There is no one-size-fits-all online marketing plan for businesses. In fact, your online marketing plan needs to be integrated with your overall business marketing strategy. That said, there are three broad strategies you can employ for your online presence.
The decision to undertake any of the three broad online marketing plans depends, of course, on your business goals and how you expect to utilize your website to grow your business.
They are: 1) no online marketing plan, 2) typical business with no e-commerce aspect, and 3) e-commerce business.
No Online Marketing Plan
Despite what some online marketing experts say, it is possible to just have a website with no online marketing plan. For example, a well-coded website with a solid built-in search engine optimization focus can be sufficient for many business. For example, a bakery in a small town with limited online competition probably does not need to devote significant resources to online marketing if the original website was made with a design and content that is conducive to good online visibility through organic searches.
Another example would be a business that expects to get the vast majority of its web visitors through references to the website in print or other media. If most of the expected traffic is type-in; that is, through visitors knowing of the website address and typing it in, there is little need to have a moderate or strong online marketing plan. Again, a small, local business in a non-competitive marketing would fit this description.
The risk with a lack of an online marketing plan is that it is impossible to know how many opportunities were lost by not having a strong online presence. While impossible to quantify, a business owner should always consider the opportunity lost by not reaching a prospective new client.
Typical Business with No E-Commerce Aspect
For most businesses, focusing on an online marketing plan can yield great results. For example, we now know that more people search online for local services than those who use yellow pages directories. This is a powerful shift in how people look for service and product providers. Despite this fact, many businesses will spend thousands of dollars a year on phone book directory advertisements and nothing on their website.
At the very least a business should enlist the services of a company that specializes in search engine optimization and online marketing. This might be your web design company or another company, but it is very important to have some professionals offer ideas how your business can be found more easily online. There is no greater investment you can make that will have long-term benefits to your business if more people find your products or services online. A good S.E.O. firm will help your website do this.
Another possibility is a pay-per-click advertising campaign. These are the ads you see on the right column and at the top of the page when you query Google, Yahoo! and Bing for a keyword search. The good news is that you only pay when someone clicks the ad. Imagine a person searching for “hawaii scuba diving,” for example, and then clicking your ad for a Hawaii scuba diving company. You can not get any more pre-qualified visitors to your website than those that will come through a pay-per-click ad.
There are millions of online stores. Unfortunately, the vast majority fail to produce significant income. One reason, of course, are the products, but more fundamentally, many fail because they lack a seriously planned and executed internet marketing plan. The fact that a website exists does little to guarantee that it will attract visitors and sell products.
If you have an online store, do yourself a favor and find a good internet marketing company with which to work. You will save a lot of time, money and stress by having some professionals focus on marketing your products online. There are online marketing companies for many budgets, and, if you are lucky you might find one that will work for a percentage of the revenue with no upfront costs.
At a minimum, an e-commerce business needs to have the attention of a competent search engine optimization firm. An S.E.O. firm will look at the design and content of the website and make suggestions on how to attract more organic (non-paid) visitors to the website. This will include on-page factors like the page content and off-page factors like the number and quality of links to the website. A competent S.E.O. firm will also check to make sure the website has been submitted to all the major search engines in the proper format.
Another crucial part of an e-commerce business’ online growth plan is online advertising. This includes pay-per-click advertising (described above) and other online marketing options including affiliate programs and paid display advertising. Again, unless you want to spend countless days and nights trying to figure out the intricacies of online marketing, hiring some online marketing specialists will not only save you time and money, they will also help you make a lot more money.
A business’ online marketing plan should not be taken lightly. The trend for people to search online for products and services is only likely to continue. Failure to put your business where people are likely to find you is not only missed opportunity, it could mean the difference between a somewhat successful business and a very successful business.