The internet is a big place…a very big place. According to Internet Live Stats, in 2014 there were a billion websites…that’s billion with a “b!” When you conduct a search on Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine, it is not uncommon to have tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of results to your search query.
How is a potential client supposed to find your website…stuck somewhere in those billions of possibilities?
The good news is that there are incredibly powerful ways to drive traffic to you–in effect, tilting the internet to your advantage–that are both easy and affordable. You don’t have to be an advertising genius like Don Draper of Mad Men to take advantage of paid digital marketing to promote your integration business.
For several years, Cheryl Ampel of Atlanta Audio & Automation has engaged in digital marketing to drive business to her company’s brick-andmortar store.
Our cover story in the April issue of Residential Systems, “Directing Traffic,” discussed the power of learning simple search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to draw more clicks to your integration company’s website by improving its ranking on a search engine results page (SERP). That article was about simple ways that you can improve your “organic” (free) results. This month, we delve into the rich uncle of SEO–otherwise known as (paid) search engine marketing (SEM), or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. With an effective SEM program, along with other online or digital marketing methods, you leave nothing to chance by driving traffic to your site.
Specifically, we are going to take a closer look at Google AdWords and Facebook advertising, which are two of the most powerful tools available today to drive traffic to your site. Much of the information shared about the process of optimizing your online presence to ensure that prospective clients who are looking for you (or about you) online can actually find you, also pertains to paid digital marketing.
In “Directing Traffic,” we identified five simple steps to optimize your online presence for better search engine performance (using a responsive website design; registering your company with all major search engines; launching a blog; using keywords strategically to attract the right customer; and understanding the power of links, both outbound and inbound). These SEO steps are equally important to SEM and digital marketing. Assuming you read and followed our tips, then your website is optimized, and all the major search engines know who you are and where to find you. So what’s next?
How Consumers Shop for What You Sell
There has been a dramatic shift in how consumers shop for goods and services over the last five years. A range of studies have established that somewhere between eight out of 10 shoppers absolutely will research online before selecting goods and services. And that includes, by the way, referrals from existing clients. If you are not addressing this change by shifting your efforts to online promotion of your company and the goods and services you offer, then you are losing ground to other integrators who have done so.
Start your journey by determining your marketing budget. The good news about both Google AdWords and Facebook Advertising is that while they both make it extremely easy to spend money on marketing, they also make it easy for you to set maximum budgets, protecting you from unexpectedly large charges. But what should your budget be? Business schools will tell you that it should be a percentage of your anticipated revenues–typically in the two-to-eight-percent range. As a practical matter, smaller companies tend to spend a higher percentage of revenues to employ enough dollars to “move the needle” in results.
Search engine marketing, also known as pay-per-click or PPC advertising, is the go-to digital marketing strategy for many integrators. And the 800-pound gorilla of PPC is Google AdWords.
Advertising with Google AdWords
Google AdWords is a powerful online advertising solution that is used daily by more than one million businesses. AdWords offers two primary tools to advertise your business to online consumers: 1) Text-based advertisements that put your company on the top of the search engine results page, commonly known as Search Engine Marketing (SEM); and, 2) Display advertising that includes pictures or videos and is served to a vast network of host or “publisher” websites.
Google AdWords offers both text and visual or display advertising. Most integrators choose the text-based search engine marketing ad as shown on the right.
For most integrators, SEM text advertising is typically their primary tool, as it puts your company in front of prospects at a critical time: when they are using a search engine to look for products or services like those offered by your company. In so doing, SEM directly drives traffic to the advertiser’s website. And a well designed website is your best chance to “convert” a prospect into a customer.
Cheryl Ampel of Atlanta Audio & Automation has engaged in digital marketing for several years. Having advertised in a range of online media, Ampel noted that Google AdWords offers a lot of statistics that help her create ads that are more effective.
According to Netsertive’s client success specialist Bindi Rach, her company’s “Digital Marketing Intelligence Platform” analyzes billions of pieces of data to elicit keyword and category trends, and allows Netsertive specialists to optimize AdWords ads for its clients.
“It’s a necessary evil,” said Ampel, referring to her digital marketing efforts. “This is how to talk to the new generation of customers. [Digital] advertising is a way to boost my visibility. It’s getting me to people that I don’t necessarily see any other way.”
