Internet Marketing 101: Online Marketing for Small Business

Introduction

You own a small business. Do you need a website? An Internet presence can be a necessity or a resource-draining boondoggle, depending on your business and your target audience. You shouldn’t build or maintain a website simply because “everyone else has one.” However, even if you own a one-person services company and get all the business you can handle through word of mouth, you can still create an online presence with a minimum of time and expense.

If and when you do develop a business website, you’ll need to make some kind of investment in Internet-based marketing. Consumers increasingly and overwhelmingly use the Internet to research and buy goods and services. This means the competition is robust, and if your site doesn’t announce its presence it will simply sit and gather (virtual) dust in some computer’s memory.

If you’ve convinced yourself that you need to enter the web marketing arena, the following report provides a fundamental primer on the most widely used tactics for both paid and free Internet advertising. Just remember that each of the topics introduced here is complex enough that there are entire books written about them, so if something appeals to you do some additional research before jumping in.

Before You Start

There are two main questions you must ask yourself before starting any marketing efforts, whether on- or offline: “Who is my audience?” and “What are my objectives?”

Audience

The audience for most business marketing activities is obviously past, present, and future customers. However, as in traditional advertising and marketing, it helps to narrow down who you are trying to reach, segmenting your market by age, geography, gender, interests, occupation. Certain methods of Internet marketing, such as pay-per-click ads, allow you to target your customers based on this type of segmentation.

Objectives

We can assume that the overall objective of most marketing is to sell products and/or services, but you may have additional objectives for online marketing. These related objectives will hopefully end up driving increased sales, but they can be more subtle than simply asking customers to buy right now. For example, your online marketing plan might include goals such as these:

  • Support and increase visibility of your company’s brand.
  • Improve search engine rankings.
  • Offer reference information related to your business sector.
  • Increase number of registered users or newsletter subscribers.
  • Drive traffic to your company website.

After defining your audience and marketing goals, you can begin to formulate an Internet marketing strategy and tactics. When getting into online marketing, it is important that you maintain brand consistency. Build on the reputation that you have already established. Your on-line presence should mirror that of your “brick and mortar” presence. Use the same logo and tagline so that people will understand that you are the same company. Having an online presence is a way to build on what you have already accomplished.

In the remainder of this report we’ll look at the most common ways you can use the Internet to deliver your message and start increasing your sales.

Table of Contents

websites

E-Mail

Newsletters

Other Announcements

Search Engine Marketing and Display Advertising

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Pay-per-Click (PPC)

Display Advertising

Social Media and Networking

Decide: Who, What, Where, When, and Why?

YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Etc.

Twitter

Blogs

Forums & Discussion Groups

Article Placement / E-Zines

Other Internet Marketing Outlets

Wikipedia

Directories

websites

We won’t get into the vast topic of how to build and manage a website, but if you aim to use the techniques described below, it is nearly essential to have one. Most of your marketing efforts will have a “call to action” that involves your audience visiting your website to research products or services, find contact information, sign up for a newsletter, or place an online order. Whatever you are asking people to do in your online promotions, make sure the website allows them to easily complete that task. One other vital component of any business website is an analytics program (Google offers a fairly robust application free of charge), so you can track how well your marketing efforts are working and calculate the return on your advertising investment (ROI).

How can you develop an online presence at little or no cost? There are several companies that offer free site building tools and hosting services. If you go this route, select a company that has a proven track record, so your hard work isn’t wasted when the company goes out of business or suspends the service. A couple of reliable options are Google Sites and Yola. If you have any money in your budget at all, you should probably just spend the less than $100 per year it takes to buy a personalized domain name (for example, “mybusiness.com”) and a Web hosting service. Another potential option, depending on your business and marketing goals, is to create a free blog (see below for more details). The most popular free blogging services as of this writing are WordPress and Blogger.

E-Mail Newsletters

E-mail newsletters provide one of the most highly performing avenues for marketing. You can collect customer e-mail addresses by asking visitors that come to your website to subscribe, by requesting e-mail addresses from anyone who visits your physical location, or by purchasing an e-mail list. To generate a higher rate of readership, make sure the audience is narrowly targeted and has some vested interest in your product. By sending out your newsletter on a regular schedule (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) you can counteract the transient and temporary nature of Internet users by continually reminding them of your company’s existence. Affordable services like Constant Contact can be used to manage mailing lists, statistics, and opt-in/out functions.

