As a professional Internet marketer, I speak with businesses constantly who haven’t considered several viable marketing channels for their small to medium-sized business. In this article, I’d like to get you started considering whether these make viable channels for you.
1) Search Engine Optimization
I would venture to guess that most people don’t know what search engine optimization, but you as a business owner most definitely have. This is the process of choosing keywords that your website is relevant for, and causing Google and the other search engines to rank your site for those keywords (optimally yours would show up higher than your competitors.)
Many small businesses don’t even have a website, or have such a small budget allocated to Internet marketing that they won’t be able to tell if Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a viable marketing channel. Quite often SEO is viewed as a black box that is unknowable, so people don’t want to try it. SEO’s are difficult to gauge since there is no formal governing certification board. Some are good, some are bad. Some are dangerous, and some are high quality. Whoever is doing the hiring of the in-house member or consultant, make sure they are familiar with SEO. It’s the technical equivalent of a non-programmer hiring a programmer – you wouldn’t dare do it.
2) Pay-Per-Click Advertising
The model for pay-per-click (PPC) is simple: Advertisers tell search engines how much they are willing to spend per click from a search page onto the advertiser’s website. The more advertisers bidding on a keyword, the more that keyword costs. It’s like a perpetual auction for traffic to your website.
This is much simpler to start than SEO, so many small businesses venture into PPC with very little experience, and are sometimes successful. Depending on your service area and type of service, you can plan on paying between $0.10 and $4 per click.
The same rules apply here – be familiar with Google AdWords at the very least when looking to hire a consultant. Hiring an outside consultant often makes more sense with PPC because after several months of optimization, a campaign can function well on its own.
3) Local Maps Optimization
If you’re a locally focused business with a brick & mortar location, local maps optimization is a fantastic candidate for your business. It’s a no-brainer in fact. The funny part about this is that you’ve likely never heard of it.
When you complete a search on Google for a product or service, quite often you’ll see a map with local businesses plotted on it come up in the search results. This is similar to SEO where there are moves you can make algorithmically to prove yourself more relevant than competitors in Google’s eyes.
Find a consultant to help you set up and optimize your profiles. Make sure they can teach you about citations and site schemas so you know that they have expert knowledge. Checking a past portfolio never hurts either.
If your product or service is such that you can sell it online, affiliate programs may make a lot of sense to try out. The idea is that you offer a decent commission (upwards of 20% is usually in good taste), and then you allow other internet marketers to sell your products for you in exchange for that commission. This gives you a large, motivated sales force rather simply.
Working with someone who has affiliate managing experience is a good thing here because you can do a lot wrong. Offer too small of commissions and no one will bother selling your product. Offer too large and you’re throwing money away. Let too many affiliates come onboard, people trying to cheat will get lost in the sea of data. Let too few in and you won’t see the sales volumes you’re seeking.
Depending on the affiliate network, you’ll be paying between about $500-$1000 per month just for being listed, so it makes sense to do it right. Affiliates are excellent, though, because they’re a large sales force that you only pay when they sell something for you; whereas, with PPC, you’re paying just to have people visit your site, whether or not they make a purchase.
I hope you’ve found these marketing channels informative and are considering trying them out on your small business! Let me know your thoughts in the comments.