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Online Marketing Primer

By Don Henderson Volume II Webdesign, SEO
Visitor state of mind is extremely important to consider.
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This is a portion of the complete article. Click here to download the full article in PDF format.

Do you have a business but little knowledge of the Internet?  Do you need a website or online marketing but don’t know where to begin? This Primer is for you.

This is part one written in question and answer form. 

I run a retail business with walk-in or drive-in customers.  Do I need a website or why can’t I just ignore the Internet altogether?

When was the last time you looked up something in a paper phone book?  Unless you do not own or use a computer very much, chances are you do not often use a phone book.  Whether you do or don’t, your customers are increasingly not using a paper telephone book to find you.  What worked for local retail advertising up until just a few years ago is rapidly diminishing in effectiveness.  Print advertising with the possible exception of targeted, single-piece direct mail is not going to be effective compared to what can be done to promote a business online.

If you have a retail, walk‑in storefront business chances are:

  • You are doing some marketing;
  • The marketing you are doing probably has a financial cost to it;
  • The effectiveness of the offline marketing you might be doing is probably difficult to measure.

There are several ways you can use the Internet to increase your exposure that costs little or nothing. One is publishing text, audio or video content about your business and industry which will be further discussed below. Another is to focus on various free services available on the Internet that lists retail businesses, the products and services of businesses, business contact information and customer reviews. Ignoring these services can erode your business exposure without your knowledge.

Whether you like it or not, customer reviews about your business will be published. Customers today have a greater voice than ever before because of customer review websites. If you anger your customers or generate negative reactions your customers will complain where other prospective customers will read it. Alternatively, if you thrill your customers with over-the-top value and service, you give them a reason to go online and say great things about you.

I highly recommend any business owner not only recognize these trends as soon as possible but take steps to prevent and decrease the effect of negative reviews that are sure to occur if they haven't already. On most review sites once a negative review is written about your business it is often very difficult if not impossible to get it removed. You can respond to negative reviews but getting them removed can be a long and difficult process if at all possible. Your job as a business owner is to:

  • Optimize review content published to the best of your ability – and;
  • Execute a marketing plan that leverages such review sites to your advantage.

Encourage customers to go online and comment on your service while they are in your business or while they are in the process of buying from you. You have the highest statistical probability of not only getting a customer to write a review but getting them to write a positive one if you encourage them to do so during the sale process, whatever that is for your business. If you have a lobby, consider putting up a sign asking customers to go online and comment immediately, or even consider installing a 'free Internet access' computer in your lobby or waiting room for that purpose. You can give your customers a clear message that your goal is to get a positive online review from them immediately and if they have not had an experience worthy of a glowing review, you'd like it brought to your attention so you can improve their experience on the spot.

Finally and perhaps most importantly is that your competitors are increasingly using Internet marketing techniques which can and eventually will take your customers if you do nothing. However, if you use review sites in your favor you can "stack up" positive reviews about your business and "drown out" any negative reviews which will promote you above your competition.

Once I have a website will I get visitors to it?

The short answer is 'no.' Why? Because getting people to visit your website requires you to either:

  • Pay for advertising much like newspaper or yellow page ads cost money, or;
  • Become somewhat of an author or video content producer to get free traffic.

To acquire and maintain people coming to your website (traffic) you must either pay for placement (called pay per click or PPC) or strive to publish as much free content about your business to generate free (organic) traffic.

To get free organic traffic you need a website with free valuable content on it. This is to build an e‑mail subscriber list – you collect e‑mail addresses before visitors can get to the free content. You must make the freebie as big as possible to get people to tell their friends about it and therefore your business. Once people start telling others about your business search engines will increasingly display your website in search results. Publishing either written or video content will increase your traffic if done frequently enough and the content is good, but of course this requires work to generate. If you generate Internet traffic by publishing content, your ultimate goal is to provide what is called "coveted content" - knowledge presented in writing, audio or video that is unique or better than similar content so that others will write about and link to you. A bakery could start a food blog about new baking techniques that saves power or improves bread taste, an auto mechanic could provide free car repair tip videos – the list is endless. Think about what you would want to find if you were a subscriber to a newsletter in your industry, then use your expertise of your industry to author compelling content!

Even if you have a beautiful website built today you need to be writing as a thought-leader in your industry and providing that content for free to grow sustainable traffic and subscribers. Once your newsletter, blog or video channel subscriber list is large and mature you can slowly introduce small, gentle marketing messages into your content. When you begin this, test for subscriber loss – people unsubscribing from your newsletter or video content channel. Look for signs of customer disinterest once you begin marketing campaigns and if you start losing a significant number of subscribers, adjust the advertising level to slow or halt the loss and to reinvigorate social media linking and commenting.

