Internet Marketing Fundamentals

17 02 2009

Here are some very important things one must understand before taking a business online. I often explain these things to my clients who are offline business owners already, so I thought I’d post them here as I’m sure many others will benefit from the understanding.

Internet shopping is vastly different from offline shopping

Internet users search for different products and service than they would offline and the use different ways to search for them. Based on this premise, the first step in any Internet marketing campaign is to find out how the online market thinks, what it is looking for and what online niches will be profitable to engage.

Search engines are rapidly losing their leadership in driving traffic

With the advent of social networking and social bookmarking sites, which is the online equivalent of business breakfasts and social circles, more and more traffic is directed at websites from mega-sites, in which there is some built-in mechanism for implied trust, sharing and reciprocating. Therefore, a good Internet marketing strategy examines the online social vibe, as well as search trends.

Website content and structure are critical to having a profitable website

Unable to connect message Bringing traffic to a site that does not convert visitors to business leads is a waste of money. Whether it is link creation, paid advertising or newsletter marketing, having a focused website with quality content reduces the costs and increases the effectiveness of the online marketing by at least a factor of 5. Therefore, work should be done on the website itself to prepare it for the off-site promotion work.

The local game is not the same

The Internet is everywhere, so the best online business is one offering products or services to the entire world. Competing in a local arena requires specific focus and a totally different set of strategies in order to avoid getting too much “noise” and wasting money on visitors who will never become clients. Therefore, it is best to acquire knowledge of the local market and possibly couple the online effort with an offline promotion to raise awareness and start a local “vibe”.

The Internet is ever changing

No matter how much effort is spent promoting a website, incoming links will always “fade”, as the number of links on referring pages grows, the number of pages on referring sites grows, the referring pages move away from the top of the referring sites and more sites are created on the Internet. If this is not enough, there is a disruptive change every 18-24 months in the world of technology, which either puts “state of the art” methods in the baseline or makes them obsolete. Therefore, Internet marketing is an ongoing operation, much like offline marketing is.

As always, if you need any clarification on these things or you want my help to take your own business to the Internet, you are more than welcome to contact me.


How to Get Business Online (part 1)

22 01 2009

If you’re reading this, you are most likely a business owner looking to market your products or services on the Internet. So what should you do first? What should you do next? Where can you find more information?

The answer is: right here, of course. Let’s start at the beginning, then, shall we?

Finding a Niche

In the offline world, when customers want to buy something (say a bottle of olive oil), this is what they do:

  1. They go shopping at the nearest mall or shopping center
  2. They enter the store where the product is most likely to be sold (say Wal Mart)
  3. They find the shelf or aisle in which the product is kept
  4. On that shelf, they typically find several types and several brands of their product
  5. They start reading labels and price tags and compare the different options against one another and against their needs
  6. They decide what to buy and add it to their shopping basket, in which there are other, completely unrelated products

Sounds familiar?

In the Internet world, however, things are totally different. When Internet shoppers want to buy something (say a bottle of olive oil):

  1. They go looking for information using their favorite search engine (say Google)
  2. They type in “olive oil”
  3. They take a look at the title, description and URL of the websites listed and consider ways to fine tune their search
  4. They type in a more specific search query (say “extra virgin olive oil” or “cold pressed olive oil”)
  5. They take a look at the title, description and URL of the websites listed and pick out the most relevant sites
  6. They visit only the sites that seem relevant, typically from top to bottom, and stop reading when they believe they have enough information
  7. Now they are ready to buy
  8. They look for sites that sell their preferred choice of olive oil, possibly by searching for “buy cold pressed extra virgin olive oil” or by clicking one of the sponsored links around the search results
  9. They directly “land” on the page that sells what they were looking for and they buy it

Different, isn’t it?

Bottles of olive oil So you see, even if you have a pretty successful offline business selling olive oil, putting up a website featuring all your products on one page or mixing your shopping cart with some history of olive oil or olive oil recipes will get you absolutely nowhere on the Internet compared with sites that have a page dedicated to one very specific thing – cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. One click to get to it, one click to buy.

