Part 9 of 9 Conclusion

This has been a multi-week look at marketing your shop or site on the internet.  I have been trying to drive traffic to my site(s) for over 10 years and have used all of these methods at one time or another with varying degrees of success.

What I can say about many of these methods is that at one point or another, I believe they worked.  Some worked for a while and as internet tastes and practices changed, no longer brought in the traffic they once did.  Others have always worked.  Some are hit or miss.  In other words, they may work when you use them with a particular site (such as paying a site for advertising space), then not work on others.

The smart marketing campaign includes elements of all of the above.  I am a firm believer in not putting all of your eggs in one basket.  This is certainly true here.  No matter what avenues you choose to market your site, you can count on one thing, you will have to invest both time and money.

Part 8 of 9 : Search Engine Pay Per Click Services

Search Engine Optimization often works for a keyword or group of keywords that are closely related.  There may be, however, a whole category of words and phrases that your site doesn’t appear under when searched.  Remember that it is tough to be all things to all people.  You will inevitably have to decide on the most important words and phrases for SEO purposes and abandon many in favor of creating a page that displays high on certain search words.  That’s where pay per click services offered by most search engines come in.

Site owners can setup an account that allows you to specify certain keywords to display a link to your site when searched.  If a person clicks on your link and goes to your page, you agree to pay the specified amount.  Clearly this can add up fast.  Often clicks cost between $0.10 and $1.00 depending on the popularity.  You are, however, allowed to specify a budget in most cases.  Monthly charges can be as little as $30 on major search engines like Google.

In addition to displaying your ad when someone searches, sites like Google also sponsor ads right on privately operated web sites.  You can display an ad for your site on a web site that has related content.  When someone clicks on your advertisement, a portion of the click cost goes to Google.  A portion also goes to the site where the ad was shown.

Google and other search sites have (like Facebook) done a good job of displaying relevant advertising to perspective clients.  They also provide methods by which to track the clicks that actually purchase or take some action on your site.  So, you can more accurately evaluate what methods and sites are providing useful leads for you and adjust your advertising campaign accordingly.

Part 7 of 9 : Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This is the granddaddy of them all.  This is the one internet marketing avenue everyone wishes and strives to achieve.  For those of you who don’t know what SEO is, basically, it is optimizing your web page so that when people search various search engines like Google and Yahoo, they get your site.

First thing you needs to understand is how a search engine finds your page and how it evaluates it.  There is nowhere near enough manpower for a human to come to every site Google lists and take a look to figure out what it is about.  So, a computer has to perform that task (the program is called a web crawler).

Now, contrary to popular belief, computers are stupid.  They are only as smart as the programming (or instructions) given to them.  So, they cannot take a look at your page and infer what it is about from the graphics or implications on the site.  Really the only way a computer program has to determine what is on your page is to collect links and text, figure out what appears most frequent and then display it when those words are entered in a search.

So, you can see that it is very important to have the correct words appearing on your web page in order to steer people to it when those words are typed into a search engine.  The truth is, all a search engine does is display pages that have words and phrases similar to the one you typed in.

Now, there are other criteria that a search site uses to determine which pages should be displayed first.  This includes the number of hits on your page (page rank or PR to Google), how many other sites are linked to your site and some other things.

The long and the short of it is that if you have an optimized page, that displays to people when they type in related keywords, you will start getting traffic to your site without working too hard (after the initial work to get it there) and without much cost (actually any cost).  That’s why this is the holy grail of internet marketing and why companies pay handsome sums to SEO professionals to get them to the top of search engine listings.

Part 4 of 9 : Banner Exchange Networks

Banner exchange networks are networks of sites that display member site banners in exchange for having their banner displayed on other member sites.  These ‘networks’ are basically sites that say, ‘I will show yours if you show mine’.

Although these networks are typically free, they usually have ratios of 2:1 or worse.  That means that you have to show two banners on your site for every one of yours shown on another site.  That really isn’t all that big of a problem as long as you have traffic coming to your site.  If you don’t have any significant visits to your site, you aren’t going to save up enough credit to get your ads displayed on other sites.

It is difficult to track actions through these networks.  Often times site owners would have a difficult time ascertaining if they are getting any sales or action through banner exchange networks.  Although the network stats will tell you how many ‘clicks’ there were on your banner and how many times it was displayed on the network, many of these exchange networks won’t specifically allow you to target a group of sites that perform well for you.  They also won’t tell you which sites those are.  A lot of that is probably due to the fact that they are free.  You get what you pay for.

