The pros and cons of small business internet marketing

internet marketingYesterday we began taking a look at what small business can do in terms of marketing themselves. Our initial focus was on very traditional forms of marketing, like trade shows and word-of-mouth. While both are still effective ways to get customers, it’s become more and more apparent these days you need to be on the internet as well. But the internet isn’t necessarily some kind of panacea. It still has its pros and cons like any other form of marketing. So let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the basic forms of internet marketing.

Search Engine Optimization

  • Pros: Search engine optimization (known as SEO) is a great tool because it doesn’t cost you a dime. The basic concept is that Google (or other search engines) checks your site and its content, and then produces relevant results for the searcher. So anything you type on your web site, from headlines to articles, can be found by various search engines. With a little research, and optimizing your site URLS, you can immediately start producing results for your business web site.
  • Cons: There are a lot of cons to SEO. The first is that although SEO is free, the only way to have it bring in a significant amount of traffic is to have a lot of content. And producing content takes a lot of time – and you’ll likely have to pay someone to do it. There is also the problem that while SEO is a funnel of sorts, it often has very poor conversion rates. Meaning most of the people who come to your site via SEO will likely leave almost immediately. SEO is also a beast all its own. Large companies have entire divisions devoted to it. To really nail SEO you need to do things such as get on Google News (somewhat difficult to do), get meta tags, optimize keywords, create proper URLs, etc. Perfecting SEO is quite time consuming, and not something a small business wants to waste time on.

Google/Yahoo/Microsoft ads

  • Pros: This is a much better funnel than SEO. When someone searches for something specific using any of these search engines, related advertisements to the search pop-up on the screen. Generally, you are allowed to select what keyword searches you want your ad to appear under. So if you make “construction” a keyword for your business, anytime someone types construction in their search, your ad will appear for them. The ads are positioned in an easily viewable area and in most cases, you will not have to pay for them unless someone clicks on the actual ad.
  • Cons: These ads do cost money. And if many people are coming to your web site, but not being converted into actual customers, you’re essentially wasting your money.

Facebook ads

  • Pros: Facebook has become a dominant force on the internet with over 500 million active users, and a very good method for reaching individuals who may be interested in your business. Facebook has data on every single member, and as a result, is better able to pair up an advertisement with someone’s backgrounds and interests than even Google/Yahoo/Microsoft ads. So your advertisements are even more focused.
  • Cons: These ads also cost money. In addition to that, while Facebook is expansive, many businesses (and people who own or operate businesses) avoid it as well. While businesses are beginning to understand its importance, it’s still primarily a social network.

Social Networks (Twitter, Facebook, Digg, MySpace, LinkedIn)

  • Pros: Social networks are quickly becoming the new word-of-mouth. The positives are that word of your business can spread like wildfire. Or, if not wildfire, you can at least begin to get into contact with people that you never would have been able to reach before. Social networks do make creating networks and meeting people with common interests from all over the world much easier. In addition to that, social networks are mostly free and all are relatively simple to use.
  • Cons: Social networks can just as easily harm you as help you. Take for instance this YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo) mocking United Airlines that has over nine million views in a little over a year thanks to being passed around social networks. The other problem many people have is they believe social networks will instantly provide a boost for their business, when in fact building up a presence on Twitter, Facebook and various other social networks is often a long process. Unless you have instant name recognition, it will likely require some time to become established on these networks. And one of the other important things to understand is that each social network is different. Doing the same thing on Facebook that you do on Twitter will not always produce the same result. Each social network requires some research into how to take advantage of its potential.

Tomorrow we’ll move on to the final part of our look into small business marketing with email marketing.

3 Responses to The pros and cons of small business internet marketing

  1. Pingback: The pros and cons of small business email marketing « Buyful Blog

  2. Pingback: Can social media usage become profitable for small businesses? Yes, it can. « Buyful Blog

  3. Pingback: Is social media helping your small business? « Buyful Blog

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