Promoting Yourself Online
Aritcle by Erik Davidek, Executive Online Content Editor
Why do it?
Basically, this is a numbers no-brainer. The Pew Research Center has found that the number of people who use the Internet as their primary source of information is at 30 percent and rising. 70 percent of Americans and 52 percent of Europeans are now online, with some areas of Europe seeing a 600 percent growth in internet use in the last five years. Google just found that Britons now spend more time surfing the net than watching television! World usage now tops 1 billion. From a marketing standpoint, ignoring the power of this growing medium is a bit like ignoring television in the 50's.
At the same time, this vast usage has created a glut of web sites that make finding useful information (or gaining visibility for your site) harder and harder. To continue the television analogy, the Internet is like having a set with 80 million channels (and nothing on). Common search engines attempt to group all of this mess into some kind of system of useful categories, like sports or entertainment. But as you can imagine, there is still a lot of room for really good sites to fall through the cracks.
But our site is cool!
The bottom line is that even a beautifully designed web site with all the bells and whistles won't be successful if it isn't actively promoted. More accurately, if your company isn't using a multitude of approaches with your Internet marketing, you better get used to falling through those cracks.
So what do we do?
Just like any other forum, there are two basic ways to let people know about what you do online: word of mouth and advertising.
Word of Mouth
Online word of mouth is generated in the same way that it's generated anywhere else-by being good at what you do. When businesses deliver on the promises they offer to customers and satisfy their needs efficiently, those customers tell their friends and family and the business grows.
Companies satisfy customers on the Web by having sites that contain good content, that are well designed, and by doing what they say they will do. Notice I didn't say that the site had to knock people out of their chairs with the latest animation and amazing graphics. That stuff can be good for an initial "wow factor," but it doesn't necessarily convince people that the site is reliable or even important. Seasoned surfers often rightly see the over-use of technology as pure hype masking inadequate products, services, or content.
International Corporate Internet Marketing Strategy - The Simple Version
There is a shopping district in Sarasota, Florida called St. Armands Circle that I have been visiting since I was a teenager. Among all of the expensive shops selling resort wear for tourists is a toy store bursting at the seams with every battery-powered toy you could imagine. You can hear it from a block away. The whole shop is a jungle of squawking plastic parrots and howling stuffed monkeys. It completely overwhelms the senses, and I have gone inside every time I've been there. But I've never bought anything in the store. Not once. It is a visually interesting place, but not a compelling place. Big difference!
Many web sites over-focus on having the most spectacular pages on the web, but forget to deliver what their customers are really looking for-a compelling reason to invest time and (hopefully) money. The specifics will vary for all businesses, but content, design, and reliability are very good places to start.
That being said, it is important that your site be distinguished. It must be clean, attractive, and easy to navigate. It should compliment the business that it promotes. For instance, if you are developing a site for a company that sells construction tools, you will probably not convert browsers to buyers with loads of interactive drop-downs and flash graphics. Save that stuff for your computer software site. Make your site easy and useful for customers and deliver on what you promise. It's that simple.
The word advertising in the online world covers a whole lot of ground. It can be the traditional marketing that you do for your site like ads in/on television, magazines, newspapers, billboards, etc. But it also includes all of the technical things that you can do to get your site noticed from the millions of others out there, including trying to ensure that those ever-present web crawlers and bots like Google and Yahoo can find you. The two or three big umbrella terms for advertising on the Web are Internet Marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
Although the techniques vary for the Internet, Internet Marketing fits with what most people think of as the more traditional role of advertising. SEM is about getting your site in front of potential customers. This is usually done with things like banner ads and email campaigns (the billboards and junk mail of the electronic world). In addition, pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns and directory submissions are other traditional ways to get your product or service seen online.
An interesting option, and one that our company is actively developing, is electronic press releases, or what we call ePR. This involves taking advantage of established news and information distribution channels (and creating some of our own) to publish press releases on the Web. When done right, these press releases offer the potential of giving an enormous number of perspective buyers information that they care about and want to read.
The best part for our clients is the return on investment of this type of marketing. It is very cost-effective. With minimal investment, a given press release may get over 30,000 hits in the first week. The results that we've gotten for our clients have been very encouraging.
SEO is the more "behind the scenes" player in the online advertising scene. Involving the things that can be done to get your web site noticed by the web directories (especially the big boys: Google, Yahoo!, ASK, MSN), SEO includes things like your site's URL and title, what keywords are used, Meta data, and anchor text. This then all leads to the search engine marketing part.
To monitor success SEM includes the cool advanced methods of tracking how people use your site. Special programs exist that can show you all the information that you could ever need to make your site a success. SEO and Internet consulting firms can tell you everything from simple stuff like how many people are visiting your site each month and how many links you have, to more complex information like where people go within your web site and what parts of the pages their eyes are drawn to first. With some of the more advanced programs it's very much like being able to crawl up into the heads of your site's visitors and understand what they're thinking about.
As it is a bit more technical, this part of your business needs to at least be handled by very competent techies within your organization that understand what you are looking to accomplish. A better option is to have your SEO/SEM done by a seasoned firm that specializes in Internet marketing. Do your homework and go with a firm that understands what you are trying to accomplish and that has been around for a while. The benefits of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) far outweigh the up-front effort and cost involved, and has by far the highest ROI.
How does it all come together?
Because of all the competition out there (remember those millions of sites waiting to snap up your customers?), it is vital for your web site to have as much going for it as possible. First and foremost, you have to have a site that people are going to want to visit.
Go to your site and look at it through the eyes of a casual surfer:
- Does it grab and hold your attention?
- Is the content relevant and interesting?
- Does the business look legitimate and trustworthy?
- If the answer to every question is "yes," then you are on your way...
Next you need to try to get other people to find your site. Imagine a pizza shop that made the absolute best pies in town but didn't have a phone and was impossible to find. The shop would die. The same is true of Internet businesses. Once your site is useable and useful, you need to go the extra mile to ensure that people find it. This means boosting your position on the search engines by going through a professional search engine optimization process.
If you type the word "computer" into Google, you get over 700 million results. How many people do you think ever look beyond the first ten? The same test can be done for any keyword relevant to your business, with similar staggering results. If you can't boost your natural search results and link popularity with search engines, your web site will not succeed.
Because I work for an SEO/SEM company, you can take my advice with a grain of salt if you like, but my opinion is that the best bet when considering online promotion is to use every technique possible to help encourage success. The fact is that when compared to traditional marketing campaigns, Internet pushes are far more cost-effective, even when you decide to go for all of the options available. In addition, the possible yields of this type of campaign (especially when paired with an established brick-and-mortar business or a good URL) are far greater than other marketing efforts.
As I said in the beginning, it's a numbers no-brainer.
If you are looking to boost your presence on the Internet and would like to work with a company that will focus on your individual needs and goals, consider Nordic eMarketing. For over 10 years, we have been one of the leading SEO/SEM firms in Europe, but we maintain the hands-on approach that we believe is lacking with most of the other firms out there.
We would be happy to talk with you about how we can make your vision a reality, no matter how simple or complex it may be.
Tel: (+354) 540-9500
Fax: (+354 544-2203