Internet marketing is a valuable and necessary part of any e-commerce strategy. There are various marketing techniques ranging from email newsletters to partnering with online affiliates and it is important to understand the available options to select those that are right for your company. At ECommerce Partners, we tend to focus on the marketing channels that yield the most immediate return on investment for e-commerce websites. For example, it makes more sense to explore search engine optimization and email database segmentation before putting resources into social media, as the ROI from traffic sources like Facebook and Twitter can be a challenge to quantify. In this article, we drill down to the basics that should be at the core of almost any e-commerce website’s marketing strategy.
SEO has become part of the vocabulary of virtually anyone who has an interest in promoting an online business. Essentially SEO involves making sure your website is easily found in the organic (i.e. unpaid or “free”) results on search engines like Google and Bing. At the end of the day, no matter how good your website is – if people can’t find it then they can’t buy from you. A solid SEO strategy revolves around using strong and relevant keywords within the context of relevant content, and then building quality links to this content within the website itself, and externally from other related websites.
Companies with physical addresses should also explore local SEO. Essentially, the object here is to claim (i.e. verify) your location and optimize for keywords related to your business so that people in your area can find your store. Depending on your category, the goal is to get into the top 3, 7 or 10 positions as these will also appear in the standard Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Generally, when people refer to Search Engine Marketing (SEM), they are describing Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. PPC advertising is bidding on keywords so your store’s advertisements can appear either above or next to the organic search engine results. This sounds simple, however a mismanaged PPC campaign can cost you thousands of dollars in irrelevant clicks that don’t convert. Without proper management, even a PPC campaign that is optimized at onset may yield a low ROI or low traffic shortly after launch. It is important to target and use keywords that will not simply just send traffic to your website, but drive consumer’s to your website who are actively searching to buy.
Email marketing can be a great way to retarget current customers or to help bring in potential customers. It can be used to send out weekly or monthly newsletters, promotional announcements or to send out personalized messages based on known consumer preferences. Email marketing works best when customers are segmented into groups that have purchased similar products or who have similar interests. In e-commerce, top goals with email list segmentation include product reorders and the replenishment of supplies.
Affiliate Marketing is an effective way of driving traffic to your website and only pay for performance in the form of a commission after a sale is made. When an affiliate program is properly executed, publishers or “affiliates” may apply to your program and once accepted they will have access to banner ads, text links, your product feed and other marketing assets you provide, which they can then promote using their existing website traffic, SEM or other channels. The benefit to the publisher is that he or she may monetize traffic that would otherwise yield no revenue. The benefit to the advertiser is that affiliate marketing is a great way to gain exposure on thousands of websites with minimal risk.
There are many other ways to garner and monetize website traffic. Twitter and Facebook come to mind in the world of social networking and social bookmarks. A few years ago, Digg, Del.icio.us and MySpace were all the rage. Next year – who knows.There’s plenty to do prior to engaging in a social networking campaign. Start with the core to build a foundation. Drive traffic using SEO and SEM, then monetize the customers you acquire through email list segmentation. Experiment with Landing Page Optimization using tools like Google Website Optimizer and reach out to potential affiliates to promote your products by publishing your links on their websites. Once you have these components in place you should have a fundamental understanding of what works – and doesn’t work – in terms of selling your products and services online. To read more about the services that ECommerce Partners provides, check out the Internet Marketing Services section of our website.