All in all banner exchange networks are a way to toss some advertising for your site out on the internet, but, don’t expect too much activity in return.  Plus, your site will then need to be cluttered up with advertisements.  Those advertisements often look and feel cheap.

Part 3 of 9 : Advertising on a Specific Web Site

Most (if not all) web sites are more than happy to take your money in exchange for placing an advertisement on their page.  There is no hard and fast rule about how much a site should charge for advertising.  It is completely up to the site.  It is your responsibility to determine if the price you are paying is economical.

Part of what would determine ‘economical’ is if you are reaching your target audience.  If you are paying to reach a group of people that are not in your target audience, you may be wasting valuable advertising dollars.  Even if your target audience is a subset of the group you are reaching, you are still likely paying for exposures that are not helping you sell products or drive people to your site.

Sites with highly configurable controls on who your ads are exposed to and who can identify those people are in high demand for advertisers.  Keep in mind that for the most part a person can be anonymous online if they so choose.  Someone who doesn’t want people to know they are a male could take on a persona of a female.  This doesn’t just apply to chat room stalkers.  Many people are very concerned about their internet anonymity.

One site that has a pretty good idea of the demographics of their users is Facebook.  Facebook is actually a very good place to advertise.  Since the point of the site is to connect people with others that they know, much of the information is typically truthful.  As an advertiser you can therefore accurately target a subsection of the population.  In fact, since Facebook gathers information on people’s ‘likes’ you should even be able to target people who ‘like’ things similar to your site.  Of course the large population size on Facebook combined with the accurate and specific targeting methods is certain to cost money.  There are many sites that don’t have that kind of control or volume that may be much less expensive.

Advertising on specific web sites is something that will take some trial and error.  You will have to test out a site for a week or a month to see what kind of increased volume you get and how that translates into sales.

Part 2 of 9 : Target Audience

The most important thing when spending time or money on advertising your site is that you know who you want to advertise to.  Are you looking to reach women aged 18-35?  Are you trying to market to kids, aged 8-14?  Do you want to show ads to people who live in Atlanta, GA, own a home and make more than $100,000 per year?  The more specific you can be about your target audience, the more bang you can get for your advertising dollar (or your time).

So, the question is, how do you know who you want to reach?  There is no simple answer.  Much of the time you can get an idea by who has purchased things in the past, who stops by your booth at a craft fair or who you feel would benefit most from your product, page or service.  In addition, you can do research or even take survey’s.

Let’s say you are running a web site that evaluates restaurants in your area, posts a menu, reviews and offers a phone number or makes online reservations.  You are going to want to reach people that eat out.  That would likely mean fairly affluent individuals.  You also wouldn’t want to waste time with children as they don’t typically make buying decisions on what restaurant you are going to go to.  In doing some research, you find that 72% of the dining decisions are made by the female of the family.  So, now you can reduce the size of your target audience further.

Once you have determined what segment of a population you wish to reach, you can start to shop for places to advertise online.

Internet Advertising Part 1 of 9 : Introduction

Today begins a nine part blogricle (my own creation for a multi-part article posted on a blog) focusing on Internet Advertising.  After writing my article on Etsy vs. Artfire, I realized that there was a very large part of running a successful web site that I had really not touched on.  That is Internet Advertising.

When I say internet advertising, I am actually not talking about getting your products or site to pop up in a search on Etsy or a search on Artfire.  I am talking about getting your shop or site to popup when someone types ‘gold ring’ into Google.  I am also talking about showing a banner on someone’s site.  Basically, when I think of ‘internet advertising’ I think about driving someone to your shop or site who doesn’t know you exist and is just browsing the internet or doing a search for something they are looking for.

First, let me qualify my experience.  I opened a web site in 2001.  The site is a subscription site (basically people who like it and want to stay must pay a subscription fee to belong).  It is still open today.  In addition, I have a BBA in marketing, granted that was long before this ‘internet’ thing was around, however, many of the underlying concepts apply.  In 2010 I decided to start Berkshire Bowls.  This was a departure of sorts for me because I was selling a product rather than a service as I was with my first venture.

I have been marketing my site(s) for 10+ years with the least amount of expenditure.  Over that time I have found a number of outlets that have provided various levels of success.

I have always been willing to try something out that doesn’t sound like a total scam and just a way to get my contact information or other vital data.  So, there are some unique avenues to get the word out here.  I have found that many of these solutions boil down to one thing, the balance of time vs. money.  If you are willing to spend a lot of money to advertise your site, you will probably have some success.  If you have a lot of time and don’t get frustrated, you can also achieve success.