How to Advertise Your Start-Up Without Hiring an Expert

Most first-time business owners are all about marketing and advertising their start-up. The most common question that begs answering is “how do I advertise my start-up?”Most seasoned advertising experts are full of bright advertising ideas for prospective advertisers. They start talking about the impact of a strong social media presence that will cost next to nothing *cough*fees*cough*, the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) in generating advertising revenue, hiring a top-notch sales and marketing team, how websites are the new marketplace and how 24/7 customer service will take your start-up to the next level.For the most part, they’ve got the advertising part down pat – that’s their job, after all. Their aim is to make prospective advertisers believe that their start-up will boom if they pay the “experts” just a little bit more than they planned to invest in advertising.But what about those businesses (and we’re talking about most businesses here) that don’t have the resources to invest in advertising expertise? There are always free marketing and advertising tips to be found online although they can be quite repetitive and redundant. How do you sift through the free expert tips in order to find a way to advertise your business in an original and effective way?How do you advertise and promote your start-up?The truth is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to your advertising dilemma. If it were that easy to advertise and promote a business, advertising professionals would be out a job and we’d lose a whole industry to redundancy.Of course, there would still be companies or potential advertisers looking for people to do the advertising job for them – but as we’ve established, most business start-ups simply don’t have the capital to invest in expert opinions and output.Traditional advertising is still viableExperts today have shifted a lot of their focus away from traditional advertising methods. While this viewpoint is in line with much of our contemporary culture, it loses sight of some of the tried and true paths of delivery still maintain viability. “Old fashioned” tools such as business cards, yellow page ads, and even embroidered shirts for staff cannot be replicated in an online environment.What advertising potential are you missing out on if you don’t consult an expert?Advertising strategies are what makes each professional in the advertising field different. Not everyone can be an expert in SEO, just like experts in TV and print commercials are light years apart.If you have the option of hiring and working with a particular expert, then you’ve got to make sure that their advertising strategy isn’t the antithesis of the market you’re trying to capture.It doesn’t make sense to concentrate on social media advertising, for example, when your primary users are senior citizens. There are a select few who will appreciate your ingenuity but how do you effectively capture the bulk of your target audience? Having an expert in your corner to help you sift through all the strategies out there will save you time and unnecessary expense.Getting down to it – advertising strategy customized to your start-upHere are the things that a seasoned advertising expert will need to ask you about your start-up in order to figure out what your start-up needs:
Who is your target market?
What is the perceived value of your product or service?
How do you translate perceived value into sales?
Those three questions will go a long way in helping you figure out how to best advertise your start-up. Once you understand your market fully – you’ll also know which advertising strategy would work best in getting their attention and translating that attention into sales and revenue.

