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.

Productive Search Engine Optimization – A Step Forward to Successful Search Engine Optimization

If you have a web site, what could be your concentration so that your web site will become popular in the Internet? Search engine optimization should be your main focus. It could help you get the traffic that you wanted so that you would be able to make big bucks on your web site. If you are "searchable" then you are in for this business. All you have to do is maintain that one and you would just see how your web site becomes successful.

Here are some tips so that you could be a step forward to successful search engine optimization.

1. You can submit your web site to search engines manually. But then there are some considerations that you need. Your web site's pages should be completely finished since search engines will not pay any attention for unfinished web sites. You should not also be a spammer meaning you should not be using keywords on your web site just for the sake of having them. Use keywords appropriately.

2. Web spiders are also looking for keywords so they can rank your web site. You need to target the keywords you want and make sure that you have them on your content. They should be used appropriately since over usage of keywords would drive away web spiders.

3. Make sure that you have other links to and from your site. The more links to your site, the better. You would be able to get a lot of targeted traffic if your web site is accessible to these visitors. You can exchange links with other sites but preferably exchange links with sites that have already established traffic.

4. You can also add in a forum on your site. If you have an area where where visitors can actually interact, time will come that more and more people would want to be involved in the discussion. Of course, this traffic is what you need to be on the top page rank.

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.

Shopping for Gifts on a Budget

Holiday shopping is seldom easy. Whether you're just hopping around department stores or just surfing the net, the limitless choices made available by advertisers can actually be more of a detriment for someone who is in a real hurry. This can be quite problematic if you're on a budget and have such a long shopping list. Time constraints do not really provide you the benefit of thoroughly comparing every item in each store in an effort to find yourself the best bargain. One who has been shopping for hours can quite easily succumb to the pressure and end up buying gifts beyond a planned budget.

If you're in this very familiar predicament, all is not lost. When shopping for holiday gifts it sometimes makes more sense to look for items that are simple yet meaningful. While a sophisticated electronic gadget could certainly get a friend excited, simple inexpensive gifts like personalized mugs or engraved pens may just elicit the same amount of appreciation.

Nothing is perhaps more appropriate than a gift that actually captures the holiday spirit. As holidays bring sentimental moments, you'd want to give something you would be remembered for. Embroidered pillows and blankets would be good choices. Collectibles like cd's and personalized caps should also do the trick. Listed below are some gift items worth considering:

• shirt of a home team

• cross stitching kit

• bottle of a local wine

• personalized notepad

• stationary

• photo album

• memo holders

• tool kits

• Carpentry kits

• versatile pocket knife

While you'll certainly be shaved with praises by giving a fancy cellphone or notebook, it sometimes makes more sense to go for something more practical yet thoughtful. You do not really have to dent your budget to please a friend. People tend to get appreciated more for the amount of effort that they've performed in looking for that meaningful gift that touches the heart. Whether it's Christmas, Thanksgiving, or a major school reunion, there's really no reason to panic. All it takes is just a little imagination and a touch of creativity.

For more information on unique gifts and specialty items, please visit

[http://www.levelpromogifts.com].