Early stage startup marketing & community management + the great outdoors.

Online Advertising for [very] Small Businesses

One of the great aspects of online advertising is that there are many tools that can be utilized that cost very little to nothing.  I’ve received a few questions from friends on where they should start to think about advertising online so I’m going to use this post to address most of their questions.  I won’t get into too much detail on some topics but will try to provide specific links where applicable.

SEO (or search engine optimization)

Also known as “free search”, this is basically the concept of creating your online presence in a manner in which search engines like Google and Bing will find you relevant.  The search engines do a fairly good job of filtering out crap but there are a few steps you should be conscious of when setting up and maintaining your site.

1)      The URL should be relevant, and registered for a long time.  The keywords in the URL are key and the duration of your site registration shows your intent.  For example, if you’re selling dog collars then a domain like certainly sets you up for a good start to SEO.

2)      Keywords and on-page content are another tool you can use to help search engines understand what you are trying to do.  It’s all about having relevant information on your site and search engines analyze the word content on your site to establish a relevancy.

3)      Blogging is a good tool to force you to publish fresh and relevant data.  If you’re blogging even once a week on dog collars, after a year you’ll have accrued quite a large library of information on the topic – that’s hugely valuable for readers and in turn, Google.

PPC (or Pay Per Click)

PPC programs are the primary tool for advertising on search engines.  Google’s AdWords being the largest and most refined program.  A common misconception is that you need large budgets for advertising online when, in fact, most clicks cost very little and you can buy as many or as few as you want.

1)      Brand terms first.  Definitely start with terms including your company name and/or industry and city/state.  In more than one large campaign I’ve managed, the brand terms were, by far, the most trafficked terms in the campaign.

2)      Start with a few, highly relevant terms to get a sense of traffic.

3)      Use geo targeting if you’re operating an off-line business.  If you’re only operating out of a single office or business location than you might want to limit visibility to those in a 20 mile radius.  If you’re operating out of Massachusetts then the ROI of a click in Alaska if probably quite slim.  Instead ,keep the targeting to a local area to make sure you budget is utilized.

4)      Negative match terms. It’s good to keep an eye on your search query traffic to negative match terms accordingly. For example, I want to advertise for “utest testing”. However, there is coincidentally a product out there call something akin to “You Test Home Drug Test”.  It’s probably a pretty safe bet that I don’t want this traffic, let alone to spend money on it.  In this example, I’ll negative-match the term ‘drug’ to make sure Google doesn’t serve my ad when the search query includes the term ‘drug’.

5)      Facebook and LinkedIn are also great tools for targeting individuals based on demographic data and can easily be helpful with as little as $10/month.

Free Resources

There are a handful of resources you should register with immediately.  Not only do they build up your SEO but many times they’re the starting point for customers to search and you want to make sure you’re relevant.  Many of these tools often have customer feedback and registering your company will let you keep an eye on what’s being said.

1)      Google Local –

2)      Facebook –

3)      Yelp –

4)      Twitter – [Some business tips for Twitter]

5)      FourSquare –

That should certainly be enough to keep you busy but I love chatting about these technologies so please feel free to email, call, or simply comment below.  I’m happy to add more data where necessary.


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