How to Build an Effective Online Display Advertising Campaign

Building an effective online display advertising campaign is tied to four things:1. Your Offering – Products or Services.
2. Your Website.
3. Ad Attractiveness and Content.
4. Audience ads are delivered to.To start an effective advertising campaign a simple written plan should be put in place outlining your advertising strategies:1. Your overall expectations for your online display advertising campaign.
2. Your market; who are you trying to reach, your target audience.
3. Online advertising mediums for reaching your target audience.
4. Your sales cycle.
5. Your marketing and advertising goals.
6. Your budget.The next steps for preparing an effective online advertising plan are:1. Define Sale Goals:
Produce immediate responses for building revenue
Long term – support long sales cycles, build relationships.
Recurring Revenue – selling services2. Define Marketing Goals:
Email list building
Market Awareness
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
All of the aboveDefining your expectations will provide you the base information for putting your advertising strategies in place and developing your ads. Your plan does not have to be extensive. It can be 2-3 pages with each topic briefly defined along with forecast numbers for monitoring results against expectations.What contributes to an online display advertising campaigns success?1. Website relevance to your products or services that your ads are run on. Example; if you want to reach a specific type pet owner your ads should run on websites that address your particular pet products or services to insure you reach the right buying audience. Example Horse Advertising for horse related products and services. This is known as vertical advertising.2. Ad; Visual and Content. How the ad relates to your potential buying audience and the landing page you are sending clicks to. The landing page is very important.3. Ad Views (Impressions); the more ad views on multiple websites the more likely clicks will increase. Familiarity, repetitiveness, relevancy and viewer need (today or future) lead to clicks or book marking your website for future reference.4. Click Through Rate (CTR); CTR is the beginning of measuring your ads success. Ad quality and website determines the CTR. If the ad is running on relevant websites, reaching the audience interested in your product or service, and the ad views are high, but the CTR is low or non existent, then ad quality is more likely the problem. If the CTR is good, more ad views will get you more clicks resulting in a higher probability of converting clicks to actual sales (Conversion Rate).5. Your website; Time spent on your website and how it converts to sales (Conversion Rate – CR) is the final test. You can have all the clicks in the world; if your website is weak and does not provide the information the person thinks they are going to get the CR will be low or zero.6. Monitoring your ads, campaigns and website is a must. Having an analytics program such as Google Analytics on you website is needed to continuously monitor your website performance. There are several important parameters you can monitor. The three key items that support your online display advertising campaign are:Where visitors are coming from; called referral websites.
Average time visitors spend on your website; or bounce rate.
Conversion of visitors visiting your website taking the action you want them to take. This based on conversion goals you setup.
Improving ad performance requires online advertising management for both your ads and your campaigns. Instant knowledge of how your ad is performing is critical. Only by doing so can you make ad or campaign adjustments as needed. Managing your ads and campaigns also allows you to control cost resulting in a higher return on your advertising investment.Contrary to what one might think, clicks do not necessarily assure sales. The click through rates and conversion rates may even have an inverse relationship. A poorly developed ad or an ad geared towards curiosity clicks will result in fewer conversions than a well developed ad geared to promote a good website that backs up the ad. Directing clicks to the wrong landing page will also result in a low to zero CR.A good advertising media for online display advertising campaigns are a vertical, or niche market, online advertising networks. Vertical advertising provides an advertiser the ability to get a high volume of ad views from multiple online websites that focus on the right audience. Vertical advertising networks instantaneously monitor results so you can immediately make ad or campaign adjustments to improve CTR and CR. Vertical, or niche advertising networks often allow hands on campaign management so your business goals and message are strictly defined by you thus increasing the campaigns chance of success.An important side benefit in using a vertical advertising network is increased quality links to your website which supports your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts.People are buying, just more selectively; they are doing more comparison shopping. The economy is improving but the buying public will continue to buy selectively. Getting your ads in front of the proper audience, at the right time, as often as possible, is the key to having a successful online display advertising campaign. Internet online advertising is your best solution for generating sales when directed to your target market.

Local SEO Industry: Current Status and Future Projections

What Is SEO?
This is a common question that most people especially those who are either new or not familiar with online marketing might be asking. SEO stands for search engine optimization. In layman’s language, it the process of capturing traffic from the search engines such as Google listings. Through this read, I am going to give you facts about the SEO business, current market status of SEO as well as the future projections in this field.

The Major SEO Players
Like any other industry in the world, the online SEO business has its players. This includes SEO local tools providers such as small digital agencies, SEO free lancers and web-designers among others.

Returns for SEO Players
The major reason as to why people get into business is to profit and expand their economic status. In the field of SEO business, the rates of returns are promising. This is because a recent research on SEO returns for a period of 12 months shows that at least all the players had something to take home. However, the returns are varying depending on a players’ hardwork and skills in the field. For example, according to this research, 34% of the interviewed SEOs said they received an amount less than $ 30,000 while another group of respondents, 17% said they received returns that were above $ 500,000.

From the above statistics, it is evident that the size of an organization played a role in the determination of the amount of returns received. It beats logic for one to expect a large organization to receive low amounts of returns and vice versa. In addition, the presence of part time SEOs as well as the entry of newbies into the market could have let to the low rates of turnover due to low operation capacity. However, it is hard to predict the course the SEO market is likely to take due to lack of clear shift in SEO earnings since the year 2011. However, the demand for local SEO services seems to be growing day in day out and this is attracting more players thereby tightening the competition among SEO service providers.

The Emerging Issues with the Current SEO Returns
With the above distribution of returns, several questions emerge. This includes the following:

• From the statistics, a large percentage of SEOs receive a low income something that suggests low pricing of SEO services.
• It is also possible that small and medium businesses do not understand the value of SEO services provided to them.
• The low SEO income earners, those who received less than $ 30,000 annual returns are also being doubted if they can provide quality services while earning that low.
• It is also unknown if most SEOs will still be in operation if their income remains static.

