Web Ads are Great for Small Business Marketing
Now, with options like YellowPages.com or Google AdWords, a small business owner can have an ad only show up when the ad matches keywords someone uses in their search. And you only pay for those people interested enough in what you are selling to click your ad.
By Steven D. Strauss
One of the best things that has ever happened to small business insofar as marketing goes is the Internet.
For almost ever, if a small business wanted to attract customers using the media, it had to cast a wide net. That is, the small business needed to run an ad in a wide-circulation newspaper or magazine, or on the radio or TV, and hope that the intended audience would see or hear that ad.
It worked, but it was also a bit of a crapshoot, especially in the beginning of a campaign–until the entrepreneur learned which ad worked in which medium on which day. That was usually an expensive learning curve.
But the Internet changed that dynamic. Now, with options like YellowPages.com or Google AdWords, a small business owner can have an ad only show up when the ad matches keywords someone uses in their search. And you only pay for those people interested enough in what you are selling to click your ad.
That means that you don’t have to spend money getting your ad read by people who have no interest in it whatsoever. And that, in turn, means that not only will you spend less, but you end up with a much more qualified lead.
So, how do you best take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to do more with less? I posed this question to Gretchen Howard, Google’s AdWords Manager for Online Sales and Operations. She explained that there are three steps to any successful online campaign.
(First, however note that there are all sorts of ways and places to advertise online. Google is of course the leader, but you may also want to check out Yahoo!, Microsoft’s adCenter, Facebook, YellowPages.com, or any number of others. They all target different places online.)
1. Plan: As with any ad campaign, you have to know your audience. Just as you would never advertise your elder vacation business on an alternative rock station, so too do you need to think about your intended audience and plan accordingly.
Specifically, this means that you have to put a lot of thought into your keywords. When giving speeches, I often state that picking the right keywords is akin to that old game show Match Game (sans Gene Rayburn and a woozy Brett Summers of course!) If the keywords you put in your ad match the keywords someone searches for, you will have a match and they will see your ad.
There are plenty of online keyword generation tools that can help you choose the right keywords, and Ms. Howard thought they are a good place to start. “But don’t stop there, be creative, and make sure to use the free tools. There is no need to pay for that service” she advised.
2. Create an effective ad. Again, this is not a lot different than any other advertising campaign, in that the old AIDA formula must be applied, albeit in a more truncated form (AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and call to Action). Gretchen Howard called it creating a “gotta click” ad.
The trick here is that, as you only have three lines of text, you must be very wise and judicious in the words you choose:
Keywords must go in the title on the first line
Stress benefits, benefits, benefits
Have a call to action that directs people to a specific landing page relating to the keywords, and not just to your homepage
3. Modify, modify, modify: In a traditional ad campaign, you may have to wait weeks to see whether it worked. One of the great advantages of online campaigns is that you can see your results immediately. It is essential therefore to monitor and measure your results–your click-though rates, your conversion percentages, that sort of thing. If it’s not working as anticipated, tweak the ad, the keywords, etc.
Ms. Howard stressed that the best ads do 1, 2, and 3 above. Ineffective ads almost always fail in one of the three–either the ad was vague, or the intended audience was not clear, or there was not a strong call to action, and so on.
Finally, she stressed that you cannot bid higher in order to create high ranking, as ads are ranked on both bids and relevancy.
So the lesson again is–choose your keywords carefully!
And remember: Of critical importance when doing any sort of online advertising is that you set a daily budget. All of the services mentioned above allow you to create a budget for your campaign and it is imperative that you do so.
Steve Strauss is an internationally recognized lawyer, columnist and speaker. He is the author of 15 books. Steve’s business column, Ask an Expert, appears weekly on USAToday.com. Copyright 2009 Steven D. Strauss. Steve Strauss is http://www.MrAllBiz.com.