Marketing Tools That Will Grow Your Online Business
Online businesses certainly have their advantages: they offer the chance to be your own boss, work from home, choose your own hours, and develop something that is meaningful to you. However, it is not always easy to start a successful internet business. To do that, you need to be able to get people’s attention, and encourage them to give you a chance. Fortunately, there is growing number of inexpensive and even free online marketing tools that can help you do just that. Advertising used to be a time-consuming and costly business. The development of the internet has now made it possible to reach large numbers of people much more easily. Discovering how to make use of marketing tools effectively is the key to developing a successful online business. These tools can reach the right people, increase traffic for your company, and help you leverage your time well.
Building a Website
In order to build a successful online business, it’s important to choose a good domain name and spend some time creating an effective web design. The best domain names are usually short, and easily remembered. They express the main idea of your website as succinctly as possible, such as the particular type of product or service offered. The website attached to this domain name needs to be well-organized and attractive to customers.
If you want to encourage buyers, your website should be easy to navigate and appealing to they eye. Having a good website will demonstrate professionalism to customers, and help improve your online reputation. Sometimes it’s best to hire a web designer, although it’s also possible to develop something on your own. Here are some key points to keep in mind:
- Keep the design simple: Don’t get carried away with adding features and graphics to your website. Most successful online marketers have minimal website designs that highlight the key services and products provided by the business. Viewers of the website won’t stick around long if they find it untidy, and difficult to locate information.
- Cater to your market: It’s useful to know general details about your customers, so you can address their need directly. The website should reflect the main values of your clientele. If your target market is mainly composed of teenagers, the website should be geared towards a relaxed and informal style. On the other hand, business professionals will usually want to see something polished and professional.
If you’re interested in developing your own website, there are plenty of useful and inexpensive online tools to help you. For instance, WordPress (www.wordpress.org) gives you the ability to build your own site from scratch. Originally created as a platform for bloggers, this site now allows you to construct your own customized website without the need for any specialized knowledge.
Keywords & SEO Strategy
In order to get noticed in search engine results, it is important to provide the right keywords and use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques. Keywords are the terms that potential customers type into a search engine to locate the information or product they want. The ability to recognize important keywords, and get ranked high in search results is very important for any online business. To do this, you first need to discover what keywords your customers are searching when trying to find your product or service. Then you need to include these keywords extensively in the pages of your website to draw in business.
Professional marketers have the knowledge and tools required to pinpoint the right keywords, and develop a good SEO strategy. It requires a fair amount of research into what keywords customers are searching, and which ones translate best into sales. Part of the work is determining which customers are looking to buy, and which ones are just looking. Many internet businesses hire professional marketers to develop a strong SEO strategy. An SEO firm will create a long-term plan to connect important keywords to your website. An initial investment of this type will tend to result in more traffic and a more successful business.
If you’d rather develop an SEO strategy for your site on your own instead of hiring a professional, there are plenty of software packages and other tools available. Some free keyword analyzer tools are able to do a reasonable job at locating the best search terms for your business. They can give you an idea about where to start with your SEO strategy, and direct any further research. Here are some good keyword research tools that can get you started:
- Google Keywords (www.adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal): This tool tells you how many people are searching for particular keywords. It also displays details about how much advertisers will pay you to host Google Adsense ads on your website.
- Firefox SEO Toolbox (www.mozilla.com/firefox) – With the free Firefox browser, you can get an SEO plug-in that allows you to analyze keywords to find niche markets.
- The Keyword Academy (www.thekeywordacademy.com) – For a small monthly fee, you can subscribe to The Keyword Academy, which gives you even more tools to refine your search.
Blogs & RSS Feeds
Blogs are another great way to increase your visibility and inform people about your products and services. The ability to build a good rapport with your customers is essential for success, and blogs can help with this. Updating an online blog regularly can increase customer trust, and give you an opportunity to interact with your clientele. Internet blogs are easily set up, and usually free, so they are usually a good and inexpensive tool for internet marketing.
Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds offer a great opportunity to share your blog with interested people easily. Anyone subscribed to your feed will automatically get information about your latest update. These feeds can include everything from weblogs to podcasts. They can be in written, audio, or even video format, so the possibilities are endless. Depending on your business, one form may work better than another. For instance, a video might be able to demonstrate the value of your product faster and better than something in writing.
