How Does It Work?
Let's cover a few of the basics concerning online marketing. In the early days of the Internet it was widely believed (contrary to fact) that websites, by their very existence, could function as advertising. Put up a website and the world would beat a path to your online door. This misconception causes many heartaches, because advertisements are offers that you see accidentally when you aren't looking for them.
A website is like a billboard in the wilderness. No one knows it's there unless they learn of it somewhere else and go looking for it. In those early days one had to advertise offline to bring customers to one's website. Mind you, offline advertising still works you see website addresses in offline advertising all the time now. You see them on television, in magazines, in newspapers almost anywhere you look. But there is a form of advertising that works for online marketing.
Today people go online to look for information. And they find what they are looking for by using a search engine. There are thousands of search engines online, but the most commonly used ones are Google, Yahoo, and MSN. These folks discovered that they could sell advertising space on the "results" pages that their search engines generated.
Not only that, but by use of "keywords", the terms people typed into the search engines, they could present the visitor with ads that bore a meaningful relationship to what the visitor was looking for. At Google, for instance, you will see them at the top of the results page and in a column off to the right. They are listed as "sponsored ads" or Google Ads, depending on where you see them.
Few people go looking online for advertising, but anyone using the search engines finds them anyway and they are very effective in bringing interested visitors to the sites that use the internet to advertise - and this makes for good online marketing.
Since Google and other search engine companies are in the business of selling targeted advertising, they have developed very sophisticated language analysis software to help search engine visitors find what they are looking for useful information related to the subject of their searches. They have also created a system whereby advertisers bid for the top spots on the results pages. This is called "pay per click" or PPC advertising because advertisers only pay the search engine when a visitor clicks on their ad.
From an advertiser's point of view, of course the best spots are those on the first page of the results and these command the highest per-click bids.
From a visitor's point of view, the unpaid results are of greater interest than the sponsored ads. After all, the visitor is usually not much interested in a sales pitch and will view the un-sponsored results with less resistance than they will a sales pitch. They give preference to high quality unbiased information over any kind of sales pitch or online marketing advertisement.
As an online business owner, there may be times when you will want to buy PPC advertising, but a better deal for you is when your website is so well received that it rises to the first page of results that a visitor finds when they search for websites likely to provide the information that they are looking for.
The Online Marketing Crossroads
So we find ourselves at a crossroads. There are three distinct methods of getting prospective customers to come to your website.
I'll discuss the pros and cons of each of these choices in a later section about choosing your approach. But first I want to talk a bit about something that I have done for the past thirty-four years and that is how to do your