I wanted to buy a domain today. I found that both the domain I wanted, 123.com let’s call it, and a variation, the123.com, appeared to be available. The former was for sale from a brokerage, the latter through any registrar.
Though I’m perfectly content with the123.com, I contacted the domain brokerage out of curiosity, to see how much it would cost. I was expecting a silly quote, in the $100s, possibly even in the $1000s. Instead, I got this reply:
My name is [redacted], and I am a Broker with [redacted].com. I represent the current owner of [example: 123.com].
I was able to speak with the seller and based on many criteria they have determined a value of $95,000.00 USD.
If you have any questions, please let me know.
I laughed out loud – seriously – and nearly fell off my chair.
What did I find so funny?
Well, I was laughing at the idea that anyone in the world – especially an individual but even a large company – would pay 5 figures US (6 figures Canadian!) for a domain name in 2018. Now, I don’t doubt that there are people out there who would do this, but they are foolish.
Your domain name does not determine your traffic to your website.
Sure, it’s helpful for branding to have a domain name that is exactly-your-brand.com, and there is a very minor SEO benefit, but if your domain isn’t an exact match, it’s hardly the end of the world.
Websites succeed with different urls all the time, and there is now a trend of getting cute with your url, such as the podcast platform tryca.st, to pick but one example.
The point is that your exact url does not matter all that much and so many other things do, so to spend 10s of 1000s of dollars on a url is bonkers.
What is perhaps more bonkers is that this brokerage thought that a random person contacting them could be bilked into spending that much money on a url. It suggests that there are still many people – and companies, no doubt – who are foolish enough, or rich enough, to think that paying US$95,000 for a domain name is a good use of money.
For a long time, people lumped in YouTube with the other social media networks. This was an odd thing to do because YouTube is extremely different from social media in a couple of ways. Marketing on YouTube can be incredibly effective but it is also expensive and requires a lot of trial and error.
What is YouTube?
This might seem like a silly question, but since people have long referred to it as a social media platform its worth talking about what it really is. YouTube is at least three things:
A video hosting/viewing service
A search engine
It is all of these things rolled into one. What that means for you, the small business owner, is that you can market on YouTube in at least three different ways:
Social media marketing
Search engine marketing
All of these methods involve cost. It costs a fair amount to make a decent video, though the price can go down over time once you develop a process. (Take it from me, I have supervised a YouTube channel with thousands of videos, tens of thousands of subscribers and millions of views.) The other two ways spending time or money on participating on YouTube, and spending money on ads. Basically, if you’re going to use YouTube, you’re going to have to spend money.
Is it worth it?
Well, that really depends. You may have heard about people making tons of money on YouTube, but those people are the minority. And the math just doesn’t add up for most people; it takes millions of views to generate thousands of dollars and it takes a very long time (and luck) to get to the point where you are getting millions of views. Nearly everything you do in marketing terms on YouTube is internal, meaning that you’re usually paying to send someone to a different part of YouTube. This means that most of your efforts on YouTube are more for branding than they are for actual clients. (Getting the clients from YouTube to you is one of the big hurdles with marketing within a network.)
But with the right commitment of money, you can dominate branding among younger clients, and with the right calls to action in your videos, you can get clients to contact you. Successful YouTube campaigns can be very successful. But they will cost a lot.
Should you use Twitter to market your business? After all, isn’t everyone on it?
Well, first of all, not that many people are actually on Twitter. Twitter has half as many users as Facebook.
But really, the question of whether or not to use Twitter is really a question of what you intend to use Twitter for and how much time you plan to devote to it.
Do you get lots of customer service inquiries? Then it absolutely makes sense to use Twitter regularly for your business.
Is your business mobile? Then it absolutely makes sense to use Twitter regularly for your business.
But, if you do not have a lot of customer service inquiries, or you don’t have tons of updates about your business location or hours, then it’s likely that Twitter is not the best way to promote your business.
Unless of course you are your business; you are the face of your brand and more – you are your brand. If this is the case, Twitter is very useful at allowing you to communicate directly to your potential customers/clients.