If you’re interested in starting a blog or RSS feed, there are many online resources available. WordPress (www.wordpress.com) offers business owners the chance to create free and functional blogs, with customizable content. Blogger (www.blogger.com) gives you the ability to set up a blog through your Google account. TypePad (www.typepad.com) is yet another option, with a reputation for having a good user-friendly interface. If you’re interested in creating a blog or RSS feed for your business, here are a few things to remember:
- Keep your content fresh: If you’re going to blog, make sure that your content meets a high standard. Customers won’t be interested in reading a blog that is pure advertising, but would rather see informative or entertaining pieces that highlight aspects related to your business.
- Stay in contact: Interact with your customers consistently, and give them a voice. Allow users to comment on your blog or feed, and respond to them when appropriate.
- Don’t depend on a blog alone: While blogs and RSS feeds have the potential to create interest in your business, it won’t necessarily translate into sales. However, they can certainly complement other marketing tools well.
Opt-in Email Lists
While blogs have the ability to pull in new viewers, email lists are a good way to stay in contact with current customers or supporters. Email marketing has been shown to be highly effective in many cases, as it could take several messages before a customer finally decides to buy a product or service. Your website should have a section that allows users to enter their contact details, and opt-in to an optional email list. Staying in contact with customers in this way has been shown to dramatically increase sales.
The ability to create automatic responses with email lists lends itself to business very well. It does not take a lot of effort to send out emails to you respondents, yet it is a highly effective way to stay in touch. You should place an opt-in page on your site to start building a responsive list. Collect both the name and email address of each user, so you can send out special offers or a regular newsletter. If you’re interested in building and maintaining an email list with professional software, Aweber (www.aweber.com) or MailChimp (www.mailchimp.com) could be useful. Some of the benefits of email marketing include:
- Increased sales: Regular high-quality emails will increase trust in potential customers, and encourage them to buy your product.
- Repeat sales: Often, if someone is willing to buy your product once, they will be willing to make another purchase. It is just a matter of staying in contact with them, and offering incentives.
- Customer satisfaction: Emails are a good and inexpensive way to collect information about what your customers want. A short survey or request for feedback is all it takes.
Having a large list of subscribers is an important asset for any online business. Some people may shy away from this effective marketing tool, as they associate it with abuse and spamming. However, it is very successful when it is done right. The key thing to remember is that you have to build trust in your customers. Therefore, make it easy for them to opt in and out of your email list, and never buy random email addresses. Likewise, never sell any email addresses that you collect.
Another great way to establish visibility for your business is to publish news stories or articles that are relevant to your work. These days, people are not interested in products unless they understand them, and have a good deal of background information. No matter what kind of business you are running, customers invariably want to deal with information first, not sales pitches. First, you have to capture interest with informative articles, then your can explain your product or service. The ability to provide customers with good information will increase the number of people that are willing to make a purchase.
One of the best ways to satisfy the customer’s need for background information is through the use of articles. Typically somewhere between 400 and 600 words, these articles have the ability to both provide useful information to the customer and introduce your business services. You can place these pieces on your own website, as well as various article directory sites online. Popular do-follow article directories are:
- EzineArticles (http://www.ezinearticles.com)
- GoArticles (http://www.goarticles.com)
- ArticleDashboard (http://www.articledashboard.com)
- Amazines (http://www.amazines.com)
- ArticleFactory (http://www.articlesfactory.com)
- ArticleClick (http://www.articleclick.com)
- ArticleLinksDirectory (http://articlelinksdirectory.com)
- ArticleBliss (http://www.articlebliss.com)
- Articles Just 4 You (http://www.articlesjust4you.com)
- ArticleRich (http://www.articlerich.com/)
Submitting relevant articles to these directories, and including a link back to your website, is an excellent way to direct relevant traffic to your business.
If you’re interested in utilizing articles to increase traffic for your online business, here are a few tips to get you started:
- Keep the articles short and sweet: You want to make the articles short enough that they hold the reader’s interest, while still providing the relevant information. Somewhere around 500 words is usually a good length.
- Maintain a high quality: If you want the articles to show your business in a good light, the articles should be spell-checked, and use good grammar.
- Link back to your site: Make sure that all of your articles reference your business, and provide a link back to your website.
- Get the right quantity: In order to use this method as a successful marketing tool, you will need to write and publish hundreds of distinct articles.
- Outsource article writing: Many marketers choose to hire writers to save time when building up a database of articles. However, this can prove to be expensive, especially for new businesses.
