Online marketing, which is broadly defined as “the marketing of products or services over the Internet” is an all-encompassing term for the many ways people present their businesses and themselves on the World Wide Web. Most of the time, the goal is to make money by sending traffic to websites, but online marketing can also be done for political campaigns, public relations initiatives, and online reputation management.
For the most part, online marketing involves buying advertising through websites or email. There are many self-service outlets for Internet marketing, and many agencies like Web.com also have packages that will drive relevant traffic to your website.
Many websites only need a limited amount of traffic to make a profit. This is especially true for services and contractors that serve a particular geographic area. Web.com offers solutions like SmartClicks™, which provides a guaranteed amount of monthly web traffic for a fixed price. An alternative offering involves selling contractor leads (like kitchen renovation inquiries) directly to contractors who can bid on projects defined by actual customers. The value in this type of marketing is even higher considering that you can get leads without having to build a website!
One of the most popular methods of buying traffic is known as pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, where advertisements are shown alongside search results on search engines like Google™, or near news articles about related topics. For instance, if you sell “rechargeable batteries” you can buy advertising through Google that will link to your website when anyone searches for that term, or when articles about batteries show up on certain websites. People who come in through these sources are much more likely to turn into customers, because they are already thinking about the product. Overall, PPC marketing tends to have a much higher conversion rate than radio, television, newspapers, or billboards because a well-orchestrated ad campaign will only show advertisements to interested customers. Because most pay-per-click dollars are spent directly at the search engine level, it is also called search engine marketing (SEM).
Local Online Advertising
Did you know that you can place ads online that only show up in your city, state, or region? One newly developed feature of SEM is known as geotargeting. This involves defining specific geographic areas where you want your ads to show, or not show. Aside from buying keywords that include town names where you do business, you can go for general search terms like “landscape contractor” or “airport limo” and have results show up for people in your vicinity. In Google, local advertising also extends to maps that appear near search results, and online “Yellow Page” directories that show results for nearby businesses. Web.com can ensure that you get added to local directories and search results, which can have a significant impact on whether people in your community can find your business.
Search Engine Optimization
A cousin of PPC or SEM, search engine optimization (SEO) involves making changes to your website in order to get found in search engines. Primarily, people want to get their site found on Google, followed by Yahoo and MSN. The “natural” search engine rankings are the ones that do not require payment for position, and they are very valuable because they are more trusted by search engine users. The first challenge in SEO is to get a new site found by the search engines, and the second challenge is to get the site on the first page. In general, search engine users will find what they are looking for on the first page of results, so all of the companies that want to be found will use (or buy) SEO techniques. Web.com offers several different levels of SEO, and even builds websites with search engine friendly features so they can be found more quickly.
One of the main sources of revenue on the Internet in the 1990s was banner advertising, which involved buying square and rectangular ads on websites. Unfortunately, most of this advertising was not very effective because it was not targeted, and one of the reasons for the “Internet bubble” bursting was that people stopped buying these ads. Now, banner ads are usually shown in specific areas to specific groups of people and can even be targeted to show only when a web page has certain keywords showing. These ads can also be more interactive, with animated and video elements designed to grab a customer’s attention.
Email marketing is a great way to reach a target audience, if done correctly. Often, the best target email recipients are your existing customers or people who “opt in” to get emails from your website. Regular online newsletters and holiday greetings also can be retooled to include special promotions, coupon codes, product upgrade notices, and sales events. Web.com also offers information about testing various email campaigns to find out what approaches are successful for your core group of customers, and has tracking tools with scorecards that show which campaigns brought in the most revenue.
How have your online marketing efforts improved your business? Do you have any tips to share? Please leave me a comment.