But be warned: using Twitter effectively is extremely time-consuming. For Twitter to be worth your time, you have to be on it a lot.
Should you use Instagram to market your business online? After all, don’t all the kids use it?
Instagram is a unique way of reaching potential and current customers. But, due to its uniquely visual nature, it’s not for every business. Yes, it’s true, you can post text as a picture on Instagram but if people are going to see that text, they need to follow you. Though you may get followers with text, you get most followers on Instagram visually.
So, you should only put time and effort into Instagram if you can present your products or services visually. If you cannot conceive of a way to visually present your products, your services, or your staff, in a compelling visual manner, it’s just not worth it.
Social media takes time. In order to have a successful social media account you need to put in tons of time and effort and you also need to be lucky. If you cannot create compelling visual content for your business, there is no point in wasting resources on Instagram.
Should you bother with Google Plus to market your business? That’s the big question.
Wait, what’s Google Plus?
If you don’t know what Google Plus is, that answers the question. Google Plus is Google’s most recent attempt to counter Facebook. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s because it hasn’t exactly been successful. It exists and there are still relatively large numbers of people on it, but many view it as a failure and some of Google Plus’ key features have been transferred to Google products.
There is a really dedicated community on Google Plus – many of whom will swear up and down that Google Plus is superior to Facebook in every way – but unless you are targeting that community, Google Plus could be a waste of time.
Benefits of Using Google Plus
The primary benefit of using Google Plus once was that it was indexable, as opposed to Facebook (which is not) or Twitter (which now is, but wasn’t previously). All that means is that Google Plus posts can appear in search results, making your business activity on Google Plus much more permanent than on Facebook.
There is a highly active community on Google Plus, though this community is significantly smaller than the other major English-language social networks. If this community likes what you do, they will promote your content. If you can figure how to appeal to them, it’s likely your posts will get in front of more people than in other spaces.
But that’s basically where the benefits end. Google Business Pages, which are essential, have gained some of the features of Google Plus (such as the ability to post updates) and have likely rendered Google Plus irrelevant for many if not most businesses.
Drawbacks of Google Plus
Like using any social network, using Google Plus is extremely time-consuming. But it certainly can be worth it for Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, if you do it right.
The problem with Google Plus is that their market share is smaller than the other social media networks – your audience is smaller. All other things being equal, Google Plus should be at least your fourth choice for social media marketing.
But there’s another problem I want to alert you to. In my field, digital marketing, Google Plus is extremely popular. There is a huge, vibrant community of digital marketers on Google Plus. The problem, as I see it, is that they are talking to each other, not to potential clients. Now, if that’s what they want to do, and that’s what they’re trying to do, fine. But the small business owners I want to reach are not on Google Plus. Sure, you may have an account, but you don’t use it, do you? Instead, there is this impressive-seeming feedback loop, where a digital marketer makes a post, it gets tons of +1s and tons of re-shares but it gets in front of the competition, rather than the customers. I imagine this is true for other industries.
There was a while there when everyone was telling you “You have to get on Facebook.” If you asked why, you probably didn’t get a very good response. There’s a reason for that.
Using Facebook for Your Business
You can use Facebook for your business – for some businesses it makes a lot of sense. But for many, many businesses, investing a lot of time and money into Facebook makes very little sense. Will likes, shares and comments within Facebook really benefit your business?
Before you decide whether or not to spend time with Facebook, you should decide how you want to use it.
3 Ways to Use Facebook For Your Business
There are basically three ways to use Facebook for your business:
Using Facebook as a Person for Your Business
If you are your own brand – for example, you are a therapist – it’s possible that you can use Facebook effectively for your business while only using your personal profile.
Upside: You can use Facebook more actively than a business and you can engage with Facebook Friends, and Facebook Friends of Facebook Friends, in ways businesses cannot.
Downside: Your family and your actual friends that you are Facebook Friends with will likely find your constant business promotion annoying.
Basically, you should only use your personal profile for your business if you have no interest in the social aspects of Facebook.
