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Recent studies indicate that 62% of Western Canadian small businesses are
marketing their products and services online through Internet tools, such as
websites, search engine optimization, banner advertising, and email marketing.
Internet marketing can be a time and cost-saving supplement to your overall
Imagine being able to tap into the global marketplace from the convenience
of your home office. Imagine reaching a much wider audience, quickly measuring
the results of your marketing efforts, and having the ability to readily and
cost-effectively adapt to changes in the marketplace, all with the click of
a mouse. The Internet now makes this possible. And, as more small businesses
go online, the Internet’s influence on marketing grows significantly
each year. In 2005, Internet sales revenues are likely to surpass USD $133
This Info-Guide is designed for beginners. It will explain Internet marketing
basics and introduce you to popular Internet marketing techniques. It will
offer suggestions for creating a successful Internet marketing strategy and
outline techniques that you can use to measure your success online. Finally,
it will include additional Internet marketing resources.
What is Internet Marketing?
Internet marketing is the component of marketing that deals with the planning,
pricing, promotion, and distribution of your products and services online.
Good Internet marketing strategies clearly communicate a firm’s unique
selling proposition, or the unique collection of benefits that creates value
for its customers.
Everything you do to promote your business online is Internet marketing. For
example, Internet marketing strategies include (but are not limited to) website
design and content, search engine optimization, directory submissions, reciprocal
linking strategies, online advertising, and email marketing.
The Benefits of Internet Marketing
Here are some examples of the time and cost-saving benefits of using the Internet
to market your products or services:
- The Internet is the widest channel of communication available to small
businesses. It can help level the playing field for small businesses
on a limited budget that seek to compete in large markets. No other
communications medium enables you to operate a business from your home, while
giving a small business the appearance of a larger, more established operation.
- Marketing your product or service online offers the opportunity for increased
communication with your target market through techniques such
as interactive websites, email newsletters, online surveys and forms, blogs,
and discussion groups. The Internet allows you to collect immediate feedback
from your client base with little out-of-pocket expense.
- Print marketing materials and advertising strategies can be expensive to
produce and traditionally have a short shelf life. Internet marketing
techniques such as websites, banner ads and email newsletters, can
be produced at a reasonable cost, can contain more timely information than
print brochures, and can be immediately and cost-effectively updated
as your business changes.
Finding success online is no different from finding it offline. Choosing the
right product or service and designing an appropriate online and offline marketing
mix are key to successful Internet marketing.
Three Steps to Success
Successful marketing on the Internet is not just about advertising your website
in Google or buying banner ads on other websites. Without a quality product
or service and a well developed website, a banner ad, for example, would do
you little good.
To succeed online, you must develop a comprehensive plan that includes the
- A solid business model and great products or services
- An effectively designed website with sales as an objective
- An online marketing strategy that suits your audience and fits your budget
|Beware of get rich quick schemes!
The Internet is not the “pot of gold at the end of the
rainbow.” It takes time, dedication and skills to be successful online.
Without a solid business model, the skill set to effectively market and
sell your product or service online, and a carefully planned marketing
strategy, you will have little chance of succeeding online.
Aspects of Internet Marketing
No matter what your business, Internet marketing should form part of your
marketing mix – how large a part will depend on your particular needs
and budget. The tools you use to develop your online presence and drive traffic
to your website will also depend on your particular business and target market
Internet marketing is a fast-changing industry that readily adapts to improvements
in technology. Therefore, there are always new marketing tools available to
small businesses (too many to list here). Below, we’ll briefly explain
the most common techniques used by beginners. Once you’ve learned the
basics, we suggest that you consult a professional to assess your business
needs and take your strategy to the next level.
Website Development & Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Designing and building a website is only one aspect of bringing your business
online. With billions of websites on the Internet, it’s just as important
that you ensure people can find your website. And, since most website traffic
still comes from search engines and directories – 98% of Internet users
claim they use search engines regularly – you may want to focus your
initial web marketing efforts on search engine optimization.
Search engines such as Google and Yahoo index billions of web pages and rank
them according to complex algorithms that assess a page’s accessibility,
its relevance based on specific search terms or keywords, and importance indicated
by the number of sites that link to it.
Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the work that is done to a website
to ensure it gets noticed and ranked highly by search engines. Ideally, you
want to strive for a top ten ranking, because studies have shown that most
search engine users don’t scroll past the first page of results.
Keep in mind, SEO is not an exact science, and as such, SEO specialists often
use slightly different methods. That said, generally, SEO includes:
- Building a website using “search engine friendly” coding techniques
that minimize the use of Flash and frames
- Researching appropriate search terms – called “keywords” or “keyword
phrases” – that fit the target market
- Incorporating keyword-rich content into a website’s domain name,
meta tags, title tags, alt tags, headings and overall content, and ensuring
that content is updated regularly.
- Submitting the website address to search engines
- Developing a reciprocal linking strategy with other websites to grow quality
inbound links to the site
Submitting your Site to Search Engines and Directories
The question is often asked: Do I have to submit my site to engines/directories
for the search engines to find me? The answer is, yes and no. Some engines
will find and list your site on their own, some require you to register, and
others offer a combination of both. Further, some registration procedures are
free and some require that you pay to be listed.
In short, there are two kinds of search engines out there.
- Crawler-based search engines, like Google, are those that
use automated, computer generated indexing systems. These engines use software
to “crawl” your website, index relevant content and keywords,
and follow links. The software will look for patterns or repetition in your
content in order to determine the website’s purpose. These engines
do not require you to do anything other than upload your “optimized” website
to the Internet and wait for them to find it. Since it may take a few months
for the engines to crawl your site naturally, however, they also offer you
the opportunity to submit your URL (website address) in the hope of being
ranked more quickly. Failing that, you can always purchase paid placement
in some engines such as Google and Overture.
- Human-powered directories, like Yahoo’s Directory,
are those that use humans to index website listings. These engines are actually
called directories and require you to submit your URL and wait for the directory
editors to assess and index your site based on perceived relevancy. Sometimes
this procedure is free, and sometimes you have to pay a fee for the privilege
of being reviewed.
Here is a list of the most popular search engines and directories you’ll
want to consider:
Growing Inbound Links
It should be emphasized that the more quality inbound links your website has,
the more likely it is to be deemed “important” by the search engines.
Therefore, a good SEO package includes the development of a quality linking
strategy. This is a technique that connects your website to other relevant
websites, through the placement of text-based links.
To begin, consider linking with complementary businesses and industry associations.
This is as easy as sending out a personalized email requesting a link on another
website. Keep in mind, particularly for those just starting out, linking strategies
are usually reciprocal. So, be prepared to offer a link on your own site in
exchange for the link you hope to receive.
To learn more about SEO, linking strategies and submitting your site to search
engines, visit www.searchenginewatch.com.
Online Advertising Models
In addition to optimizing your website and increasing your site traffic through
search engines, consider advertising on third-party websites and in search
engines using a combination of banner advertisements and text links.
- Graphical banner advertisements, pop-ups and text based ads are
online ads that are placed on third-party websites that link back to your
website. The ads are designed to encourage users to click through to your
site to learn more and, ultimately, to buy. These ads can be set up for a
fee – pay-per-click, pay-per-lead, pay-per-sale – or they can
be part of a reciprocal ad exchange with an online “partner,” where
you place your partner’s ad on your website in exchange for your partner
doing the same.
- Paid advertising in search engines. Above, we mentioned
briefly that some search engines offer marketers the opportunity to buy guaranteed
search engine listings through the purchase of keywords. Google, for example,
has a paid solution called Adwords – think of it as pay-per-click advertising
in its simplest form. Google allows advertisers to bid for “sponsored
links” – paid listings across the top and down the right side
of Google's search results – on a per-bid basis. As an advertiser,
you decide what keywords you want to “bid” on, how much you are
willing to pay per click back to your website, and how much you are willing
to pay in total per day – USD $1? $10? More? Less? It’s completely
up to you.
Paid search engine listings are a quick, cost-effective way to get your site
into search engines, without the wait associated with “natural” ranking.
Publishing on Third-Party Websites
Another, often overlooked, but cost-saving method of marketing your business
online is by publishing editorials in third-party e-zines, e-newsletters and
on information-based websites. Just as editorials in offline media can help
position you as an expert in your field and drive readers to your website,
providing articles written (or ghost-written) by you to targeted online media
can also drive traffic to your website, often with no out-of-pocket expense.
