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By : Karen Lasser, 05-06-2015
Here's what every retail business owner needs to know about online advertising!

Imagine advertising your products to the exact people who need them, the moment they're looking for them. Or targeting only the specific areas that you service. And how about just paying for ads that actually result in visitors to your website. Sound good? Well, that's all possible with internet marketing today and just some of the reasons why advertisers are going to spend well over $100 billion on it this year.All retail business owners, whether running a local shop or an ecommerce store, need to consider online advertising's ability to drive traffic to your store or website and help increase sales.

How do I get started with online advertising?

There are a number of ways to leverage the power of online advertising for your store. The simplest method might just be approaching an advertising agency or finding a freelance online marketing specialist. Before you commit to this scenario though, it's wise to consider what size budget you have as ad agencies and good freelancers are not cheap (The easiest way to find and get bids from reputable agencies and ad specialists is by posting an inquiry on EZBZ). You need to make sure you'll have enough money left over to actually pay for ads.

Before launching any type of ad campaign, it's a great idea to figure out how much you're able to spend per lead. Someone selling tractors or high end jewelry will obviously be able to spend more per lead than a pizza shop owner or a clothing store. While online advertising might be a fairly new concept for you, it is definitely not as complicated as it sounds. Therefore, it's well worth reading on and seeing what it entails to launch your own online ad campaign before you hire anyone. If you're savvy enough to go at it yourself, then we totally recommend giving it a shot. You can always decide to hire someone at a later point.

Search Engine Marketing

There are several important ad platforms you'll need to know about before approaching any internet marketing campaign. The most famous and by far the largest is Google Adwords. With Adwords, you can advertise on Google's search page by targeting keywords in certain locations and showing display ads all across the web on sites that are related to your product. With search ads for example, if you own a pizza shop you can target people within 10 miles of Chicago who are searching for pizza. If you're an internet store selling premium coffee that ships internationally, you can target the specific countries around the globe that you service. This type of advertising is known as Search Engine Marketing or SEM.

In general, you'll only pay for ads when they are clicked on which is called pay per click advertising or PPC. Which essentially means, even if Google shows your ad 1000 times, but it is only clicked 10 times, you'll just have to pay for those 10 clicks.

You'll want to spend some time thinking about which keywords to target and which to exclude. Remember, the whole point is to show your ads to people who are interested in your product. So if you sell flowers, you'll want to target people searching for things like, 'buy flowers', 'order flowers online', 'flower shop', 'Valentine's day flowers', etc. A great tool to help you decide which keywords are right for you is Google'sKeyword Planner.  Google's help center has more tips for choosing the best keywords. This blog post from Wordstream also has some great keyword research suggestions.

Almost as important as choosing proper keywords is selecting negative keywords. A negative keyword is a specific search term that tells google not to show your ads. For example, if you're selling flowers, you probably will not want your ad showing up when someone searches 'job at flower shop.' Similarly, if you sell pizza, you will most likely not want to advertise on searches that say 'best pizza recipe.' A well compiled negative keyword list will save you a lot of money as you'll pay for less irrelevant clicks. Techwyse put together a list of 75 negative keywords that every adwords campaign should include.

Location targeting is also something that can save you money and give you great data as to where your customers are coming from. For starters, there is no need to be paying for clicks in places out of your service area. So if you only do business in Florida, or even just in Miami, you should limit your ads to show in that location only (you might also want to include all other state names and state abbreviations in your negative keyword list). Additionally, you can run two ads in different neighborhoods or zip codes and compare each ad's performance. Analyze this data together with your other business insights and you might just discover a thing or two about the different locations that you service.

Another great feature by Adwords that is really useful for retailers is calledremarketing or retargeting. With remarketing, you can target specific people who have visited a certain page on your website and show them ads all across the internet. Why is that great for retailers? Say you have a clothing store and a person browses your men's pants section online but does not purchase anything. For the next several days, weeks or months you can show that person ads for men's pants all across the web. By periodically reminding your website visitors of the products they've looked at, you have a better chance of driving sales. Here are some Adwords remarketing best practices that will help you better incorporate it as part of your online advertising strategy.

Microsoft has a platform very similar to Adwords called Bing Ads.  It's based on more or less the same general principles as Adwords and allows you to target people based on keyword and only pay when your ad is clicked.  While the platforms are reminiscent of one another, there are differences too. Many articles have been written comparing Adwords with Bing Ads and some marketers even claim that Bing Ads is better for small businesses.