Facebook Business Page
A Facebook Business Page is the official way businesses use Facebook. Every brick-and-mortar business should a Facebook Business Page, brands likely should to, and if your business is a pop-up style, you should definitely have one. The question isn’t whether or not to have a Facebook Business Page. Rather, the question is, how much time to devote to it. I have discussed the Facebook Business Page here.
Like all pay-per-click (PPC) ads, Facebook ads have both their downside and their upside. Facebook ads are significantly different than search engine and website ads. Customization and targeting are quite different (and arguably superior) but you must ask yourself a simple question: do you really want to pay for Facebook page and post likes? Is there any value in that? For many businesses, there is no value in Facebook ads. It really depends upon how you are using your business page.
Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing is the industry name for the ads you see on Google and also the ads you see on websites and social media. It’s the name for ads on the internet because you as an advertiser pay for the ads when users click on them (never when they do not).
Here are the main types of PPC ads:
Ads on search engines like Google and Bing
Ads on websites
Ads on social media.
As such, pay-per click ads are both a guaranteed way to get traffic and a more efficient way to get traffic than ads in the real world. Why?
Virtually Guaranteed Traffic
If you are not getting (enough) traffic, you can pay for it. Because the internet is gigantic, and is used by billions, it’s pretty unlikely that you will set up an ad campaign, no matter how niche, and get zero clicks. Whether your advertise on search engines, on websites or on social media, you will probably get some traffic. (Search engines being the best option.) Whether or not that traffic converts is another story.
More Efficient Than Real World Ads
Provided you are set up to convert the traffic, PPC ads are more efficient than ads in the real world. Why is that?
Say you have a billboard in the real world; you pay for the billboard. With PPC ads, you only pay when someone not only looks at your internet billboard, you pay only when they actually follow that billboard to your virtual storefront. That is a much more specific group of people, as you are only paying for the people who “travel” to your store, not the people who just look at your billboard, nor the people who drive by it and don’t even notice it. So you’re spending money only when people decide to visit your virtual store. That’s much better.
What Could Go Wrong?
Well, as anyone who has ever set up a Google AdWords account can tell you, PPC is expensive. Very, very expensive. Inefficient or poorly designed AdWords campaigns can cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars a month, and even efficient Adwords campaigns can cost this much, depending on your settings. Google will just charge you even if your ads are up without you realizing you published them. The same is true for Bing Ads and the social media ads – you must be ready to go “live” with your ads when you set up the campaign, otherwise you are literally throwing money away.
Prepare Before You Advertise
You need to make sure you have a good landing page, which should convert, before you launch your PPC campaign. Don’t just use your homepage as the url for your AdWords or AdSense ads.
If you’re using social media PPC, you need to have a strategy how to make money off of those ads before you start paying.
Unless you find the dashboard for your ads account super intuitive, it is worth looking into getting help from an expert or getting help from the provider as well. A PPC expert will help you save money and get a better ROI. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you should hire an expert before you even set up the account.
Is PPC Worth It?
Whether or not PPC is worth your money is a complicated question. A PPC expert will tell you that you should advertise, as will representatives of AdWords, Bing Ads, or any of the other PPC providers. But I won’t.
Deciding to spend your advertising money on PPC is a huge, expensive decision which could lead to much bigger profits or huge losses. Whether or not PPC makes sense for your business depends upon what your business is. If you are selling $15 t-shirts enshrining current internet memes, PPC may make sense. If you are offering a complicated, expensive service, it’s hard to imagine why PPC would make sense.
So what’s the short version? If your product or service is affordable, there is a low threshold for the customer to buy, it or it’s an impulse buy, PPC is a great option to improve your sales. However, if you need to convince your potential clients over time, PPC makes basically zero sense.
Still not sure what to do? I can help you decide whether or not to invest in PPC ads. I have years of experience with PPC ad campaigns (for search and for social media) and alternative marketing strategies that have replaced PPC ads or made them irrelevant. Contact me for more information.
For most websites, the most important source of traffic is through search engines, the biggest of which is Google. Because Google results in such a high percentage of worldwide searches, most people have decided to prioritize attracting search traffic through Google. The assumption is that tactics to attract visitors through Google will be effective with Bing and other lesser search engines.