Just remember to include a short biography that outlines what you do and a
link to your website at the bottom of each article you publish.
Permission Marketing Using Email
Permission-based email marketing can be a low-cost and very effective component
of your web marketing strategy. It can help to build a relationship between
your business and target market, and can drive traffic back to your website.
Email marketing can consist of direct email blasts and sales letters, personalized
auto-responders, and/or email newsletters.
If you have the budget and don’t have the time, you can certainly hire
a freelancer or a firm to conceptualize, develop and publish your email messages
for you. Although, for many small businesses, the costs associated with fully
managed solutions are simply too high. The advantage to email marketing is
that you can choose a do-it-yourself option, where you do all of the work,
or part of it yourself, saving hundreds, even thousands of dollars.
Self-Publishing Using Low-Cost Internet Tools
There are a number of very easy to use self-publishing solutions available
to small businesses. The costs of these tools are low – from USD $20
per month and up – and they are usually offered at a monthly or per-1000
The solutions are hosted entirely online, allowing you access from any computer
connected to the Internet. Further, they are designed for small business owners
with little technical knowledge. At a minimum, they offer a database, where
you can house and manage your email addresses, a selection of HTML templates
for your email messages, the ability to import your own templates, plain-text
options, testing functions, and added extras such as customizable auto-responders
and forward-to-a-friend and unsubscribe features.
You may even find an email publishing tool designed specifically for your
industry. For example, the real estate industry has a number of do-it-yourself
and fully managed email newsletter solutions available, some of which even
include “canned” articles that users can choose to include in their
Here are some popular self-publishing solutions to consider:
The Problem with Spam
It must also be noted that more and more email marketers are struggling with
spam filters, which are designed to protect email users from unscrupulous and
unsolicited advertising. The problem arises when spam filters do such a good
job that they succeed in filtering out legitimate marketing messages that email
recipients have requested to receive.
Unfortunately, as spam proliferates, as it undoubtedly will, the filters will
only become better, causing email marketers to scramble to devise new ways
to get their messages out to the public.
Ensuring High Delivery Rates
The easiest way to ensure that your emails will be delivered is to get permission
from your client base to market to them through email. Getting permission is
critical, particularly since new privacy legislation was introduced in 2004,
which regulates how businesses collect, store and use their customers’ personal
information. This includes email addresses.
Getting permission may mean asking in advance if you can send emails for a
specific purpose, and requesting that your email address be flagged as legitimate
in the recipient’s list to ensure your messages bypass any filters s/he
may have installed.
Currently, it also seems that HTML emails are becoming caught in spam filters
more readily than plain-text emails. This may mean that a simple, plain-text
email containing a link to an online message is the most effective method for
getting your message out. Alternatively, you can test your email messages for
deliverability using software such as SpamCheck (http://spamcheck.sitesell.com)
which checks your emails’ subject lines and body copy for filter triggers.
To learn more about email marketing visit www.emailsherpa.com.
A blog or weblog is simply a web page that scrolls chronologically like a
journal and contains links to other websites of interest. Blogs, as creative
online journals, have been used by technical specialists for a number of years,
but business blogs, or
b-blogs are just now making inroads into the mainstream. As an alternative,
low-cost (or even free) means of electronic communication, blogs can make up
a significant part of your overall marketing strategy. Although b-blogs carry
an inherent marketing focus not found in creative weblogs, their casual structure
provides the opportunity to connect with readers on a more immediate and personal
level than traditional websites and newsletters allow.
Since blogs are generally “do-it-yourself” solutions, they can
simplify and speed up the online publishing process, allowing users to disseminate
information in the most timely manner available.
Here is a list of websites where you can learn more about blogging:
Affiliate programs, also known as referral programs or partnership
programs, involve the use of affiliates to help market a website's
products and services in return for a payment for each sale, lead, action,
or visitor generated. Amazon.com has created one of the most sophisticated
and successful affiliate programs on the Internet – a program that
has no doubt contributed to their high level of brand recognition online,
and the significant traffic and resulting revenue their site generates.
