How To Get Started Marketing Your Small Business Online

Thanks to Rebecca Romo of SHA Insurance, a Life and Health Insurance Agent in Allen, Texas, for being the first person to submit her Top 3 Online Marketing Questions.

Here are the answers to your questions, Rebecca.

How do you make your business successful online?

As with most questions this broad, the answer is really “it depends”.  It depends on what type of business you are in and what your objectives are.

However, there are several things any small business can do to improve their online presence and help connect with their target market.

  1. Establish a web presence.  You can do this several ways, but the most important way, in my opinion, is to have a web site that you control.  With our own website you have full control over the content of the site, how it is marketed, how well it is optimized, etc.
  2. Get your business listed in relevant online directories.  There are a multitude of online directories, both free and paid, that you can list your business with.  Some of them, such as MerchantCircle, are a very good alternative if you absolutely can’t afford to build your own web site as I mentioned in #1.  We offer Local Search Engine Business Profiles that are very well optimized for local search and provide a good snapshot of your business, not to mention they are very inexpensive.
  3. Get involved in Social Media and Social Networking even if you don’t have the first clue about how to proceed.  Get yourself listed with sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and slowly learn more about each one and how you can use it to connect with your target market and grow your business.

What is your favorite part of online marketing?

This seems to be a more personal question and my answer is optimizing small business websites.  I love seeing a company go from generating very few, or in some cases absolutely no leads from their website, to generating a consistent flow of quality leads because of the work we do.

Search engine rankings are not the be all, end all anymore.  With the introduction of Universal Search and Personalized Search from Google, evey single person could get different search results when looking up the same keyword phrase.  Therefore, the only true measure of how effective your optimization is, is whether or not your business improves as a result.

If you had to start marketing online again, what would you do differently?

I’ve done a few projects in the past where I just leaped out, spent a bunch of money on image stuff like logos, letterhead, business cards, etc. only to find later that the market either wasn’t there, or wasn’t willing to pay for the services we offered.

If I had it to do again I would do more market research before spending a bunch of money developing a web site and other materials.  I would start with some of the free tools available online and find out if there was a need for my idea and how big of a potential market there was for our product or service.

Then I would do everything I could to keep expenses to a bare minimum and not make any long-term obligations until the business started picking up steam.

I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts.

To your success!

Ken Partain

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What Are Your Top 3 Online Marketing Questions?

Here’s your chance to ask your top three online marketing questions and get practical answers that you can put to work immediately.

Your questions can be about anything related to search engine marketing, search engine optimization, social media marketing, social networking, local search, etc.

I’ll be posting the answers here on my site. When I answer your questions, I’ll give you credit for the questions along with a link back to your web site (if you would like).

Please complete the form below and check back soon for your answers.

Thanks for your participation.

To your success!
Ken Partain

Is Pay-Per-Click Losing It’s Charm?

I read an article on TechCrunch recently that referenced another article on comScore about the decline in search ads, which are essentially pay-per-click ads.

The comScore article presents the fact that search queries have increased 68% over the past two years, but search ad clicks have only gone up 18% in the same period.

The comScore article goes on to suggest that one reason is:

“that the search engines have been working hard to improve the searcher experience and reduce the importance of less relevant advertisers…To help confirm this hypothesis we looked into the rate at which searchers clicked on paid ads and found that the rate hasn’t changed”

and two:

“An analysis of comScore data shows that search queries are actually getting longer and that as searchers become more experienced they are using more words per search query. And this apparently reduces the likelihood that an advertiser has bid to have his/her ad included in the results page from these longer queries”

The TechCrunch article suggests that one of the biggest reasons for the decline is there are simply fewer big players that spend a lot of money on paid placement.  However, the only companies mentioned are the big retailers like Sharper Image and Wickes Furniture and Macy’s.  This is just in the retail sector.  What about all the service businesses and B2B companies still advertising?

I agree that there has been a big decline in the number of advertisers but I think both of these articles are missing something.

First, I disagree with comScore that the rate at which searchers click on paid ads hasn’t changed.  In the MarketingSherpa 2009 Search Marketing Benchmark Guide, there is a chart that shows that only 3.1% to 6.8% of clicks take place in the paid placement area of the search engine results page (SERPS).  That is a huge decline from a similar report I read in early 2007 that put the number of clicks in the paid placement area between 14 and 17%.  I can’t put my finger on the report at the moment but when I do I will update this post.

I agree that longer search string queries have reduced the number of paid ads being shown, but that is really secondary to the reason people aren’t clicking on those ads.  Its because longer search queries bring back more relevant results and the searcher doesn’t have to rely on ads to find what he wants.

I also believe that more people realize that the listings on the right and at the top of the SERPS are ads and just don’t click on them as often.  Searchers are getting smarter and they realize there’s a very good chance they are going to find what they want in the natural search results.

I’d love to hear your comments.

Platinum Marketing Group

I have recently launched a new program where I will be working closely with 10 companies who have a strong desire to grow their online presence and improve their online marketing efforts.  This program is not for the meek or those just playing around with online marketing.

There are three levels to this program, Bronze, Silver and Gold.  The primary difference between them is the level of optimization your web site will require and the number of articles that need to be written to bring your site to the top of the natural “organic” search results.

Each plan includes optimizing your web site and writing two to four articles about your company and/or industry, one of which is a press release submitted through PR Web.  It includes a targeted link building campaign and directory submissions to both paid and free directories.  The program also includes unlimited email support and 2-3 hours of one-on-one phone consulting per month to discuss successes and strategies going forward.

If you are serious about taking your company to the next level online give me a call today to discuss this further.  My number is 1-877-334-8022, extension 704.

To your success,

Ken Partain