plura Financial Blog

blog for plurafinancial.com, an online matchmaker between banks & small businesses

How to Do Internet Marketing! Demystifying SEM and SEO…

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By Karen Orlich/www.pluraFinancial.com

Ever ask yourself, “why is SEO important?”…“what is Affiliate Marketing?”, or “how do I start Display Advertising?”  These questions and more will be addressed below as we try to help you demystify online marketing.

Internet marketing offers many options for companies to reach a wide audience at a fraction of traditional advertising budgets. However, the choices are extensive and the costs can add up quickly if you do not have an educated strategy.

eMarketer reports that U.S. internet marketing expenditures are growing rapidly and exceeded US$42.0 billion in 2011 versus US$16.9 billion reported by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2006.  And, according to ComScore, a global firm specializing in digital business analytics, the average American spent 32 hours per month on the Internet in 2010.  Persons ages 45-54 set the high bar, averaging more than 39 hours online each month.

To better understand your options, internet marketing is broadly divided in to the following types:

  • Affiliate Marketing: rewarding affiliate or partner businesses for new customers or site visitors obtained by the affiliate’s separate marketing efforts.

Affiliates promote other’s products or services as a virtual salesperson.  They do not sell the product directly but instead typically earn a commission from each sale or referral generated from their site.  According to Entrepreneur.com, your main goal should be to find affiliates that will reach untapped markets and make sure that you are not competing for the same customers.  Customers are more likely to buy through “trusted” company referrals but large affiliate networks can be time-consuming to manage.  Each affiliate should be interviewed and considered selectively before signing them up.  “Affiliates are an extension of your sales force and represent your online brand, so choose partners carefully,” states Entrepreneur.com.

On the flip side, revenue can easily be earned by joining another company’s affiliate program with no upfront cost.  The best strategy to determine which affiliates would be most beneficial to your network is to focus on your customers’ needs.  Then, join the affiliate programs that fill the gaps in your product or service offering.

  • Display Advertising: using banner advertisements on a third-party website to increase traffic to a company’s own website and improve product awareness.

Research by comScore indicates that only 8% of internet users account for almost 85% of all display ad clicks and each month, 24% to 50% of Internet users delete their cookies, depending on geography.  This makes it difficult to track a machine and overstates the unique visitors to a website by 2.5 times.  Gian Fulgoni, Executive Chairman of comScore states, “Clicks on display ads are a misleading metric and don’t reflect the cumulative impact of ads.”

Investing significantly in display advertising should be carefully monitored to determine the most impactful ad design and placement.  Furthermore if your budget can accommodate the additional cost, A/B message testing is a beneficial practice to put in place with your display campaigns; running two different banner ad designs in the marketplace both pointing to the same destination, enables a company to best understand which message/creative combination generates the most interest.  Helpful sites to assist with advertisement and competitor analysis include:

Moat Ad Search is a search engine for online display ads that allows users to track companies by name and view their current banner ads, generally with the newest ads towards the top of the search page.  This can be highly advantageous for viewing competitor ad designs.

Google Analytics offers free website statistics and analysis to site administrators to analyze traffic flow for performance focused marketing primarily cost per click advertising.

Compete provides common website analytics including total unique visitors (defined as individual visitors to the site each month, counted only once, no matter how many times they visit a month), corresponding US ranking, traffic history, and sources.

SEMrush presents competitor keyword data and estimated Search Engine (SE) and AdWord traffic for any domain.

  • Email Marketing: advertising a product, service, or brand using electronic mail.

Forrester Research, a global technology and market research company, estimated in their marketing forecast for 2011 to 2016 that United States firms alone spent US$1.51 billion on email marketing in 2011 and will grow to US$2.47 billion in 2016.  Advertisers can reach substantial numbers of email subscribers who have opted in (i.e., consented) to receive email communications on subjects of interest to them.

Almost half of American internet users check or send email on a typical day, as reported by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, with email blasts that are delivered between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. outperforming those sent at other times in open and click rates according to the September 2011 publication of BtoB Magazine.

  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM): promoting a website through paid placement or inclusion advertising to increase visibility and search engine result pages (SERPs).  SERPs are the listings that you see after you enter a keyword or search phrase.

This can best be achieved through Adwords which is a pay-per-click advertising program offered by Google for keyword searches common to your specific business.  The more popular the word (“keyword’), the more expensive the cost per click or CPC.  This is one of the most popular and potentially costly forms of online marketing.  It is Google’s #1 revenue source with the Company reporting US$28 billion in advertising revenue in 2010.

How does it work?  As an example, in the highly competitive banking industry, words such as “business loans” show 550,000 global monthly searches and, on average, costs approximately $3.60 per click.  In this scenario, if a business chose to pay for the use of “business loans” in Google Adwords, it will cost $3.60 every time a new IP address (“potential” new customer) clicks on the “business loans” keyword reference link and is directed to their website.   Companies improve their search rankings, by entering a higher cost per click (“bid”) and total budget than competitors, through Google’s online bidding process.  Any keyword and its estimated CPC can be researched at www.adwords.google.com.

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results.

