So you’ve got a few online business ideas you’d like to execute. Or you may want to make money blogging. If you’re an online entrepreneur or hoping to become one, you may want to read about some of the web marketing strategies I’ve learned through the years.
I’m going for something a bit different today, which is to touch a little upon the subject of online business, since it has such a big impact on me. After all, it’s my livelihood! My introduction into the world of the internet along with its opportunities, rewards and promises was all a serendipitous accident that befell me, a few years ago. And it’s changed the course of my work life tremendously.
Earlier on, I had the chance to touch the surface of how to start an online business; this time around, I’d like to explore the things that online business owners can do to help promote or market their business. Being more of a technical person, I’ve found this aspect of business as something brand new, so there was a lot I had to learn over the years.
When it comes to trying to earn money online, we’ve got two goals: it really boils down to figuring out ways to monetize your site as well as building traffic for it. Well, the latter goal — figuring out how to get visitors to your site and how to attract customers — is where this article comes in.
10 Web Marketing Strategies For Online Business Owners
The following are some ideas for promoting your site. Here’s some disclosure though — these are all just suggestions, not all of which I’ve tried. Also, some ideas are tailored to general web businesses, and may not necessarily apply to blogs (but most do).
1. SEO or Search Engine Optimization
What I didn’t realize when I first started blogging was just how important this thing called search engine optimization would be to any site. In fact, I started blogging with no clue what SEO meant (have a laugh at my old tongue-in-cheek post on how to promote your site). I’d rather avoid getting into details here because there are tomes and sites out there that discuss this stuff to no end; instead, I’d rather just say that SEO is what you need to get ranked in search engines and ultimately to gain traffic via search.
2. SEM or Search Engine Marketing
Another way to get traffic is to buy advertising. Some people I know have been trying out Google Adwords for this purpose, where they hope to snare some customers who end up clicking the ads they take out. Others do direct advertising in highly popular sites, but be sure to read Google’s policies for doing this sort of thing. You can also check out Microsoft adCenter, which costs only $5 to sign up, or Yahoo!’s Small Business resources or Search Engine Marketing program.
3. Press Releases
A more traditional way to attract eyeballs is by doing press releases. You can sign up to services that can prepare press releases for you, or depending on the type of business you have, you may want to cross over by doing “real world” activities that attract offline customers to your site. For instance, you could sponsor an event in your local area or support a neighborhood sports team as a way to promote your business. Or get in your local papers by offering a nice donation to a cause. There are many ways to generate buzz and you may want to try thinking outside of the box to see what methods stick best for your site.
4. Content in Various Forms (Interviews, Podcasts, Guest Articles)
Again, if you want to drum up buzz and give your site more authority, then you can extend your reach by creating interviews, podcasts, guest articles hosted on other sites, and whatever else you think can give your site some attention. The thing is, unless you’ve got a team of people supporting you, this stuff can get pretty time-consuming. But if you’ve got the resources, this could be a pretty effective strategy. Here’s one more tip: of you’re looking to share content with other sites, you’ll have to be careful not to go on a spamming spree or you risk becoming an annoyance. Make sure your content is a fit for places where you intend to host them.
5. Giveaways, Freebies, Coupons and Discounts
You can also host giveaways and freebies from your site, or offer coupons and discounts if you are selling a product. I’ve got a friend with an absolutely awesome Etsy store. She regularly gives away her jewelry to some lucky customer as a way to market her store.
6. Affiliate Programs
Would you like to have blogs and other content publishers write about you? Why not set up your own affiliate program? As a form of internet marketing, you can offer to pay someone else to promote your product or service through an affiliate set up. For each person they send to your doorstep (who successfully signs up to your service or purchases a product), give them a little reward. Lots of bloggers live for that payout!
7. Social Networking and Social Bookmarking
Certain sites house large communities that you may want to explore. If you feel you can tap Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace, you can spend some time and effort developing your profiles here. There are also places like Squidoo or HubPages that allow you to build profiles and pages that promote your stuff. For content rich sites, you can leverage social bookmarking sites that are pertinent to your content. For financial bloggers like me, we’ve got sites like Tip’d and PFBuzz.com where we can share our content with a financial audience. In the past, StumbleUpon, Digg or Reddit have been particularly friendly to blogs, but as they’ve grown, it’s become much harder to get traction in these sites (as their community and its tastes may have also changed). Interestingly, social networking is one avenue I haven’t had time to pursue as much as I’d like to. Maybe later?
8. Forums and Blogs
If you’ve got a static website, why not set up a blog to offer a different dimension to your site? Blogs are a great way to build promotional content around your product or service. You may also want to build a community for your customers through a forum. Or you may prefer to join an existing forum that caters to your business, to see if it’s possible to market your stuff there (be careful though, that the forums you visit won’t mind this sort of thing).
9. Customer Service and Community Building
Then there are those businesses that aim to cultivate return customers. In those cases, you may want to do things to improve customer retention and to build your community by making sure that your site is well designed with an easy way for people to contact you for questions. Just like with any other business, being able to respond promptly to customers’ concerns, having a return policy and honoring guarantees are always a good way to keep people satisfied and hopefully, interested in coming back.
10. Online Networking
Finally, one thing that’s worked well for me as an online business owner is to build relationships with others with similar aspirations and goals. If it weren’t for online friends I’ve made in this space, I doubt that I’d have the guts and knowledge to leave my job and subsequently develop this hobby into a business. So make friends with other site owners, bloggers, web publishers and internet marketers, and get inspired to take your business to a new level.
So what do you think? If you’ve got an online business, I’d love to hear about what it is you do to try to build a customer base. Yeah, other than saying that we should create products that sell themselves.
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