Where Should Your Internet Marketing Dollars Go Right Now?

I wanted to make a quick summary on what internet marketing techniques are perfect to invest in right now. Which ones are too experimental and would be better to invest in the future. And which marketing techniques you’ve missed the boat on and you’re too late.

It’s Too Late

-SEO: People had gangbuster success with SEO in the 2000’s. If you got in early, you not only got loads of free website traffic that generated sales leads, but you also got very valuable real estate on the 1st page of Google. In 2013, the people that are currently on the 1st page of Google usually don’t go anywhere. So if you want to crack the 1st page for keywords that are very competitive, maybe after a lot of hard work, maybe you can reach the 1st page after a year or so. Maybe. No guarantees. To spend a bunch of money in SEO these days with the hope of getting 2005-like results is like spending money on going to California because you think the gold rush is still going on.

-Shopping Carts: For small businesses that have shopping carts, they live and die off organic, seo traffic. They can’t afford to pay what large companies pay per click because the large company will almost always have a higher conversion rate. Why? It will take a large company less clicks to produce a sale on average because consumers are already familiar and will be more likely to trust the big company than some small company they’ve never heard of before. And because brand new SEO campaigns are almost impossible to be successful, the ship has sailed on shopping carts. The only exception would be if you’ve found a niche market and there’s no competition. Then the possibility for seo success and shopping cart success is out there.

Maybe Later

-Social Media: The past 5 years have shown that Facebook doesn’t drive up referral and word of mouth business. People just don’t do it. They use Facebook and other social media sites to socialize. Paying for clicks on Facebook is no different than any other form of display advertising, it’s just more expensive. If you’re a small business, you’re way better off letting someone else figure out the social media puzzle.

-Display Advertising: It’s on the rise and looks more appealing, but affiliate networks like Google need to do a better job localizing and properly segmenting the traffic. The conversion rates from clicks to sales leads is still ridiculously low because the location net is too wide and the segmenting isn’t specific enough. But I think Google will eventually get to where they need to be and that display will be a viable form of internet marketing by maybe 2015.

Internet Radio Advertising: I almost put this in the do it now category, but here at Customwave, we’re probably going to wait another year before completely jumping in and recommending it to clients. Too experimental right now, but it definitely has a future. I wrote a separate blog on it here.

 

Do It Now

-Pay Per Click: This is our bread and butter at Customwave. If you know what you’re doing, it works like gangbusters! You should have to know how to make sure the clicks you’re paying for convert into calls.

-Reputation Management: Lots of demand, not enough competent supply. Business owners are starting to pick up on the importance of their reputation online and it’s very do-able to help people with it.

-Email Marketing: An old school approach that still works as long as the people that are receiving your emails are familiar with you and interested in what you’re selling.

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Advertising on Internet Radio Looks Promising

There’s lots of different ways to market and advertise on the internet these days. Today I looked at an article on emarketer about avertising on internet radio shows. It indeed looks promising. There’s tons of internet radio shows that are out there looking for advertisers. And for some reason, us in the internet marketing industry have been ignoring it.

Analysts project that the internet radio audience is going to growing rapidly over the next 3 years because the internet offers way more options of what to listen to then the radio. Plus, you don’t have to listen live and can download the podcast or mp3. For people that are currently advertising on internet radio, they say the sales bump they get is modest, but that’s it’s beneficial in the long run because they get to attach their brand to the particular show.

Just as there are companies and programs out there that track website stats and call tracking, there will be companies that emerge that are able to track stats on internet radio and what happens when the ad is played. The more data and stats advertisers have access to, the more they can make adjustments and help increase sales.

Ultimately I think internet radio is an untapped niche that not a lot of people know about and if you have any marketing dollars you can afford to experiment with, internet radio could be way more appealing than social media or seo or something like that.

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YouTube Would Like You To Pay To Watch It’s Videos

Google, which owns YouTube, isn’t having too much success selling ads on their videos. Probably because they don’t sell as many ads as they’d like and because the ads aren’t that successful for the advertisers that pay for them (otherwise word would get around that people are making all this money advertising on youtube, which isn’t the case)

So Google is looking to execute a new strategy: getting people to pay for the most popular video content on the website. The idea is that if people pay Directv, Time Warner, etc, if they pay for on demand movies, pay per views and if people pay Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime, maybe Google could get in on the action with the right video content. I think it’s a great idea and that with Google’s money, they could definitely compete with Netflix and Amazon. And they could especially start having big success if in 5-10 years from now, people stop paying satellite dish and cable companies for TV and just watch TV shows, movies and sports online.

