So you’re ready to advertise online. Where do you start?
There are many ways to advertise online and it’s almost always cheaper than print or TV advertising. Here’s a quick introduction to your options and what to expect for cost and return.
First you have to sign up for an email marketing service so that you can send a large quantity of emails at once. Start sending regular email newsletters to your previous customers and people who have actively signed up for your emails or expressed an interest in your company. Finally, make sure to spruce up your automated emails (order confirmations, appointment reminders, etc.) to encourage people to come back.
Cost: Very cheap.
Return: It depends on the size of your email list and the likelihood of gaining return customers, but it’s usually much smaller in volume than PPC and bigger than banner ads.
What is SEO? SEO is the process of figuring out how to make your website and your company awesome enough to show up high in search engine results. When you search for something in Google, for example, the main, unshaded section of the results are all free advertisements. Google, Bing, etc. decide which sites are the most relevant to the searched keyword and show you the list they came up with. Your SEO goal is to show up as high as possible in those results, ideally on page 1 and before your competitors.
How do you get high SEO rankings?
There used to be ways to cheat the system, but companies like Google are getting better and better at simply showing the most relevant result. Best practices for SEO change all the time, so if you want to get good at it, you have to keep up. A great place to start learning about SEO is on Moz.com.
Here’s a very quick summary of best practices for SEO:
Be interesting. Write blogs and content that people are likely to share around the web via their site, their blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
Make sure your website is easy to understand and easy to navigate. It should be very clear what service you provide.
Find ways to get relevant people/companies to link to your site, blogs, articles etc., but don’t cheat by paying them! Google has an advanced algorithm that is getting really good at figuring out if you are artificially boosting your popularity.
What is the reward?
Cost: Free if you do it yourself. A few thousand per month if you pay someone to help.
Return: If you get on page 1 for the top searched keywords for your industry, it can be very good – great volume and much better ROI than any other advertising source.
What is PPC? It stands for Pay Per Click. There are tons of advertising services on the internet that will show your advertisement and charge you when someone clicks on your ad to get to your site. Search engines like Google and Bing will charge you to show up in the paid sections of their search results (top and right sections) and many other sites will charge you to host an advertisement (text or image) on their website. For this blog, I’m only going to talk about Google and Bing search engine advertising.
Cost: Expensive.* You can easily rack up thousands of dollars per day if you aren’t careful. At the same time though, you can set any budget you want.
Return: Very good if your potential customers are likely to search for your service/goods online, and if you do it right. You choose which keywords you want to show up for and how much you are willing to pay per click. There are many options to make your ads very specific or very general.
The above points for Google AdWords also apply to Bing. There are two main differences though:
Bing is on average, cheaper per click and brings less traffic.
Bing doesn’t always have as good of an ROI as Google. Are you customers more likely to search on Bing or Google? If you are B2B, you may see less success on Bing.
What are banner ads? Banner ads are those image advertisements that you see all over the web. Ever notice all those advertisements on your favorite news site? Those are banner ads.
Banner ads used to have a horrible reputation for being a complete waste of money. Even today, most companies that host traditional banner ads do it with the goal of “general awareness” and branding rather than direct conversions, but there is one type of banner ad that has emerged as an ROI winner…
The Remarketing Banner Ad!
What is remarketing? Remarketing ads are advertisements that only show up for users who have already been to your site or a certain page on your site. When someone visits your site, your site drops a “cookie” on that person’s computer so that the advertiser recognizes them. You pay a service such as Google (they also offer banner ads) to tell their partner sites that if this user ever visits them, show your ad. That way, the only people who see and click on your ad are people who are already familiar with your service.
So what’s the damage?
Cost: Middle of the road. A lot more expensive than email. It can be less expensive than Google, but you can set the budget for both.
Return: Traditional banner ads – think “brand awareness”. Conversion rate is usually abysmal. Remarketing ads – decent. It can be inline with Google PPC returns.
People are all over Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and other social media sites. Are they interested in hearing from you though?
They might be. Social Media is great for general awareness. The more interesting you are, the larger the benefit. In some industries, social media can be great for stirring business. In others, not so much. But it’s worth a try. Why? Well, it’s free. It’s where your customers hang out. It can help with SEO. And it might just be the future of advertising. At the very least, it makes your company look “with the times.”
Return: Mostly just general awareness. If enough people share your posts, it also helps with SEO. A few lucky (interesting, smart, consumer) companies may find a way to boost sales with social media.
Price Comparison Shopping Sites
Shopping sites are another great option if you are a retailer. Sites like Google Shopping, Price Grabber, NextTag, Shopzilla, etc. will show your product, priced against competitors. You pay when a user clicks on your product and ends up on your site. It can be time consuming to manage as you want to make sure to only host the products that bring you the most success (if your item is the highest priced or not a big seller, you may end up wasting your money there).
Cost: Expensive, but you can set a budget.*
Return: If you host the right products, it can be great. If you just send over everything you have and don’t monitor it, it can be a huge waste of money.
eBay, Amazon.com, and other Shopping Sites
If you want to sell through these sites you have to set up a whole online store through them, on their site. It can be a lot of work and maintenance. You also have to keep your customers happy. If you get enough bad reviews, they will kick you off. If you do it right though, it can be rewarding.
Let someone else do the work. Set up an affiliate marketing program through services like ShareASale, Commission Junction, etc. You pay a commission which you determine and people apply to join your program and help sell your goods and services. It can be a project to set up and you have to manage and help your sellers, but you have the benefit of determining how you pay them.
Return: Medium. You probably need to build a big network of affiliates before you started seeing many sales come in.
There’s always more. You can send out press releases online. You can write a whitepaper and have someone else promote it online. If you haven’t been already, once you have a website and start advertising, you will probably be frequently contacted by companies who want to sell you their advertising services. If you have a budget for testing, you can find out yourself what works best for your company.
*These advertisements are expensive for online advertisements but still tend to be cheaper and bring a better ROI than TV or print advertising.