If I asked you to name as many affordable ways to advertise online as you could in 30 seconds, you'd probably come up with running a search on marketing campaigns on Google and Yahoo, and little else. For all the sites online that are promoting new ways to advertise your services, many still come down to a simple impression based model for landscape style banner ads that most of us know people are actively ignoring – or blasting an email to a huge database list in hopes of getting more than a miniscule open or click rate. So if you do have some money to spend in online advertising, where should you put it to be most effective? Here are some of the top sites and tactics that you might want to consider:
What kind of self respecting Internet marketer in 2010 would actually suggest advertising in a stodgy old email newsletter, you ask? Believe it or not, subscription rates to email newsletters that people actually care about reading can still be high, and unlike other types of banners that may be actively ignored. If you can have the right contextual ad in an email newsletter, not only may people keep it, but they may also pass it along to others as well. Contrary to popular belief, email advertising is far from dead.
Regardless of any negativity you may have heard about Facebook advertising, I only have one suggestion for you when it comes to Facebook: try it tomorrow. The fact is that the ability that you have to target people within Facebook based on affinity, region, network and stated interest can easily compete with the best keyword marketing campaigns when it comes to relevance and reaching those most likely to actually act on your ad.
Ad.ly Twitter Ads
If the thought of advertising on Twitter makes your skin crawl, Ad.ly has just the right model to help you get over it. They have varying levels of influencers on Twitter who are all neatly categorized into vertical groups by niche subject and you can put together a program to sponsor tweets (with full disclosure, by the way) from anyone from the influential subject matter expert to the random celebrity. A word of caution, be sure to choose your budget based on strategy and not emotion. It sounds unspeakably cool to get Kim Kardashian to tweet about your company, but think about whether that's really going to result in what you wanted.
Just today Slideshare, a site often described as the "YouTube of PowerPoint" released a new tool that allows you to take all your PowerPoint presentations and turn them into sales assets. You can even build a lead generation focus into it by adding your presentation and paying per lead after someone watching your presentation. It's a great way to actually use the content assets that you are most likely to already have.
Niche Blog Networks
If you were uncomfortable with item #3 on the list above, then advertising on blogs may seem no less risky. The interesting thing about niche blog networks, though, is that in addition to often having great terms and advertiser friendly models, you can often count on good advice from the owners of these networks about how best to engage their audiences. More importantly, supporting a smaller community of blogs can generate good will and loyalty among those bloggers who are sponsored and feel validated by your choice to spend your money with them.
A closely related tactic to keyword marketing, content networks are not as well known, but can be equally powerful. Google has one, and using it gives you the ability to target your ads contextually to content partners like the NYTimes, as well as alongside people's emails on Gmail. Other networks include Kontera for "in-text" advertising and the newly launched CityGrid from CitySearch for localized content network ads.
By now you have at least heard about how apps are going to change the world, but the interesting thing you may not be thinking about is how they can offer a real advertising possiblity for your small business. New networks like AdMob are offering the ability to position your ad inside of apps that are heavily used multiple times by users, and downloaded for free. This tactic may not be for everyone, but if you can browse the apps available and find one that speaks to your target audience, you could run a highly effective small campaign.
Printable Page Ads
When considering online advertising, by definition you are probably considering that someone will be seeing your message on a computer or mobile device screen. When it comes to certain sites, however, those screens are being actively printed. Consider running an ad on a site like Mapquest, or Google Maps, or even USAir (one of multiple airlines that allows ads on printable boarding passes). If you can get your ad printed on a page that a consumer is taking with them, you can make the disposable impression work harder for your brand.