If you are like most businesses, you would love to drive even more business through your doors. You’d also love to decrease your advertising expense. The idea of doing both of these at the same time sounds a bit more than just “too good to be true.” Over the next few minutes, you’ll learn how it is true and how you can do it.
The first step is that you need to have a website. If there is any requirements, that would be it. If you don’t have a website, then you should make that a top priority and have that addressed as soon as possible. Not doing so is like running your business with a big “CLOSED” sign on the front door. We’re not even talking about the quality of your website, just having one.
It’s important to understand that this has nothing to do with ecommerce. Maybe that’s why you haven’t developed a website yet, or maybe you have one and are thinking that this information won’t apply to you. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You can drive more business and not sell a thing online. You might be surprised to learn that the majority of websites are not ecommerce based. Certainly, more and more websites are adding some basic ecommerce elements, but even that is usually much different than what we really think about as being full-blown ecommerce websites.
A February to April 2006 survey by Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that 73% of respondents were Internet users, an increase from 66% in January 2005. The web is being used more and more every day for both home and work use, from tweeners to seniors and across all other demographics. Whoever your customer is, it is a safe bet that they are online… whether you are or not.
Traditional Advertising = Passive Marketing
So now that you’ve hopefully accepted the importance of having a website, you are probably wondering how that can cut your advertising costs. Before we can do that, let’s take a look at traditional advertising. Of course, your website is more than just an advertising medium, but for now, we are really just considering its advertising value.
When we talk about traditional advertising, we are of course talking about the old staples like TV, radio, outdoor, newspaper and other print mediums. We won’t even consider international or even national coverage as that immediately sky rockets the costs beyond many large businesses, let alone small businesses. Even at the local level, in most cases, you are probably looking at thousands of dollars a month in traditional advertising.
But let’s forget costs for now. All of these traditional advertising vehicles have at least one thing in common… they are all passive marketing. Okay, some are downright aggressive, but that’s a whole other story. What I’m talking about is from the recipient’s point of view.
As the recipient of traditional advertising, you didn’t actively seek it out. When the commercial came on for widgets, you weren’t actively seeking a commercial about widgets, which is also why a lot of traditional advertising gets “zoned out.” While you might pick up the paper or a magazine to flip through it looking for an ad for widgets, most people who come across that ad aren’t actively seeking it. And you are probably only going to flip through page after page specifically looking for an ad if you have a high level of confidence that it would be there… because it is always there and has always been there.
Traditional advertising is a mass-market medium. The whole idea revolves around broadcasting a specific message to a general audience… in other words, telling the world in the hopes of catching the attention of the small percentage of people who the message is even applicable to.
Ability Or Desire To Act
But that’s only half the battle. What you may be forgetting is the inability or lack of desire to take action. Because these messages are passive, coming at us often when we are doing something else, we may not be able to act on them even when they are meaningful. Or, they may arrive at a time when we choose not to act on them.
We are bombarded by thousands of messages every day, we are juggling too many thoughts and ideas, and generally find our attention scattered all about. What this means is that even those important and relevant messages often end up being distant recollections at best when we are finally able to act on them. We may remember seeing a message about something that we were interested in, but by then we have probably forgotten what that message was along with why it was even important.
Search Marketing = Active & Actionable Marketing
Search marketing however is active marketing. The value and importance of this is almost beyond explanation. The best advertising is both relevant and actionable. It would be hard to get more relevant and actionable than search marketing. When someone uses a search engine to search for a problem, solution, business, product or service, they are seeking out messages, rather than being bombarded by them. Even those in the early “informational” stages of search may be more valuable than most of the people traditional marketing messages reach.
So you are probably thinking, “that’s great but, how big of an audience is that?” Another report from Pew Internet & American Life Project reveals that about 60 million American adults are using search engines on a typical day. Of course, all 60 million are probably not looking for what you are offering and if your audience is local, it’s an even smaller number. But you can’t underestimate the power of reaching a targeted audience that is looking for you.
“But I thought people didn’t like banner ads.” That may be true, especially invasive, unrelated ads. While that is one area of search marketing, we’re not really talking about banner ads or any other form of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
Importance Of SEO
SEO or search engine optimization is a specific area within search marketing that is focused on helping your website to show up for relevant searches within the search engines. Note the important detail here is relevant. It doesn’t matter how popular a search is, if it isn’t relevant, then it probably isn’t worth going after. Un-relevant ads are just another form of passive advertising, except this may be a deceptive form and will probably do more harm than good.
This brings us back to all those people searching on search engines everyday. Remember that is active marketing because people are actually looking. They are interested in what you have to offer. And because they are in a search mode, they are much more likely to be able to act on that, either by contacting you directly, learning more about you by looking through your site, buying on your site if you offer that capability or just bookmarking your site for later.
The benefit of search engine optimization is that all the traffic that comes to your site because of it is essentially free. It would be like running your ad in traditional advertising every day at no cost. Similarly though, you do have the cost of creating the ads initially. In this case, you have the cost of the SEO, which may entail research to determine what people are searching for and then the actual optimization of your site for those search phrases.
Unlike the traditional advertising, the impact of SEO is longer term. While this may vary depending on how competitive your industry is, any SEO work done by your competitors, as well as new sites coming into the mix, but sites can often maintain their positions in the search ranking even after the SEO work is done. Heavily competitive industries may of course require more ongoing search engine optimization. Traditional advertising though, stops when you stop paying, period.
SEO Helps You Fish Where The Fish Are
So you may be wondering whether you need SEO as long as you have a website. Just like traditional advertising, if your message isn’t seen, then it might as well not exist. Just having a website isn’t enough and you can’t rely on your website showing up in the visible area of the search results on its own… in other words, where the fish are. Just being online just means you are on the pond, not necessarily in the right spot.
You see, when people search, it really doesn’t matter whether they get hundreds of results or millions of results back from their search. If you want to be seen, then you need to be positioned at the beginning of those results. That beginning is getting smaller and smaller, in most cases now, down to the first page or two at most. Just think about how many pages of search results you look through before changing your search query.
A study by iProspect & Jupiter Research reveals that 62% of search engine users click on a search result within the first page of results, and a full 90% of search engine users click on a result within the first three pages of search results. Not only does the added visibility come into play, but also that position impacts how people perceive the companies at the top of search results. They found that 36% of search engine users believe that the companies whose websites are returned at the top of the search results are the top companies in that field.
Cutting Your Advertising Costs
Initially when you undertake search engine optimization, you may find that you are shifting dollars from traditional advertising channels to SEO, either for consultant fees or for a firm’s services. But as you gain key search engine placement, you should see increased traffic to your website by highly targeted visitors. These visitors, in many cases, may have a much higher value than people reached through traditional advertising. You will probably find that you are able to scale back your traditional advertising, thereby reducing your advertising costs.
You may also find that you can use your website to measure the effectiveness of your traditional advertising. Let’s face it; you probably aren’t really sure how much the traditional advertising impacts your business unless you specifically use a coupon or something that links a customer to a specific advertising channel. You can use your website to help track the reach of your traditional advertising by bringing people into your site through specific pages. Even without coupons, you could refer them to a page that has information regarding the ad based on where that ad was placed. Now your website can help track both offline and online marketing efforts.
Using your website as more than just an online business card, you can increase the effectiveness of all of your marketing efforts. You may be able to reduce costs or do more with what you are already spending. Through SEO, you will be able to expand your reach, attracting new business, reconnecting with existing customers and in the end, and driving more business to your bottom line.