Internet Marketing for Business Leaders
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Internet Marketing for Business Leaders

What is Internet Marketing?  Is it right for my business?

Your customers are using Google to make purchasing decisions.

If you knew that more than 90% of your prospective customers are looking somewhere for products and services, wouldn’t it be in your best interest to make sure that they could find you? That is precisely what internet marketing does, put your company in a position where your customers are going to find you, in the place where the vast majority are looking.

Decision Makers need to think about Internet Marketing

One of my biggest concerns since starting to work in the field of internet marketing, with Marketing Practicality, is that so much of the literature is geared to people who already have a working knowledge of how SEO and PPC work and is relatively useless for those entrepreneurs and business people who most need that information.

Businesspeople are pulled in multiple directions; who are my customers and how can I give them what they want? Are my products or services going to generate sales? How do I maintain and grow my revenue? How can I keep my strong employees and help the ones who need it? Am I maintaining the right facilities? Do I need to expand? Do I need to move? What is my competition doing? Here’s a great list from last year, from Forbes.com.

Understanding this, for the average executive or entrepreneur taking a deep dive into the world of internet marketing, Google updates and all, is often far more of an inconvenience than they are prepared to take on. But internet marketing has become absolutely imperative to the health and well being of the business. In the 2012 Digital Influence Survey, conducted by marketing and PR firm FleishmanHillard, it was reported that 89% of all consumers questioned had used the internet for purchasing decisions. Even bigger, comScore conducted a survey in December of 2013 that showed that 96% of computer owners have conducted a search for local business. 96%! That’s virtually everybody!  The same survey showed that between 50 – 75% of those searches resulted in a purchase. That might be very old news to some, confirmation of suspicion to others, and a revelation to the rest, but it does show the impact that the internet and search engines are having on the consumer marketplace.

Online Search Percentage for Local Business

Purchase Decision Percentage after Onlice Search

Data Source; SearchEngineLand.com

What exactly is Internet Marketing?

Internet marketing takes commitment, understanding and time. Over the course of the last six years, the concept of internet marketing has evolved considerably.   In the early days, all a company had to do was get their website listed on a click-farm, or place their URL on article sites, UCG (user generated content) sites, “do-follow” blogs or web pages offering links. While not considered “white hat”, these approaches worked – but in today’s world, these approaches are unnatural links and considered “black hat”. Now, based on 5 years of Google updates with cute names like Panda and Penguin (the black and white metaphor is not a coincidence), the search ranks are much more highly influenced by ease of access and navigation, as well as quality references, such as favorable reviews on sites like Yelp.com or being named and linked by relevant, authoritative websites naturally – because of your exceptional content. Keep in mind that Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which is a subset of Search Engine Marketing, (SEM), is only a part of the equation, although a truly significant part. Internet marketing also refers to Social Media Marketing, (SMM) and Content Marketing, (CM). We will touch briefly on CM and may cover SMM on a later post.

 

Search Engine Optimization, Content Marketing, and

Pay-Per-Click

How does SEO work?

OK, so, instead of getting into the nuts and bolts of the search engine algorithm, it’s probably best if we just address the questions that most business owners would be asking; “How does SEO work?” and “How will my company generate revenue from it?” How internet marketing works is basically two sides of a coin; Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, and Pay-Per-Click Advertising, or PPC. SEO, which is often referred to as organic internet marketing, is done by strategically creating content which is relevant to a company, product, or service on your website, blog, or other web presence. This can be enhanced significantly when others, like blogs or other sites, reference your name, product, or link in a positive way. From an SEO strategy standpoint, you would look to incorporate this content on your website, where it will be found by search engines.  Here is a great, simple overview from Search Engine Watch.

Also, but potentially just as important is location.   Search engines use the IP address from you query as a function of the search result. This means that if someone is in, say, Philadelphia, and they are looking for an attorney, the search engine will take geography into account and will provide generally geographically specific result, with some of the larger national or global firms who have paid to show up in those specific searches.

Content Marketing

As a business decision maker, you have also probably heard a lot about “content”, and how it can drive business. There are probably as many definitions of what content is, related to online marketing, as there marketing plans that utilize it.   Ultimately, though, we can define content as information provided to the public that is designed to educate and engage them about a product, service, or idea.   A page on your company website detailing the release of your newest product, or latest case, or how your firm is addressing the changes to tax code would all be examples of content, so would pictures of your new office, or flowchart illustrating an organizational process. Content marketing is utilizing these things to tell the story of your company in order to attract and engage customers, and it is nothing new. When you have successfully started conversations with your customers and, hopefully at this point, fans, you will start to see some improvement in you rankings and traffic as those customers and fans start to talk about you in positive ways and link other to your site. This is part of a process called link building. Now, that is not all there is to it, there is a considerable amount of metrics, monitoring and maintenance involved to determine the relevance and profile of the links, but we can talk about that some other time.

Pay-Per-Click

There is the flipside to this coin as well. As mentioned, in addition to SEO, internet marketers often utilize AdWords, Google’s brand of PPC marketing. This is the process of purchasing specific keywords via Google, which still owns the vast majority of search engine traffic, and paying them a fee for every time a potential client clicks your link from the search results, based on the search terms used. The price per keyword is determined by the provider, Google, relative to the competitive ranking of the word itself as based upon their usage metrics. Keywords are words or phrases that explain who you are and what you do, your products and services. For example, if your company does home improvements, the appropriate key words might be, “roof repair”, or “kitchen remodeling”.   If you’re an accountancy firm, you might use words like “tax preparation”, or “auditing”. So, as an example, “car insurance” would necessarily be more expensive per click than, say, “aquarium insurance”, based on the density of usage for the two terms, and your business would be charged accordingly based on the number of prospective customers who have clicked through to your site. One thing to keep in mind as you are getting your key words together; think about your customers. One of the pitfalls that many businesses fall into is thinking about their business from their own perspective and speaking “business-ese”. You really should invite your frontline folks to be part of this discussion as they are the ones closest to your customers. Better yet, invite some of your customers to participate in this exercise.

Prices have been rising, sometimes rather steeply depending on the actual keyword, but studies still illustrate that when managed effectively, the return on the investment is still significantly positive.

Should I put my marketing dollars into SEO / PPC?

Yes! The decision to utilize online marketing should be cut and dried; your customers are using the internet to find, vet and engage their commercial partners. You need to be there.

OK, I’ve bought in to Internet Marketing. Which way should I go?

Once you have decided to pursue an internet marketing strategy, the question then becomes, “Where do we put our resources?” It is often stated in SEO circles that the best approach is a diversified approach. Effective online marketing uses both processes, SEO and PPC. But if you can’t manage both, or have resource concerns, here are two questions to consider; how soon do you need to see results? What do you have more of, time or money?   With PPC, you will be able to see more results, faster, but it will require you to spend some money in order to get there. With SEO, the initial cost varies, but you will be spending more personnel and intellectual capital in order to achieve your long-term goals.

Wait, I need more!

If you have any questions about any parts of this post, or would like some additional information on anything we mentioned here, let us know! Contact Tom Bates at tbates@marketingpracticality.com for a website review or an online marketing assessment.

 

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