One of the worst things that can happen to an online business is to invest a great deal of time and money into creating a great website and then find out that no one visits. Without traffic there can be no sales, so for new online businesses, one of the most important parts of your business strategy has to be to generate traffic to your site. In this article, we’ll explain two of the main methods business use to promote their websites: pay per click (PPC) advertising and affiliate marketing.
Pay per click advertising
Advertising is one of the chief methods used by businesses to attract visitors to their website and is usually done on a pay per click (PPC) basis. This means you create an advert which you only pay for when someone clicks on it. The most common PPC method is called Paid Search which means you set your advert to appear on search engine results pages when someone has searched for a keyword that relates to your business. So, for example, if you sold outdoor clothing, you could arrange for your adverts to appear when someone searched for walking boots or waterproof coats. This way, you make sure that your adverts are targeted at the right people.
The main channel for PPC adverts is search engine advertising networks like Google Adwords. Whilst search engine PPC can generate a lot of traffic, the downside is that is can be expensive. Although you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, competition from other companies means you could be paying significant amounts for each visitor. Whilst some ads can be purchased very cheaply, an independent mortgage advisor, as you can see below, might pay over £20 for each click.
Besides putting adverts on search engine results, Google Adwords and other companies also let website owners put adverts on websites. So, for example, our outdoor clothing company can arrange to have adverts appear on hiking blogs or Visit Yorkshire websites.
PPC advertising is not just limited to search engines; it is also possible to use it on social media sites – and often at a much cheaper rate than on search engines. Facebook ads are a very popular channel for many businesses and can be extremely effective. Facebook can also provide you with metrics about your ads’ performance and enable you to undertake remarketing.
Other companies offer different methods of advertising. It is possible to join advertisers who instead of paying PPC simply charge you a monthly fee and guarantee your ad will appear a certain number of times on relevant sites.
To get the most from paid advertising, it is essential that you have an excellent understanding of the search terms that customers use to find the products you are selling. If you are paying for your adverts to appear when searchers use certain keywords, it is important that you have selected the right keywords to appear on.
It is also important that you are able to create well-crafted adverts that are going to attract readers and make them click. Adverts that appear on search results pages are text only and need to be well written, adverts that appear on websites are often banner ads that combine both text and images and need a range of different sizes and shapes.
Another valuable way to advertise your business is through affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is where other website owners promote your products on their site. If someone clicks on a link on their website to yours and then makes a sale, then you pay them a percentage of the sale price. The advantage is that you only pay if a sale has been made; you are not spending money on a click that might not lead to anything.
Affiliate marketing is exceptionally powerful and is used by many major businesses. Amazon alone has over 900,000 affiliates advertising its products and, according to PRWeb, relies on affiliate marketing for 40% of its global sales.
There are lots of website owners interested in being an affiliate, especially bloggers. Bloggers write about subjects they are interested in but do not sell products themselves, so, in order to generate an income for their website, they promote the products and services of other companies.
Affiliates generate income for companies in three ways. They either place one of your adverts on their website, mention you in one of their articles with a link to your website or they write an article promoting your products with a link included. This latter option is especially useful as it works as an independent endorsement. If you have a high-profile blogger with significant traffic telling their audience how good they think your products are, then the impact on your traffic and sales can be huge. A similar effect can be achieved by having lots of affiliates with smaller audiences each sending you a few visitors a day.
What you generally find with affiliate marketing is that you get website owners specialising in your niche who will want to promote your products because they are relevant to their audience. A hiking blogger, for example, would be keen to promote the outdoor clothing company because their readers would be interested in those products. If a reader goes on to purchase from the outdoor clothing company, both websites benefit – it is the perfect symbiotic relationship.
To get started with affiliate marketing, you need to set up an affiliate program. This allows website owners to sign up for the program and start promoting. There are two routes you can use to start an affiliate program – you can host your own or join an established third party company.
With a self-hosted affiliate program, all you need to do is install an affiliate program plugin on your website. This will allow you to set the terms and conditions for applicants and enable those you have accepted to create special affiliate links on their site. These special links give each affiliate their own unique identifier that enables you to track which affiliates have generated sales so that you can pay them the percentage rate you have agreed on.
With a self-hosted affiliate program, it is up to you to advertise the affiliate program itself and to recruit affiliates. This can be difficult for new businesses, especially if you have little in the way of traffic. The advantage, however, is that you do not need to pay the third-party company to manage the program for you.
Third party companies, whilst more expensive, do have significant advantages. Companies like Webgains, LinkShare and CJ Affiliate have enormous numbers of affiliates on their books and as soon as you set up an affiliate program their account managers will inform relevant affiliates that your products are now available to promote. They will even help you create an incentivised recruitment program to get website owners to sign up. The result is that within a short time you will have many affiliates promoting your products.
The one question people always ask about affiliate programs is how much commission do I pay? This is entirely your choice. However, if there are two companies selling similar products and one is offering a higher commission rate than another, then affiliates are likely to promote the product which is going to make them the most money. In general, physical products usually have a rate of around 5%. For non-physical products where overheads are much lower, such a software downloads, the rate is often much higher – up to 50%. You would need to research what other companies were offering in order to make sure you were offering competitive rates.
The other advantage of affiliate programs is that they give online businesses the opportunity to develop long-term relationships with their advertisers. You can contact them directly to inform them about new products and services and ask them to do a special promotion for you. As you are part of their income stream, it is also unlikely that they will write you a bad review.
From reading this article you should now have a much better understanding of how to advertise your new online business using PPC on search engines and social media as well as understanding how affiliate marketing can be used to promote your company and boost sales.
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