The internet is one of the most exciting places to be right now for a business in its growth stage. The barriers to entry are much easier to hurdle then they were in the past. Unfortunately, many business owners don’t quite understand how to use the web to improve their brand presence, and the available information isn’t easy to sort through. Here are some of the best ways to grow your business by taking advantage of the web.
More Than One Approach
Social media is a hot topic right now, and with good reason. Unfortunately, some businesses are being told that social media is the only way make it on the web. Even worse, many of these businesses have no idea why they’re on social networks, or how to utilise them properly.
The first thing to realise is that there is more than one way of getting the word out online. While there are probably more methods than their are web marketers, most fall into one of three categories. We’ll call them the search method, the advertising method, and the networking method. These strategies are by no means mutually exclusive, so feel free to combine them as you see fit.
- The Search Method
If you were a pre-Internet business, what would be your primary method of customer acquisition? Would your customers find out about you through the phone book, an advertisement, or from their friends? If you answered “phone book,” the search method is your best bet.
The search engine is where people go when they already know what they are looking for. They’ll go to Google, type in what they’re looking for, and click on the first thing they see that makes sense for them.
There are two ways to reach these customers. Search engine optimisation (SEO) helps you rank closer to the top of the search results. Search advertising places you in an ad near the search results, based on the keywords that the user searched for. SEO is analogous to starting the name of your business with AAA in a phone book. Search advertising is like taking out an ad in the phone book.
The similarities end there, though. For SEO, the process relies on picking keywords, including them on your site, and getting people to link to your site. Search advertising demands researching keywords to identify the ones that will not only bring the most traffic, but bring traffic that’s interested in buying what you have to offer.
- The Advertising Method
Why was search advertising included under the search method, and not here? Because it’s a different kind of advertising. If you are the type of business that people would have heard about from the TV or magazine, rather than the phone book, search engine ads aren’t necessarily the right fit.
Specifically, if you are trying to sell a product that people don’t actually know they want yet, you need to step outside of the search engines and spread the word somewhere that people are already spending their time, in much the same way you would advertise to a TV or magazine audience.
This approach is best accomplished through the use of affiliate advertising networks. These allow you to sell your ads to be displayed on blogs and sites all over the web. You may also want to branch out to advertisements on YouTube and similar video outlets, as well as ads for Spotify and other sources of music. You may even want to consider taking out ad space on social networks.
- The Networking Approach
Wait, taking out ad space on social networks isn’t part of the networking approach? It can be. Unfortunately, many businesses think that advertising on social networks is networking, and it isn’t. Social media is just that, social. If you aren’t having a conversation, you aren’t networking.
Why network, instead of just advertise? It depends on the kind of business you own. If you don’t own the kind of business that gets people talking, it might not do you any good. Then again, if you offer any kind of customer service, if you want to understand what your customers really want, and if you want to establish a long term reputation, social media is one of the best ways to do so.
These three methods serve three different functions, but they can all be used to reinforce one another. Networking makes it easier to get links to your site. Advertising can be used to send people to your social networks. The takeaway here is to know what you are doing, and why. Not all methods are equally beneficial for your business, and strategies that work for one method shouldn’t be indiscriminately used for another.