Advantage of PPC Advertising
There are several advantages of PPC advertising. First, you have total control of what the ad says, when it runs, how often it changes, how long its visible, and how much you’re willing to pay for each click. Also, no matter how often your ad runs, you never pay a penny until someone clicks on it, and you can set, change, and pull your budget whenever you like. Finally, it offers a greater level of trackability than traditional advertising, including how many saw your ad and how many clicked on it.
Google likes to say that there are three simple steps to increasing your flow of customers: 1) Create an ad that tells what you do; 2) People see your ad when they enter the search terms you’ve selected; 3) You get more customers. See an example of a Google ad for a local coffee shop accompanying this story.
DIY or Use an Expert?
In truth, the process is slightly more complex than those three steps, but easily learnable by just about anyone. On the other hand, some integrators choose to work with specialized digital marketing companies like Netsertive, a Google AdWords Premier Partner. Netsertive can step in and provide assistance in the design, execution, and results analysis of an AdWords campaign.
Netsertive’s system, which the company calls its “Digital Marketing Intelligence Platform,” analyzes billions of pieces of data to elicit keyword and category trends, and allows Netsertive specialists to optimize AdWords ads for its clients.
“An example of that would be the home automation category, or the home theater category,” said Bindi Rach, client success specialist for Netsertive.”We specifically write those ads and create everything for the integrator, and we’re able to serve those ads up to the people looking into those particular things in those areas.”
It’s important to add, however, that the Google AdWords’ campaign dashboard makes it easy for anyone to launch an advertising campaign on his or her own, as well.
There are several critical success factors for advertising with Google AdWords. First, keyword selection is crucial. You will want keywords that are popular, as that will help ensure your ad becomes visible. But at the same time, the wrong keyword can draw in the wrong customer. For example, if you simply select the keywords “home theater” you may draw in customers looking for an inexpensive sound bar. As Brian Perrault of Barrett’s Technology Solutions said in April’s “Directing Traffic” article, consider adding modifiers such as “dedicated home theater,” which will more likely draw in that higherend customer you’re looking for.
You can also use “negative keywords” to help refine who sees your ad. Negative keywords are words or phrases that Google’s system uses to prevent your ad from being shown. For example, if you’ve selected the search term “cheap” as a negative keyword, then when someone types “cheap audiophile amplifiers,” your ad will not show.
When you sign up for a free AdWords account, Google offers an extremely helpful tool called Keyword Planner that allows you to carefully research keywords. With this tool, you can try out different keywords to see the historical search volume for each of them, how they are trending, and even have Google forecast the traffic they may generate.
Guide Timing Decisions
Think about timing your advertising to match what you know to be usual category demand cycles. So, for example, promote your outdoor AV lines in the spring, media rooms around Super Bowl time, dedicated home theaters in the winter, etc.
The old saying goes that the three most important concepts in retail are location, location, location–but the three most important concepts in online digital advertising is testing, testing, testing. Make sure to review Google AdWords’ campaign-reporting screens to monitor the performance of your ad campaigns, especially in regard to the categories that you’re promoting and the keywords that you’re using. And don’t be afraid to switch it up with different keywords or different text. You have to keep trying different combinations of text and keywords to find the precise formula that works best for your business.
Facing the Facts of Facebook
Facebook recently reported its results for the first quarter of 2016 and the numbers were stunning. The number of monthly active users in the U.S. and Canada hit a record 1.65 billion people. The massively huge social media company is clearly the 800-pound gorilla of the socially aware set. But, as the New York Times recently reported, it is a seemingly smaller number in that quarterly report that everyone is talking about, because it is actually huge: 50 minutes. This 50-minute statistic represents the average amount of time that those billions of users are on Facebook every day; it’s a mind-boggling measure of deep-user engagement. To put that in perspective, data from the marketing company comScore shows the time spent on other comparable services are: YouTube (17 minutes), all Yahoo sites (nine minutes), LinkedIn (two minutes), and Twitter (one minute).
The Facebook advertising dashboard shows where you can select the demographic targeting elements. In a separate section, you can select the geographic area to target your advertisement.
More and more, integrators are finding out that Facebook is where their customers are congregating–every day. And Facebook has created an advertising platform that allows integrators to launch powerful marketing campaigns at very affordable prices.
