A client recently asked me to comment on alternatives for online advertising. This was my reply:
Alas, there is no really a straight forward answer. Today, online advertising can include many components. Most of them involve work on your part (or someone you delegate it to), I’m afraid. Online advertising, to be effective needs to be multi faceted and ongoing.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) of your website is basic to any online advertising. Without that, your site can’t be found easily. Include key words or phrases you expect people to search under strategically in your site – including page titles, headings and page content. But don’t over-stuff your site; search engines frown on that. There is actually much more to SEO than key words and is a marketing specialty on its own.
- As part of search engine optimization, I would suggest adding articles about your industry or your products and services to your website so there are more words relevant to what you do to get picked up by search engines.
- Pay per click advertising through an agency like Google is pretty common now. Some people swear by paid search listings, while other insist on using organic listing results. Organic search results rely exclusively on SEO. One nice thing with pay per click advertising is that you can set a budget and test it out. The way it works is that the more you pay the more often you show up in the search result.
- The biggest way to attract attention these days is social media engagement. That means having a Facebook / Twitter / Instagram page and posting to it regularly – and encouraging people to follow it. Then you need to post something rather regularly, maybe a couple of times a week. You know posts don’t have to be long, but they should be something people want to see. It shouldn’t be non-stop, hard-sell advertising, but include more newsy, guess-what-we-did kind of things as part of the mix. Look at pages for other businesses to see what they post. Photos also intrigue people. Today, Facebook will want you to pay to get your posts out there. Twitter and Instagram are also popular platforms for engagement. The nice thing is that you can link your Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so one post does all three.
While online advertising is critical to your overall strategy, print advertising still has legs. It’s costly, but it does work for people. However, it can’t be your only advertising medium. Similar to print advertising is door to door flyers. They can get results if well executed. A limited distribution to a specific area can test the waters.
Bottom line: I tell clients to be constantly asking, “How did you hear about us?” when you get a new inquiry – then track to see if the inquiry turns into new business. (Some advertising only gets the attention of tire kickers.) At the same time, learn where your potential customers get their information. Is it from Facebook, a news site, Google or the grocery store bulletin board. If you don’t know, then ask them. The answers to this research should inform how you spend your advertising dollars. If you get a lot of business (not just inquiries) from one source, then it’s worth it for you. If not, then consider alternatives.