E-BUSINESS SPECIAL REPORT

How a Small Site Can Get Noticed

It may be an overused phrase, but it is still a fact that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and this rule certainly has held true in e-commerce. Large companies like Amazon and Dell have been vocal in announcing their online presence and have built loyal customer bases as a result. But there is still abundant opportunity for less-established e-commerce sites to trumpet their existence to the world — or at least the part of the world they are targeting — without spending millions of dollars on large-scale ad campaigns.

Companies that already have established a brand, of course, are better positioned than newcomers in today’s forbidding market and economy. “There are not a lot of companies doing Internet-only; it is much more difficult,” Giga Information Group analyst Andrew Bartels told the E-Commerce Times.

Put It in Writing

Companies that already have brands can, for instance, include their URLs on shopping bags, business cards, coupons and existing advertisements in print and on radio and television.

As a prime example of this tactic, Yankee Group analyst Sheryl Kingstone pointed to Lands’ End’s aggressive promotion of its online “build to order” clothing feature in its August 2002 print catalog.

And Dan Hess, a vice president at comScore Networks, which owns Web traffic tracker Media Metrix, told the E-Commerce Times that fast food chain Chik Fil A has successfully used creative billboard ads to lure Web surfers to its site.

But some companies have resisted such tactics, in part because expanding their reach might “subject them to sales tax” in additional locations, said Bartels. But he believes potential tax liabilities would be offset by the ability to reach customers more cost-effectively over the Internet.

What Buyers Want

Whether or not a company is already established offline, it helps to have a product or service that buyers want, so they will seek out the site on their own. One good example of such a service is financial information. Spurred by economic unrest and low investor confidence, traffic to financial Web sites grew 19 percent to 23.2 million unique visitors in July, according to comScore.

Because mortgage rates have dropped so much, comScore noted, there also was significantly higher traffic to real estate sites. Traffic to such sites grew 15 percent to 23 million visitors in July, making the sector the fastest-growing e-commerce niche. Only three of the 25 real estate sites logging 200,000 or more visitors actually saw traffic decline, while traffic to the other 22 increased by between 5 and 158 percent.

Small Advantage

One factor in big companies’ favor is that shoppers tend to stick with what they know — forming clear preferences for certain sites — and larger e-commerce sites often have more resources and can do a better job of promoting themselves.

But despite the success of the Amazons, Dells and eBays of the cyber world, bigger is not always better. Small and mid-size companies are one of the fastest-growing groups to exploit the Web. “The larger companies by now have already created a presence or have chosen not to,” said Bartels.

Small companies can successfully tout their Web presence by teaming with other complementary sites to offset the cost of an ad campaign or to use links to push each other’s wares, much like Amazon has done. For example, “a site focused on auto repair can link out to books on auto repair on Amazon,” Bartels noted.

Clearly, opportunities exist to get the word out — companies simply have to seize them.

9 Comments

  • How small sites can get noticed
    Think out of the box
    Create the killer-bait-app(lication)
    Attract the big fish
    Find a problem and fix it
    Think, think, think
    The Amazondotcomites are listening
    Tweak your squeak
    And get noticed

    • Search engine marketing is one way to get qualified traffic to your web site, without spending hundreds of thousands on advertising. If your site is properly optimized with strategic content, metatags, page titles, product titles, and properly registered with Google and MSN, you will have visibility in the top 4 search engines (Google, MSN, AOL, Yahoo). You’ll have to pay $25/page to get listed in MSN. However, $25/page/year is not a bad fee to get recognized online and receive qualified traffic. Google is free, but make sure the pages you submit are not already indexed by Google. Average budget for a small search engine marketing project: $2,000 – $25,000. Average budget for a small ecommerce search engine marketing project: $25,000 – $50,000.

      • Thank you bizresearch but what you state is old news.
        What is the next step, without needing massive advertising $, when one’s site already comes up #1 or near in most SE SERPs for one’s keywords?

        • That’s exactly what I wanted to know as well, what is the next step when you already show up in the first place for all your keywords? Wait until some big fish realizes you are out there?
          That said, I would like to bring up another issue, my experience shows that consumer spending on internet is AM azingly low. Although we have been receiving good feedback on our products and prices, we have a 1 to 1200 sales ratio from our visitors. (Website is in the profile) Can people share their experiences, we’ve had people wanting to send checks, we had people calling because they don t want to use the shopping cart, we had people avoiding giving e mails, I think trust is alarmingly low and e-commerce is very immature as of today. Any ideas?