But they have to get around the brand they’ve created for themselves which is that YouTube is the home for free internet video. That will be a difficult task that will take some time.

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I’m Sorry, But It’s Too Late To Build Your Shopping Cart

I’m going to make this short and simple. Every now and then, people ask me to help them with their shopping carts. And you need to understand that with shopping carts, not only do they take a long time to build, but it takes a long time to get all the content together. Like the pictures. The text. Market research to figure out the pricing. Setting up the merchant account that processes credit cards when a product is bought. I want to be clear. Building a shopping cart is a big investment of time and money.

And on top of all that, it’s too late. It’s 2012. You missed the boat.

Here’s why. Marketing locally works. Local small businesses compete within 10 mile to 25 mile radius. They’re not going to compete with big, national companies. With shopping carts, you compete with other small businesses all across the country and even the world. And you compete with big business. Why is that important? Because for big companies, the cost to acquire the sale will be a lot lower than yours.

SEO for shopping carts? Forget about it. Too late. Maybe, maybe a company can start doing SEO now and maybe in 1-2 years pick up organic rankings LOCALLY. But nationally? Unless you’re inventing a new product, you’re out of luck.

So the only option is paying for traffic. Here’s the most important part of my post: Let’s say, it takes you 50 clicks to get a sale. Well guess what? The big, national companies, it’s going to take them a lot less clicks to produce a sale. Why? Trust. Brand recognition. For Target, they probably only need maybe 15 clicks to produce a sale. Maybe less. Because people know Target. If they have problems, they’re confident Target will resolve them. But people have no clue who Joe’s Shoes is. They don’t have much confidence there. So Therefore, if Target only needs 15 clicks to make a sale and you need 50, Target will be willing to bid a lot more per click than a small business would. And big business drives the cost per click up so high to where the small business can’t compete. Like even when they make a sale, the cost to acquire it is so high, they don’t make any money.

Is it impossible to build a shopping cart right now and have success with it? No. It is possible. How can you do it? You need to build up your brand online. You need to spread positive reviews about your company like wildfire. All the forums and blogs the potential customers in your market go to, you need to advertise there. Give people time to get familiar with you. You need to be on Facebook like no other and evangelize your brand. You need to make friends, get to know people. Build relationships with people. Hopefully they’ll spread word of mouth about your shopping cart. You would need to build up your brand so much, that if someone typed in your company name into Google to do background research on you, they find all this positive stuff. Then maybe, just maybe, it could take you 30 clicks, 25 clicks, 20 clicks on average to produce a sale. And that’s when your shopping cart can possibly, financially become a viable business.

But building a brand up takes a long time. I’m not talking about it taking a few weeks. Or months. I’m talking about at least a year, if not two or three. Maybe even five. It should be viewed as a long term investment.

So my conclusion is that most small business owners shouldn’t waste their time with shopping carts. Because they won’t have the patience or skill to build up their brand. It’s too late. Building a shopping cart and having success with it was very do-able back in 2001. Maybe 2005. You waited too long and missed the boat. For those of you who are going to do it anyway, may the force be with you. You’re going to need it.

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Does Your Business Need Google+?

Lately, I’ve been seeing people in the industry talking to small business owners about Google+ and it’s the next big thing and if you can get your business on it. there’s a big opportunity to increase sales.

Wrong.

In order for Google+ to bring you in more business, there needs to be people actively using it. As of right now, people have set up Google+ accounts, but they don’t spend any time on it. Most people are still loyal to Facebook and kill their time there.

What’s the value of being on Google+ right now? Really, there isn’t any value in being on there.

I believe that most people misunderstand the value in social media marketing. I should right a blog post in the future about it, but for now I’ll say that the value is in building relationships with people. Just like in the real world when you network. I see people creating posts on Facebook selling, trying to spur up conversation and those people that do that are better off just going to the beach or watching TV. Again, a topic for another day.

Something that sickens me is that you have “internet marketing companies” advertise Google+ to small business as if they “need” to be on it. That it will “increase” visibility. It’s garbage. They’re just trying to make more money and take advantage of the small business owner’s lack of knowledge in internet marketing.

Google+ will only be valuable to be on when there are millions of people that spend tons of time on it. Right now, that time has not arrived yet. Therefore, I would say the current value of being on Google+ is in the pennies.

