The Internet is the new marketing frontier. Print advertisers are flocking to the Internet. It is the one advertising market that is growing consistently. Then there is the growing tendency by consumers to search the Web before they buy.
A recent study conducted by comScore, Inc., a leading Web behavior research firm, found that Web searches for local businesses and products grew 58 percent in the last year alone. There are 500 keyword searches taking place every second. That is 30,000 keyword searches per minute. Developing an online marketing strategy is a mandatory part of doing business in today’s world.
What makes this interesting is that out of the top keyword searches, a whopping 75 percent did not include brand-specific terms. Most consumers do not have a brand preference when in search of local service providers. They want help, and they are searching the Internet to find the products and services they want.
In understanding Internet marketing, you need to realize that the consumer is in control. The Internet gives consumers access to a massive amount of information that is literally at their fingertips. They no longer need to call you to get information. This shift in behavior dictates how you work with them.
George Faeber of Bee Windows in Indianapolis is a successful online marketer. In speaking with him, he told me that a comprehensive online marketing strategy includes the following:
- an effective Web site
- strategies to generate traffic
- pipeline communication
- benchmarks to measure effectiveness
An effective Web site
A high ranking for your Web site in response to a keyword search requires “search engine optimization.” SEO placement is determined by how relevant the search engine thinks your page/Web site is for a particular search query. It looks for:
- search terms (key words)
- the number of other Web sites that link to this page
- the “density” of the term, readability and inbound links to the page
- social marketing (blogs, newsletters)
- Facebook, visitor reviews
You can manipulate the content on your Web site, and the hidden code inside it, to get a better rank on Google, Yahoo or Bing. In essence, you are trying to put your best foot forward for Web-search purposes only. In many cases, you try to trick Google. Results vary. A competent website developer can assist you with this.
Strategies to generate traffic
There is a host of activities that can generate online traffic:
- a high page rank via SEO
- pay-per-click advertising, which are sponsored links on the keyword search page — SEM
- claiming your local listing with each search directory, i.e. Google Maps, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, CitySearch, etc.
- online lead generation companies
- social networking.
Once again, a competent Web site developer can assist you with this.
Online visitors cover the entire range of the buying spectrum. Some are looking to buy, some are looking for ideas, and some are just window shopping. Just because a homeowner isn’t ready to start a project right away, or is still in the planning and budgeting phase, does not necessarily mean that they are “tire kickers.” Build a pipeline, and provide homeowners with a reason to use your business when they are ready to start their project.
When possible, collect their contact information and implement a consistent, predictable follow-up program that may include:
- electronic newsletters
- e-mail tools
- design ideas and examples
- special promotions
- project checklists
- project pictures
- open house invitations
With the online shopper, we don’t control when they buy, but we can let them know on an ongoing basis that we are there to assist them.
Benchmarks to measure effectiveness
To know whether online marketing is working for your business, set up a spreadsheet or similar tool to capture the cost of the leads and total income generated from these leads. Keep track on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. In fact, this is a tool that is helpful for any advertising source and allows you to compare different advertising methods.
Online marketing is here to stay. If a homeowner doesn’t know your name, how will they find you? Begin to understand some of the underlying rules for how online keyword searches take place. Then, find a competent Web site developer to assist you with connecting to just a few of these 30,000 searches that are taking place every minute. It’s the future of marketing.