We’ve explored why businesses should get involved in social media, and today we’re going to take a closer look at ecommerce. Ecommerce generated close to $42 billion in retail in the third quarter of 2010, a 4% increase over the same quarter in 2009. Even though online sales are growing dramatically, small businesses are integrating ecommerce into their at a much slower rate. [Read more…]
Have you received a phone book lately and questioned what to do with it? You are not alone as today’s worlds ofand communications have gone digital. This movement doesn’t mean that the art of face to face customer meetings and in person marketing is dead. However, it does pose significant changes for marketers. It also presents an opportunity for the owners of privately held businesses to remove a barrier of entry in competing with companies who have larger marketing budgets. In part 1 of a 3 part series I’m going to assume that you are not quite ready for “eMarketing” and give you a homework assignment of 5 things you need to do anyway. In simpler terms the “Do Nothing” approach just netted you 5 action items!
The Internet sees 250 million visitors on a daily basis. Of those visitors 92% use a search engine at some point in time during the day. A recent search engine market share study shows that Google owns over 65% of the search engine market, followed by Yahoo with 17%, and Bing with 10%. Oh, and to confuse things more, the world’s second largest search engine is actually YouTube. It has more daily searches conducted on its site than Yahoo and Bing combined. This means that the top 3 sources of online search are really a top 4: Google, YouTube, Yahoo, and Bing. According to Erik Qualman’s Social Media Revolution video, it took radio 38 years to reach 50 million subscribers and TV 13 years to do the same. Still, in less than 4 years over 50 million users adopted the Internet and Facebook saw 100 million subscribers in less than 9 months.
Online marketing is a vastly complicated world. To be successful a business owner needs to take small steps with calculated risk. Unfortunately, the market is full of self proclaiming experts who are ready to take the money of unknowing private business owners. Before you go down that path, consider the following 5 free steps:
1) Take Ownership of Your Identities
One of the first exercises I go through with clients is that of verifying who owns their domain. Of course the conversation always starts with the business owner saying, “I own it, it’s my website.” In many cases that is true. In others, a web developer, hosting company, or “all in one” service provider has taken the liberty of registering the domain under their own name or account. Search engines treat a domain name like a social security number by tracking its history and all other elements of importance back to it. So how do you know if it is yours? Go to a WHOIS tool online and it will tell you. One of the easiest to access is the WHOIS service at GoDaddy. Â (http://www.godaddy.com/whois). If your name or business is shown as the registrant then you are in good shape. If it does not, you should start asking questions and request that the information be changed to your business name.
One type of registration you will often see under the Whois information is a “private registration” through services that proxy the information. This is simply an extra service to try and hide the information. Though this isn’t a bad thing, it is a waste of money as a good attorney can get through that in 48 hours and you have to ask yourself why you are hiding. If your information is behind a private registration and you don’t remember doing that, ask questions just to make sure you own that domain name.
If you don’t have a website and the domain name that represents your company is taken by someone who isn’t doing anything with it, it is being squatted on. This is a huge problem in the industry and can be very expensive to pursue. If they are willing to sell it and you can acquire it for under $1,000, then consider that option. Â Obviously, don’t give anyone any money until you are in control of the domain name. If you can come up with an alternative domain name that works and is available, this is a much simpler and less expensive choice. For example, if you can add dashes in a domain name that is available (e.g. mycompany.com is taken so you buy my-company.com), then do it as long as it isn’t unnatural looking. Last, you don’t have to go wild buying domains. Â If you found you have purchased more than 5 domain names, you might be wasting your money.
You should also look to acquire your trademarked names in other services including Twitter name squatting.sites like Twitter. Twitter is much more efficient about dealing with squatters and infringers. To learn more about this, you can read the following post I wrote on
2) Begin Collecting Data
I had a client contact me and ask if they should renew their listing on the business directory section of a popular phone services website. I pulled open their “referrers report” in Google Analytics where the data showed that less than 1% of the visitors to their website came from that business directory. After reviewing the cost to be a part of that offering, we both deduced that we could invest the money elsewhere and strive for a larger return on investment. Â What is a referrers report? Don’t worry about that right now. . .we are still in the “do nothing phase”.