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GoDaddy Peddles Junk

Let’s say you’re at a car dealership. You’re talking to the salesman and he tells you this shiny 2012 blue car runs great and you’ll love it. So you purchase the car and feel like the salesman was a sucker for giving the car away at such a low price. Then you wake up the next morning and the car won’t start. You bring in a mechanic who looks at the car and says, yeah, this car is junk, I can’t believe you were able to drive it home. It’s worthless. In my humble opinion, this is exactly what GoDaddy does to small business owners.

Last week while watching the Super Bowl, I saw a GoDaddy commercial advertising .co domain names and you needed to get one for your business ASAP! Those .co website addresses “get you noticed” and “smart businesses go with .co’s with GoDaddy”. And I can just imagine countless small business owners watching the commercial figuring if they buy a .co domain, their website will get more exposure, which will produce more sales leads and more revenue.

GoDaddy is peddling junk. Buying a .co domain name for your business won’t do anything. If Google or Bing decided to make a change in their search engine’s algorithm by giving websites with brand new domain extensions special ranking privileges, that’d be one thing. But that premise goes against everything Google stands for when deciding their organic rankings.

So will the .co domain name “get you noticed’? No. No it won’t. It won’t do anything. Buying the .co will not result in a single extra phone call, much less a new customer. The only value that domain offers is a piece of real estate on the internet. That’s pretty much worthless. Because .com, .net, and .org have been established as the premiere domain extensions on the internet and that fact has as much chance of changing as some new search engine knocking Google off it’s perch.

GoDaddy is making the internet marketing industry look bad. How would you like it if you bought a used car and it doesn’t do what’s advertised. That’s exactly what GoDaddy is doing here. And it’s because of companies like GoDaddy, that small business owners are still wary about spending more marketing dollars on the internet. Because there are still too many thieves that take advantage of people’s lack of knowledge in our industry.

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Facebook is Still Not a Viable Business

I know, I know, you might be reading the title wondering what the heck I’m talking about, but just humor me here. Yes, I know Facebook is not Myspace. I really doubt people are going to stop using Facebook anytime soon. I use Facebook a ton myself. So where’s the substance in my provocative title you ask?

Let me sum it up. Facebook’s advertisers are not making money. And make no mistake about it, Facebook is in the advertising business.

And I’m not the only one who’s seeing red flags. Below is a quote from Veronica Stecker, a media manager from retailer Gordmans Inc,  in Wall Street Journal story:

“We still don’t have a huge correlation between Facebook fans and return on investment in an actual sales in store. Until that metric becomes a lot more solid, I don’t think our company or other brands are going to be full-fledged into Facebook advertising.”

There’s a monstrous difference between Google and Facebook. Google is a destination. When people are looking for something, they go to Google. Advertisers make money because of that and Google is thus successful.

The past couple years, businesses, big and small, have been spending money on Facebook as an experiment and/or because everybody else is doing it. But we’re reaching a point where the economy continues to tighten and people are starting to ask each other, is this advertising even doing anything?

Facebook may have the biggest tech IPO ever shortly, but I think their biggest challenge lies ahead. Unless they figure out a way to help advertisers make money, which they’ve been trying and failing for the past 5 years, their revenue will dry up. Investors will question the business. And Facebook will be in all sorts of trouble.

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HP Is Done With The Computer Business

10 Years ago in 2001, HP bought Compaq making Hewlett-Packard the #1 computer vendor in the world. Fast forward to 2011 and both Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal are reporting the HP is about to sell it’s entire computer division.

When I read that, I asked myself, why on earth would a large corporation that spent countless time and money to become the market leader, give it up? Just throw it away. To me, i think it’s clearest signal that the computer business is no longer going to be a profitable business to be in.

Steve Jobs declared in March of this year the the “PC era is over.” A declaration that at the time, I thought was ridiculous. My knee jerk thought was that computers aren’t going anywhere. Every office needs them. But after doing some research and re-considering, I can see why HP is doing what they’re doing.

Basically, the computer manufacturing business has become so competitive that the only way to make money off of them is by doing a massive amount of volume. Companies make little money off each computer sold. And over the last 10 years, business has been great doing it that way.

But now the computer has competition. Smart phones and tablets are becoming more and more popular. Less computers are being sold because of this. And I’m betting that HP is betting that this isn’t going to change. That from this point going forward, there will be less and less computers being sold because of all the new mobile devices coming down the road.

The most startling thing I found was Mark Cuban predicting that this would happen back in 2005. Stunning. He hit the nail right on the head.

This is just another example in business that companies need to evolve when the environment around them changes.

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How Small Business Can Actually Benefit From Facebook

Of course everyone by now has heard of Facebook. And when small business owners have seen bigger businesses benefiting from Facebook, they’ve of course decided to try it themselves. But there’s a lot of bbad information going around leaving a ton of small business owners with a bad taste in their mouth.

