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Online marketing driving SMEs' business success [07-08-2012]  
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THE heart of the Web's success is in connecting people with information.

As consumers are becoming more price-conscious, especially during a downturn, they're spending more time online researching purchases and finding good deals.

Industry figures indicate that Malaysians spend an average of 20 hours on the Internet each week, and there are 18 million Internet users in Malaysia today.

SMEs in Malaysia are missing out on the huge potential to reach their target audiences if they move slowly in embracing the online advertising model, especially during a tough business climate as now.

The Internet is changing the rules of consumer engagement rapidly and provides opportunities for businesses to reach new and existing customers locally or internationally through online advertising, and more specifically search engine marketing.

Even if they go on to make their purchases in a physical store, everything from search engines to social networks to blogs are playing a bigger role in driving that purchase.

Smart businesses know that if their customers are online, then the best way to connect with them is to join them there!

Spending wisely and getting the most out of search engine marketing

Search engine marketing is a highly effective, affordable advertising strategy employed by many Malaysian SMEs during the economic downturn.

A search engine marketing platform, such as Google AdWords, enables businesses to target existing and new customers anywhere in the world, who are actively looking for their products and services online and seeking to make a purchase, by displaying relevant ads alongside search results.

Businesses pay only when a potential customer clicks on their ad. This essentially means that every dollar of your ad budget is cost-effectively used to attract qualified sales leads. There is also no big upfront cost and businesses can set a limit on their daily or monthly budget to monitor and control their ad spending.

With limited capital when it started its business, CWorks, a local SME company specialising in computerised maintenance systems (CMMS), recognised that its customers researched online before making a purchase decision.

CWorks tested several search engine marketing platforms and realised that Google AdWords provided the best cost-per-click and generated the most sales leads from all over the world.

CWorks now has customers in over 100 countries and Google AdWords contributes up to 70 per cent of the daily traffic that come to their site.

It now gets 1,000 to 3,000 visitors a day and convert at least one sale per day.

The company also measured that every ringgit they spend on Google AdWords generate at least RM14 in return.

Here, we provide seven practical tips to help you get started on search engine marketing and achieve better business results:

1) Know your target audience.

2) Identify your goals. Stay focused on how to reach your customers.

3) Choose powerful keywords. Choosing keywords is both an art and a science. Think like your users do, brainstorm your list of keywords, then narrow your focus to reach the most targeted audience possible.

4) Write "must-click" ads. It's time to write the ads that users will see when they search on your keywords - the ads that will make them feel they must click on your ad to learn more.

5) Hit the right users with the right ads. Once you know your potential customers, you can target individual campaigns to reach your audience.

6) Track down to the last customer. After your campaign goes live, measure its results regularly. Keep a close watch on your account statistics, review your own Web logs, and use conversion tracking software (available for free through some advertising programmes).

7) Test. Adapt. Thrive. Continually review what you've set up as the online advertising environment is very dynamic.

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