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Digital Marketing for Small Business


This article presents an overview of Digital Marketing, with an emphasis on activities that are affordable and effective, particularly for small businesses. We focus on three areas that might be considered the fundamentals of digital marketing: search engine marketing, email marketing, and affiliate marketing.

What is Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing, or SEM, is the means by which a small business makes money via the search engines. There are two categories of SEM: free listings and paid listings, usually cost per click (CPC). Once a company obtains a certain ranking in the free listings, there is no charge when a searcher clicks through to the website. With CPC, the company usually bids to be place high in the rankings and then charged the bid amount only when a searcher actually clicks the link and visits the website.

Google Adwords listings can be found on the right-hand side of the screen in the colored boxes when you perform a popular search on Google. The other leading CPC company is Overture. Paid Overture listings, shown as “Sponsored Sites,” can be found on MSN Search, among other partners.

Who Benefits from Search Engine Marketing?

All types of companies, from service to retail, B2B and B2C, can profit from SEM. A balanced SEM program includes both free and paid listings. The increased traffic can get almost immediately from CPC marketing, while in parallel preparing the site for high rankings in the free listings, which generally take from 2 – 6 months to attain. The starting point for search engine marketing is to determine which keywords or keyword phrases to target, based on # of actual searches online. Wordtracker is a leading company providing do-it-yourself keyword research capabilities. SEM return on investment (ROI) can be measure in terms of the % of searchers that click your listing vs. competing listings (CTR), % of new visitors that actually make a purchase or become a sales lead, and of course, by comparing the money you make from search engine referrals vs. the money you spent to get there!

What is Affiliate Marketing?

With affiliate marketing, one company enlists other companies with websites or EZines to market its products and/or services. The first company in this example is known as the merchant, and the other companies are the affiliates. The merchant only pays for this marketing on a cost per action, or CPA basis. For example, a company that sells auto parts online, the merchant, creates an affiliate marketing program. They enlist a company that has a website, on do-it-yourself car repair, to be their affiliate. The do-it-yourself car repair site puts a banner ad on its home page to the auto parts website. When a “do-it-yourselfer” clicks on the ad and purchases a new muffler, the auto parts store (the merchant) pays the do-it-yourself car repair company (the affiliate) a commission. An affiliate marketing program can also be set up to pay a commission for clicks or sales leads and clicks.

Who Benefits from Affiliate Marketing?

There are two ways to benefit from affiliate marketing, as the merchant or as an affiliate. In order shall be successful as a merchant, you need to sell a variety of goods services online or be arrange to collect potential client data through an online submission form. You need to have enough of a profit margin to be able to pay a competitive commission to your affiliates. You also need a dedicated affiliate manager for a variety of reasons, including manual affiliate approval/campaigning, ongoing creative development (banner ads, etc.), and active affiliate communication. The tracking system must be automate – good affiliates expect this before they will become your affiliate. Success for the merchant can be track in terms of quantity and/or quality of affiliates that join, increase in # of referrals, and, of course, by the impact to the bottom line! The most successful affiliates have popular websites or newsletters. They specialize in driving large numbers of visitors to a website and then make money from commissions. It is important as an affiliate to sign up for affiliate marketing programs that closely relate to the content of your website or newsletter.

What is Email Marketing?

The most effective email marketing is to do with permission, or on an opt-in basis. This is in contrast to unsolicited email ads, a.k.a. SPAM. It is becoming more and more important to conduct email marketing on an opt-in basis. If for no other reason than opt-in email trounces SPAM in terms of % of emails opened, click-throughs to the website, and % conversion to leads or sales.

Email marketing generally takes the form of an Email Newsletter (EZine) or Email Blast. The main difference is that an EZine tends to have an informational article as the central feature, with additional sections such as links and ads. An email blast can serve a variety of purposes, such as a special promotion, press release publication, or even personalized customer communication.

Who Benefits from Email Marketing?

Like SEM, email marketing can benefit a wide range of businesses. A retailer can send out promotions to its customer base, and a consultant can send out informational EZines that establish expertise in a field. Both types drive sales thanks to the ongoing customer contact. Success measure in terms of % of emails opened, click-throughs to the website, and conversion to sales or leads once on the website. Tracking can be fully automated.

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