The other way to get traffic is to use paid advertising or pay-per-click (PPC) ads. This is recommended if you have a marketing budget and you want to get traffic to your website immediately. Often you can use PPC to get traffic coming to your website in 24 hours or less.

There are many PPC services, but by far the biggest is Google Adwords. If you own a small business Google Adwords is all you should focus on. In PPC services you “bid” on keywords that are related to your business. You are charged when people click on your ad - not when people buy. This means you should have the most professional website possible.

To continue with the bakery example, the website marketer would bid on bakery keywords with the city in front of the words. For example, if the business was located in , California, keywords such as “ bakery,” “ donut shop,” “ baked goods” might appear to be good choices. However businesses that serve a specific radius of customers geographically should try to research keywords that are more narrowly focused to the smaller community. For example a bakery located in Ocean Beach, a small segrated area of the greater region should bid on “Ocean Beach bakery” and not on “ bakery.” This will provide much lower marketing cost and higher click relevancy. As you can see pay‑per‑click advertising requires keyword research and other techniques to hold down costs.

I've got a great website name (URL) that has popular words in it. Isn't this enough to build visitor traffic to my website?

While your URL name may be impressive you should know that the URL name is just one of at least 72 what are called "on page" factors that help search engines find and place your website in search results. Many other 'on page' elements (code on the web pages themselves) and 'off page' elements (links and other content around the Internet that mention or link to your website) determine where your website ends up in search engine results – the pages that appear after you type a search term into a search engine like Google. If you're website is not on at least the first page of these results you'll get far fewer visitors. Why? Because most people don't click through to the second page of search results. How many times have you searched for something on Google and clicked through to the second page? Few people do.

Your "popular name" website therefore requires the same amount of development that a website name without a popular word in it needs. For example, building a website for the URL "" requires the same amount of work to get a similar level of traffic as building a website for the URL "" In fact if done correctly, "" could get more visitors and sales if the developer performed better optimizations of on-page and off-page factors required to get and keep high page placement on search engines.

Can I just build a good-looking website and then buy advertising?

Purchase advertising (sponsored placement) can potentially be expensive but is extremely fast and effective. If you have an online marketing budget this is the first step in online marketing.

Buying online ads must be done carefully and with effective measurement tools (analytics) in place. Off line advertising such as direct mail can be tracked using such monikers as a “Dept. No.” in a return address line to test different mailings for performance. On‑line advertising such as Google's Adwords require research into keywords (basically 1 to 6‑word phrases) specific to your industry that provide high converting traffic.

If you bid on keywords in Google Adwords there are some techniques to avoid paying for a lot of traffic that does not convert into sales. One technique is to focus on what are called “long tail” keyword phrases – phrases that have as many words in them as possible that show there are people typing them into search engines. To continue the bakery example, this would involve bidding on keyword phrases such as "organic bread ocean beach bakery" as opposed to “organic bread.” People typing in longer phrases are more likely ready to purchase something immediately while people searching for shorter phrases are in a research or “discovery” phase of the buying process.

Someone typing in just "organic bread" could be looking for anything from a bakery to a recipe and are much less likely to be ready to buy.

I'm a small business owner and need to save money on building my website. Why can't I just hire interns to do it?

Being a small business owner probably means you have "a million things to do" all the time. Your time and attention must be carefully spent on those activities that increase customers and revenues. Do you have time to train interns? And if you do train them, what is the real benefit to your business? There is a high likelihood that any money saved in website development cost is spent possibly many times over in your time lost training a less than knowledgeable person to work on your Internet presence.

If you hire interns or "novice" people for your business you will spend much of your time training and managing them, which cuts into your time, financial resources and the work only you can do. Also, you will not get the same results – ten interns will likely never be able to develop a professional website with the coding and marketing intelligence needed as a website development professional can. Spending money on professionals to work for you whenever possible will save you both time and money, and you'll end up with a much better result.


This was a portion of the article. Click here to download the full article in PDF format.

 Online Marketing Primer - Part 1
Questions or comments?  Contact us today:
U.S.: 1-619-850-3442
See Our Last Blog Entry: “Why First Page Search Engine Ranking is Not Enough

About DONH Consulting

Don Henderson - director of DONH Consulting is an Internet Marketing Specialist with over ten years Internet management and marketing experience. He has managed dozens of Internet development and marketing projects and has experience in product management and business planning.

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