Back in January, i blogged about a chart from emarketer about the 9 main benefits of social media marketing. But let me be clear. That chart applies more often to bigger companies. A lot of the benefits listed aren’t relevant to small businesses because they don’t have enough people “liking” their Facebook page. Because of this, “monitoring what is being said about your company”, “improving customer service”, “resolving problems” and a few others don’t apply.

Now, there’s lots of companies selling $1,000 a month and $500 a month “social media marketing” packages. In my humble opinion, they’re selling snake oil. As of right now, there’s a general consensus in the industry that there’s no evidence suggesting companies are profiting off large social media investments. They’re still working on it and making progress, but we’re not there yet. And most people who will tell you different and that small businesses are making money off of spending thousands of dollars off Facebook, are probably the same people selling these social media services.

At Customwave, we do have a social media marketing package. We keep it simple, provide the basics and do only what we know works for sure. We charge $25 a month for it.

There’s 2 main ways small businesses indisputably benefit off of Facebook. We post regularly on our clients Facebook pages with relevant content. For people who have never heard of your company before and they find your Facebook page, our clients will look like experts and authorities in their industry. This is the type of thing that convinces people to actually go through and do the job with you after they find your phone #.

The second main way Facebook benefits will have to do with how many people “like” your Facebook page. The more, the better. Because once someone “likes” your Facebook page and we post content, the content will land in their “news feed”. It’s very similar to email marketing, except in my opinion better because most people these days spend more time on Facebook than their email. This is how small businesses can generate referrals off Facebook.

These are two sure-fire ways that small businesses benefit from Facebook. Everything else at this point on Facebook is theory and experiment.

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Your Leads Are Worthless Without Doing The Following

So, for local small businesses, it’s all about getting phone calls, right? Usually. Most of the time. But not always. Generating sales leads is phenomenal. It’s absolutely a good thing. But what happens if these calls don’t translate into the client increasing their sales? The answer: the calls are worthless. The client looks for other marketing options. So how can you make it likely your leads will be of good quality?

Your Online Reputation Is Most Important

Almost every client I talk to, I try and make them aware of the report put out by Pew Research last September. The big headline is that 58% of Americans say that before they purchase products or a service, they do online research. In other words, they go to Google and type in your client’s company name. And you better hope that what shows up on the first page reflects the client in a good or neutral way. What good is getting somebody phone calls, if the potential customer googles your client and gets scared off by negative comments?

This is why every company doing internet marketing needs to be doing reputation management. Removing negative stuff from the first page of Google when someone types in your client’s name takes just as much time to get them ranked for competitive keywords organically. Generally speaking, it’s nice when almost all the results that show up on the first page for the company name are websites where you can control the content. This insures the client won’t lose business if the website visitor does a little digging.

(Shameless plug: For anyone interested in help with their reputation management, check out www.customwave.net)

Why You Want To Be Seen As A Guru

I got to find time to write a blog post on how to really use Facebook for small businesses. It’s really misunderstood. But relating to this topic, it’s important to put out an image that you’re an authority in your industry. Especially locally. Similar to what i was mention with reputation management, people will do online research on your company. And if you post regularly on Facebook, or your blog, or other websites, most people will percieve you to be an expert. Obviously, if someone who calls you or is considering calling you is on the fence, this is the type of thing that can tip people in your favor. How many of your client’s competitors have an online image of being an authority? Not many.

This is, in my opinion, the #1 benefit of social networks and blogging. It’s not something you can track or quantify, but definitely something that’s important to focus on. If you can take a few calls a month from people who ordinarily wouldn’t have done business with you, but do because of your guru-ness, it absolutely rewards your effort.

Source Traffic and Targeting

Before the phone call happens, before the website visitor reaches the client’s website, the website visitors originates from some place. You need to make sure that that some place is a traffic source that converts. Google would be an obvious source of good quality, thus explaining why so many internet marketers use it.

But for you others who use affiliate networks, social networks, and other random sources, you need to be able to measure the conversion. In other words, if the client wants sales, you need to track whether or not source A’s traffic is converting into sales. Without that knowledge, you’ll keep spending money on traffic that could be worthless to your client for all you know. I know, this sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed by how many people don’t test and measure like this. It’s called laziness ; )

For people who are doing pay per click, your keyword targeting needs to be right on. It’s critical to test and figure out which keywords are generating the client’s goals and which aren’t. Without knowing this, you’re going to flushing perfectly good money down the toilet.

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