Understanding Internet Marketing for Small Businesses

Karen Y. Larkin
Computer

Do terms like SEO, metadata, hashtags, keywords, social media, and HTML stop you in your tracks and send you running back to the safety of yet another direct mail campaign? If so, you are not alone. What you are lacking is a context for how the pieces fit together. When small businesses get the components of Internet marketing working in unison, the results are far more powerful than the sum of their parts.

Create a Smart Keyword Strategy

If you were a consumer looking for the products or services that your company provides, what term would you enter into the Google search box to find them? Those terms are called keywords, and they should appear within the content on your website.

You only need a few keywords, but they should be specific. A long tail keyword like "size 9 ladies shoes" is far more effective than a broad word like "shoes."

Good placements for your keywords include:

  • Your title
  • A top level header
  • Image alt text
  • Your page description

Keywords are a good starting point for understanding Internet marketing, but aren't the be-all, end-all they once were. To be effective, your strategy must be well-rounded.

Foster Credibility

If a user searches for information about kidney stones, a page from the Mayo Clinic website will carry far more weight than a page from a home remedy blog. Yet there are a number of tactics for adding authority to almost any website.

Pay Attention to the Basics

Some are far simpler than you might think.

  • Include a current copyright date in your footer.
  • Include an "About" page that clearly explains what your organization does and who owns it.
  • If you have any credentials, awards or special training that support your expertise on the topic of your website, include those on "About" page as well.
  • Include a "Contact Us" page that lists a physical address and a telephone number, in addition to an email address.
  • All articles should include a byline with a hotlink to the writer's credentials.
  • Link from your site to a few authoritative, on topic sites.

Develop Back-Links

Get other sites to link to yours. This takes time and persistence, but it builds your webutation like nothing else.

  • Register your site with several website directories, and be sure your information is consistent across all registrations.
  • Answer questions on other websites.
  • Write guest posts for other people's websites.
  • Create profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, using the same keyword strategy as on the home page of your site.
  • Routinely add fresh content to your site. Make sure it is high quality and genuinely helpful for anyone searching for your keywords. Subscribe to Google Alerts stay on top of new developments related to your keywords.
  • Include links to other pages within your own site.

Keep Readers Engaged

Search engines want to know that readers have found what they are looking for when they land on your page. They will consider:

  • How long the reader stays on your site
  • How many pages the reader visits within your site

Observe Advertising Etiquette

Most search engines understand that ads help to support your site, but too many ads or a poor layout will make your site seem less trustworthy.

  • Stay away from multiple pop-ups.
  • Never let ads interfere with primary content.
  • Avoid using paid links.

Drive Consumer Behavior

Decide what you want a user to do when he visits your site and provide direction.

  • Create an offer. It could be a product for sale, an eBook, or a free consultation.
  • Include a prominent call to action. Use an eye-catching graphic, and make sure the user doesn't have to scroll to find it (aka above the fold).
  • Develop a landing page, containing a form users must fill out in order to receive the offer. Be sure to include a check-box, indicating that the user agrees to receive future emails from you.
  • Develop a confirmation page. Transfer the user to this page automatically after he completes the submission.
  • Send the download link, report, or whatever the user signed up for to the email address he provided.
  • Experiment with different offers and calls to actions. Rotate the ones that work best and keep trying new ones.

Make Your Site Accessible

Gone are the days when computer users sat at desks and viewed content exclusively on PCs or Macs. Today's users are just as apt to see your content on a phone or tablet, yet many marketers have been slow to address making sites user-friendly for these growing numbers of users. Talk with your web host or an internet technology (IT) professional to determine how you can best serve these audiences.

Put Social Media to Work

The prevalence of social media networks has exploded over the past few years, and cultivating a presence there will support your other efforts nicely.

  • Twitter has the ability to drive direct sales, especially when you use hashtags effectively. They can put you in touch with networks of people who have already self-identified as being interested in particular topics. Just look for the ones that are compatible with your products, and add them into your posts. The average post has a shelf-life of about three hours, so you can post a few times each day without over-taxing the channel.
  • Build a LinkedIn profile and join user groups. These groups allow people in similar or complementary professions to network, share best practices and sometimes form joint partnerships.
  • Build a Facebook business page. Because of privacy considerations, personal Facebook pages live behind a firewall and are indexed differently than business pages. Utilize some of the same keywords as your website, and post a few times each week.

Reach Out with Email Marketing

You don't have to wait passively for the user to visit your website again.

When a user responds to one of your offers, use email to follow up with another. Be sure to personalize your email and use a conversational tone, but do include another call to action. Each time the user responds to you the sales dialogue deepens. An effective email marketing plan can boost your business.

Analyze and Improve

Tracking the performance of your website offers insights into what is and isn't working. Two excellent tools include:

  • Google Analytics provides detailed metrics about how many visitors came to your site, how they got there, how long they stayed, where they left, and much more.
  • Alexa provides an idea of how your sites fit into the World Wide Web. Alexa shows your global rank and identifies which keywords generate the most traffic, and identify other sites that have linked to yours.

Both services are free and provide invaluable information, insights and tools.

Take the Long View

Understanding the components of Internet marketing, developing a strategy, and implementing tactical plans are not short term goals. Developing your internet presence is the cornerstone for building most businesses today. Take your time, do it right, and reap the rewards.

Understanding Internet Marketing for Small Businesses