Marketing your Website Online
Marketing your website can be the most difficult and costly element to competing online. Just simply building a website and submitting it to the search engines will not guarantee you an instant stream of traffic to your site. The simple fact is that there has been a huge proliferation of businesses entering the online arena all looking to shout the loudest and competing aggressively for each and every customer.
The fundamental rule when advertising online is to control your costs. You should familiarise yourself with the lessons learnt by the dot com companies only a few years ago. As the internet boom took hold of the developed world there was a surge of new companies popping up offering innovative online businesses that were embracing these new technologies. The problem was that many of these new companies were spending twice as much on advertising their product as what they made selling the product? How can any company ignore the most basic principle of commerce? The reason this happened was due to the fact that these companies were listed on the stock exchange and became grossly overvalued in part do to with the hysteria of people buying up their shares and jumping on the dot com bandwagon. Eventually the bubble burst as these companies continued to loose money, the share price went through the floor and millions of people were left out of pocket.
The great thing about advertising online is that you can quickly build a very accurate picture of how a campaign is performing in terms of the traffic it is bringing to your site and the conversions that you are making. Everything can be measured in a finite way over a short period of time and it doesn't take long to determine if a particular ad is giving you a good return on investment.
Measuring Performance - Analytics
In order to make key decisions on advertising you must be able to measure the performance of your campaigns, this will prevent you from wasting money on ineffective advertising and allow you to concentrate and invest on the advertising that works for your business.
There are a number of ways to measure performance the easiest by far is to link into a service like Google Analytics, this basically involves adding a snippet of code to each page and Google will harvest and store key metrics relating to your customers and their browsing habits.
Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC)
Pay Per Click Advertising or PPC is a great concept in direct marketing, it allows you to market your products and services in the search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo, Bing etc..) by creating a simple text advert that is configured to appear only when someone types in a specific search query. You only pay if an individual clicks the advert to visit your website. PPC can cost as little as 5p per click for less competitive keywords and up to £5.00 per click for more competitive keywords. The great thing about PPC is that millions of people use search engines everyday to find what they are looking for online and recent figures suggest that search engines are responsible for generating around 90% of all online sales. This means you can compete alongside large multinational corporations in front of a huge audience and pay in relation to the performance of your advertising campaigns. But before you get too excited here's the flip side? PPC has been around for a few years now and there are lots of online businesses using this method of advertising, your ad campaign will be ranked in an order on the search engine results pages (SERPS) depending on how much you are bidding. For less competitive markets it is can cost only 10p to get on the first page however for more competitive markets the costs can really mount up, these costs are taken directly out of your bottom line and can cost companies hundreds of pounds per day.
The key with PPC is to continually monitor the performance of your ads and quickly weed out the ones that are not making you any money. If you are managing hundreds of listings within your PPC campaign it can become time consuming to continually monitor their individual performance and the number of statistics provided by the PPC Company can be overwhelming. With all this said PPC can be a quick way to drive targeted traffic to your website and if you can continually tweak your ads then you will more than likely make a good return on your investment using this platform.
Banner campaigns have been around for almost as long as the internet as we know it. The way banner campaigns work is that a company who operate a busy website will offer to place a banner designed by your company on their website in return for a fixed fee or a specific number of impressions or clicks.
There are a number of things you should consider when exploring the viability of banner campaigns. First of all with the increase in popularity of the search engines web users are relying less on finding what they want through wading across websites, effectively people are not using the internet as web of information but rather continually going back to the search engines to find what they need. Because banners take you from one website to another they are affected by this trend.
The other thing to be aware of here is that it is easy to spend over the odds for banner campaigns. You should always exercise discretion when considering whether to pay for a banner campaign as it is not uncommon for companies to exaggerate how much traffic they receive on their website and of course there is no way for you to independently verify this information.
It is really important with any banner campaign to have the right tracking functionality on your website before signing any agreements. You should also try to avoid signing into any long periods as if you have the right tracking features in place you can quickly determine if a given campaign will be successful or not. A banner campaign is a mutual arrangement and it should work for you as well as the provider, if you think they are charging over the odds then explore other options, the web is a big place and you should never feel cornered into advertising with any one provider.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
We have discussed how Pay Per Click advertising can get you to the top of the search engines and put your site in front of millions of web surfers looking for your products and services, I also discussed how expensive this can be. Imagine if you could get to the top of the search engine for free. Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is the method of modifying the pages on your website to improve your position in the search engines. When you perform a search on Google for example you will see on the results page a list of results in the centre of the page as well as a number of results running down the right hand column. The results on the right are from paid advertising sources (Pay Per Click) however the results in the middle are there at no cost.
All the major search engines have what are known as web crawlers, these are highly sophisticated programs that crawl across the internet jumping through hyperlinks and recording the text on web pages. They collect all this information and determine how relevant a particular page is to a given search.
Beware of SEO companies promising to get you to the 1st page on Google, there are no guarantees when it comes to SEO, we would always say that writing great content and giving people a compelling reason to link to your site is the way to develop a good profile on the search engines. There's no shortcut, certainly not one that is worth getting you banned all together!
Email Marketing Campaigns
Email is a great way to get your message to as many people as possible with a minimum of cost. You can easily send visual emails to 100's or 1000's of email addresses and monitor the response in real time. It is important to remember however that there are laws in this country and overseas that protect consumers from inappropriate use of their contact details. You should only ever email individuals who have opted in to receive such mail otherwise you could be considered as a spammer and may even face legal action for sending out unsolicited emails. Due to the volume of emails that are distributed by businesses this form of advertising is not as effective as what it used to be however the relatively low costs will often still provide a good return on investment.
A proven formula to developing a successful online marketing campaign is to not rely on one source for your traffic, the internet is a very dynamic medium and things can change pretty quickly. As more and more businesses start selling online you will need to hone your competitive edge to remain ahead. You should also have a clear and concise system to monitor the response from your advertising campaigns, use this to dictate how you invest your money and get rid of ads that are costing you money as quickly as possible. As a new company you are likely to receive a number of calls from companies that are trying to get you to spend money advertising on their websites. Do not be pressurised into making a decision rather explore your options and try to arrange a trial period before signing any long term agreements.
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