          • There are programs available that serve up content that is buried deep within websites that SE’s often miss because they are of a dynamic nature. Instead of, or in conjunction with, spending $$ for paid placement and inclusion you can again purchase solutions to manage these programs. If you are not participating in the paid programs, then having your keywords served up to SE’s is even more critical. In addition you can utilize programs for A/B testing of campaigns. I believe sites (small or big) should measure, test and optimize what they already paid money to build. These programs can reduce online marketing spend and increase conversion rates and ROI.

          • ttoker I entirely agree with your statement that "trust is alarmingly low and e-commerce is very immature as of today".
            Though the experts keep stating the number of millions spent online each year, they also mention the number of millions
            the best known companies are in the red and are therefore basically not doing any better than us "small fish".
            To quote from another article http://www.ecommercetimes.com/perl/story/19460.html "Is Now a Good Time To Start an
            E-Business?"
            "As for those still seeking signs that the overall Internet economy has improved before
            taking the entrepreneurial plunge, that may not come until today’s e-commerce giants,
            such as Amazon, show they can post consistent quarterly profits.
            At that point — which cannot be foreseen with accuracy, Giga’s Bartels said"….. etc.
            Just in the last few weeks I saw a live TV interview with Mr Bezos at the London Stock Exchange stating that it may take a good number of years.
            Well I guess you and I will have to wait just as long before business really picks up, unless some expert can lend us a helping hand with hints and tips.

          • With all due respect did you miss the point of the news brief? The one point I picked up on before they started waffling on about Giant companies was that the small guys should unite their forces through link partnerships "Just as Amazon did." This is exactly what I’m doing right now on my website, and I’ve purchased the Zeus reciprocal link generator to help me achieve this goal.
            Online, the last thing to think about is money. Some of us have the luxury of perfecting web design while our day job pays the bills, but from a customer’s point of view, who gives a damn? The first thing to think about therefore is traffic and reciprocal, tightly themed link partners, and this is the lesson that I AM now promoting. Look at how many companies bombed online and the media had a field day in backing up the UK Government’s spin simply because they are slow to implement technologies and do not have the initiative or skills to implement and fund technological projects.
            I spoke to my good friend Gorkem Ates, CEO of Fastream Technologies, recently regarding the same situation "How do small businesses get that slice of the pie without dragging customers by the scruff of their necks?"
            He raised some great points for example:
            He noted the fact that people are more willing to pay for tangible goods that they can see and touch as opposed to non-tangible digital products.
            Perhaps somewhere in the consumer’s mind the value of something that one attributes to a virtual product is next to $0 or perhaps they are just not as fascinated by the technology as we entrepreneurs are… After all, they don’t spend hours in front of a monitor trying to get the shopping cart or cgi script to work, so their interest is virtually nil.
            Yes, people do buy online, but out of necessity and desire rather than luxury. In England we have the snail-pace rollout of Broadband, and people have been used to physical mail order for literally 100’s of years.
            My advice (seriously) would be to go back 50 to 100 years and see what’s been working in mail order and other areas of advertising and marketing. There are a few valuable and profitable lessons to be learnt with regard to timeless strategies that can be applied online.
            I would also strongly suggest that we look at how we can incorporate tangible (customer picking up the telephone and making calls, voicemails, mobile phones, business premises addresses into the equation/on the website) – all of which are strong, secure, tangible factors to a paying customer, or a customer who’s paying attention. 😉

  • The title implies an explanation of tactics or strategies to get small business sites noticed. Instead, an overview of companies that had millions to spend is given. Pretty much useless to me.

  • "Small companies can successfully tout their Web presence by teaming with other
    complementary sites" which where small sites are concerned ends by listing reciprocal links
    but not each others goods what, to their credit, is what Amazon does on other sites.
    "When a site on auto repair links to books on the subject at Amazon", then the auto repair
    site is not touting its web presence but the book store’s, that is if the repair site can be
    found in the first place.
    Until now nobody has come up with a workable solution to promote and thus increase sales
    for small sites other than heavy financial backing for advertising.
    I would love for the experts to present small sites with some real life solutions on the subject.

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