Small business internet advertising begins with having a website. When I say website, I’m not talking about a social media profile. While social media profiles are definitely part of internet advertising for small businesses, they are not a substitute for an actual website.
Unfortunately, many small business owners have been stubbornly avoiding creating websites for their businesses. The most popular reason given for NOT having a website: Our company doesn’t need one.
When I launched my web development firm in 1997 – business owners could justify not having a website. Very few people were online. Google was just an idea and AltaVista was the search engine of choice. The few of us who were online logged on using dial up modems.
Small Business Internet Advertising
My earliest web development clients were forward thinking small business owners who saw the bright future that lay ahead on the internet. They were poised to take advantage of the online population explosion. Their forward thinking was well rewarded. By 2003, more than half of Americans had a Facebook account. In 2015, that number had jumped to 81% of adults who use the internet have a Facebook account.
Not only are more people online – but they’re going online using mobile devices. According to Pew Research, in 2021 the vast majority of Americans – 97% – now own a cellphone of some kind. These cell phone owners are using their phones to look for answers to pressing questions including:
- Where can I go to have lunch?
- When is the next full moon?
- Who can fix my A/C?
- What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? (Answer: 11 meters per second)
On any given day there are people searching for small businesses nearby. These search queries are called ‘ear me’ searches. These are location-based search queries that often take place by someone who is actively in the market for the goods or services provided. Google will use the searcher’s present location to show them which businesses are nearest to them.
Google has to decide which business to list first when someone does a near me search. The most important step you can take is to claim and update your Google My Business listing. The second most important factor is a mobile optimized website. These two things will help you “win” a treasured top spot in this important search.
Your Website is the Foundation for Small Business Internet Advertising.
When it comes to websites, you have two options. You can register a domain name (less then $20), pay for hosting (as little as $5 per month) and set up your own website. The other option is to engage in a practice known as “digital share cropping.”
Digital share cropping is where you set up your business web site as a page on a social media site. In the post-civil era, former slaves would plant and harvest crops on land they didn’t own. They did all the work, took all the risks but only earned a portion of the profit. The same is true in today’s digital landscape. Business owners are setting up social media profiles on websites they don’t own and control. They’re taking all the risks while giving up ultimate control. This is by far the easiest way, but it definitely isn’t the best way.
Many small businesses set up a Facebook page and use it as their business website. You must realize the “golden rule” is in play here: He who has the gold, makes the rules. Facebook has the gold so they get to make the rules. The rules they make are for their benefit, not yours.
There’s nothing wrong with having a Facebook page for your business. It’s a smart marketing move. What’s not so smart is allowing your Facebook page to be your businesses only website.
Internet Advertising Basics:
The same “principles” which drive conventional advertising also drive internet advertising. The more “eyeballs” (or ears in the case of radio) you’re reaching – the higher the cost.
There are two conventional ways to advertise your small business online:
PPC or Pay Per Click Advertising
PPC is exactly what it says it is – you “pay” for every visitor who clicks on your ad. Google Adwords is just one of the many Pay Per Click advertising programs available to small business owners.
PPC advertising campaigns can be the best thing you’ve ever done to promote your business – or it can be a black hole sucking cash at an alarming rate. The key to making PPC profitable is tightly targeting your audience and discovering what words they use to search online for your products and services.
Online Display Advertising
Online display advertising is where you buy space on various websites to display your banner or advertisement. You create an attractive banner/button/ad and pay to have it displayed to web visitors on other websites.
When utilizing either of these two forms of internet advertising – you invest your money without a guarantee of making a sale.
The Third Unconventional Way to Advertise on the Internet
If you’re like most small business owners – you’d rather invest your advertising dollars in a “sure thing”. If you want to be sure every dollar you spend on advertising is effective, then you’ll want to invest in affiliate advertising.
Affiliate advertising is where you put other website owners to “work” promoting your products or services. Unlike traditional advertising where you pay “per impression,” with affiliate advertising you only pay after a sale is made.
Creating an affiliate advertising program is quite possibly the most effective form of advertising your small business. Just remember, the 80/20 rule applies when it comes to the sales your affiliate generate. As a general rule, 20% of your affiliates will be responsible for 80% of your sales.
The best thing abut creating an affiliate marketing program, you only pay your affiliates when you make a sale.
E-Junkie is a virtual shopping cart service. It offers robust inventory tracking as well as allowing you to set up your own affiliate sales program.
Advertising your small business on the internet is much easier than advertising in other forms of media – and no where else can you track and measure your results as easily as you can online.