Internet Marketing: Don’t Skimp on The Basics

It’s the year 2021, and maybe you are a latecomer to the world of Internet Marketing. You have an existing business, but you have finally been persuaded to start an Internet marketing initiative. You might be a local small business, or you might be a national brand; whatever the case, maybe you know, you need to establish a presence on the Internet. It’s no longer an optional decision, and it’s mandatory. After all, your competitors are way ahead of you, your customers are on the Internet, making sense in the current economic climate look at alternate marketing solutions. Starting with the basics first: your website

Assuming you own your business, domain name and have a reliable web host, the next step is web design. You probably already have a website. It’s more than likely a static brochure that’s years old. What worked years ago is ancient today. Invest the money and have your website professionally designed by a quality web design service provider. Your website is not a set it and forgets its strategy, don’t let it become a dinosaur. You may know a little HTML and probably have played with FrontPage. This does not qualify you as a graphic designer. Establish a clear road map of what your website will be, then let the pros do the work. When I see an old website, I walk away, but it catches my attention when I see a modern website, and I’m more in tuned to stay on the website. Your customers are no different. An old, outdated website is a reflection of your business. That’s not the image you want to be portraying. The web gives you an advantage, and a well-designed site can make you appear larger than you may. It can make even the smallest of small business’ be as grand and large as a major corporation. Many key components go into designing a website, site navigation, layout, content, usability and so forth. A good designer knows this, so it’s crucial to work with them every step of the way on these details. Clutter is a turn-off. If you must put a lot of information on your website, do it in an organized manner. A CMS system might be the route you take. You get the point. Just as in real-life, image is everything. You have no second opportunity to make a first impression on the Internet, WOW them the first time and win their business.

If you build it, they will come:

That is if you were lucky enough to secure a premium .com domain that has plenty of type-in traffic. If you have the budget, domain name acquisition is always a good strategy but a very costly one. Chances are you don’t have $20,000 and up to wash away on the right domain name. Where is all this leading to? One word, search.

If the search engines do not show you, you might as well not even be in business online. The last study I read was that 90% of all people looking for information or services use search engines, and when I say search, I’m mainly referring to Google. It’d be better if you concentrated on all the search engines, but the main emphasis is on Google, for the simple fact that it is sending the most traffic bar none compared to Yahoo or Bing. If you’re a national brand with deep pockets, the logical choice is to hire a reputable company or individual specializing in search engine optimization. If this is done right, it’s money well invested. The smaller businesses are often pinching pennies and can’t afford to outsource their search engine initiatives. That’s fine, but it will require more time and patience. My word of advice is this, learn, learn and learn as much as you can about optimizing for search engines, read, read and read more. Thousands of SEO websites and blogs are available. The information is free, and of course, there are plenty of books on the subject matter. Before you go broke wasting your entire budget on a PPC, do some research and use the tools available to help guide you in making sound, logical decisions.

Start small with everything you do. If you take the PPC route, don’t go for the significant target keywords, you will end up going broke in no time with little to show for it. Focus on the long-tail keywords; don’t always go for the obvious. The companies with the deep pockets will win in that game, hands down. As you gain more experience and see an increase in sales, you can start to compete on that scale at a slow, measured pace, but never from the get-go. PPC is a great way to get some traffic circulating, but remember, it comes with a price. The focus of your search initiatives needs to be on organic traffic generation for the long term. Always remember domain authority is a big deal with search engines. Starting, you have none. It would help if you built it with inbound links, fresh content and constant tweaking. Anyone who is seriously looking to get involved with SEO set up a Google Reader account and subscribes to as many search engine strategy blogs as possible, read the feeds every day and start implementing what you have learned. It’s like all else, trial and error, but in time you will see the rewards, and then you will not have to rely solely on PPC.

What about email marketing?

Don’t rule out email marketing. Ideally, you want to market to your existing customer base, assuming you already have a newsletter in place. You need to be at a minimum at capturing email addresses on your site. Customers or potential customers who have expressed interest in your product can be golden lead sources. Learn how to market to them via newsletters, always with usefulness and incentives. It could be a coupon code for their next purchase, for instance. You can also buy lead lists for targeted industries. You will also need a reliable mailing solution to handle the mailings, ISP whitelisting, filtering of lists and so on. There are quite a few affordable solutions that offer this that won’t break the bank. Don’t waste your time with free self-hosted mailing scripts. All this will do is generate a ton of spam complaints and most likely will have your web host coming down on you, or worse, you risk getting your hosting suspended. Let the third-party vendor handle this. Collect as many information on the people visiting your website and use it to your advantage. Otherwise, you are just flying blind.

Affiliate programs still work, and they work well:

If you’re running an e-commerce website, you should be looking at an affiliate program to sell your product. Let others sell you your product, and it’s as simple as that. There is, of course, a lot to do factor in with this, such as conversions, cost, break-even points. It would help if you decided what payout structures will work to stay profitable. Your product, its market and the pricing point will help you determine this. Typically, the payout structures will work per lead, per sale, per click, or rev sharing model. Use a third-party vendor for this. There are plenty of business companies for this, and a quick Google search is all the research you need. These companies usually handle all the risk, link tracking and payouts. Your job is mainly creating the graphics, landing pages and all promotional material for the affiliates. Most of these companies have a pool of websites that can promote your product. Spend the time and fine-tune your product offering, conversions and marketing goals. Once your arm yourself with an affiliate program, you can then seek out the relevant websites in your niche to promote your product. See what your competitors do and try to do it better than them. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. Just fine-tune it.

Okay, but what about social media?

My ideal marketing mix for any online business would be a search engine strategy. Second, I would incorporate a social media marketing campaign. Should you use social media for marketing? Absolutely! Point blank. If your customers are using it, you need to be as well. Social media should not and will not be the magic bullet, and it’s merely another channel or layer of marketing. Social media is about conversations and how it relates to your brand or products. The cost barrier is relatively low, and it’s a well-known secret social media will significantly improve your search engine rankings. If your customers are using social media, find out where and actively establish a presence where they are. Invest the time, contribute and participate in any way that will add value to the communities. Join the conversation, create the talk but never try to control it. Make your content shareable, start a blog and create useful content about your product or your areas of expertise. Be open and transparent with your motives, and never treat social media as an email marketing campaign. Social media is two-way communication. The foundation and core of what social media is consists of five C’s. Conversation, community, commenting, collaboration and contribution. These are the five fundamentals that companies and marketers must understand to market on the social web successfully.

I left out plenty of other things, but in the scheme of things are not as important as the ones I touched upon today. Marketing on the Internet is not hard, and it takes time to create and find that perfect formula that will work for you. Search engines are still king, and the significant change driving search engines is the relevant content they have been since the mid 90′s and will continue to be for a long time to come. Concentrate your efforts and time on search engines and quality content. Everything else is necessary but should be secondary.