Caveat: Sending commercial e-mail messages to people who have not agreed to receive your mailings can result in severe fines and penalties from the federal government per terms of the CAN-SPAM Act.

Newsletter content should appeal to your defined audiences, with industry- or product-related news and events, company-specific news and events, practical reference information, and interesting statistical and demographic information. The newsletter copy should publicize links to appropriate pages within your website.

You will need to maintain one or more separate lists for the purpose of sending targeted messages to particular audiences (see Other Announcements below). You might combine all your lists to send a monthly newsletter, and send other bulletins to past or potential customers as appropriate.

Other Announcements

Other announcements are e-mailings that can consist of press releases, coupons, special notices, or anything you want to communicate specifically to members of one or more e-mail lists.

Search Engine Marketing, Pay-per-Click and Display Advertising

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization means constructing a website that is easily crawled by search engine spiders, and it encompasses a variety of techniques designed to improve your site’s (or page’s) ranking in the search engine results page. The goal is for your site to be found by searchers who are looking for sites related to a certain keyword or phrase, for example “little red wagon” if you are in the business of selling toy wagons. SEO can be divided into on-page activities (e.g., amount of content, metadata, links, programming methods and structural issues) and off-page activities (most importantly, obtaining links from other websites to your site).

Pay-per-Click (PPC)

Pay-per-click advertising refers to text ads displayed on search engine results pages (versus “organic” results achieved by SEO) and other sites, usually in the margins. In the case of Google AdWords and Microsoft’s adCenter, you can open an account and specify the keyword(s) that, when searched for, will generate an ad that links to your website. You pay only when a searcher clicks an ad and is directed to your site. In the example below, the key phrase is “little red wagon,” and pay-per-click ads are located at top (in yellow) and in the right-hand column (subtitled “Sponsored Links”). The first organic listing is “Little Red Wagon Foundation.”

A few of the benefits of PPC advertising are that you know exactly how many people view your ads, how many of those viewers click through to your website, and (if you are using a site analytics tool) what they do once they reach your site. You can also start and stop running ads at a moment’s notice, experiment with any number of ads you like, and fund your campaign with as little as $10 to start.

Display Advertising

Display advertising, also called banner advertising, means purchasing ad space on another website and placing a text and/or graphic ad with a link to your site. This technique is generally more complex and expensive than pay-per-click, but can be very powerful if the right message is shown to a tightly focused audience. To achieve optimal click-through rate (CTR), advertise on websites where you assume your target audience is visiting, rather than a general interest website. Most marketers don’t purchase ad space directly from another website, but use a banner ad network to automatically place ads on appropriate websites. A couple of the biggest names in display ad serving are DoubleClick and BurstMedia.

Social Media and Networking

Social networking is the latest buzz in the modern marketing arsenal. If you have any doubt about its impact, especially on the under-40 population, read this list. Small businesses with limited resources should weigh their time spent and the potential benefits carefully, however. It can also be difficult to measure the return on your investment for some of these tactics.

The general principle of “marketing” on social networking outlets is that people who have similar interests will virtually congregate around Web content that discusses that interest. They may be interested in product information in the form of reviews or personal opinion, but hard sale approaches are mostly discouraged and unproductive. Your goal is to become a trusted advisor-which usually means revealing your identity and at least some part of your personality. If that premise makes you uncomfortable, you might still find social networking sites valuable for market research purposes. Find out what people are buying and why, then use that information to help shape your other marketing activities.

The following section describes the more popular social media outlets and sites, but keep your eyes open for new virtual spaces where you might get more attention by getting in on the ground floor.

YouTube, Facebook, Etc.

YouTube allows you to post videos on your own “channel,” a distinct Web page that can be customized and allows for posting links back to your own website. A major positive aspect of this venue is that the number of views is posted and viewers can submit comments, so you know whether your videos are popular and why.

Facebook is considered the model for modern social networking sites. Facebook allows you (individual, corporate, non-profit, etc.) to create a page, attract “likes” and reviews, communicate with followers by posting status updates, photos and videos, and so on.