One of the best ways to improve SEO is through content marketing.  Content marketing involves creating and freely sharing informative content as a means of converting prospects into customers and customers into repeat buyers.  “The primary goal is to obtain opt-in permission to deliver content via email or other medium over time.  Repeated and regular exposure builds a relevant relationship that provides multiple opportunities for conversion, rather than a ‘one-shot’ all-or-nothing sales approach” reported copyblogger.

In contrast to ‘interruption’ marketing such as television commercials or direct mail, content marketing involves delivering requested information with independent value that creates trust, credibility, and authority for the business providing the information.  “Content drives the Internet and consumers are looking for information that solves a problem, not immediate sales pitches,” according to copyblogger senior editor Sonia Simone.  Consequently, this can decrease sales resistance from potential new customers while also providing a baseline introduction to the advantages of a particular product or service.

There are many ways to benefit with content: blogging, video tutorials, email newsletters, white papers, and free reports.  Businesses can experience a greater success in their online marketing by, using these modes of communication with customers and prospects, providing valuable content (with periodic promotional messages), and avoiding sales “agendas”.

Think of the giant search engines such as Google having electronic “spiders” that continuously crawl through all the websites & content on the web, rewarding those sites with genuinely good, popular content while punishing irrelevant, stale, or irresponsible websites.

plura Financial, an online loan matchmaker between banks & small businesses, had the greatest success using content marketing.  According to CEO, Brandon Hinkle, “If you create fresh relevant content that’s both educational and entertaining, you’ll be rewarded by Google and customers.  Be a trusted industry expert with a delightful customer experience and good things will happen.”

  • Social Media Marketing: using various social media sites to gain website traffic and attention.

Social networking websites allow individuals to interact with one another and build relationships. When products or companies join those sites, people can interact with the product or company.

Access Markets International (AMI) Partners Inc. 2010 – 2011 U.S. Small Business Marketing Activity and Spending Study revealed that social media marketing is estimated to grow 35% in 2012.  This is considerably higher than all other marketing categories which are slowly rebounding from the economic downturn.

Social networking sites like Linkedin, Facebook, GooglePlus, Twitter, YouTube and blogs allow individual followers to “retweet” or “repost” comments made by the product being promoted. By repeating the message, all of the users connections are able to see the message, therefore reaching more people.  It can be just as critical to use social sites to highlight your management and employees’ abilities and credentials as it is to market your company and product.  Be aware of information that is ‘public’ as it can be easily obtained, misunderstood, and potentially tarnish the Company image.  The primary goal of social networking is to create awareness and interaction, with the ultimate goal of creating content that “goes viral”.

  • Referral Marketing: a method of promoting products or services to new customers through referrals, usually word of mouth.  This method is commonly known off-line and can be easily implemented in connection with your website.  This is affiliated with “link building”, which is an initiative to have other websites post your URL on their website.

Link building can be achieved either by contacting other websites directly and requesting that they post your URL, or the preferred method is that other websites genuinely admire your website/content enough to post it on their website in an unsolicited manner.

In 2009, Dropbox, a free web based service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily, implemented a referral program that had a two-sided incentive for sharing: the person who signs up for Dropbox through a referral link gets more space than through a normal sign up, and the referrer gets additional space as well.  According to Drew Houston, the Co-founder and CEO of Dropbox, the referral program permanently increased their signups by 60% for the year and referrals account for approximately 35% of their daily signups.

Internet marketers also have the advantage of measuring statistics easily and inexpensively; almost all aspects of an Internet marketing campaign can be traced, measured, and tested, in many cases through the use of an ad server.  An ad server is a computer server, specifically a web server, that stores advertisements used in online marketing and delivers them to website visitors.

The content of the webserver is constantly updated so that the website or webpage on which the ads are displayed contains new advertisements when the site or page is visited or refreshed by a user.

In addition, the ad server also performs various other tasks like counting the number of impressions/clicks for an ad campaign and report generation, which helps in determining the ROI for an advertiser on a particular website.  Methods such as pay per impression, pay per click, pay per play, and pay per action can be used to determine which ads are more appealing to the viewers.  Results of campaigns can also be measured and tracked immediately by requiring a specific action such as clicking on an advertisement or visiting a website.

According to Marc Singer, an Account Supervisor at DDB Chicago, “In today’s digital world, content is king.  Consumers seek out and enjoy relevant content, and appreciate brands that make it easy for them to find engaging content in a variety of destinations.”

Internet marketing is forcing traditional marketers to change their conventional “one-way street strategy” (reach and attract prospects then convert to customers) to a “two-way-street strategy” (reach, attract, ‘engage’ prospects, convert to customers, gain their loyalty, and remain engaged through constant customer feedback).  Marketers need to better understand a consumer, how they receive info, which channels they participate in, and what their real needs are.  The best strategy is to provide customers with solutions to the problems they are looking to solve, when and where they are researching the problem, instead of trying to spray ads across television, radio, and print hoping someone will be interested and purchase your product.  These revelations are revolutionizing the marketing world and blazing a new path for the future.  In order to keep pace with competitors AND attract customers, businesses need to adopt some (if not all) of these internet marketing options.

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Written by entrabanker

March 1, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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