Advertising cannot be your only online marketing channel
In an earlier blog entry (see How to sponsor a search result), I talked about how to use Google AdWords to promote your business and how to get "sponsored" results in search engines like Google and Yahoo. I continue the conversation by talking about low cost grassroots ways that you can promote your business online through having a great content-based Web site, social networking and other avenues.
But first, I want to talk about why it's important to not just rely on paid advertising when you want to promote your business online.
The mantra for this column is "produce good content and spread the word" and that's really the core idea behind almost all success in the online realm. Paid online visibility is a lazy shortcut that can be effective in the short term, but ultimately encourages you to pay attention to the wrong things and, in the long run, attain little sustainable visibility online.
The problem with paid advertising is the same that plagues all print, radio and TV advertising: how long will your potential customer remember your advertisement and message once the last ad in your campaign has stopped running?
To understand what I'm talking about, quick, name the top five advertisers from the last Superbowl broadcast. Or, heck, what ads aired during last night's American Idol?
There is research from comScore (a report entitled "Measuring the Effectiveness of Sponsored Search Marketing") that states that sponsored adverts see, on average, 18.3 percent click-thru rate while organic (unpaid) listings only see a 4.3 percent CTR. There are two problems with the research, though: first, it's focused on purchase decisions not the far larger population that is just surfing for information and doing undirected - but pre-purchase - research, and second, it doesn't analyze what happens once the ad budget goes to zero.
Direct Marketing News, by contrast, has published data that 100% of searchers are willing to click on an organic result while only 10% to 30% are willing to click on a sponsored link.
Let's turn to Google for a moment and look at its Webmaster Guidelines.
Straight from the proverbial horse's mouth, Google recommends that to have the best possible search engine results you should:
Those are the key ideas, and that's not too onerous, is it? More importantly, what Google's talking about is a philosophy of site development that can prove to be almost zero cost to you and will benefit your business immeasurably in the long term.
Now let's add one more ingredient to this stew: in addition to producing good content on your Web site or weblog, because more and more companies are recognizing that a blog is just a content management system that lets you focus on producing content, not formatting it, you also need to be involved with so-called social media. Whether it's Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, blogging, podcasting, or even YouTube, every successful online company is engaging in an ongoing conversation with its online community.
My colleague Doyle Albee explains it thusly: "Advertising alone is like a lecture with no questions allowed. Adding a conversational element to your marketing lets you can get feedback about what's working and what's not."
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