Social Media Marketing

On the other end of the online advertising spectrum you have Social Media Ads which is known as Social Media Marketing or SMM. It's important to note that while Google is still the leader in online advertising, social media ads are gaining steam and fast.  Marketers today are regularly debating whether SEM or SMM is more effective. It's definitely worth noting that social media advertising is simpler to master than SEM and it helps businesses expand the reach of their social media pages which has added benefits by itself. Additionally social media marketing has a 'word of mouth' effect that is so crucial for retailers when promoting new products.

The most popular of the social media advertising platforms is Facebook Ads. Small business owners can use Facebook Ads to target over 1 billion people based on age, gender, location, interests, marital status, number of children, level of education and many other reference points. Let's jump straight to an example. Say you own a small shop in upstate New York that sells wedding cakes and you're looking to reach soon-to-be brides. With Facebook Ads you can easily target women, who live in your area that are engaged to be married.

When advertising on Facebook, you can choose whether to promote a post in the news feed or to show your ad along the right-hand side of the page.  It's easy for Facebook page administrators to promote posts by simply clicking the 'Boost Post' button beneath each post.  When creating a right-hand side ad, you'll have to select a picture, title and text. Facebook gives you several payment options including either paying per action (click, like, share, etc) or per impressions. To learn more about Facebook Ads, take a look at this 30-minute crash course from MOZ and Kissmetrics' detailed guide to Facebook Ads.

Facebook Ads has another feature called Custom Audiences which is very useful to any business with a customer database or email list (and if you don't have one yet, you should start building an email list ASAP). It essentially allows you to target only the people in your list. So let's say for example you have a list of 10,000 customers who purchased shoes last year; you can show an ad just to those people on Facebook (assuming they have facebook accounts). Custom Audiences can be a really effective marketing tool so it's worth reading more about it!

Another popular social media marketing platform is Twitter Ads. With Twitter, you can either promote your account or promote a tweet. You only pay when someone follows your promoted account or engages with your promoted tweets which includes replying, retweeting, clicking your link and so on.

When promoting on Twitter, you target users based on location and the content that they're tweeting about.  For example, if you have a boutique wine shop out in Northern California, you can promote a tweet announcing a wine and cheese tasting evening to people who live near your shop . With over 200 million users on Twitter and 400 million tweets being sent a day, it's worth looking into and checking out this guide to Twitter advertising to learn more. Take a look at other small businesses who are advertising on Twitter here:

Youtube has an increasingly popular and quite effective video ads platform too. It's simple to get started with as long as you can create a quality video and register for an Adwords account. Like other social networks, YouTube ads offer you plenty of targeting options to help you reach the right audience. You can target people based on location, gender age, interest and more. For more on YouTube's advertising options, take a look at this article here.

As a retail store owner, you can use YouTube video ads to show off a new collection of clothes or give a closer look at the fresh ingredients your restaurant uses in its kitchen.

B2B Advertising Platforms

No article on Internet Marketing for retail businesses would be complete without mentioning LinkedIn Ads. LinkedIn's advertising platform lets you target users based on their age, location industry and job seniority which makes it a great platform for B2B retails businesses. Whether you sell plumbing supplies, car parts or stacking chairs, you can use LinkedIn to make sure your ads get seen by the decision makers in relevant companies.

EZBZ's ad platform is one of the most effective B2B advertising solutions available. It allows retail businesses to precisely promote their products to business owners based on industry and location. For example, a tile supply store in Columbus, OH can target local tile contractors. Ads on EZBZ show up alongside real-time leads that get sent to business owners.

So, What Are You Waiting For?

In case you haven't noticed, we warmly recommend you get going with online advertising! Online ads have evolved over the past few years to accommodate people's social media use and near smartphone addiction. A good advertising program looks at social, display, search, and video ads. Banner ads, which don't show up well on mobile, are no longer the focus like they use to be. Today you have sponsored posts, promoted accounts and video ads.

So with all the different platforms available, there's certainly something that you'll feel comfortable getting started with. Whether you want to start with Facebook Ads or EZBZ's B2B advertising platform, it is important that you get going. That is the best way to learn.

There's also a lot more information out on the web with tips and techniques that's worth reading. Some relevant blogs include PPC Hero, Search Engine Land and the WordStream Blog. Also, most of the major ad platform have great help sections that are worth checking out too. Google has a great customer support system too that let's you contact their adwords specialists by phone, chat, email and even via Hangouts!

Have questions about Online Advertising? We'd love to hear them! Send them directly to and we'll get back to you as soon as possible. You can also contact us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn where we are always listening!

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