Although the previously named sites are the most popular in terms of visitors, there are a couple of business-oriented networking sites that may be more useful for making business connections. LinkedIn helps you develop a network of clients, service providers, and subject experts; find business opportunities and partners; post job openings; and more. More detailed advice on best practices for using LinkedIn can be found in many online articles and blogs.

Twitter

Think of Twitter as a mini-blog (see below) that allows you to broadcast messages of 140 characters or less. The messages appear to your “followers” on their phones or computers, as well as on Twitter.com. The biggest challenges are to gain a useful number of followers and to think of something engaging to write to them. If you are a speaker, writer, or performer Twitter can be used to let your fans know what you’re doing and when. If you have a retail store you might let your followers know that you’re offering a discounted item or running a special sale. You should post a Twitter sign-up link on your website, and within your signature line in outgoing e-mail messages. You can also gain followers by following people who work in or comment on your industry, as some Twitter users will follow those who follow them.

Blogs

The word blog originally came from the term “Web log.” There’s no real standard for what a blog is, but most commonly authors use them to comment on (and link to) other online news items, websites, or other Internet content. For the most part, direct selling on a blog is frowned upon and is probably a recipe for driving away potential readers. What do you write about, then? Well, if you run an Internet marketing firm you write about trends in Web marketing, what the search engines are up to, tips for do-it-yourselfers, or what you thought of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Seriously, read some blogs and you will find all sorts of personal opinion mixed in with professional advice and commentary. The goal of your blog, however, should most likely be to establish yourself as an expert and trusted advisor in your chosen field.

You might also pursue getting your products, services, or website mentioned in related blogs by other industry experts. When a high-visibility blogger mentions a website on his or her blog, the site is exposed to a potential audience of new viewers. Often, blog postings are simply press releases that are picked up by sites that discuss topics related to a particular product or industry. More opportunities (and traffic) in this arena can be realized by developing relationships with individual bloggers.

Additional Tips:

  • Post an article that was written by someone else, just be sure to provide a link to the original article and give credit to the person wrote it. You can then give your commentary on the topic of the article or find a way to relate the information to local trends or challenges.
  • Ask colleagues to be “guest bloggers” by writing articles for you to post, again giving them credit and adding their byline and a link to their website. Using links is a good way to drive additional traffic to their sites so it’s a good trade-off for both parties.
  • Nick Francesco of AskNick.com said, “A blog gets people’s attention and Twitter keeps it.” Consider using these two outlets together.

Forums & Discussion Groups

A forum (also known as discussion group, message board or bulletin board) is a component of a website where users can ask questions, offer advice, or share experiences with others about a certain topic or topics. Nearly every hobby on earth has a number of popular forums wherein members offer their thoughts and feelings on all aspects of their favorite pastime. Contributing a comment (with a link to your website) in discussion groups related to your products or services can create a small surge or spike in traffic, but usually has little long-lasting effect. To maximize effectiveness, target forums on high-traffic sites that have 1,000+ users, and reply to topics with larger numbers of views (relative to other posted topics).

You can easily build your own bulletin board/forum component on your site with free or low-cost software. User forums have the potential to greatly increase the “stickiness” of a site, given a critical mass of traffic required to generate new discussions and keep participants interested in returning. You can start by “seeding” topics on your own, but there won’t be any results until traffic is directed to the forums. The conundrum for small businesses may be the time required to moderate a forum once it becomes successful. One solution is to seek out a volunteer moderator who exhibits a keen interest in your field. A sample of a baseball trading card forum is shown in the screen shot below.

Article Placement / E-Zines

Another avenue for generating incoming links and traffic to your site is the free article market. Article submission (or e-zine) websites allow you to publish articles on a variety of topics. Examples include EzineArticles and ArticleCity.com.

Depending on terms of use, these articles may be used as content on other websites, or collected on the site where submitted. The main objective of most article contributors is to increase their search engine rankings with the placement of backlinks on other reputable sites. Providing reliable and accurate reference information is secondary, and the traffic potential from article readers is questionable.

