Looking for Affordable Advertising? The Best Deals are Online

When times are tough, businesses often cut back on advertising. But hard times are when you should be ramping up – rather than decreasing – advertising. How else are you going to reach new customers?

While a full page spread in The New York Times may be out of the question for most of us, many artisan businesses can afford web site advertising, which is usually cheaper and more targeted than print ads. And many web sites, in this tough economy, may be willing to cut businesses a deal.

The Online Advertising Benefit: Numbers

The beauty of online advertising is its track-ability. The numbers are key says Lee Cohen, senior director of business development at the shopping site, Become.com. “I have worked both the offline and the online marketing worlds and the plethora of data available to me in the online channel is astonishing,” she says.

“Online advertising programs, particularly PPC (pay-per-click), give you a lot more insight about what’s working and what isn’t,” agrees David Howard, an independent social media marketing consultant. “And you can test variants of ads continually – and easily.”

 But before you plow money into online advertising, Howard suggests you nail down the following:
  • Advertising budget
  • Goals for your advertising (what are you trying to sell and to whom)
  • Goals for action (what you want customer to do, for example, buy a product, come to your studio, sign up for a newsletter).
  • Identify the online advertising program best suited for your goals and budget.
Other Things to Consider Before Buying Online Advertising

1. Take Advantage of Freebies

There are several free marketing strategies you need to put in place before even spending a dime on online advertising, advises Anthony Kirlew, founder and online marketing consultant for AKA Internet Marketing, www.akamarketing.com. For example, get a free Googles Places www.google.com/places listing. “This can actually bring in lots of local business,” says Kirlew. Also look into other free registration services such as MerchantCircle.com and online local yellow pages directories. Sites such as City Search (http://www.citysearch.com/) or Yelp (http://www.yelp.com/) also provide free listings and reviews, but also include paid advertising packages that bring your listing to the top and provide other benefits such a banner ads and videos.

2. Get SEO Optimized

You should also make sure that people are finding your site when they search for your key words. Not sure that your pages have the right key words? One free and easy way to find out is to visit Google Adword’s keyword tool: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal
Type in the URL of a page on your web site in the space provided. You'll see a list of key words associated with that page. Check the list to see if these key words are actually associated with your page and if you need to add other key words that are more popular. Research.

3. Get a Free Analyzing Tool

You should also install a site traffic analyzing program, there are several free tools, such as Google Analytics http://www.google.com/analytics. “Google analytics will allow you to see your website in a completely different light,” says Cohen. It will show what traffic sources are working for you, where people are coming from, where they are leaving your site, and more. Other free Google tools that you might find helpful include the Google Webmaster Tool http://www.google.com/webmasters, which will help you pinpoint things that may go wrong on your site (such as slow-loading pages).

Paid Advertising Options

1. Pay Per Click Advertising

While you may do everything to make your site SEO friendly, it still may not rank on the first page of a keyword search for natural searches. You can, however, buy your way to the top with pay per click (PPC) advertising. PPC advertising is a bidding game: you bid for keywords. The highest bidder gets the best spot in relevant web searches.

There are three main players in PPC:
While you can imagine the fierce competition for top keywords, there is room for small businesses to compete. You can open a PPC account for a little as $5; bids start at 5 to 10 cents per click. Even paying a penny or two above another advertiser can move your listing to the top. Make sure you set a cap on how much you are willing to pay per month; your credit card will be charged for clicks until you hit the cap and then the advertising will stop until the following month. Don’t forget social media advertising, which are also providing PPC advertising, such as Facebook.

2. Targeted Websites

If you find a content web site (such as a blog or ezine) that is geared for your artisan product – and has a good search engine rank -- approach the publisher and make an offer to purchase an annual banner or text ad. Online publishers are usually open to making deals and you may end up with a good rate for a prominent ad on the home page.

3. Online Advertising Networks

These networks buy online advertising space in bulk – so are sold at low rates to businesses. These networks include DoubleClick.com, Advertising.com, Value Click Media.com, just to name a few. There are also a variety of different advertising mediums where you can also sell your product, such as: Marketplaces eBay, Etsy, Amazon, OpenSky.com, and Google Products, These sites will take a percentage of the sale and charge a small listing fee.

So just because times are tough, make sure you continue to advertise – both online and off. For artisans on a tight budget online advertising can be a good deal if you know what you are doing. Set up a budget and try a few of these online advertising strategies to see what works best for your business and gives you the best return for you investment.

MARCIA PASSOS DUFFY (http://www.backporchpublishing.com/) is a freelance business writer based in New Hampshire and is a member of the state’s artisan and business organization, NH Made. Marcia’s articles have appeared on Yahoo Finance, CNBC, Bankrate.com, NFIB.com, Smart Business Magazine, The New York Times Lifewire, The Weather Channel, among others; she is the author of the book, Be Your Own Boss. She is also the publisher and editor of Our Local Table magazine (http://www.localtablemonadnock.com/) and The Heart of New England magazine (http://www.theheartofnewengland.com/). Marcia wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie May.com (http://www.debbiemay.com/), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.