The costs to implement Internet marketing strategies can vary widely in the
industry. They depend on the particular technique you choose, and the professional
you choose to implement it. With a little reading, and a basic understanding
of websites and the Internet, you may be able to implement some of these techniques
on your own. Or, you may find a freelance marketer or web designer/developer
who can implement some of the techniques mentioned above for $25 to $75 per
hour, with approximately ten hours required to start.
Alternatively, you may find Internet marketing firms that charge “project
rates” rates from $2,500 to $25,000. Therefore, it’s very important
to shop around. Also, keep in mind that most Internet marketing techniques
require ongoing maintenance and these costs should be addressed in your marketing
The Importance of Offline Marketing to Drive Traffic Online
Never underestimate the value of using low-cost, offline marketing techniques
to encourage people to visit your website. Ensure your website address is clearly
listed on all of your marketing materials – that is, your business card,
brochure, published articles, print advertisements, sandwich boards, your vehicle
(if you use it for business), and so on. And, don’t be afraid to get
creative with your offline marketing strategies. Imaginative promotional techniques
can be low-cost, yet attention getting ways to drive traffic to your website.
Here are some examples of low-cost offline marketing techniques
that can drive traffic to a website:
- A tree topping company uses a sandwich board on site which says:
Arborists working above. Ever wonder how we top the trees without killing
them… or you? Our methods are safe and environmentally friendly.
Visit our website to learn more.
- A retail beachwear company offers a free pair of brightly colored
flip-flops with every purchase over $100 during the month of December.
The sole of the flip-flops are printed with the company’s name
and website address.
- A baking company includes a coupon in each $30 tin of cookies for
10% off a future purchase and directs readers to their new online menu.
Getting Started: Developing a Plan
Marketing on the Internet doesn’t consist of cookie-cutter strategies
that work for everyone. For that reason, planning is an essential step in being
successful online. Careful planning and monitoring will enable you to develop
a strategy that fits your needs and budget, maps your progress, measures your
return on investment (ROI), mitigates risk, and adapts as required.
When developing your plan, you’ll want to consider the following important
- Your buyers. Who are they? What activities do they do
online? Identifying your audience and their needs enables you to determine
how best you can reach them online, thereby getting the most for your marketing
- Your budget. How much should you spend and, more importantly,
how much do you have to spend? The amount you budget towards Internet marketing
will depend on how integral the Internet is to your business success. Prioritize
your needs based on your budget, projecting into the future and growing your
plan as your revenues grow.
- Your ability to support and maintain your plan. Consider
only implementing strategies you can handle. It is possible to do more damage
than good to your business if you implement techniques for which you do not
have the business processes or budget in place to support.
The Importance of Measurement
Any professional marketer will tell you that it’s not worth going to
the effort of implementing an Internet marketing strategy (which is going to
cost you time and money), without also implementing a system to track your
progress and determine what is working for your particular business. By tracking
each strategy you implement, you will be able to measure your return on investment
(ROI) and determine whether or not the strategy is effective.
What is ROI? Consider the following example: Let’s say you invest $500
in an online advertising campaign that generates $1,500 in revenues. Your profit
(sales minus expenses), or ROI, is $1000 or 200%.
Here’s an easy way to track targeted campaigns. First, purchase a good
statistics package to measure your website traffic. The statistics generated
should tell you where your website visitors are coming from, where they are
going, how long they are staying, and from which part of your site they are
leaving. Then, use dedicated promotional codes for different campaigns that
you test so that you can follow which campaigns are drawing customers to your
You may want to measure your progress weekly, monthly and yearly to determine
whether you are achieving your objectives and meeting the targets you have
set for your business.
Here are some popular website analytics and statistic packages you may want
to consider using:
|Internet Marketing Plan Checklist
Your completed Internet marketing strategy should address:
- What Internet marketing techniques you will use
- How you will implement each technique
- What kinds of resources you will require
- How long you anticipate testing each technique
- What you hope to achieve
- How you will mitigate problems that may arise
- How you will evaluate your progress and measure success
For more information on measuring your marketing strategies, visit www.marketingsherpa.com.
Now that you’ve learned the basics of Internet marketing, here are some
sources that will provide you with more details on specific online marketing
techniques and on Internet marketing plan development.
For a glossary of commonly used Internet marketing terms try: