The internet is covered in advertising. There is so much advertising on the internet that if you have a business or a product to promote, knowing the best places to advertise online is a real challenge.
Start With Your Website
The first place to start advertising online is with your own website. If you don't have a website, you need to get a website online, like yesterday. Assuming you have your own website, you need to start any advertising efforts online by advertising on your own site.
What I mean is, on your website you need to have a clear conversion goal. If you are a plumber, it might be to get people to call you or fill out a lead generation form. Perhaps your goal is to get potential prospects into some kind of email list. Maybe you want people to buy replacement parts on your website. It doesn't matter what your goal is, you need to have one.
Now that you have one goal, go through your website and make sure that each page does a good job supporting that goal. For example, if you want people to call you, make sure the phone number is displayed on every page in a big font, with a call to action like "Call us now at 555-5555". I know it's common sense, but if people can't find your phone number, they won't be able to call you. Make your call to action big, bold, and impossible to miss.
Go To Where Your Customers Are
Where do your customers hang out? If they have a problem related to your product, where do they look for a solution? Before the internet, people used to use the Yellow Pages to find answers to their problems. Now they use Google or Bing or Siri to solve their problems.
For example, imagine twenty years ago if you had a pipe burst that flooded your basement. What would you do? You would call a plumber right? If you have a plumber you used before, you might have their number on a fridge magnet. Otherwise, you would look for a plumber via the Yellow Pages. Usually, the largest and most trusted plumbers bought the largest and best designed ads. Thus, people would call those companies first.
Google Maps result for "plumber" in Lincoln, NE
Now, in the same situation you would whip out your smartphone or tablet or laptop and end up asking for local plumber listings. You would search using Siri, or Google, or Bing. You might also use Yelp or Google Maps. That is how people are solving their problems now. Sure, some use the Yellow Pages, but it is the resource of last resort, not the first solution to your problems.
If you are a plumber and you want to be where your customers are, you need to be in Google and Bing. You need to show up for organic searches and you need to buy advertising on those search engines. It's the same deal as the Yellow Pages 20 years ago. Whoever shows up highest with the best looking ad wins. The difference is now your ad is your website or a landing page on your website. You did make sure that your website is optimized for conversions right? If you didn't, please go back and do that first. Do it before spending any time, money, or effort on advertising a website that doesn't convert into sales or leads.
The best thing to do is to start by testing small advertising campaigns in one network until you find something that works. If you are going to make a mistake, make a $100 mistake, not a $10,000 mistake. Everybody's first attempt at online marketing is terrible. It likely won't work on your first try. Keep at it and find a small thing that works, then work on scaling it up little by little over time.
Measure Your ROI
Return on investment is the thing that is going to determine where and how you can advertise online. Simply put, if it's a waste of money, you can't afford to do it over the long term. You are better off keeping the money if you aren't willing to measure the ROI of your online advertising campaigns.
The simplest way to measure the ROI on an online advertising campaign is to setup a campaign goal like generating a new lead or a sale. Tools like Google Analytics and Google AdWords make this possible with not a lot of effort or custom programming. Are you spending hundreds or thousands of dollars advertising online? If you aren't willing to spend the 15 minutes to setup goal tracking in Google Analytics, you shouldn't be spending the money.
Once you are measuring your ROI you can do things to improve it. You can pick better keywords, adjust your CPC bids, or expand on what is already working.
Don't Follow The Fads
You will not grow your business or get a great ROI on your advertising dollars by trying every new thing under the sun. Most businesses that succeed advertising online try a few different ways of advertising. Then, they focus on the one that works and they maximize their success using that channel. Here is a great video from the CEO of Constant Contact on how they built their business.
Like Constant Contact, you should try new channels every once in a while, but if you have something that works focus on that. Otherwise, you are going to spend a lot of time on an unproven thing when you could be spending time on a proven winner.
Michael Jordan is a great athlete. He could be successful in just about any sport. He is good at golf, he is good at baseball, but he is best in the world at basketball. The time he spent playing minor league baseball was not as fruitful as the time he spent playing basketball. Eventually, he went back to basketball and won more championships.
I know that you might read about how the future is social media and how everybody and their brother is on Facebook and Twitter. But, that doesn't mean that is the best place to advertise your business. You need to test and see for yourself, but you should never follow the crowd.
Just Get Started
It is not difficult to get started advertising online. If you look around, Google, Bing, Facebook, and Twitter all have some kind of incentive coupons they give out to get you started. They can range from $25 to $100 in free advertising. If you have questions, you can always ask us via our contact form and we do our best to get you an answer back soon.
Article posted on February 20, 2014
Top image by: justininsd