Obtaining links from article submission sites isn’t likely to improve your site’s search engine rankings much. However, existing content from a print newsletter or other written material can be re-purposed with a relatively small time investment. Be aware that creating articles from your website’s content verbatim may cause search engines to penalize your site, as the search engines take a dim view of text that is republished multiple times (“duplicate content” in search engine optimization terms). Submitting articles to sites with the most traffic will give your site the best chance to be discovered by new readers.

Caveat: Once an article is submitted, you have little or no control over who uses your content and for what purpose, depending on the copyright policies of the site on which the article is posted.

Other Internet Marketing Outlets

Wikipedia

Wikipedia is, essentially, an online encyclopedia. The unique aspect of Wikipedia is that users generate the content, though content must be approved by volunteer editors. Traffic will grow if and when others link to the entry. If you add content, your time commitment will be relatively minor, and the benefits might include improved search engine ranking and a slight increase in traffic to your site. As with other forms of Internet communication, a Wikipedia entry that is essentially a commercial for a product, service, or company will not be viewed positively and is unlikely to be approved by editors.

Directories

Online directories allow Internet users to browse through categories of topics to find websites related to a certain subject. There are directories for businesses, blogs, websites in general, and more. Many directories are free, and some only list you if you pay. The mother of free directories is the Open Directory Project, and by all accounts the best paid directory for business is the Yahoo! Directory ($299 annually). Be aware that you might wait a long time for some of the free directories to list your site, as they may rely on volunteer screeners. Directories not only allow consumers to find you in their listings, they also help get your site indexed in the major search engines. If you submit your site to a directory, make sure to read the submission guidelines and follow them exactly.

Finding the Right Furniture Plan for Your Next Project

Finding the right furniture plan is not easy. I know my next project is usually driven by the "honey Do" list and that means that it has to fit in with the decor. If you are going to build a project you may want to understand the styles of furniture that you can choose from. I thought I would do the work for you and give you an idea of ​​what each style provides.

The key styles that are the most popular are Mission, Modern, Retro, and Country.

Modern styled furniture is just that – Modern. If you can picture clean lines and geometric shapes, then you will have an idea of ​​what Modern furniture looks like. Think of George Jetson, or your favorite Sci-Fi movie, and you will get a picture of what modern looks like. If this is the style that you are looking for, you may want to go to IKEA and purchase it because this style of furniture can be either hard or easy to make depending on the shape of the finished piece.

Mission styled furniture is a little more woodworker friendly. It has a distinct style that makes it stand out. The chairs typically have tall backs, and all are designed with basically straight lines and very little curves. The hardware has the old tarnished brass look. If you can picture Mennonite furniture, then you will be pretty close to identifying mission furniture. The style is characterized by simple, functional designs made of oak and stained wood with minimal ornamentation. Leather and Native American designs are often the motif of the coverage.

Country Style furniture gained popularity in the 1980's. It is a casual style often featuring nature and nostalgic motifs. You will also find much hand crafted elements and even disturbing of the wood. This style of furniture is the most practical and useful edition of traditional furniture. There are several types of country furniture. French Provencal, American country and English country are some of them to name. Each of them has its own distinct feature and appeal; you can seriously categorize them as rural. However, you can find some common features like painted finish and muted colors, in all of them. Floral, stripes, checks are most common prototypes in fabric used in country style furniture.

Retro Style furniture belongs to, or has the look of having been made in the decades between the 1950s and the 1980s. This style of furniture tends to look back nostalgically on times past and tries to imitate it. This style of furniture can be whimsical and can allude to pop culture. If you can picture the big bold colors and sleek lines, then you have done it right. Unfortunately for the avid wood worker you will have to dig deep to find a plan you can build that resembles this style as they tend not to be made of wood, but of metal.

Email Marketing – The Pros And Cons of Marketing With Email

Many small businesses are considering jumping into the world of email marketing. Email marketing has many different advantages, but it also has a few drawbacks that you need to keep in mind. The truth is that when utilized in the correct fashion it can be an extremely powerful and cost effective way of promoting your business and producing more sales. Once you learn about the pros and cons of email, you will be able to begin your own campaigns and get started down the path towards increased success and profitability.

The Advantages of Email Marketing

There are several key benefits to running an email marketing campaign. One of the most important is how cost efficient is can be. There is no other form of direct marketing that is as cheap as email marketing is. A 2005 study by the Winterberry Group found that for every dollar spent on email marketing, $15.50 was earned in return. There is much relevant data pointing to email marketing having a superior ROI than telemarketing, direct mail campaigns, radio or billboard advertisements and more.

