Some online marketing techniques like blogging, email, and social networking may not involve a lot of direct costs. However, you will want to dedicate your time or your employees' time to those that are most used by your audience and that will bring you the most sales leads or foot traffic.
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Search engine optimization
If you have an online presence, make sure people can find you. Learn how to use the right keywords, in the right places on your website, so that interested consumers can find you on search engines. Use incoming links (get other websites to link to yours) in order to rank higher. To get higher rankings, especially for local businesses, ensure your name, address, and phone number is displayed prominently on your website and that it matches what is in other online directories and listings.
Create a corporate blog (an online journal) and share it with the world. Through your own blog, you can reach your clients to tell them of changes in products or services, get their feedback and gain ideas for better ways of doing business. Again, your clients should be your main focus; tell them how they are getting value for their money, but also provide something useful like your expert advice. Provide a service through your blog that naturally gets shared and attracts traffic. The keywords you use in your blog can also help you get a higher ranking for those words in search engines. This can lead people who don't yet know your business by name to your website.
Midway between the size of a text message and a blog is the microblog. Microblogging is an increasingly popular communication and promotion channel. You can send frequent and short messages (usually less than 140 characters) on any variety of topics. You can post messages about daily sales, promotions and useful tips. You can also post a link or an opinion about your industry or conduct live chats during which you answer client questions. On most microblogs, you can also search for keywords related to your product or service; there may be questions you can respond to in order to give your name and your expertise more visibility. The key is to remember that it is not about you. As with all forms of marketing, it is about your followers, your clients, and the value provided to them.
You can post your messages on other blogs and forums that focus on specific topics. If you sell organic produce, use the Internet to find consumers who are interested in organic produce. You can answer people's questions, while allowing them to contact you or your business for more information. Keep in mind that some of these blogs or forums may be moderated, so ensure your comments add value to the discussion to avoid being treated as spam. This content can often be found by potential customers for a long time after the publication date. This may bring more longevity to your messages than posts on social network streams (which are generally short-lived).
Sending emails to clients and others who agree to receive information from you is a useful way to keep them informed of new developments in your business, while reminding them of your existence. They may appreciate emails if you include interesting offers, discounts, or helpful tips. Remember, people are busy, and most of your email may not get opened. You can track what kinds of email gets read by using email marketing software. Don't forget to check your inbox regularly; most clients expect some form of response within 24 hours. Also, be sure to give your clients an option to unsubscribe from your emails if they no longer want to receive them.
General topic platforms like Facebook and Twitter can help you build a network of contacts and engage with your existing clients. Other websites focus on specific topics or segments, like LinkedIn which focuses on professional networking and recruitment for businesses. On most networks, you can run searches for keywords related to your product or service to find questions to which you can respond. This will give your name and your expertise more exposure. It's also important to remember that social networking statistics, such as the number of friends, followers or fans you have, have an increasing impact on search engine rankings as well.
Webinars are live online presentations that your clients can log into using webinar software. This type of software allows your computer screen to be shared with your audience, in addition to audio and, in some cases, video streaming of your presentation. Webinars can be used to launch new products, run live product demonstrations, and get feedback from clients. They can also be recorded and shared on your website for your customers to refer to.
This is an online form of word-of-mouth advertising. If your message is interesting enough, it will be transmitted from one person to another, or shared through email, social networks, blogs, and so forth. Your message can be in the form of a video, an advertisement, a website, an image or information. Think of how shocking or humorous TV ads get shared online. A coffee shop once had its online ad spread like wildfire by offering one free new beverage on a given day. Although viral marketing is often difficult to replicate, the analytics tools within most social networks can tell you which types of content you share are more likely to go viral, or have more “virality”.
Social bookmarking enables you to store, search and manage websites and pages that you visit frequently. However, unlike traditional desktop bookmarking, social bookmarking allows you to access your bookmarks from any computer, tag them, view them by popularity and share them with others.
Social bookmarking can also be used as a free marketing tool. You can submit your business website link to social bookmarking sites, where it can potentially be seen by thousands of visitors.
With online advertising, you can purchase space for your promotional messaging or banner ads. Examples of places where your ad can appear include search engine results pages, online classifieds, social networking websites and advertising networks.
Online advertising offers the advantage of speed: you can quickly publish a promotional message and receive instant feedback on the number of times your ad has been viewed and clicked, depending on the purchase model you've agreed to. Common cost models for this type of advertising are Cost Per Mille (also called Cost Per Thousand), Cost Per Visitor, Cost Per View and Cost Per Click. Access to such data gives you the ability to alter your strategy, if need be, in order to effectively drive traffic in your direction. If you set up tracking mechanisms within the code of your website, you can also track which advertising platforms convert the most visitors into sales or desired actions.
Photo and video sharing
Photo and video sharing websites can allow you to spread content about your brand online at no cost. You can take advantage of these types of media-sharing sites to directly advertise your business or to drive traffic to your website. By posting a video about your services, you can potentially generate new customers as you engage with existing ones.
This involves sharing audio and video files online or through a mobile application. Unlike webcasts which are streamed and require Internet access, podcasts can be downloaded and stored on a computer, portable media player or smartphone. Users can subscribe to podcasts, and new episodes can be automatically downloaded to their devices as they are released. You can use podcasts to promote new products, provide tutorials, share interviews, and more.
Wikis allow you to collaborate with others online to create and edit content using free or paid software. Wikis can be very useful in business by allowing you to develop team-based content and to maintain documents with multiple authors. Common uses of wikis include community websites, corporate intranets and knowledge management systems.
Find out more about online marketing
- Pros and cons of social media
Wondering if social networking can help your business, but unsure about how to protect your information? Learn more about the pros and cons of emerging media platforms.
- The essentials of online marketing
Online marketing should complement traditional marketing, rather than replace it. Here are some pointers to help you make the most of your online marketing efforts.
- Entrepreneurs' guide to social media
This free guide can help you develop a social media strategy for your business to attract, engage, and retain customers.
- Email marketing
Discover the advantages of marketing your business with email.
- Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Websites
Thinking about using social networking? Find out which websites are most popular.
- Local marketing online: Reaching customers in your area
Get tips on reaching customers that are close to home.
- Free to low-cost applications
Discover how using low-cost information and communications technology products can increase sales and productivity for your business.
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