Its always good to have a website... this way you can target your local market with online and offline advertising..
In online advertising there are two major distinctions, paid and not paid (FREE). Paid online advertising is easy to understand. You have banners placed on other websites or emails that are sent to an email mailing list and you have pay per click (PPC) which is you paying for an ad placement on another website or search engine. The placement is charged a fee with a fluctuating rate for each click to your ad that takes a prospective customer to your website.
Banner ad placement works best when there is a limited capacity offer such as a short supply of a product or service or you have a limited amount of time for the offer. Banners are normally more expensive so its a better idea to have a banner for a trip to Vegas or next weeks rock concert than a landscaper service in June.
PPC is good for most small business advertising but unfortunately if its not done the right way, it can be quite expensive. PPC, if done right can bring a very high return on investment (ROI) and can catapult your business from nothing, to a steady stream of customers in a short period of time, at a fraction of other advertising methods.
Unpaid or free advertising in most cases will not cost you money, but it will cost you time. If done correctly and thoroughly, certain aspects of free advertising for your small business will take many hours to perfect. The most effective forms of free advertising are search engine optimization (SEO) and social networking.
SEO in simple terms is building your online presence to provide the best chance of being seen by search engines such as Yahoo® and primarily Google®. This is done in 4 primary steps:
1. Establish keywords for the basis of creating content
2. Building content around and about your keywords
3. Linking to and from similar websites with good content
4. Adding more content based on keywords
Notice the focus is on your websites' content in all four steps.
SEO is not easy because it it perpetually evolving and it involves setting a plan in motion, then waiting for results, while working it for different angles behind the scenes. In the end you still have no control over how your results are presented, only the search engines have it. Your SEO work is never done and it is time consuming, but with the right strategy and implementation, you will achieve great success. For more information visit our website section on SEO: 7 Steps to an Effective SEO Advertising Strategy.
For social networking, its a little different than SEO but its basis, free online advertising, and the end result, a very high ROI, are the same. Social networking is establishing a presence on a community based website, or creating a community on your own website. Social networking provides you with not only free advertising but a constant source of communication with your customers, and potential customers. Using social networking relies on tapping into the organic interest people will generally have in the content you provide. Social networking websites are growing at a rapid pace, and the amount of time people spend on those websites makes it more likely you will be exposed to more people. Establishing your presence on a social networking website should be consistent with your overall web presence and if done right will only enhance your small business footprint online.
More information on social networking in our: Advertise on a Budget section where we periodically examine the best strategies of social networking and other inexpensive sources of online advertising.