In the end, every business is different and I can’t tell you whether being listed on a phone company’s business directory is a good thing or not. What I can tell you is that data doesn’t lie. If you collect the data, you can use it when the need arises. There are hundreds if not thousands of business and marketing uses for this data.
Google’s Analytics service is free. It takes under an hour to sign up for the service and add the tracking code to your website. Whether you choose to integrate the data that it provides into your immediate marketing efforts or not is your choice. However, if you collect the data you will have access to it in the future. Google Analytics can tell you who is coming to your website and what they are viewing. It will also provide you enough data to be able to make an educated guess as to why they are on your website and how they got there.
3) Google Your Name and Your Trademarked Names – Does It Tell Your Story?
Though the average business owner spends 90% of their online marketing effort on their website, reality has changed the game in the last 5 years making Google and other major search engines “your new home page”. According to Search Engine Watch, up to 50 million daily searches are conducted on proper nouns. Ask.Com estimates that 7% of all searches are for’s names.
Google your name, your company’s name, and the names of your products or brands. If the online world has been good to you, you will see lots of positive entries. If you haven’t been as fortunate, you will either find nothing or some neutral to negative information. So, what do you do? Remember, we are in the do nothing mode. I will touch upon this topic in part three of this series.
4) Look At How Your Target Market Interacts Online
Being a volunteer counselor at a North Texas Small Business Development Center, I often hear about new “great ideas” from small business owners. As a matter of fact, I’ve had a few of those “great idea moments” myself. As any business owner knows, the question is not whether you truly have a great idea; it is whether your potential customer base truly sees the “great idea” in your product or service.
Consumers of online information are very honest in what they search for. Where we tend to walk into a department store and tell the Google’s keyword ideas tool. Type in words that you think people would use to find you.associate that “I’d just like to browse and see if anything stands out” we are much more direct when we type online search phrases like; “best casual men’s shoes”, or “cheap laptop computer” directly into a search engine. Google actually makes rough cuts of this data available online and it can be a true eye opener in terms of what people are looking for and whether the good or service is inline with what consumers want and need. To get at this information, you can go to a free tool that is intended for their paid advertisers to conduct research but is accessible to all. It is called
The monthly search volume will tell you how many people have searched for what you are selling in a given month. If it says “not enough data” you have a small problem. If there is a large volume of searches, this is a good thing but you also need to look at the advertiser’s competition. If it says “high” this means that you have a high level of sophisticated marketers advertising on the keywords you think will allow you to connect with a customer. You can also simply go to Google and searching for the term. How many pages of competitors do you see? Look in the upper right hand of the Google and it will say “1-10 of about 25,000”. The larger the number, the higher the competition. You should also visit your competitors sites and look at their pricing. Can you compete?
This single approach to your business can save you a ton of money when you consider entering into new markets or launching new ideas.
5) Start Reading and Expanding Your Mind
There is a famous saying in business that all too often gets used with respect to online marketing efforts. It is “Shoot, Ready, Aim”. My hard rule for using the Internet for marketing is to get your message right on a napkin first before you consider putting it on the hyper-charged pipelines that make up the Internet. Before you can start that excersise of taking what is on the napkin and putting it online, you have to have some ideas what you are going to do. In a world where everyone is a “social media expert” or “online marketing guru”, do your self a favor and read one publication a week to expand your mind in new world media. A couple of sites that I like to follow are Mashable, MichaelHyatt.Com, and ChrisBrogan.Com .
The Internet is a modern day gold rush. As we know from history, gold rushes don’t always produce riches. However, they do make shovel vendors rich. The only ones in search of gold who attain riches are the smart ones. When the timeÂ is right to venture into the world of online marketing, start gathering your data, do your research, and learn in order to make yourself a smarter person . In most cases the information is free.
In part 2 of this series I’ll give you some guidelines for revisiting your online presence (or creating one if you don’t have a website).
Derick Schaefer is the Founder and Managing Director of Orangecast Social Media based in Dallas, TX. In addition to client consulting, Mr. Schaefer has spoken for The American Bar Association, The State Bar of Texas, The Collin Small Business Development Center and The American Marketing Association. Derick writes a regular column for How-To-Blog.TV and can be followed on Twitter @orangecast.
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