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Small Business Online Marketing Advice

Even with a limited budget, small businesses can find many ways to increase traffic to their website using such online marketing tools as social media, good search engine optimization and more. Here are some key areas to focus on to drive more traffic to small business website, and what you need to know.

Increasing Traffic Through Search Engines
Getting your small business website on the first page of Google search results is one of the best ways to increase traffic and tends to be more effective than e-mail marketing, print ads, TV ads and online banners. Without the right knowledge about how search engines rank your site and how keywords affect your ranking, dramatically improving your search engine ranking can be difficult without a design firm.

Improve Your Design
Improving the design and function is another seemingly easy way to market your business, although it’s also tricky if you lack the experience. A number of factors go into good small business web design, including loading time, high quality content, intuitive navigation, logo design, color choice, carefully chosen images and more. Improving the design of your website also means keeping the content fresh and updated so it performs better on search engines. Using a content management system like WordPress makes it easy for a business owner to keep their website up to date, even if they lack technical experience.

Create a Focus Group
Small business can also use referrals and buzz to increase traffic to their website and improve sales. Along with word-of-mouth marketing, some companies also use their web customers as a focus group to test new products before launch. An example of this is Bite Shoes, which created a new golf shoe but wasn’t sure how customers would react. To test the product, they posted pictures of the shoe to their website and emailed loyal online customers as well as top buyers for pro shops. The emails referred the recipients to the website, where they were asked their opinion about the price and style of the shoe. While customers liked the shoe, store representatives weren’t willing to take a risk on the design. Bite Shoes decided not to release the shoe, as they don’t sell directly to customers and knew they would lose a great deal of money.

Using Customer Data
All websites should have a well-written and easy to understand privacy policy on their website to inform customers what happens to their personal data. So what can you do with customer data that’s given voluntarily? There are a few techniques you can use. One option is an online poll or comment cards that allow you to survey customers about their opinions. You can also analyze the log files of your website to learn exactly how customers use your site, which may give you valuable insight to make improvements. Some e-commerce businesses also create customer databases to examine cost per contact and cost per sale. These status reports are a great way to measure the results of your marketing.

Take Advantage of Social Media
Small businesses can also improve their marketing strategy by leveraging social media. Facebook has over 300 million users and allows you to create a free online presence for your business. Take advantage of your Business Fan Page by creating weekly updates, offering special promotions to Facebook fans and informing consumers about new products or locations. Likewise, sign up for Twitter and LinkedIn and create a business blog to generate buzz about your business. Social media allows businesses of all sizes to effectively compete in their market.

Perform Market Research
Using an effective market research technique, you’ll learn the actual need for your services or products, how likely it is to sell, the best store location and how to market your key demographic. If you have a limited marketing budget, try snail mail and email questionnaires sent to your target market. You can also join forums related to your business and find an active audience. There are also companies that specialize in market research. While the fee for these serices can seem like a bit much, it may save you money in the long-run when you consider the time needed to send out mailers and follow-up on responses.

Grassroots and Creative Marketing Strategies
Finally, come up with creative ways to market your company to compete with more established businesses. You may focus on supporting your local community, for example. One restaurant owner in Dallas even started sending out congratulatory letters to workers in the area who received a recent promotion. By spending about 30 minutes a day looking through local newspapers for annoucements, the owner then found the address of the employee and began sending 30 letters per day. The congratulatory letters invite the employee to the restaurant for a free glass of wine or champagne. He estimates this program costs $1,625 each year and creates a 29% response rate for a total of $106,177 in increased revenue.

Pay-per-Click Advertising: Is it for you?
Many small businesses invest a great deal of money into pay-per-click advertising. These paid search engine ads can lead to increased revenue, but they may be very expensive for your targeted keywords. Because you pay money every time someone clicks on your ad, you must also keep in mind that up to 35% of these clicks may be fradulent. According to Inc Magazine, many of the people who fradulently click on paid advertisements with no intention of purchasing anything are actually business competitors, although some are also owners of affiliate sites hosting the ads, who receive a commission. Because there is no real way to affordably prevent to problem, it’s a cost you’ll have to live with.

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