“We’re really stunned by the cost efficiency of promoting your brand or your message through Facebook,” Ron Callis of One Firefly said. “It’s cost effective because it’s new; it’s unlikely to remain as cost effective as it is now.”
This table shows the results of a Facebook ad campaign. In this case, the campaign reached 6,880 Facebook users and generated 414 clicks at a cost of $0.18 per click.
Yet another reason for you to strongly consider promoting your company on Facebook is because they’ve wisely chosen to insert your advertising either next to or directly in the newsfeed of its viewers. The popular newsfeed feature is where you catch up on what’s going on with your friends and family every day, maybe several times a day. By placing advertising directly in the newsfeed, users are more likely to see your message.
Design Your Audience
Advertisers are flocking to Facebook because, much to the chagrin of privacy advocates, the service has a massive database on its users, with an incredible amount of detail. This data is made available to advertisers and it allows them to precisely target, with extreme accuracy, their prime customer.
“You can design your audience–where they live, what their age is, sex, title, job, interests,” Callis said. “You can start to design what type of person– whether it be an influencer in the design industry or an end user–you can design a demographic profile for that person and now put your message in front of him or her.”
The incredibly precise targeting offered by Facebook means you’ll waste no time or money promoting your goods and services to the wrong type of customer. And like Google AdWords, you only pay Facebook when your ad draws a click.
Facebook will allow you to start with a daily budget as low as $5.00, so a 30-day ongoing campaign would only cost you about $150. For that, your message will be seen by thousands of your target audience. Of course, you’ll likely want to spend more to have a bigger impact, but Facebook allows you to set a daily limit and a campaign limit to protect your budget.
One Firefly’s Callis said that for as little as $100, his clients are getting about 3,000 to 5,000 impressions. But impressions are less important than clicks, he noted. “We don’t lead with impressions–that’s kind of hocus pocus,” Callis said. “We lead with clicks, and that [$100 investment] is usually getting you around 30 to 50 clicks into your website on average. You can’t buy that with Google AdWords. Google AdWords can’t touch that!”
Facebook offers you easy, but powerful tools to precisely define the audience that will see your advertising. Take extra time to consider the demographic options from which you can select to describe your ideal prospective customer. Don’t be alarmed as the “estimated reach” audience size indicator shows a drop in the total audience size as you more add more specific demographic targeting. Your clicks are likely to be greater with a more precisely targeted audience profile.
No matter what type of ad you choose, always choose to drive clicks to your website. Facebook advertising gives you many options for the goal of your campaign, such as to increase your “impressions,” build “likes” on your business’ Facbook page, and more. But whether you pick a text or display ad, you should almost always choose to drive traffic to your website as your call to action. This is the highest value action you can take that will increase the flow of perspective customers directly to your digital door.
And like all digital marketing, always be testing. The Facebook for Business ad portal page is extremely easy to use and offers you tremendous flexibility with many options for designing an ad campaign. For example, try designing end-user campaigns with different demographic descriptors and note how the results of these campaigns vary. You might also want to try targeting an ad at architects, builders, or interior decorators. Because you can store each audience you’ve designed, you can experiment until you find a combination of variables–demographics, budgets, timing, ad creative design, etc.–that work best in returning results.
Try Paid Digital Marketing Today
The world of custom integration commerce has changed dramatically over the last few years. The reality is that integrators need to constantly experiment with new ways to connect with the changing preferences of technology shoppers and consumers. That means if you haven’t done so already, you should try online advertising. It’s easy and affordable, and you can allocate a comfortable budget amount no matter what size your business.
Of the impact of digital marketing on his business, Doug Dushan of Omaha, NE-based Echo Systems said, “I really do attribute our Facebook and AdWords marketing to the impression in the community’s mind that we are at the top.”
For Dushan, digital marketing has completely changed his opinion of advertising. “Being able to see, ‘OK our ad was seen by 39,000 people and this many clicked through,’ it’ll get you to suspend your skepticism,” he said.
Whether you choose to try Google AdWords or Facebook advertising on your own, or with the help of marketing professionals like Netsertive or One Firefly, you will quickly find that paid digital marketing is a powerful and cost-effective tool for driving more potential customers to your website and your business.
A regular RS contributor, Ted Green publishes a widely read weekly CE business blog at Stata-gee. com, the online home of The Stratecon Group, his marketing and strategy agency for the tech industry.