Online marketing is something that businesses need to think about from the get-go.
In the Nineties, online marketing was an afterthought for most companies; now it’s something companies need to think of from the word go. For some it can be their primary or only means of marketing and, if done correctly, can be a successful, cost-effective one at that.
The proliferation of company names that incorporate a .com or .ie demonstrate that for savvy entrepreneurs online marketing begins the second a business idea is born.
“Very few people are happy with their own website,” says Cathy McGovern (pictured), director of e-marketing firm Inspiration.ie and Giftvouchersnow.com.
“A lot of people build a site and then start thinking about how to promote it but the objectives of your site — how many enquiries you expect to receive off it, the levels of traffic you want from it, whether you want it to be a sales site or an information site — are the issues you should really address on day one.”
Once the website is up, the objective is to drive traffic to the site. This is where what is normally called online marketing comes into play; search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine ads, third-party site ads, email marketing and links.
SEO is par for the course now but its effectiveness is tied in with your original site build. It has been described as a black art, due to the fact that it involves second-guessing the search engines, that don’t reveal in detail how they come up with their search rankings.
“You could have a brilliantly optimised site and get a high listing in month one and by month 10 you could be slipping back down again,” says McGovern. “That’s partly because the engines change the way they rank sites from time to time. It’s also because your competitors are doing their own SEO work and may be outstripping you.”
One of the dangers with SEO is that certain techniques are outlawed by the search companies and by not being aware of these you could end up with your website being penalised or blacklisted by Google, Yahoo! et al.
Some of the things they don’t like are: replicating the exact same content on multiple sites to try to increase web presence; having redirects to the same site under multiple names; hiding keywords the same colour as the background on the bottom of the page or in images.
Keywords are the lifeblood of SEO. “You have to establish what your potential customers are going to search for or you’re wasting your time,” says Tom Doyle, managing director of internet marketing and web development firm 2bscene.ie. “You need to know if you’re an electrician in Dublin will people be typing in ‘electricians Ireland’ or ‘electricians Dublin’.
Deciding to spend money on search engine advertising is becoming more popular. Google Adwords is the market leader.
By identifying the most effective keywords you can maximise the benefit derived from an AdWords campaign.
“Google AdWords is used as a verifier by the search engines so it does help your visibility on the net and it also helps your organic listing. It’s good from that point of view. It’s bad from the point of view that it’s very easy to spend a lot of money on AdWords and it’s easy to get traffic but it’s hard to get conversions,” says McGovern.
By Niall Byrne