As online marketing and advertising begin to outstrip traditional advertising media – TV, radio and print – as the medium that will drive customers to their office or storefront (whether that is a digital online office or storefront on a company’s web page, or the old-fashioned ‘bricks-and-mortar’ variety) businesses, large and small, are grappling with how to advertise and market their products and services online and what is the most effective way to do this.
David Wei, CEO for Alibaba.com, a leading website providing business-to-business (or B2B) networking and connectivity, has observed that, “Going global has never been easier and more affordable for a small- to medium-sized enterprise (SME), especially from the relative comfort of one’s own factory, shop or home office.”
Mr. Wei notes that, the “Internet has ushered in new tools to bring trading partners together using search engines, portals and online marketplaces.” Mr. Wei notes that online marketing and B2B marketplaces like Alibaba.com are replacing traditional marketing venues like trade shows, catalogues and trade associations, just as internet advertising is gradually replacing traditional print, TV and radio as source for advertising placements.
Importantly, Alibaba.com’s CEO, points out the choice that all businesses, particularly small-to-medium sized enterprises (or SMEs), must face when taking their advertising and marketing campaigns online, or starting up a fresh marketing campaign, is whether to channel time, money and effort into paid advertising and marketing (the banner ads, and pay-per-click sponsored ads on Googl or Yahoo! etc.), or whether to invest those resources in organic marketing.
Pay-per-click has its place and a company can bid and pay for advertising spots, just like it would do for TV and other old media ads, but pay-per-click has its limitations. “A search engine is more consumer-traffic driven with no budget guarantee,” Mr. Wei suggests, “so costs can accumulate without any reasonable assurance of sales. There is also a serious global issue of click fraud, whereby competitors click repeatedly to increase your pay-per-click advertising costs.” “At this time,” Mr. Wei says, “there is no known solution that can eliminate 100% of click fraud.” With pay-per-click it can thus become difficult to know that you are paying for what you get.
The alternative to pay-per-click is to market and advertise online using the internet’s organic search capabilities to get your products and services noticed and ranked at the top of the search engines’ results page. There is nothing like having your site appear “above-the-fold”, so to speak, on the Google results page for the key words that describe your business to drive sales. While this is not “paid advertising” per se, there are definite costs in terms of the aforementioned resources of “time, money and effort” that an SME will need to expend building an effective online marketing campaign organically.
Mr Wei’s advice for small-to-medium sized enterprises is, that “it is best to have someone in-house with keyword marketing expertise. Otherwise, you should consider using marketing firms which have a proven success rate of getting companies to rank higher in search results.”
Sound advice. But even if an SME tries to build an in-house capability for online marketing, how can the business influencer or decision-maker be assured that the person they are looking to hire has the search engine optimization expertise to successfully orchestrate a full online marketing campagn, particularly if one’s marketing mix is to use both pay-per-click and organic search engine optimization? The answer may be to test the online marketing waters first and take your online marketing and online advertising campaigns to a company whose search engine optimization specialists have organic and pay-per-click experience.