The Current SEOs Income Per Customer
Just like the annual SEO returns, SEO income per customer also varies. This is because there are those clients who would pay less than $100 a month while others will pay more than $5000 a month. This variation in income per client can be attributed to the type of services provided as well as the depth of services. The size of business a client is seeking SEO services for also play a role in determining the amount to be charged. For example, small businesses are charged less simply because their requirements are much smaller as compared to large multi-location franchise businesses.

Research also shows that some SEO service providers operate on high volume basis. Such SEOs provide simple SEO services at very low monthly rates. As a result, such SEO service providers end up having a high customer churn with a large dedicated network of sales team.

Similarly, some SEO service providers provide services that are more comprehensive in a much more professional manner customized according to the client thereby leading to a low number of clients.

Due to the above statistics, it therefore becomes essential for any SEO service provider in the current market to operate in a manner that matches his/her setup.

Handling Capacity of the Modern SEOs
Currently, SEOs are handling more clients as compared to the previous years. Statistics show that about 40% of the SEOs in the market handle at least 11 clients while 23% SEOs handle at least 21 clients. Such large numbers of clients to handle lead to more audits to be done, lots of tasks, research, reports and even more calls from the clients to be attended to. The high numbers of clients also demand a high level of efficiency so that the clients can be assured of quality services.

Market Structure for Most SEOs
SEOs have been using several marketing techniques to promote their businesses. Offline marketing channels such as word of mouth has been cited by most SEOs as the most effective marketing technique. This can be attributed to the trust level, business reputation as well as relationships build during the offline campaigns.

Alongside offline marketing, SEOs also practice online marketing such as the use of LinkedIn and social media. However, most SEOs have cited LinkedIn as the best option as compared to the social networks because it is better placed for lead generation and networking.

Services Offered by SEOs
Majority of the SEO players offer onsite optimization with 91% of the SEOs practicing this. Google+ optimization has also a good number of SEOs practicing it as 86% claimed to be offering this service to their clients. For affiliate marketing, only a small percentage (11%) of SEOs are offering this service to their clients.

Other services offered by SEOs:

• Content creation/optimization
• Link building
• Citation building
• Social media marketing
• Website development
• Mobile site development
• Video marketing and mobile marketing.

The most demanded service by SEO clients is onsite marketing, while the least demanded service is affiliate marketing. The other services are somehow averagely demanded. However, most small and medium businesses do not understand the opportunities that video and mobile marketing can unlock to them and therefore tend not to use these services. SEOs therefore need to educate their clients on these marketing channels so that they can go for them.

When asked about the online SEO services SEOs feel are effective, 82% of them said that the General search is the most effective for generating leads. Local search appears to be the second best after 62% of the respondents in an SEO survey voted in its favor. PPC is the 3rd with 53% while social media is the 4th with 26%. Daily deals appear to be an appealing to most SEOs because only 1% voted in favor of it.

Tedious SEO Tasks
55% of the current SEOs in the market find link building to be the most tedious and time-consuming work. Others, though 15% only believe that content writing is the most tedious and time consuming task among all the tasks they do. It therefore emerges that to the 55% who find link building tedious, this task is also boring to them.

Future Projections
This is an outline of what we expect in the near future as far as SEO business is of concern.

Expansion of SEO Businesses
Compared to the previous years, SEO businesses has been growing and expanding steadily. Most SEOs (about 93%) are not only optimistic about expanding their businesses, but are also expecting to grow their business. In what seems to be a determined move to grow their businesses, most SEOs (82%) are willing to recruit more staff members so as to realize their desired levels of growth.

The social media is also expected to grow and be more effective even than the local directories. This is because most SEOs believe that social media can perform better because of recommendations from friends. Mobile usage is also expected to grow further and become relevant for local businesses.

Upsurge of Confidence in SEO Business
Unlike other businesses, the SEO business is showing a positive growth of confidence among the players. Despite this being a dynamic and innovative industry, most SEOs are still willing to recruit more staff to help drive their businesses ahead. 84% of the sampled SEOs in the SEO research are also optimistic that the SEO business is going to be more profitable starting this year 2013.

Confidence is also running high that if the SEO players increase the understanding of SEO/social among the business owners they serve in future, they will not only increase the business owners’ rate of investment, but also make them transfer their marketing budgets from other channels to the digital channels.