Launching an internet business without a proactive online marketing strategy is like opening on Broadway without unlocking the box office window.
You might win a Tony going broke.
Great reviews don't pay the cast or designer.
You want a return on your investment.
You need an audience.
Your new online business needs an audience too.
Before you sell your products or services, you have to drive traffic to your site.
But how are you going to separate yourself from the pack? After all, at last count there were well over one hundred and nine billion websites out there.
Fortunately your future customers are one step ahead of you: they search for what they want using a few specific tools, Google being the most prominent.
Knowing their "queries" enables you to take a scientific approach to marketing.
Your mission is to customize and optimize your website to be consistent with these searches.
This will attract the right prospects to visit your site and enable you to convert these visits into cash.
Keywords - Your Primary Tool First generation search engines targeted keywords and keywords are still a fundamental part of any interactive online marketing strategy.
Think of a keyword as a blinking beacon embedded in your web page luring the prospective searcher in for a landing.
It should be part of your URL, and embedded in your site's code through the title and other "tags.
" Parse your keywords carefully: keywords come with value attached.
It is not enough for your keywords to be popular: "free," for example, is one of the most common words people type into search engines but it carries no weight because it's too often coupled with follow-up terms like "porn" or "games" or "software.
" Your keywords should relate as specifically as possible to the products or services your prospects are searching for.
Using generic keywords is a waste of time.
Research your keywords carefully and regularly for relevance - there are a lot of free online tools available like Google's Inside Trend and Wonder Wheel tools and Microsoft's Adcenter Labs Keyword Forecast tool.
It used to be common to embed long strings of keywords inside meta tags, visible to the search engines, but not visitors.
That is not enough, and it can even be detrimental.
Keywords need to be present in the text on your site, preferably as high up on the landing page as possible.
Nothing turns off a potential customer faster than a trip to a web page that hides search terms and fails to describe the product or service he or she is actually interested in buying.
Other Considerations - Content, Congruency & Call To Action Important as they are, keywords are not the end-all and be-all.
The sophisticated algorithms that drive today's search box are capable of targeting many other triggers.
Personalized Search, for example, is keyed to an anonymous cookie in prospective customers' browsers.
This means that two people may well see different sets of search results for the same query based on their past browsing preferences.
How might this affect your marketing? Now more than ever it's critical to make your users fall in love with your site.
That means providing valuable content.
Just as a brick and mortar store presents merchandise in an alluring fashion (with subtle signals to buy now rather than later) so the content on your website must be visually and verbally stimulating.
The language you use on your site needs to be consistent with the topics for which your readers are searching.
Use terms that reflect company and industry consensus.
You may think what you're selling is a "gizmo", but if the industry thinks it's a "gadget", that's probably how your prospective customers will think of it as well.
Your potential customers have a specific set of needs and your website must not only tell them in specific terms how those needs will be met, but also nudge them in the right direction by making it impossible for them to lose sight of how they can have those needs fulfilled.
In marketing terms, your website must deliver a clear call to action.
Your customer may think he's just browsing, but as a business person, turning the window shopper into a serious buyer is what you get paid to do.
Effective search engine optimization is more than just tossing around a set of buzz words designed to sell yet another product or service.
In reality, it's the mechanism that coordinates the wheels on the bus that will carry your online business forward.