Internet Marketing for Small Business

  Everyone knows the economy is struggling at the moment and marketing budgets are often times the first thing being cut. So how do small businesses leverage the power of all this online advertising? I will start by providing steps in order of preference and importance and leave it to you to see how far your budget will extend.  

Step One: Self Evaluation
Evaluate an existing website from your targeted customer’s perspective. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is it easy to navigate?
  2. Is the content organized in such a way that makes it easy to find information?
  3. Do you have at least one contact form?
  4. Do you have phone numbers and physical location?
  5. Does it provide new content? If I visit the site today, will there be anything new tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Next year?
  6. If you answered "NO" to 1, 2 or 5 you might want to consult with a professional web developer to decide if it is worth trying to save. Often times, it is easier (hence cheaper) to just start over rather than throwing good money after bad. Relax, initial consultations are usually free.

Step Two: New Constructions Begin With Good Foundations

If you are building a NEW website, consult with a professional to discuss your business model and your sales and marketing objectives.
Your sister’s friend at her office who just purchased Adobe or Microsoft’s web software or your cousin’s wife who has a blog does not necessarily qualify!

  1. Most businesses need more than a 1-5 page static website or an online brochure. These types of sites also typically require the person who built it to update and/or maintain the site which will result in higher total cost of ownership.
  2. There are many good open source applications available to provide web developers a great starting point for a comprehensive website. Most Content Management Systems (CMS) will provide an administrative back-end that will allow you to update and maintain your website if you are comfortable with a word processing application (like Microsoft Word). Open source solutions also keep developers from having to reinvent the wheel when an off-the-shelf solution is already availabe.
  3. It is important to choose the right open source application for your business and the type of Internet marketing you are trying to achieve. Again, consult a professional.
  4. Build your website for your customers first!
  5. Build your website for search engines second.
  6. Be prepared to update it as often as possible with interesting and relevant content. A website is a living thing that must grow to survive.
  7. Provide multiple lead generation forms (where applicable) and give your visitor a reason to use them (when possible); they are giving you an email address and contact information, what are you giving them?
  8. Give them a means to sign up for a newsletter; this is their permission to use email marketing with them.

Step Three: SEO

Now that you have your site easy to navigate and looking good for your customers, optimize your website pages for the search engines.

  1. Visible On-the-Page SEO – the parts of your website that you can see including:
    1. Page Title – appears in the top bar of your browser and is very important to tell the search engines what the page is about
    2. Web Address (URL) – may also provide keywords to the search engines
    3. Headings – use of H1, H2 and H3 HTML Tags are more important to search engines than other text on the page
    4. Page Text – is also important (especially to your visitors) and search engines also look at BOLD text
  2. Invisible On-the-Page SEO – the parts of your website that you can’t see including:
    1. Meta Description – a short description (about 150-170 characters) that may appear in SERP’s to tell your visitors what the page is about
    2. Meta Keywords – targeted keywords and/or phrases to give the search engines a general idea about the page content; it is best to keep it short – about 5 keyword phrases per page and try to give unique keywords for every page
    3. Alternate (ALT) tags for images; search engines can not read images and are also important to accessibility (visually impaired)
  3. Tips to consider
    for On-the-Page SEO

    1. No surprises – ultimately a human is your customer and if they visit your page and it is not what they were expecting, they will be gone (called a bounce)
    2. Provide UNIQUE content – overuse of titles, keywords and descriptions may be interpretted as spamming by search engines
    3. Words that appear ealier in Titles, URLs, Headings and Page Text provide higher weigh in search engines
    4. Less is more – use specific, targeted and concise wording for meta descriptions and keywords
    5. Sell your customer with the page content

Step Four: Analyze Your Data
This is an important step that should be done often throughout the process.

  1. Google Analytics is an incredible application that will help you to understand your website traffic and your visitors in great detail. Oh yeah, and it’s FREE.
  2. Other important items to analyize:
    1. The number of website visitors
    2. Your Website Conversion Rate (Leads / Visitors)
    3. Lead Conversion Rate (Sales from Leads / Leads)
    4. Cost per Lead or per Sale
    5. You Marketing Initiatives and Campaigns in time against the above items

Step Five: Email Marketing for Newsletters and Promotions

Now that your new (or new and improved) website has been established, it is time to start email marketing to existing customers. The first email sent should promote the new site and give your customers a reason to visit. Suggestions to get you started include:

  1. Lead in "snippets" of news articles with a read more link back to your website page with the full story
  2. Promotion of a new product or service offering with a link back to your website
  3. Register for a "give away" with a link back to your website
  4. Request their feedback with a survey with a link back to your website
Repeat Step Four & Adjust / Experiment as Necessary

Step Six: SEO for Google PageRank

Now that you have optimized your website to the best of your ability, it is time to start thinking about your PageRank (not to be confused with Google’s PigeonRank). Note: The following quotes are provided by Google.

PageRank reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results."

PageRank also considers the importance of each page that casts a vote, as votes from some pages are considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value."

  1. Off-the-Page SEO – Also known as Link Popularity, is determined by the number of websites that link to your website. Important considerations:
    1. The quality of the website providing the link (their PageRank) matters.
    2. The text used in the link is important. Your company name will likely rate high in search engine results when searched for by name. It is much more valuable to use text that describes your industry, location, or product as this is a "vote" for you in context of keywords.
    3. Avoid link farm submissions (see black hat techniqes above) or services that offer to build your link popularity.
    4. Avoid link exchange programs as search engines are becoming more aggressive detecting these and discounting the "vote".
    5. Identify authoritative websites for your business or industry and find ways to have them link to your website; through blogs, forums, or banner advertising.
  2. Start your own Blog - Blogging is an effective way to generate more traffic to your website.
    1. It provides fresh content for the search engines and your visitors.
    2. It provides a means to showcase your expertise in your industry.
    3. It provides a way for your visitors to provide additional feedback to you about your business.
    4. No one cares about linking to a boring corporate website but people will link to interesting articles thereby giving you more inbound links.
    5. Every article becomes a unique SEO opportunity.
  3. Add Video Content to your website or blog – Video has become a vital part of the Internet, both social and business aspects.
    1. Videos can put a real face and voice to your business.
    2. Videos can be used in Viral Marketing through sites like YouTube.com.
    3. People are likely to share interesting videos with friends and colleagues, providing valuable exposure
Repeat Step Four & Adjust / Experiement as Necessary
Step Seven: Paid Inclusion to Yahoo! Directory
Repeat Step Four & Adjust / Experiement as Necessary
Step Eight: Pay-Per-Click Advertising
Repeat Step Four & Adjust / Experiement as Necessary

Additional Resources: For more information check out the links below


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