Getting Your Business Online – Part 3
In Part 1 and Part 2, we walked through
- The importance of planning of your website, the reasons for getting online and the type of websites a business has.
- We also discussed choosing and obtaining a domain name and
- Web Hosting
- Developing your website; doing it in house or outsourcing it, good design practices and
- Managing and Maintaining your website
As promised, in our last installment we’ll help you through the basics of Promoting your website using:
- Search Engine Optimization and Linking
- Pay Per Click Advertising
- Offline Advertising
Search Engine Optimization
It’s every web master’s dream to be on the first page of a search result and rightfully so. Searching is one of the most frequent activities on the Internet (http://www.spiderhelp.com/) but most websites never make it near the top 5 pages. According to the Association for Interactive Marketing (http://www.interactivehq.org/industry/glossary.asp), Search Engine Optimization is “the process of choosing targeted keyword phrases related to a site, and ensuring that the site places well when those keyword phrases are part of a Web search.”
To do that, you’ll need to review (again) your objectives and your product. You might find there is more than one relevant keyword or key phrase you think best relates to your website. That is ok but avoid ending up with a huge list. How do you narrow them down to the most relevant? This requires a combination of discipline, keyword research and good old trial and error.
Look at your list of keywords. Do they include typical marketing speak? Industry jargon? Leave them out. No one ever uses them and marketing speak just doesn’t sell. Here’s a short and sweet article at SearchEngineGuide.com about buzzwords vs. effective keywords (http://www.searchengineguide.com/goetsch/2003/1204_dg1.html). Think natural language. How they would express themselves if talking to friends, family or someone on the street.
Once you cut out the tech and marketing speak, research it to find out how often the keyword is being used. The more often tells you the keyword is popular and is a good keyword. On the other hand, it also means more websites are competing for the searcher’s attention. Many webmasters tell AcademyWebSpecialists.com they have resorted to optimizing using a less than first place but still very popular keywords.
Now you got some solid keywords, apply them in your Meta tags such as title tags, description and even Alt tags. Also don’t forget to use the effectively throughout your content. Search Engine Watch (http://www.searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/index.php) is a resource to help get started on optimization and search engine submission.
Search engines today put a good amount of weight on links. Not links from your site but links to you. This is based on the popularity principle; the more people talk about you or find you interesting enough to put a link on their website, the more likely you have something really good to offer.
Of course, your site has to be worth linking to in the first place. Then you need to find websites who are willing to link to you. Visit the sites and politely ask the webmasters if they’d like to trade links with you. Now you might think, there are so many out there! I’ll just harvest the emails and put them on a one shot mailing list. No go! This could land you in a spammer’s list. Reciprocal link requests by email are a very touchy thing because of so much spam going around. Spend time to visit and research the website and craft a personal email. This makes them more likely to read your email and hopefully more willing to responding.
Beware of wrong ways to find link backs such as free for all pages and link farms. Spider Food (http://www.spider-food.net/link-popularity.html) has an excellent tutorial on this issue. Learn them lest you do your website more harm than good.
Pay Per Click Advertising
It might seem at this point optimization and building links takes a lot of hard work and time. What can you do if you need your website to be seen right now? As with most any promotion, paid placement can get you there. Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) is paying to be included in a search based on your keywords. Depending how much you’re willing to spend, you be very visible in a search result every time your choice keyword is utilized. Most popular search engines clearly distinguish these under a “Sponsored listing” section.
The best thing going for PPC advertising is you pay only for visitors. It is assumed if someone searches for something they’re a pre-qualified target, not casual surfer. The not so hot part is the most popular keywords such as “hosting” can cost $10 per click. It’s pretty much like paying a guy on the street $10 to visit your store and he may not even buy anything.
So how could a small business afford this? For one, you might want to use it as a kick-start campaign or seasonal according to the season of your business, or holiday seasons. Another way is to buy the lesser-used keywords, those usually cost less or very specific key phrases that only a person who’s truly interested will use. Sound contradictory? Yes and no. You can use different keywords for optimization and pay per click. Site Point (http://www.sitepoint.com/article/417) has some good points about building your PPC strategy.
You might also want to consider paid inclusion (http://www.spider-food.net/paying-to-play.html) but this can be very costly for a small business. If you do, choose the one search engine you think is most promising. Remember, a combination of optimization and wise pay per click strategy works better than relying on one method alone. For further reading, visit Pay Per Click Search Engines (http://www.payperclicksearchengines.com/search-engine-tips.shtml)
Other Online Advertising
So far, we’ve concentrated on search engine related promotion tactics. Some other ways to promote online are,
Probably the oldest form of online advertising. Banners have been deemed distractive, ineffective even downright rude when it appears as pop-up, pop-under, fly-in and every imaginary form that’s in your face. The demise of banner advertising has been predicted over and over but banners still command a huge section of the online advertising market.
Since most small businesses don’t have a very large budget, how do you maximize your banner advertising dollars? Don’t advertise where it’s not relevant. It’s tempting to advertise on large popular websites or portals but you run the risk of casting your net too wide. In the end your ads fail to impress the viewer. Choose the sites wisely, such as those where your target is most likely to gather. You could also barter for advertising space with other complimentary websites. Whether you use pop-ups or other interactive ads, keep in mind these usually frustrate viewers. Some even see it as trickery because they happen to click on your ad as it pops up, not the link they wanted. Weigh the return and objectives of your advertising campaign carefully.
Again, be sure to choose the right newsletter, and consider the readership. Also look at frequency and placement. Will one ad bring you results? The placement of your ad is also important. Does the newsletter cram all the ads in one section where it’s easy to skip over or is it well distributed over strategic parts of the newsletter? If the newsletter is formatted well e.g. requiring readers to scroll to the bottom to obtain a weekly giveaway, then a lower placement can work yet save you money.
You might also want to find out the publication schedule. Using this, you can tailor your ad to the topic, increasing the ad’s effectiveness. Next, look at the number of ads per publication. The more there are, the easier you get lost.
Contributing informative articles to newsletters or websites is a good way to get your name out there too. Not only is it easier on the wallet it can establish your business as an expert. Do remember to write good articles the reader can use and benefit from rather than making it sound like a brochure.
This concept can even be carried a step further into a workshop or tele-seminar.
Just because your website is online doesn’t mean it must be confined there. Include your website as much as possible in other parts of your business. If you have a physical presence, display banners, signs and posters in store. Have your URL printed on promotional items, carry out bags, shirts, business card or on your vehicle.
If you advertise in the traditional media like newspapers don’t forget to include your URL too. Be creative. Tie in your offline campaigns with your website for example giving an incentive for customers to utilize a feature on the website, encourage asking for help online, telling your customers you have a wider selection in your online store. You could even have web only specials. Do keep in mind; you’ll be limiting your reach to those with Internet access in.
As we close this three part series, we hope AcademyWebSpecialists.com has given you a meaningful kick-start to putting your business online. It is a large project on all counts but with knowledge, research and perseverance, we’ll see you online soon.