Navigating Internet advertising

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By Earl Starkoff, MarketServ™

Spend money to advertise to promote sales. Seems pretty basic – whether your message is delivered in print or online.

For most small and medium (SMB) businesses, however, advertising online is like navigating uncharted waters. Most are still staying in their safe havens casting about for sales by spending most of their hard-earned dollars in direct mail, magazines, and newspapers – and too little online where their prospects live their daily lives.

And they’re leaving the online opportunities to the Big Brands.

It’s time for the SMB’s to weigh anchor, and spend more of their time and money out where they can catch more fish.

The two well-charted marketing channels for angling online for new business are Search Engine Optimization and Display. Both use targeting that focuses on their prospects’ online activity.

First priority: recognize that you have to be properly outfitted. Search Engine Optimization and Display require spending real dollars – just like your print campaigns – so you have the right gear, go to the right space, and commit to a fishing trip or expedition, not a day cruise on the water with some nice gear.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) puts your line in crowded places like the Google Gulfstream or Bing Bay with lots of other fishermen. Search engines are where hungry, ready-to-bite prospects are looking at lures. It’s called “optimization” because your dollars are used to angle your way to the top of page one of a search. That way, you avoid getting tangled with all of other lines.

From there, you’ve got your best chance to hook the fish. With SEO, you’re line fishing for single catches – the more, the better.

Display advertising puts you out on the open waters where all the fish live. You set your course with companies that hold vast data files of user online action and behavior files to target your ads to just the prospects you want when they’re online.

It’s fishing on a much bigger scale than SEO. You’re going from single line fishing to using the Net (literally, sorry) to catch your customers.

By scale, think of your net as your ad campaign. Lots of fish will swim past your net and never click to your web site, but – like commercial net fishing – it’s not a matter of the ones that got away. There are so many more, you’ll catch plenty.

Display advertising requires time, patience, and scale. You can’t just buy a few display ad spots on a search engine, show it to a limited audience, and expect to land much – if anything. That’s single line fishing in sparse waters.

Which is best? Only results will tell. Like the Big Brands, a combination is the way to go for most businesses.

Watch your Bottom Line Metrics, and chart the course that keeps your business sailing along.