Internet marketing can be arduous. Small business sites do not have the capital necessary to partake in mainstream advertising. However, there are ways to effectively launch a new site without spending millions of dollars. We will review each of the marketing options available to you so that you can create a simple, inexpensive plan that works for you.
Commercials and print advertising are expensive. This is undoubtedly the best way to market your online business, but the costs are prohibitive. A full page ad in a prominent magazine or other publication can run as high as $50,000 per ad. TV commercials can run just as high; if the commercial runs during a popular television show or sporting event, the amount you will have to pay can well exceed the costs of print advertising.
So, if you do not have enough money in the coffers for traditional advertising, you need to resort to online marketing. This is not a bad thing. Offline advertising (i.e. radio, TV, print ads) is sometimes not effective. Marketing on the internet is cheaper, and if done correctly, can give you much more bang for your buck.
The first thing you need to understand is that your search engine ranking will not improve overnight. Be wary of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultants. They will charge you an arm and a leg for their services, sometimes as much as $2,000 per month or more. They often make dubious claims that they can get you ranked on the first page of the search engines within a few months, and if not, they will kindly refund your money.
However, there is a catch. Once you pay the initial deposit and the SEO company begins working on your website, they will often optimize your website in such a manner so that you will be able to quickly rise to the top of the rankings for a keyword that is either not significant or will not attract any real traffic to your website.
For example, if your website provides auto insurance quotes, any SEO consultant knows that it will be impossible to expediently get your website ranked on the first page of Google for a highly competitive phrase such as AUTO INSURANCE QUOTES. So, instead, they will pick a variation of that phrase, such as AUTO INSURANCE QUOTES FAST, for which there is no competition, and you will quickly rise to the top. The only problem is no one will ever actually use that precise phrase when searching for auto insurance quotes, so even though the SEO company delivered on its promise to improve your ranking, you will still not get any visitors to your website because you will be ranked high for a keyword that no one will ever use when searching for auto insurance quotes.
More important than SEO is link popularity. Simply put, the link popularity for a given website is defined as the number of websites that currently link to that site. Some websites have thousands or even millions of sites linking to them, while others might have only 100 or less. The search engines use this as the most important criteria in their search algorithms for determining where a site should be ranked. The more high quality inbound links a site has, the higher its ranking.
The sheer number of links to a site is not the only factor used to determine link popularity. The search engines also examine the relevance and significance of the links. For example, if a website that sells wheelchairs has 2,000 inbound links, but most of the links are coming from insignificant sites that have nothing to do with wheelchairs, then the search engines might assess a low score for the link popularity of that particular site.
It is possible for a website with a relatively small number of quality, relevant links to be ranked higher than a site with a bunch of nonsensical links. If I have a website that provides mortgage quotes, and I have 800 inbound links, and most of the sites linking to me are quality websites that are related to mortgages or personal finance, then I might receive a much higher search engine ranking than another mortgage site that has 3,000 links that are mostly from link farms or Free For All (FFA) pages.
If you try to acquire inbound links to your website by submitting your site to link farms or FFA pages, not only will it hurt your search engine ranking, but you might get banned from the search listings altogether. Links farms are sites where you can instantly exchange links with all the sites listed in that directory. FFA pages are pointless link directories. The search engines usually discount any links to your site originating from these FFA pages or link farms.
The way to improve your link popularity is simply by advertising your website. If your site provides a meaningful service or sells popular products, people will link to you after you start advertising and your site becomes more popular. You should also submit articles or press releases to article submission directories. You are allowed to include a link to your website at the bottom of the article. So, as your articles are put into circulation, you will receive a lot of links.
You might want to join a link exchange so that you can trade links with other sites, but the links you will receive are usually worthless. Instead, you should focus on advertising and submitting articles to get your site known so that you can get those high quality links you need to climb to the top of the search engines.
If you are not patient enough to wait for your search engine ranking to improve, you can attract visitors to your web site instantly by using pay-per-click advertising (PPC). With PPC, you pay a certain cost per click to have an ad for your web page run at or near the top of the search engine listings for certain keywords. This can be extremely costly and ineffective. It is not uncommon for webmasters to blow thousands of dollars on PPC advertising and make only a few sales.
The best way to promote your site, if you are actually selling something, is through an affiliate program. You need to provide an affiliate code to other online merchants so that they will place your banner on their site; every time you make a sale that resulted from an affiliate referral, the affiliate gets a commission. Some internet companies have thousands of affiliates, and get all the business they would ever need or want this way; and it costs you nothing. To recruit affiliates, you should submit your affiliate program to as many directories as possible (there are directories where you can list your affiliate program for free). The best way to find affiliates is by listing your program on forums or message boards visited by webmasters who are looking to generate additional revenue for their online business. You will have to consult with an experienced programmer who can set up the program so that the affiliate codes can be tracked properly.
If you are persistent and use all of these methods, you are likely to succeed with internet marketing. You will have to perform each of the tasks outlined in this article on a daily basis for several years to get where you want to be. Just stick with it and your efforts will be rewarded in the long run.
Jim Pretin is the owner of http://www.forms4free.com, a service that helps programmers make free HTML forms.