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Advertising an Online Store: A Beginners Guide

Fact: SEO is not the only way to promote your store.

That means a crucial part the traffic to your online store might not necessarily come from the channel you are focusing your energy on. Moreover, you might be missing on some other business opportunities.

It can only be fair then to say that introducing other ways to promote your store can only bring additional benefits and business.

Advertising can be one of them.

Advertising is probably one of the most neglected aspects of ecommerce marketing. It seems that there is a good reason for that. Advertising costs money, that’s enough to put many people off. Yet, there is also a lot to gain from using advertising in your overall marketing strategy.

Pros and Cons of Advertising an Ecommerce Site

Advertising can increase your brand awareness. Even if you don’t get that many direct sales from a particular channel, it doesn’t mean that advertising doesn’t work for you. It is a known fact that reducing ad spend on certain, poorly performing keywords in AdWords affects direct sales as well.

Advertising brings in a lot of window shoppers, people who might not necessarily buy during their first or even a subsequent visit. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, yet in such a case it is crucial to monitor your traffic channels and conversions to ensure that you are not losing money.

Advertising might seriously affect your cashflow. Again, it’s crucial that you keep track of how much you spend and that you spend the money where you get the best return on investment.

Ways to Advertise an Ecommerce Store:

  • Google AdWords 

Definitely the most popular of all forms of online advertising. Google AdWords is Google’s flagship product through which you place text or graphic ads that appear on Google’s search results page and a network of their affiliated sites.

Google AdWords is by far the quickest way to gain targeted traffic to your site making the system highly effective to promote any site.

The downside? Even though Google AdWords work on a pay per click basis (meaning that you only pay if someone clicks on your ad and goes to your site), it operates on a bidding system, where every company bids how much they are willing to pay per each click, greatly increasing the price for each visitor to your site.

  • Remarketing

In tandem with AdWords, Google also offers a way to place remarketing ads on a network of their partner sites. A remarketing ad is shown only to someone who has visited your online store before and its primary purpose is to get them to come back and complete a purchase (or whatever other goal you might have for the person).

Remarketing ads offer you quite a lot of control over where they appear and which ad appears on which stage of the buying cycle the user is on, making the system a highly effective way to try to save abandoned shopping carts.

  • PR

Press releases might not seem like an ideal ecommerce advertising opportunity, however, when you think of it, they offer you a chance to get your business mentioned in the public, often for free.

The key to a successful PR campaign though, apart from having a great hook is to avoid using PR distribution sites. Instead, grab a list of all journalists from your country, region or whatever and email your press release to them directly. Providing that you have a good hook, there is a strong chance that a journalist will run your release in their publication, promoting your online store and increasing your company’s brand awareness.

  • Banner Ads on Blogs

Blogs and other websites your prospects and customers frequent offer a great opportunity to promote your business to them. All you need to do is buy banner ads on those sites. Sure, you might not get a massive ROI from banner ads, yet they can offer a very cost effective way to put your business and your brand in front of a heavily targeted audience.

  • Banner Ads on Forums

Similarly, you can also purchase banner ads on your industry specific forums to achieve the same effect as with blogs.

  • Private Forums

Depending on your budget you can also try to get forum administrators to set up a private forum or one sponsored by your company. It can not only promote your business but also increase your reputation in the industry as there is a chance that the majority of your prospects and industry influencers will hang out in the forum.

  • Offline Advertising

When thinking of advertising ecommerce, most people think of doing so online. However, there is a great opportunity in promoting your business offline too, especially if you can serve your local community too.

You can attend trade shows and hand over flyers advertising your business. Or do the same at your local events. You could even put up some banner ads on your car so that everyone sees it when you drive around town (by the way, from what I know, even Amazon did it a while ago), the possibilities are endless.

  • Paid Industry Directories

Paid directories might not be ideal for every industry, however, they work quite well for some (for instance, travel or business).

  • Facebook Advertising

Facebook advertising works in a similar way to Google AdWords with the exception of your ads showing only on the social network. On the other hand, you have a much greater control over who sees your ad. You can also direct people to your Facebook page or your website, depending on what you want to achieve with your advertising strategy.

  • Running an Affiliate Program

Not many online retailers would consider an affiliate program advertising but in a way it is. With affiliate programs, someone promotes your products or services on their site and gets a commission for every sale that is generated from the traffic from their site. In short, it is a way of recommending products to an audience and getting paid for every sale it generates.

Naturally, not every eCommerce store can afford running an affiliate campaign where typical commissions can range from 10 – 30%, which can seriously eat up from your margins. However, if you can afford it, I strongly suggest you run an affiliate program even in a limited capacity to increase the awareness of your store and spread the info on your products.

  • Sending Products for Review

Asking bloggers to review your products can be another great way to advertise your site. It is not a free strategy but if you can afford to send few products to influential bloggers for review, I’d highly recommend you do so.

The only downside of this is that by doing so, you promote your products more, meaning that your competitors gain a little from the review too. However, it is your store mentioned in the copy anyway.

Sending products for review might also tie in nicely with your affiliate program, making the two work in tandem to promote your store.

A Few Things to Remember

I believe that ecommerce sites should advertise, even if only in a limited capacity. However, there are few things you should remember while doing so to avoid burning cash:

  • It’s easy to overspent on ecommerce ads. All it takes is not to monitor your conversions and you can easily burn all your budget.
  • Advertising should be a way to convert but there is also an opportunity to use it to increase the brand awareness
  • You should always go where your target is, if your target market frequents certain sites, go and advertise on them, not where you feel your brand should be present. For that you could use content marketing to increase awareness.

Your Turn

Do you use advertising to your online store? If so, what channels do you use and which ones you’d recommend to someone only starting up?

Pawel Grabowski

Pawel Grabowski is a copywriter and content marketer and the founder of UserMagnet.io, the content marketing agency helping SaaS companies grow the user base and generate quality leads with targeted content strategies.

Find out more about Pawel at smashingcopy.com and connect with him on Linkedin.

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