The way to attract visitors through search engines is called Search Engine Optimization aka SEO
If you run a small business, one advantage you may be able to take within SEO is to focus on your local business area. There are a number of tactics you can use to dominate local search results but an important aspect is a Google Business Page.
‘Referral Traffic’ is the technical name for links to your site. A referral is when someone on another website clicks on a hyperlink to your website and lands on one of your webpages.
Links have formed the basis for determining “trust” on the internet for much of its existence. It was, in part, Google’s use of link analysis that allowed Google to revolutionize search engines and dominate the internet.
Though Google has claimed that links play much less of a role in determining search results than they used to, most people in the SEO world strongly suspect or believe that links are basically as important as they’ve ever been.
The long and the short of it: if you can’t get direct traffic, you want referral traffic. It’s the second best type of traffic. (Arguably the first in many ways.)
Links send people to your site from other sites
Traffic through links indicates to Google and Bing and others that your site is valuable and trustworthy
How to Get Links
More has been written on how to get links (“link-building”) than any other topic in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). There are more guides than any one person could ever read or, probably, count. So I won’t give you a guide here, but instead just outline a basic process:
Create something people might want to link to (“content”)
Put that content up online
Tell people about it.
That’s it. It sounds very simple but, because people have been doing this for 20 years, there’s a lot of competition, probably even in your niche of your industry.
Creating content for the internet is a topic in and of itself. So here are just the briefest of guidelines:
It has to be interesting to your potential visitors/clients and to people who might want to link to it
It can be an article but it could also be an embedded or hosted picture (“infographic”), video or audio file, with your business name on it
If the topic has already been covered online – especially if it has been covered online by lots of people – your take on the topic has to be unique and, ideally, better than everyone else’s
It should be “evergreen” – i.e. it will remain relevant in the coming months and years
Doesn’t sound so easy now, does it?
PUTTING YOUR CONTENT ONLINE
If you’ve written an article you need to upload it to your site in a way that makes sense with what is already on your website. (If you’re a wordpress user: Is it a post or a page?)
If you’ve made an infographic, you should embed it on your site with some text, but you should also put the infographic on social media with links to its original home
If you’ve made a video or audio file then there’s controversy about where to store it – teach the controversy!!!
I cannot stress enough that, wherever you put it, the content has to be accessible by users and robots.
Because the internet is now quite graphic-driven, as people are visual, written content without graphics is going to struggle, all other things being equal, so having some graphics is a big plus.
Your content should be added to your sitemaps and, if it’s a page rather than a post, it should also be added to your homepage or wherever your directory of pages is.
TELLING PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR CONTENT
The process of letting people know about your new content is part of “content marketing” – using your content to drive sales – but also part of link-building.
The easiest way of telling people about your content is posting it to social media. This won’t help with links unless you get lucky. In this case, getting lucky means:
Your content is shared tons of times (goes viral) and the likes and shares keep it prominent in social media feeds, causing your post(s) to, in essence, be a link to your site
Someone sees your post and decides to write about your content, creating a link on their site
If you have a newsletter, this is a relatively simple way of telling people who already know your business about your content, though it won’t help with links unless those in your newsletter list have sites of their own, or they share your newsletter with people who do, and those site owners choose to link to your post.
If you are a member of a forum related to your business, and that forum allows commercial posts, you can post links to your content in the forum, following the forum’s guidelines. This is an actual permanent link, so it’s better than the above two options.
Depending upon the type of content, you may be able to post it on certain other sites that fall somewhere between forums and social media (Reddit for example) or in a directory-type site which compiles links to content like yours. You may have to ask for permission depending upon the site’s policies.
But none of this is really going to get you links quickly, unless something you created goes viral (or you’re followed by people who really want to link to your stuff).
SO HOW DO YOU GET LINKS?
As I said, there are link-building guides everywhere – many of which are much better than anything I can tell you – but the short answer is: you ask for them.
You make a list of websites you think would be interested in linking to you. You do that by:
Searching your keywords for your content and finding non-competitors who might be interested in your content
Seeing who links to your competitors
Finding broken links on sites related to your business.