Another advantage that email has is that you can quickly get your message across, and you can reach your customers and prospects in a place where they are comfortable communicating. If you have an idea for a new sale or promotion for the upcoming weekend, you can inform all of your customers about that immediately. With print advertising, traditional direct mail or anything else, the turnaround time could be days or possibly even a week or more.

One of the real strengths to running an email campaign is how effectively you can track the results that it produces. You will be able to see every click that is made to your website as a result of the email, and you will be able to see statistics such as how many people read the message, how many times they read it, if they ended up making a purchase and on down the line.

There is no other form of marketing or advertising that produces such an array of in-depth statistics. It’s an invaluable way to track your marketing efforts, and make the most out of every dollar you put into promotion.

Finally, another important advantage to email marketing that you will want to remember is that it’s the perfect way to convert prospects over a long period of time. No matter how great your products or services may be, not every person will be immediately ready to make a purchase or investment. Email marketing is the perfect tool to continue chipping away at those prospects over the long haul. By developing a relationship with each prospect and providing them with useful information, you will gain their trust and stay at the forefront of their mind.

The Disadvantages of Email Marketing

The largest disadvantage of email marketing is that so many people today are fed up with spam. All of our accounts are flooded with wasted emails everyday, and it’s a worldwide plague of the largest scale. Because of this, many people are wary about opening up emails from businesses, or about trusting anything they see in their inbox.

You can help combat this problem by being as transparent as possible. This means making it easy for people to see who is sending your message and what it’s about. It also means ensuring that all of your email addresses are used with permission, and you never purchase a list or steal addresses from another website.

Another disadvantage with email marketing is that far too many small business owners or managers know how to make a campaign work for them. Perhaps they try using gimmicks or copying an email that somebody else sent out. However, a much more effective strategy is sticking within your own identity, playing to your strengths and providing your prospects and customers with exactly what they are looking for.

Making Email Marketing Work for You

The bottom line is that the benefits of email marketing far outweigh the disadvantages. It’s all about learning how to run your own campaigns in the right way, and for maximum success there will be some trial and error as you traverse that path. By not utilizing email campaigns you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to help your business become more efficient and more profitable.

7 Search Engine Optimization Mistakes and Solutions

To many websites, webmasters discover that major sources of website traffic come from search engines. Therefore, they are

all keen on gaining top search engine placements through search engine optimization.

Based on our several years of SEO experience, we point out some common mistakes and shed some lights to correct it.

1. Cannot Get Indexed by Search Engines, Really?

A garment ERP software solution provider came to me and asked a question: “I have established a new website for 1 year, and found a SEO company to submit my website. However, my website can be found in search engines only when I type my domain name http://www.indigo8-solutions.com in search query box. The SEO company told me

my domain got banned. What can I do?”

Ah, I told them they have been fooled by that SEO company. If you type your domain name in search box and your website can be found, which means your website has not been banned. Interestingly, your SEO company’s domain name is no longer found in Google. Their domain got banned only.

To help them find out their real problems, I found the following in search engines:

a. When typing their domain name in search query box, their site will be displayed in search result. Instead of displaying

Title Tag in the search result, search engine displays their domain name only.

b. Only 1 page is being indexed.

What’s the problem then?

With a closer look to their coding, I found that at the top of their webpage, they heavily use Javascript to present their

heading, company name, visible content, and website menu. Actually, many search engines have difficulties in reading Javascript codes.

Solution?

Put those Javascript in external js files and leave the webpages with plain HTML codes. Search engines usually have problems in crawling Javascript. Since their whole site navigation menu is written in Javascript, they should build a sitemap using plain HTML so that search engines can read all of their pages.

One more tips: When you cannot get indexed by search engines, do not blindly believe someone saying that your website get

banned. You should firstly look at your website structure and see if your coding are clumsy and make search engines hard to

“read” your website.

The problem created by Javascript is not uncommon nowadays. Even a very big Asia

Market Research Firm also commits this error. They are now starting to rectify it.

2. Link Building

In many forums, some people are strongly opposed to link exchange and claim that it is a devil and it hurts your search

engine ranking and even get you banned.

