As a small business owner, building your online marketing strategy wisely is critical for the survival of your business. You don’t have a lot of room for error since your monthly budget is usually limited. So how do you build a smart online marketing strategy that will help you make more money and expand your online activity?
There are endless online traffic channels and for the average business owner, it’s not always trivial to know them, understand them or know which ones are best for your needs. I’ve previously written posts about industries analysis, which also included marketing tips and possible arbitrage in each. You’re welcome to go over them and see if you can find your own industry there. This post, however, will approach this topic from a different point of view – I’ll go over the classic online marketing channels, explain a little bit about them and give the pros and cons for each.
Online Marketing Channels Overview:
- SEO – SEO, or search engine optimization, means to make technical and content changes in your site to get your website ranked higher for specific words in Google, Bing or Yahoo search results. Other than these changes on the site, frequently referred to as onsite optimization, you also do a lot of work trying to get other websites linking to you. The reason for that is that Google, and other search engines, include in their ranking criteria, the quality and quantity of incoming links to a website.
- Pros – Once you get ranked, you don’t pay per visit and so your gained traffic is relatively cheap. You also gain brand exposure, since the majority of users use search engines to find products and services and being ranked high for their search terms will also get you their recognition.
- Cons – getting ranked takes time. The average is between 3-6 months. During this period you won’t see any income, which not all small business can afford. Another big disadvantage the difficulty of finding a trustworthy SEO freelancer or service. The cheap ones are usually worthless and the expensive ones are not within the budget of most small businesses.
- Search Ads – Search ads are ads which appear in search results, but are not part of the ‘organic’ results that are naturally ranked, thanks to reasons I’ve specified in the previous paragraph. They give you a chance to be ranked first for search terms which are directly relevant to your business. For example, if you’re a Sparkling Stickers eCommerce website, you can get ranked for words such as ‘sparking stickers’, ‘stickers for birthdays’, etc. Search ads are available in all major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo for example). You can either pay per click on the ad, or per 1,000 appearances of the ad (impressions).
- Pros – the revenue is almost immediate and if you know what you’re doing you can reach low bids, which makes the acquired traffic relatively cheap. Another big advantage is you don’t have to use an outside agency in order to open a search ad campaign. There are many free tutorials out there explaining all about it and if you have spare time you can even do it yourself. The entry rates are extremely low as well – you can run a campaign with as little as $20 or $50 a day.
- Cons – managing search ads is very time consuming, so if you’re really busy, it’s better to hire an agency or a freelancer to help you with it. Another disadvantage is you have to pay for each visit to your website and you don’t gain anything other than that specific visit, unlike SEO, where once you get ranked, your traffic is pretty much free.
- Display Ads/Ad Networks – Display ads are banners which you place on other websites, which are relevant to your products or services in some way. The idea behind this is taking advantage of other websites’ traffic, which also fits the characterization of your target audience. You can start a Display ad campaign by contacting blog and website owners directly and asking them if they are interested in placing banners of yours on their website, or, the more practical way, register in one or more ad networks and start running a campaign according to their instructions, which are usually fairly easy.
- Pros – you get highly targeted visitors. For instance, if you are a boutique hotel in Spain owner, and have a website for this hotel, you can put banners on blogs about traveling in Spain.
- Cons – from my personal experience, the ROI from display ads is relatively low and you have to run many tests in order to get a good campaign. You also need to spend time and money on creating banners, since you can’t run display ads without banners, obviously, and finally, in some of these ad networks there is a minimum entry fee in order to start a campaign.
- Social Networks – for those of you who lived in a cave for the past decade, search networks are online networks in which users are sharing personal parts of their life, like pictures, videos, stories or a point of view. There’s a huge list of such networks. Some of the biggest ones include: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit and YouTube. Going into details about each of these networks will require a whole series of articles, so I’ll summarize it in short, just so you’ll get the idea of what you can do with them. Each of these networks offer an option to open a free account, and most also allow you to open a company’s page/channel. This page/channel can be used by you to build your own personal community and later communicate with its members with any special offer you may have. Each of these networks have Sharing and Rating options, which is the virtual equivalent to hearsay marketing.
- Pros – great way to build your brand awareness for starters, and also offers an opportunity to communicate directly with your clients or potential clients. It’s free, unless you use the sponsored posts/stories options. In this case you’ll have to do some research about how to run such campaigns. However, there are plenty free tutorials out there explaining about it.
- Cons – it’s time consuming and offers relatively low revenue rates (at least with the free options). If you’ll want to use this channel properly, you’ll probably need to hire a freelancer or an agency to help you set things up and take care of the ongoing management.
- Affiliates – affiliates are people that promote your products or services on their website, blog or through their Search & Display ad accounts. All this for a fee, which varies from a few cents to hundreds of dollars, depending or different factors such as the product’s worth, the user’s life time value etc. Sometimes the deal with affiliates is based on ‘Revenue Share’. This means they only make money if you make money and usually fits products or services with an ongoing relationship with the client, such as monthly subscriptions.
- Pros – you only pay if you make money, which is actually a big advantage.
- Cons – you have less control on how your brand is presented and marketed out there and you need to share your profit with both the affiliate and the affiliate program you’ve registered in.