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ONLINE MARKETING TECHNIQUES FOR SMALL BUSINESS SOUTH AFRICA

The Internet is full of hyped-up promises of the ultimate marketing secret that will singlehandedly skyrocket your business to instant success. Naturally, this is a lie since there is no single marketing secret or technique that will transform your business into a powerful money-maker. The truth is; every online business owner is responsible for testing and refining the may different marketing techniques available until he or she has developed a solid, effective and cost effective marketing strategy that produces the desired results.

The marketing strategy that works for one business may not work for another. Likewise, one online business may have poor results with one method, while others experience great success. In this article I will provide you with some of the more popular and completely free marketing techniques to help you build your online business. Please note that this is not a complete list at all and proper research on the Internet will assist you with building up a more comprehensive list.

1. Website Design:
Firstly and foremost, good website design. There are two essential facets of good website design: Pleasing design and efficient coding. Your website needs to be pleasing to your consumer's eyes. It also needs to 'flow' nicely. Essential coding to pay attention to includes your page title, heading tags and navigational links.

2: Keyword Research
There are several paid-for and a couple of free keyword research tools available. But what is keyword research? Keyword research makes sure that your web page is targeted towards the phrases that people actually type into search engines. Keyword research tools work by analysing previous search trends.

3: Blog Technology
Just because a website looks like a website does not mean it is a website. It could be a blog. Blogs have lots of great tools built into their design that make search engines like them more than a static website. Features like category tags, RSS feeds and the 'pinging' of new content to other sites means you cannot afford to ignore the value of blogs.
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4: Autoresponders
The majority of marketing managers do not know what autoresponders are. And that is a big mistake. Autoresponders have the power to build relationships with your customers when you are busy doing something else. You could be on holiday and come back to find that your customers have placed orders, all because of your autoresponder. Autoresponders help you to follow-up with your prospects. It has been proven time and time again that autoresponders can dramatically increase your profits! They are also great time-savers, saving you from following up with each prospect manually.

5: Paid Advertising
Sometimes the only way of turning on the flow of website traffic is to pay for it. And that is where pay-per-click, pay-per-impression and sponsored advertising comes in. It's important to include paid advertising as part of your internet marketing budget. But only part of it. Ideally you will be spending a lot initially, but not so much after six months.

6: Press Releases
One of the secrets to effective internet marketing is to get other people talking about you and your website. And one of the ways to do that is to appeal to specialist publications through the submission of a press release. Press releases do not have to cost anything and all they take is time and planning.
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7: Link Building
The heart of the internet pumps because of links. If websites did not link to each other, then search engines would find it very difficult to determine which websites belong to any given field. Search engines would also find it very difficult to decide which website is better.. For example, you can trade links with other businesses in your market so that you can share each other's traffic. Most of the major search engines take link popularity into consideration when ranking your site. In essence, the more relevant, quality links you have to your website, the higher your website will be ranked by search engines

8: Article Submission
Article submission is still one of the most effective ways to get both readers and search engines interested in your website. By submitting a quality article for publication on the biggest and best, as well as subject specific article directories, you increase your credibility in your field as well as being given the opportunity to link back to your own website. Write and distribute articles in your area of expertise. People who appreciate what you have to say are much more likely to check out your business. Another bonus is that articles are often archived on websites for visitors to refer to time and time again. Become an 'expert'. If you like to write and have the time to do so, consider partnering with a high-traffic site within your niche market and offer to write a regular column or article.

9: Forum Participation
An additional way to become respected in your field is to regularly participate in your industry forums. By answering queries from less experienced people and having a link in your signature in the bottom of each post, again you're taking the opportunity to appeal to both readers and search engines.
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10: Viral Marketing
Viral marketing simply means marketing that spreads like a virus – quickly, from peer to peer and often unintentionally from a strategic perspective. You don't necessarily have to think of a world beating viral marketing campaign to take advantage of the power of viral marketing. Just make it a bit easier for people to tell their friends about your service. And try and give them a reason to tell their friends.

11: Visitor Analysis
If you do not know where your visitors live, how they are finding your website and what they are doing when they are on your website, then how do you know what to improve about your website? Visitor analysis is key to gaining the knowledge that helps you make informed decisions on your future website strategy.

12: Continuous Content
Search engines love new content on your website. It shows them that your information is not out of date and that you are trying to offer the best possible service to your readers. If you have not updated your website for a year or so then you are always going to find it more difficult to get higher rankings from search engines.
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13: The Evolving Web
The internet never stays the same. That means that if you continue to use the same online marketing channels, and never re-analyse the marketplace, slowly you will lose your marketshare. Whenever you see a new website ask yourself two questions: Firstly, is there anything that I can learn from the way that they do business? Secondly, can I use their website as a marketing medium?

14. Build and use your own opt-in list of targeted and interested prospects. Offer a free newsletter that provides fresh, interesting, and relevant content. You will receive feedback from your readers about what is important to them and over time they will come to know and trust you. Your products, services, and even recommendations will then be taken much more seriously because you have developed credibility with your readers.

15. Contribute to newsgroups or discussion boards. Establish yourself as a helpful member of a community. Other members of the community who come to know and respect you will often refer others to you.

16. Niche directories or search engines. Find all the highly-targeted directories and search engines for your market and then work to get listed. You will be surprised at how many niche sites there are.

17. Endorsed mailings to other lists. Find the editor of a great newsletter and offer your product or service to him for free in return for a review or an endorsed ad to his list. Endorsements from the editor can far outperform regular ads, since they come from someone people know and trust, the editor.

18. Testimonials. It is fine for you to say that your product or service is wonderful, but there is far more credibility when someone else says it. Testimonials show prospects that you have happy customers and helps them to make the decision to buy.

19. Ad swaps. You can get extra exposure with no out-of-pocket expenses by swapping ad space with another editor that caters to your audience. Apart from the exposure that you get, it is a great way to put remnant ad space on your own website to good use.
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20. Offer coupons or gift certificates. Discounts are a great way of convincing visitors to your website to make a purchase. The “buy now” technique are used with great success by online entrepreneurs.

21. Make good use of referral marketing. Ask happy customers to refer prospects to you. Many people are so busy these days that they are willing to rely on a trusted friend or contact's advice as it saves them the time necessary to do all the research themselves. Use a “Recommend-It” or “Refer-A-Friend” script. These scripts let visitors to your website send your URL to friends.

22. Make it easy for others to link to your site. Consider adding a “Link to Us” section where you provide the HTML that visitors can simply cut and paste to their own web pages. Again, this helps to build your link popularity.

22. Give-aways. Consider giving away one of your products to a lucky subscriber or customer on a regular basis. Run online lucky draws or competitions for your visitors to enter. Give away a quality free eBook or report. eBooks and reports can be excellent viral marketing tools. You can even offer them to other businesses within your niche market, so that they can give it away to their own customers or subscribers. This is an effective way to build a network that will willingly promote your business for you.

23. Use a signature. A signature or 'sig file', is a brief blurb about your business along with your URL and/or contact information. Put a signature on every piece of email you send out, as well as on any message board posts if appropriate.
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Small Business South Africa - Online Marketing Techniques for Small Business South Africa
Business South Africa - Online marketing and the South African Entrepreneur.  Business opportunities, business plans and business links.
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