsoft adCenter) by using a small budget on your live account. Each system provides great learning tools and resources, especially Google AdWords with their robust Learning Center.
QUICK TIP: Hire a PPC professional to manage your PPC campaigns for you. We always recommend to learn as much as you can and attempt to manage your marketing in-house; however, PPC is one of the forms of advertising that can make a novice burn through money faster than they think. Expect to pay anywhere from 5% – 40% of your ad spend for a management fee to use a PPC professional. If you need a reference for a company to use for this, please leave a comment below or email us at email@example.com.
2) Run your PPC campaign for at least 60-90 days as it takes a little time for these platforms to kick in 100% in terms of spitting out the accurate data for your campaigns. In addition, this minimum time frame allows for you to collect a good sample of data to analyze and use for many aspects of your marketing.
QUICK TIP: Setup reports to be automatically sent to you each day, week and month from these systems so you can easily stay on top of your campaigns. In addition, setup Google Analytics on your website to properly compare your website’s traffic from the paid results with the traffic coming from every other source. Check out our post on website analysis to learn how to read Google Analytics as it pertains to your business.
3) Use quality landing pages, do NOT direct PPC traffic to your homepage. If you are hiring a PPC professional this should be one of the first recommendations they give you. If not, make sure to ask about them as good landing pages can (1) increase conversion rates and (2) increase quality scores which will help to reduce your Cost Per Click. Here are some creative landing page samples from Marketing Sherpa if you are not sure as to what a landing page is.
QUICK TIP: You MUST test your landing pages consistently. Setting up a landing page and never changing it again is not smart. Utilize multi-variate testing to try different combinations of your landing page’s elements until you find the combination that produces the highest conversion rates. Again, this is something a PPC professional should know and implement for you, but if you are trying this out on your own, then just make sure to always test things constantly.
#4 Email Marketing
Right up there with sleeping, eating and watching TV; email is one of the most common activities that we all spend huge portions of our day doing. Studies show that over 75% of Internet usage is email related (checking, writing, sending, organizing, etc). This data means this:
YOU MUST USE A STRATEGIC EMAIL MARKETING CAMPAIGN TO MARKET YOUR BUSINESS
Here’s how to get there:
1) Use an email marketing system that allows you to (1) use professional looking email templates, (2) track the effectiveness of your email campaigns and (3) auto-schedule email messages to be sent at set times in the future (a.k.a. drip marketing).
QUICK TIP: We highly recommend iContact or MailChimp for those looking to use top notch email marketing systems. All of the features required above are included and these two systems have very high deliverability rates as well which means that your messages will actually get to your contacts more often.
2) Do NOT abuse your email contacts. Having a solid database of email contacts to be able to market to is extremely valuable. That said, even one abusive email campaign to your contacts can completely tarnish your reputation and the success of any future email campaigns.
QUICK TIP: Make sure to provide double opt-out options for email contacts. In addition, make sure to consistently scrub your email lists so that you are not sending emails to those who are clearly not wanting to receive your messages. Constantly sending messages to those who do not want your messages or who have asked to stop receiving them will get your account flagged.
3) Always keep accessibility in mind when sending email messages as everyone has different email clients, computers, browsers, etc. Some people might be able to see your entire message while others may only be able to see blocked images.
QUICK TIP: Include a link to a version of your email on your website towards the top of your email message so people can easily navigate to that in case they cannot view your entire message. Also make sure to always include links back to your website for other calls to action as email marketing can be one of your biggest referrers of website traffic if used correctly.
Check out our post on Effective Email Marketing Tactics to learn more about how to use email marketing to really help your business gain the exposure and business it needs to be competitive.
Tying the Best Online Marketing Tactics Together
There are many ways to market a business these days; however, there are only a few ways now to get the most bang for your buck and for your time. The most cost effective and far reaching methods have been outlined above and should hopefully help to paint a very clear picture for you on what you need to start doing today to market your business smarter.
Although we have listed each of the top 4 online marketing strategies separately you should always work to use these strategies in unison with one another. Having a full scale, aggressive online marketing plan with all of these components working together is one of the most sure fire ways to take your business to the next level.
Start using these today, stop procrastinating until next quarter or next year as the more time you wait the more difficult you will make it for your business to compete with every other smart marketer vying for the same prospects as you.
As always, let us know if you have any thoughts, suggestions or questions about the recommendations provided by leaving us a comment below or sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hopefully we will hear about your success story in the next few months after you have implemented some of these strategies for your business.