I personally do not agree. Evidence shows that many top sites are doing link exchange and getting top rankings across all

major search engines. In addition, link exchange has been a long used way for traffic building by smaller websites. I do

not see why search engines will block people to promote websites using this simple and long used method.

Indeed, link exchange becomes a problem only when you manipulate link text with a pure purpose of tricking search engines, exchange links with link farms, or buy hundreds of domain names and cross-link with your site.

A solution to avoid link exchange hurting you includes:

- Use a wide variety of link text

- Seek link exchange with sites of similar theme

- Emphasize on how many traffic you can get from your link partners instead of search engine ranking

Some webmasters know the importance of link exchange. However, they think that it consumes most of their time and finally give up doing it. A solution is that you can consider using Linkautomate.com to manage your links. This kind of software saves you time in link checking and link page update.

3. Use of Flash Intro

Web design companies try hard to persuade you to use a Flash introduction as your homepage. You think that “Wow! The flash

animation is very appealing and it makes your site looks more attractive”. However, do you know that it can hurt your website in search engine ranking?

Let me explain..

Search engines analyze website based on text. Flash, unluckily, is not text. According to “How to Design Website Guideline” of Siuchu Suga, search engines are not able to read content presented by

Flash. They just treat Flash as an embedded object or graphics only. If you use a Flash Intro as your homepage, you will never get good rankings.

In addition, many Flash intro do not offer additional and meaningful content to visitors. Ask your visitors, how many of

them are really interested in reading your Flash Intro before going straight to your website content?

A solution to use Flash or not, please ask yourself whether the Flash intro is really useful and can offer additional information to your visitors? Secondly, instead of a Flash homepage, you may consider making a Flash header together with

content at your homepage.

4. Hidden Text and Meta Tags

Webmasters understand that keyword density is a way to improve search engine ranking, and some webmasters use a technique

called “keyword stuffing”. They will stuff keywords into their webpages repeatedly, e.g. “keyword 1, keyword 2, …. keyword

1, keyword 2….” Well, everyone knows it does not make sense to visitors. Therefore, those “clever” webmasters will make

those text invisible. For example, make the text color identical to background color.

Unluckily, this trick no longer works. Search engines are able to detect it, and penalize websites using this nonsense technique. If you do not want your site being penalized, remove those text immediately in case you have adopted this method.

Okay, some webmasters only stuff keywords in Meta Keyword Tags, an area for putting keywords. I am sorry to say that stuffing keywords in Meta keyword tags is also no good. You can only repeat a keyword for 3 times at most. Nowadays, search engines place less emphasis or even no emphasis on Meta keyword tags. So, what is the point of risking yourself by stuffing keywords there?

5. Use of Dynamic Pages

Many websites use content management system (CMS) to generate their webpages. As generation of dynamic pages are easier for

website development, CMS generally use dynamic pages. However, search engines have difficulties to spider and understand them.

To solve the problem, you can consider using Mod Rewrite in case you use Apache server or finding a CMS that can generate

static HTML pages.

6. Be a Pagerank Monster

Many search engine marketers are too focused on their website’s pagerank. Everyday, they are talking and checking pagerank.

They perform link building based on pagerank only. In fact, pagerank is only one factor for Google to determine search

engine ranking. It also cannot affect your rankings in other search engines like Yahoo and MSN. If you are too concerned

about pagerank, you finally will ignore other important optimization criteria.

Therefore, you should repeatedly remind yourself that pagerank is only one of the many factors and you cannot only work on it.

7. Too Believe in Sandbox

Some webmasters propose that a new website will be put into sandbox by Google so that you cannot get any high rankings for

highly competitive keywords. Even though their website cannot get any rankings after 1 year, they still believe that it is

sandbox effect. Some even says Yahoo has Sandbox, MSN has Sandbox, etc…

From Google’s patent information, there is no clue that such sandbox occurs. From my experience, if your site is new and cannot rank high in highly competitive keywords, it is solely because other websites are more established in search engine

world. For example, they have more inbound links, more content, etc. Therefore, webmasters should not focus on finding how to get out from sandbox. Instead, you should put more effort in link building and content optimization. Eventually, you will see your website’s rankings rise.