Why e-marketing matters Featured

9:46am EDT July 22, 2002

Thousands of people are gaining access to the Internet each week, and businesses are constantly opening new Web sites to market their products and services.

According to the Online Computer Library Center, the number of Web sites has increased dramatically, from 1.6 million in 1997 to more than 4.8 million in 1999.

Although this steady Internet growth represents tremendous opportunity for businesses, it also heightens the need for effective Internet marketing. A great Web site is useless if no one can find it.

With a countless number of Web sites, it’s important to consider an Internet marketing program that will generate traffic and set your company apart from the competition. Here are six strategies to get you started:

1. Submit your Web site for listings in key search engines, such as Yahoo, InfoSeek, Lycos, AltaVista, Excite and HotBot. Since upwards of 80 percent of your Web site traffic likely will come through search engines, it’s important to be listed accordingly.

Prepare your site for the most advantageous search engine indexing possible, referred to as keyword optimization. Without optimization, your site probably won’t show up in the search engines under a particular keyword search.

2. Negotiate strategic linking. Strategic links are placed on Web sites related to yours, and connect users to your site. You directly benefit from the traffic their sites receive. The goal is to reach a very targeted audience; however, the audience should be big enough to provide the opportunity for visitors to come to you.

The best strategic links involve trade associations, industry publications, partners and other related industries. However, almost any business relationship offers the possibility of a mutually beneficial cross-linking opportunity.

3. Advertise your products or services via opt-in mailing lists or newsletters. Opt-in lists are composed of individuals who have requested information on specific products and services. Recipients of the newsletters opt in to receive content of their choice, delivered via e-mail. Your mailing list can be very narrowly targeted to reach as many potential customers as possible.

4. Get involved with newsgroups. Find groups most likely to be frequented by prospective customers and join the discussions. Newsgroups, though often overlooked marketing tools, can prove effective, because they help you develop relationships with prospects and customers.

From building customer loyalty to providing customer assistance, participating in group discussions or moderating your own can help you build an excellent reputation with, and significant business from, discussion group members.

Add a signature file at the end of your posts — usually a four- to eight-line mini-advertisement containing your product or service, phone number and Web address. You also can refer to key pages on your site, as long as they are relevant to the topic discussed.

5. Purchase banner advertising. This is usually an ad with a clickable link to your site on a carefully selected, high-volume Web site. The big issues with banners are how to build them, how to identify the important elements in design, and, finally, where to put them.

With banner ads, you have a short period of time — usually less than eight seconds — to make an impact. The message should be eye-catching and include animation that appeals to your target market.

The key to banner advertising is finding a place where your banner will draw a qualified audience. There are all kinds of banner-swapping companies; many have no standards whatsoever. Once you sign up with a banner exchange, you at the mercy of the company. Investigate thoroughly.

If you don’t check out what kind of company you’re working with and see its standards in writing, you could end up promoting all kinds of sites — even pornographic ones.

6. Include your e-mail and Web site addresses on all of your company’s sales collateral, business cards, stationery and conventional advertising campaigns. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of online marketing.

Think of your Web site as a new store location or branch office and promote it accordingly to drive people to the site. The most successful Web sites have strong conventional advertising campaigns to supplement their online marketing and generate increased traffic and brand identity.

Allocate the time and resources to adapt these online marketing strategies to your specific target. If done correctly and diligently, you can generate real traffic, increase sales and build your business and your brand.

Abu Noaman is president of Elliance, a strategic eBusiness technology and Internet solutions firm based on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. Reach him at (412) 321-2992 or at info@elliance.com.