The upside, of course, is that you can have as many pages as you need on your website, so you don’t have to save. There’s not rent to pay for commercial space by the square foot, no cleaning for the extra pages, only the setup cost. But the returns, oh, the returns!

The difference between having your website listed at the top of the first page of search results and having it listed on, say, page 15, is pretty much like the difference between having a website and not having one. So you must identify your online niches first, and then have your website designed to have dedicated pages for each niche.

Doing this step first makes all the rest of your search engine optimization (SEO) possible. If you don’t do this first, you are effectively crippling anything you will do later on.

Of course, being deeply involved in your own business and having an offline mindset, it is best to engage an Internet marketing consultant to help generate ideas and check how often people search for them, because some niches are not worth your effort. Not wasting your time and money on those niches and discovering “golden nuggets” you couldn’t think of yourself will bring you more than enough value to cover anything the Internet marketer will charge. Guaranteed.

The SEO Myth

3 10 2008
Someone told me today about a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) service he was using. Being the God knows what time I’ve heard about this type of scam, I thought I’d write about it to prevent others from falling for it.

SEO is aimed at getting your website top ranking in the search engines, typically measured on Google Search. The assumption is that the higher your website appears in the search results, the more traffic it will get, the more sales or leads you will convert and the more dollars will make it into your pocket.

So shifty operators contact unsuspecting business owners or website owners and offer to get their websites a top search engine position at a surprisingly low cost. Sometimes, this cost seems even lower, but it must be paid on an ongoing basis.

“Wow”, thinks the website owner, “I’ve been struggling with this for so long, and here is an expert who does this for a living. Surely, my sales will skyrocket within days and I’ll be rich in no time”.

Unfortunately, this is not quite the way it happens. When the owner (let’s call him Jim) sits with the SEO expert (let’s call him Bob), Bob asks Jim to tell him about his website. Let’s say Jim runs a doorknob business called “Jim’s doorknobs” and lives in a small town called woopwoop. Bob suggest that the best thing to do is to get Jim the first position in Google for the keyword phrase “woopwoop doorknobs”, which Jim excitedly agrees to. Bob, stating he was going to give Jim great service by working with additional phrases, throws in the keyword phrases “jim’s doorknobs” and even “best doorknobs in woopwoop”.

Jim leaves Bob’s office all pumped up and patiently waits for the sales to start pouring in.

A month goes by and the sales are pretty much the same, so Jim rings Bob. “Great news!” says Bob, “Like I said, you’re number one for your keywords now. Google them now and you’ll see”.

Sure enough, Bob has delivered on his promise, and Jim’s doorknow website is now the first to appear for his 3 chosen keyword phrases, but he gets no business. “Bob”, he says, “Why am I not getting any sales?”

“Oh, this takes a bit of time to build up, because of the way the search engines work, you know. Give it another month or two and you’ll see”.

After 3 months, Jim starts to suspect that something is wrong, so he calls his friend Bruce, who knows a little about Internet marketing. As soon as Bruce hears the chosen keyword phrases, he says to Jim, “I think there may only be a handful of people looking for these. Being number one for a keyword phrase nobody looks for will make you proud, but not rich”.

So next time someone tells you they’ll put you at the top of the search results, ask them how many times they think people might be using this keyword phrase each day on the Internet. Anything over 300 is good. If the answer is “I don’t know”, run away fast.

Of course, the keyword phrases you choose must also be directly linked to the problems you solve, the solutions you provide or some unique aspect of your business, so that you get qualified traffic you can convert to sales.

Remember, you want to get more business online, not more traffic, not a higher position, not a higher page rank and so on. More business! That’s the only way to measure the success of your website.


Who Needs Internet Marketing (part 3)?

1 10 2008

By now, you know that the Internet is great for information products, as well as for offline products with a global appeal. So far, so good. But not every business sells standard products. Some businesses make their products to suit their clients’ needs. What about them?

