Guest post by Ashley Smith (learn more about Ashley at the end of this post).
Top Five Internet Marketing Tools for Small Business Owners
It’s tough being a small business owner in today’s economy but one proven way to increase your brand awareness and customer base is through Internet marketing. Here are a few fantastic tools you can easily stake out your space in the World Wide Web.
Blogs are a great way to share your passion and prove to your customers just how smart you are. Write about what you know, as it relates to your business. If you own an accounting firm, write about personal finance tips or new tax credit opportunities. If you own a bakery, blog about your latest creations or special events you’ve attended.
Remember, you don’t have to post every day or even every week. The key is just to post consistently. Also, don’t forget to link your website with your blog so your readers can find out more about your business. (That’s your ultimate goal, right?)
Bonus tip: There are many websites out there that will host your blog for free, but it’s worth the investment to pay for a URL that doesn’t contain the blog host provider’s name and to keep your competitors from advertising in your space.
If you haven’t yet created a page for your small business on Facebook, do it now. (Make sure it’s a page, not a profile). Fill the page with content before you unleash it on your customers. Post links to your most recent blog posts, share photos of your business and products, and engage your future visitors with questions and polls related to your business. Once you’ve filled your page with engaging content, share the link with your customers and give them a reason to “like” it. You can provide a special offer or coupon to the first 100 fans, or post special discounts to be used in your store that day – get creative! Finally, make sure you’re posting consistently, at least once a week, but no more than once per day, or risk cluttering your customer’s walls.
Bonus tip: Another great way to drive traffic to either your Facebook page or your website is through Facebook Ads. Facebook makes it easy to upload ads (they will even provide suggested content and images based on the URL you’re directing traffic to) and target individuals based on where they live, what they like, and their overall demographic profile. The beauty of Facebook ads is you get to decide how much to bid on your ad placement as well as put a cap on your daily budget.
If you haven’t set up a personal or professional Twitter page, now is the time to do so. Twitter is a great way to both listen to what’s going on in your industry and be an active participant in sharing content. Most of the content you post on your Facebook page can easily be re-posted to your Twitter page. As with launching a Facebook page, make sure you fill your Twitter page with engaging content before promoting it. You want your customers to discover content that will encourage them to come back for more, not a big blank space with your company’s name splashed across it. This is also a good opportunity to follow other members in your community including neighboring small businesses, distributors, partners, local organizations, and even key industry leaders.
Bonus tip: To be successful in the social media realm, focus on engaging and building a sense of community with your customers. This isn’t the place to be “salesy”. Ask your customers questions and encourage them to share their thoughts whenever possible and soon you will have created super fans.
4.) Google Analytics™
Do you have a company website? Do you have any idea how it’s performing? Google Analytics is a free resource to help you track the success of your website. Visit www.google.com/analytics/ and sign-up. All you have to do is copy and paste the code provided into the header or footer of your website and you will receive more data on your website’s traffic sources and visitors than you will ever know what to do with. Using this tool you can easily see what pages on your website are most (or least) compelling for your visitors and make improvements.
Disclaimer: Google Analytics provides an enormous amount of data, so I would recommend checking out the Google Analytics Blog for additional advice and support – or risk getting lost in data-land.
5.) Google AdWords™
Want to be an Internet marketing superstar? Opening up a Google AdWords account is the equivalent to finding the “time warp whistle” in Super Mario. AdWords is another free tool Google provides where you can manage and create pay-per-click advertisements; these are the sponsored search results at the top and right-hand side of the page in search engines. To be successful with this sort of advertising you need to get in the mindset of your customer. What would you type if you were searching for your product? Take some time to come up with a list of words and word combinations and group them together based on themes. Once you have your themes you can create text-based ads that are relevant to this search result. Similar to Facebook Ads you will bid on your ad placement and set a daily cap on your budget.
Disclaimer: Just like Google Analytics it’s easy to get lost in AdWords so if you truly want to be successful you will need to do additional research and maybe even invest in some training.
Internet Marketing is moving at the speed of light so make sure to carve out time every week to increase your knowledge and stay up-to-date on what’s new in the world of Internet marketing. There are hundreds of blogs out there where you can get additional insights into the latest updates in the Internet marketing world. Bookmark the ones you like best and set aside one hour a week for reading. Of course, if you really want to become an Internet marketing superstar, colleges are even starting to offer full internet marketing degrees in the subject, both online and on-campus!
About the Author: Ashley Smith is a Marketing Coordinator at Rasmussen College in Bloomington, MN. She has worked in the field of Marketing for over three years. Ashley also has a B.A. in Marketing and Advertising from the University of St. Thomas and has completed Pay-Per-Click Advertising and Web Analytics Practitioner Certification courses through Market Motive.
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