Marketing your online business
A shop or restaurant in a busy part of town can survive on passing trade alone. However, you need to take deliberate efforts to get your business noticed when it’s solely based online. You can take traditional marketing routes such as print or broadcast advertising but with an online business, the most logical place to focus your marketing efforts is on the internet.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) involves getting your site picked up as high in results pages as possible on search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing. These are known as organic search results and are generally more welcoming to consumers. There are no guaranteed search engine tricks but to improve your chances there are a number of methods that you can employ. These include website and page quality (your site needs to be structured in the right way and your content should be relevant, readable and searchable), ethical link building and avoiding deliberate spamming (excessive use of a single keyword or phrase).
If you want to take this a step further there are consultants you can employ that will recommend and implement SEO within your site.
For more information on SEO, check out our section on increasing traffic, and our article on how to improve your website's Google ranking
Another popular way of increasing your online presence is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Unlike print or broadcast advertising, with PPC you are only charged when someone actually clicks on your ad. The big player for this type of advertising is Google’s AdWords, where companies bid for certain keywords relating to their site. Depending on how much they’ve bid, their ad will come up with varying prominence on the listing pages when someone does a search using those keywords.
However, as the market becomes saturated, certain keywords are extremely expensive to get high results for and you may find this is not the most cost-effective way of advertising your site if you want to buy popular search terms such as florist or gift shop.
“We advertised ever so slightly more as revenues increased,” says Pat from Truffleshuffle. “We started off spending £5 on Google one day and if it worked we’d spend £7.50 the next day. We now spend about £300 a day.”
“When we started we couldn’t afford to advertise with Google,” says Notonthehighstreet.com’s Sophie. “It’s really not cheap. We later appointed a company to take care of all our SEO and PPC and now rank really high for some of our key search terms.”
“Marketing is our single biggest expense,” says Mitesh of Chemist Direct. “We have a mixture of banner ads, ppc and partnerships with other sites. The good thing about an online business is you can test out what works relatively cheaply. Start small, see what gets results and go from there.”
For more information, read our article on how to use pay-per-click advertising
Never underestimate how effective some good PR can be in getting visitors to your site. Sophie says Notonthehighstreet.com managed to bag so much free pre-launch coverage in papers like The Mirror, The Daily Mail and the women’s monthlies that it would have cost around £7m to buy that much print exposure in terms of advertising. As a result the site had 16,000 on its launch day.
You can hire a PR company to get you coverage in the media, but you may find this is beyond your budget during the early stages of the company. “When we started we couldn’t afford a PR company so instead we’d cheekily call up the magazines ourselves,” says Claire of Truffleshuffle.
“You might need to call up 10 magazines to get featured in one but at least it doesn’t cost you any money. That way any revenue you bring in from it goes straight into your pocket.”
For more information, visit our section on PR