The internet provides a great opportunity for small business owners to advertise and market their products to a broad customer base.
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But unless you know what you're doing, the internet can be a black hole that sucks in advertising dollars without making any real impact on your bottom line.
Smart business owners know that in order to make the internet pay, they need to do their research and invest wisely.
The cornerstone of internet advertising is your company website. Until you have a website, you simply do not have a presence on the web.
Your website can be as complex or as simple as you want to make it. Keep in mind, however, that complicated doesn't necessarily mean better. Sometimes a simple website can be exponentially more effective than one with hundreds of pages.
The key to a good website comes down to two important characteristics: Function and appearance.
- Function. Right away you need to ask yourself what you want your website to accomplish. Your main purpose should be to provide customers with a brief overview of your company and its products. Unless your business is catalog sales, you probably don't need to exhaustively detail all of your products. Also, your website should be simple to navigate. If it is too complex, potential customers will simply surf elsewhere.
- Appearance. Some websites contain great information, but appear so cheap that they have no credibility. A simple website is fine, but make sure it looks good. This is where it pays to use the services of a professional web designer.
Once you have a quality website, your next battle will be getting potential customers to visit it. Most people search for information through search engines like Google and Yahoo. Your goal is to position your site at the top of list.
One way to do this is to pay the search engine company to list your website as a paid advertiser whenever ever certain keywords are searched. This "pay-per-click advertising" can be be very effective. The downside is that this can be expensive if you don't manage it closely and know what you are doing. Fortunately, there are other options available to help you get your site near the top of the list.
Search engine optimization maximizes your ability to get your site noticed by search engines. It is done through two ways. One way is by carefully inserting specific keywords in your website description and throughout the site. Repeated at certain intervals, these keywords attract attention for your website. Too much repetition of keywords, however, may send up a red flag for the search engine and disqualify your site from being listed.
Another way to achieve search engine optimization is by link popularity. The more websites that contain a link to your website, the higher your search engine ranking. Not every search engine uses this method, but some of the bigger ones (including Google) do.
Making the most of your web presence can be a technologically intimidating process. Most entrepreneurs do not possess the know-how required to dramatically raise their websites profile. The good news, though, is that you don't have to because there are companies who will do it for you – for a fee.