Well, businesses that offer custom-made products can derive great benefits from using the Internet. You see, the Internet makes communication a whole lot easier than any other alternative, and a whole lot cheaper.

Say your company offers a product with many options: color, finish, size, embossed logo, etc. You could employ an army of specialized sales people, who could walk each new customer through the decision-making process in person or over the phone, or you could build a web site, which includes pictures, descriptive text, videos and even interactively-generated visual product images, which allow your prospects to try a few options, work out what’s best for them and then order or request a quotation without employing a single person on an ongoing basis.

Couple this with the ability to keep in touch with your clients via rich emails and informing them whenever you start offering more colors, bigger sizes and so on, and you will see that the Internet can give your business a huge boost in productivity and profitability.

It is true that sometimes, human interaction is required, because the client may need some expert advice in order to get it just right, but your website will screen those who would not buy, and would just waste your time and money, because they will quickly (and at no cost to you) find out what you cannot do for them. Those who choose to contact you can now receive your full attention, because by the time you contact them, you will already have a very good idea of what they need.

To summarize, if your business can benefit from getting complex custom-order inquiries, screening those who are unlikely to buy and saving a lot of time in your selling process, which you can translate to a much smaller sales team, look seriously into your online options and contact an Internet marketer as soon as you can.

Who Needs Internet Marketing (part 2)?

17 09 2008

So the Internet is great for information products. Got that. But what if my product cannot be digitized and sold electronically?

First, it may be that you are selling something very unique or that you are offering it in a special way, perhaps at a special price. If your item can be sent by post or international courier service (like FedEx or UPS), you should be able to expand your business significantly by selling to other parts of the world.

Second, getting business on the Internet is so much cheaper than offline, because it doesn’t require any showroom space or sales people. This means that your profit margin is larger, and you can afford to “throw in” the cost of shipping or any “deal sweetener” you can think of that will help you get sales.

Third, your online store is open 24 hours a day, every day, in every timezone, which means you can get 2-3 times the amount of business you would get from an offline store, while catering for every possible type of Internet buyer anywhere in the world.

To summarize, if your business can benefit from selling online by increasing profit margins, reaching large new markets and virtually operating around the clock. Look seriously into your online options and contact an Internet marketer as soon as you can.

Who Needs Internet Marketing (part 1)?

3 06 2008

Let’s face it – the Internet is not as useful for every business.  It’s also not as appealing to every business owner. So who should consider engaging an Internet marketer for their business. More importantly, should you?

The Internet is probably by far the fastest, cheapest and richest way to deliver information. With the ability to rotate images, display animated images and show video, the Internet can deliver any type of content quicker and cheaper than any other medium. If you need to communicate information to your clients or potential buyers, the Internet can offer you some great tools.

If you have an information product, you have probably gone through the phase of creating a digital version of it, which might have been printed later. On the Internet, your digital product can be sold as a separate, possibly lower cost item, at lightening speed, to an unlimited number of customers in a completely separate market to offline buyers. Furthermore, the Internet offers armies of promotion experts, called “Affiliates”, who will gladly help you sell your information product, in return for a share of your income.

Note that the type of information best suited for the Internet is one that has global appeal. The language you use may be the only limitation, but as the Internet crosses all borders, your information can be carried to wherever there’s a need for it via this great medium.

To summarize, if your business can benefit from the delivery of paid or unpaid information to a wide, targeted market, the Internet is the place for you. Look seriously into your online options and contact an Internet marketer as soon as you can.


19 05 2008

Welcome to Get Your Business Online, a site about bringing small businesses to the world via the Internet.

The Internet, or the World Wide Web, is a unique place, where the rules change almost daily. It’s hard to keep up with everything going on online when you’re also busy running a business. So it makes business sense to let someone else do it, who can keep up on your behalf and show you the way.

Getting a web site is a small step in the right direction, but getting business requires patience, a small investment and a good deal of knowledge and skills, which I can use to help your business profit and grow.

Want to know more? Contact me.