As mentioned before, customer trust is one of the key components of a successful business. The various online social networking media available today provides a good opportunity to build that trust. Websites like Facebook (www.facebook.com) and Twitter (www.twitter.com) give you the ability to share information quickly and stay contact with important people. Through these networks, information can move from person to person very quickly. A single good blog post or article could get passed all around the internet, and increase your exposure exponentially. Social media works two ways: it allows you to get your message out, and it also gives you a good idea of how respondents think and feel.
Social media is expanding and evolving all the time, so it is difficult to give a comprehensive list of all the ways that it can contribute to a business. But there is no doubt that using social networking sites can help your online business move forward and thrive. Here are some things to keep in mind when using this marketing tool:
- Make use of Facebook: This site is the largest social networking site available, and has plenty of features that are useful to business owners. You can list all the details of your business on a main page, and update as often as you like. There are also ways for customers to give feedback about your service.
- Use the right technique: Social networking websites are a great way to link you to potential customers, but you have to encourage them to listen to you first. That means that your posts and comments should have a conversational tone. Most people will instantly block someone that seems to be trying to sell them something.
- Get feedback: In order to create a good presence online, you have to know how you appear to other users, particularly your target market. Since you’re linked to so many other people, it is easy to get quick responses about how you can improve your image, content, services, etc.
- Hire the experts: If you’re stuck on how to build a successful following on a social networking site, a freelance marketer can often get you on the right track. If you want to make your content more visually appealing, think about hiring a graphic designer.
Another traditional way to increase the visibility of your business is through the use of online advertisements. These typically show up as links or banners on other websites, and encourage users to click through to learn more. This type of marketing has the benefit of being relatively inexpensive when you appreciate the audience that you are reaching. It is also possible to target the internet users that are most likely to buy your product or service. By advertising on relevant websites, it is possible to generate more traffic for your business.
One common form of online advertising is called “Pay Per Click.” With these ads, you determine how much you are willing to pay every time someone clicks on your link. Your ad is then included in pages that contain similar keywords, ensuring better relevance. For search engine advertisements, businesses typically bid on keywords, and the highest bidders get the uppermost positions on the page. There are plenty of paid search advertisement options. Google Adwords (www.adwords.google.com) is one of the most popular, as it is very user-friendly and quick to set up. They help you create a new ad compaign, choosing keywords and making bids.
When you’re selecting keywords to use in paid search advertising, it is usually a good idea to be quite specific. General keywords will get you a lot of clicks, but most of them will not convert into sales. However, if you target keywords that describe your specific niche services, you will get fewer clicks (making it less expensive), and a much higher sales conversion.
Refining Your Approach
Internet marketing is much like any other form of advertising. It is important to determine your target market and design campaigns and strategies to increase your visibility among that group. All of the aforementioned marketing tools can help this process. Here are a few other ways that you can refine your business approach:
- Capitalize on your strengths: In any industry, you will have competitors, so it is important to determine where your strengths lie and build on them so you can create a niche for yourself. Once you’ve determined your strengths, it’s then time to develop marketing strategies to highlight these areas.
- Offer a money-back guarantee: It’s usually wise to stress in your ads that your business offers a no-hassle money-back guarantee. This reduces the risk for the customer, and helps them feel more secure in their purchase.
- Make various payment options available: Improve the convenience of your services by allowing the use of as many payment options as possible, such as credit cards, cash, checks, money orders, and online payment methods.
- Maintain optimism and enthusiasm: When building your site, writing articles, and creating ads, always ensure that your message is positive and uplifting. If you are enthusiastic about your product or service, you can encourage enthusiasm in others. Many times, a purchase will be an emotional decision, so it is important that potential customers have good feelings about your business.
- Try creating a deadline: This method can boost sales significantly. By imposing a deadline for a particular deal or special offer, you encourage people to buy sooner than later, and eliminate procrastination.
Online business success requires both a good product and a good pitch. The other essential ingredient is customer trust. Since transactions are often relatively anonymous over the internet, customers want a good deal of information and reassurances that the quality is high. If you succeed in getting noticed and building up this trust, success is sure to follow.
Creating a thriving online business is not a simple task. It takes a good deal of knowledge and planning, but it available to anyone with the right tools and a motivated attitude. Over time, implementing these marketing tools will help you generate traffic for your site, increase customer confidence, and ultimately, increase sales. The materials are available; what you do with them is up to you.