There are plenty of ways to grow your brand online. But to really make a splash – to bring a large number of customers to your door – you’ll need to spend some money. The trick is to spend smart, avoid waste, and make sure you’re targeting the right people at the right time. Let’s look at three of the most popular options.
• Social media marketing can be a great investment. On Facebook, Instagram and the like, you can attract customers quickly, and there are an insane variety of ways to target exactly the types of people you most want to reach.
• SEO is the art of being found by new customers on Google. Getting your business to appear on page one of Google takes time, but long-term it can be a brilliant investment because once you’re there, those high rankings continue paying dividends for years to come.
• Pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements are those little ads you see at the top of Google’s search results pages. Unlike SEO, Google makes it really easy to list your business there – but you have to pay Google each time someone clicks on one of them. The challenge is: how do you know if those ads are worth it? How do you avoid paying for visitors who were never going to buy from you?
Each of these approaches to online marketing offers its own challenges and its own rewards. This is our crash course in how to allocate a marketing budget.
Of course we’re biased, but we think your best bet is to hire a professional to help you make these decisions and manage your business marketing campaigns! But if you have the time, desire and budget, you can learn the tricks of the trade. Social media, SEO, and PPC – these are three top ways to grow your business online.
Let's dig in...
Investing in social media offers a multitude of benefits that can positively impact your bottom line and accelerate growth.
In addition to helping build up your brand and set it apart from the crowd, social media offers businesses an opportunity to do very highly-targeted advertising, getting your name in front of exactly the kind of customers you most want. These targeted ads can be used to grow your follower base, drive traffic to your website, increase app downloads, or simply build awareness of your brand – just to name a few.
Having a large follower base on social media offers additional benefits. It provides you with a dedicated and receptive audience – people who want to know when you have a new sale or service to offer, and who are ready to share your updates with like-minded friends and colleagues.
A healthy follower count also adds to your credibility when prospective new customers Google to check you out. Studies show that customers feel more positively toward a business when they see others interacting positively with that business. This is the marketing principle called "social proof." It helps establish you as popular and trusted, and that makes new customers more likely to buy from you.
But effective social media isn't really free. Simply posting to your accounts won't get your message in front of very many customers unless you incorporate a smart paid strategy – for example, spending money to boost some of your posts, or paying Facebook to run targeted ads. That's because most social platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, have changed their algorithms to limit the number of people who will see your posts unless you pay them for wider reach.
Not sure which social platforms to participate in? Take a look at our blog post, Social Media for Businesses: The Platforms That Make Sense for Your Brand.
Next, let's look at SEO...
SEO is the art of showing up on page one of Google for the searches that are most relevant to your customers.
If, for example, you are a probate lawyer in Seattle, you can win a lot of new clients by appearing on page one of a Google search for “Seattle probate lawyer.”
Why are page one rankings so important? Why not page two or three? Studies show that 90% of all customers who go to Google end up clicking on a website that’s listed on page one of the search results.
If you’re listed on page two, you will probably get some customers from Google. But improving your position from page two to page one can increase your website traffic by ten times. That’s like picking up your entire business and moving from a sleepy backstreet into the heart of the downtown corridor.
So how do you pull it off? How do you get to page one? SEO is tricky because Google is always tweaking its algorithms, and what works today might not work exactly the same way tomorrow. It is a process that plays out over months, not weeks. But it’s not magic. It just takes dogged determination and a sustained investment in quality content and offsite ecosystem development. Your best bet is to work with an experienced marketing team that practices smart SEO.
In the end, you’ll know you’ve started climbing page one – not just by the cheers from your SEO team but by the sound of your phones starting to ring.
It takes time to build great, natural SEO – but once you’re there, if you manage your SEO well, you can stay on page one for years. Smart SEO is an investment intended to create what will become one of the leading engines of growth for your business for years to come.
Now let's look at another way to get to page one...
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
Buying website traffic from Google can be profitable if you are careful about how you spend your budget.
You know those little ads at the top of Google’s results pages that you always skip over when doing a search? Who really clicks on those? Well somebody does – Google makes nearly 100% of its money from people clicking on those ads.
For business owners, PPC ads are an appealing short cut – a way to buy your way onto page one of the search engine results. They’re less effective than earning your way there through SEO, because fewer people click on ads than on the natural listings that show up below them. Studies show that about 10% of Google searches result in an ad getting clicked.
But that is what’s great about PPC. It’s called Pay Per Click because you don’t have to pay every time Google shows your ad – you only pay when someone clicks on it and comes to your website.
Google sets the cost of each click by auction – an instant, never-ending, live online auction. Every single possible search term is auctioned off and the highest bidder for each search term gets the best placement. (Don’t worry – you can control your budget by setting daily limits.)
If you’re willing to pay enough for each click, you can be at the top of page one for any Google search you like.
That is both the advantage and the curse of PPC. You’re bidding against all your competitors for each potential customer (so you better be sure your website looks amazing – no sense paying to send prospective customers to a website that won’t impress them).
When does PPC make sense? It is sometimes set up as a short-term solution to attract customers quickly while you’re waiting for your natural SEO to start working. Compared to SEO, you can set up PPC and start attracting visitors quickly. And, if your campaign is well-optimized and profitable, you will probably want maintain your PPC for the long haul.
The goal of every marketing investment is to grow your business and bring in new, targeted leads. A smart investment in marketing that establishes, builds, or expands your customer base is a good investment.
Simply having a beautiful website does no good if nobody ever sees it. Investing strategically in marketing tools like SEO, social, and PPC, can help you do just that.
In a future update, we will discuss the potential dangers of not having a solid strategy in place prior to starting your marketing efforts, especially when money is involved. It's definitely not something you will want to miss if you are trying to establish or grow a successful brand.
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