We all know the phrase from Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” Unfortunately, this does not apply to the Internet. You can have a state-of-the-art Web site that offers amazing jewelry, but customers won’t know it exists if you don’t tell them.
As with a traditional brick-and-mortar business, advertising is essential. And so is knowing your target audience. Are you establishing an online presence for existing customers? Are you trying to reach people in your local area, throughout the United States, or all over the planet?
Advertising can be intimidating, but it works—as long as you’re proactive and methodical in determining its success. If you spent X, how many leads did that generate? What are your revenues and how many sales will it take to pay for your ads? Proper tracking of your site is essential to determine the precise value of a visitor in terms of dollars.
Here are the basic Internet advertising options:
E-mail newsletter. Small text ads in e-mail newsletters are among the best buys. Find out if there’s a local e-mail publication that goes out to your target audience or if your local newspaper has an e-mailer that informs recipients of what’s happening around town. Many small publishers aren’t sophisticated about advertising and offer attractive rates. This lets you buy a banner ad that gives you more exposure for less money than a print ad.
Affiliate programs. Affiliate programs involve paying a commission to a site whose links result in sales. The goal is to build a network of affiliates that have a financial stake in promoting your site. Affiliate marketing companies help you determine how much commission you need to pay, the right kind of affiliates, and the technical details. For more information, go to www.affiliatesdirectory.com, www.affiliateguide.com, affiliates.ebay.com, and www.associateprograms.com.
Pay-per-click (PPC) ads. These appear as featured links at the top of search engine results for select keywords. Your ranking is determined by how much you’ve bid for the search word. This can be a cost-effective way to get targeted traffic, since you pay only when someone clicks on the link. Sites to place ads include Google Adwords, Overture.com, GoTo.com, FindWhat, and Kandoodle.
A good online reference on this topic is www.searchen-ginewatch.com, and there’s a helpful article, “Pay-Per-Click Tips for Attracting Traffic,” at www.entrepreneur.com. Click EBiz and see articles under Marketing Your E-Business. The Pay-per-Click Search Engine Marketing Handbook, by Boris and Eugene Mordkovich, and Search Engine Advertising, by Catherine Seda, are also worth reading.
Shopping comparison and auction sites. Shopping comparison sites match your products and prices to others. Some work on a PPC basis, like mySimon, BizRate, PriceGrabber, and DealTime. Google’s Froogle is currently free. Shopping sites like eBay, Amazon, and Yahoo extract a commission on the sale and sometimes a listing fee—you pay for a first-time customer and hope you can sell to them again. While everyone has an opinion about the best option, here are a few references: (1) www.botspot.com/search/s-shop.htm, (2) www.forbes.com/2005/12/14/bow05121401.html, (3) websearch.about.com/od/enginesanddirectories/a/shop-searcheng.htm.
“Free” options. These include networking, swapping links, and joint ventures. Be wary of sites that promise free banners and the like—it’s usually not the case. Look carefully at the sites that say they cost nothing. At the bottom there’s generally a price.