Millennials rarely use paper anymore. Our news comes to us via websites, our books are downloaded on Kindles or iPads, and we barely know how to use a phonebook or thesaurus! “Just google it” is our catchphrase.
In order to get our attention, you must use the internet. But how? Do you simply drop a bunch of money on an expensive website and call that good? How do you actively market your business online and drive traffic to your website?
Facebook is a fantastic resource – you can easily post updates and create ads that you send out to a specific target audience. But believe it or not, there is actually more out there than just social media.
SEO is a very important tool. It stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and connects key words to your site so that when people search online, your business pops up based on those frequently searched keywords and other common algorithms. How do you set up SEO on your website? You can have your web designer do it (usually they do it automatically), or you can do it yourself. Just google “how to enact SEO,” and you can find step-by-step instructions. The best part is that SEO is free – but there’s also another version that you can pay for: SEM.
SEM stands for “Search Engine Marketing” and is basically like taking out an ad with Google (or whatever search engine you use) that drives people to your site. These are text ads that go above-and-beyond SEO, increasing your site’s visibility in search engine results even more frequently than SEO does. And in case there weren’t enough acronyms for you, when setting up SEM, you will be asked about something called PPC – “pay-per-click.” PPC is just what it sounds like and every business loves to hear that they only have to pay for the proven interactions. Google Adwords is probably the most famous PPC ad generator, but there are plenty more if you search around.
These search engine ads do allow for localized focus – your ad won’t show up on the other end of the country. But it’s still important to not only advertise in broad internet spheres, but also more focused regional ones. The local media and businesses you already do traditional advertising with probably have online marketing opportunities they offer, as well. Take them up on that!
Keep in mind that smaller media companies may not always have the success rate you prefer. Sometimes within local communities, traditional advertising is still more effective. But the great thing about the internet is that everything is measureable and trackable. My company took out big banner ads in the online version of our local newspaper last year and had literally zero clicks. So we pulled the online ad and put our money back into the traditional paper ad we had with them. Other times, though, that same newspaper has generated plenty of clicks on our online ads. Part of the success of an online ad is the responsibility of the media company – how committed are they to pushing their online platform? But part of it is also factors that can’t be helped – sometime there are unexplainable slow seasons where the public isn’t doing a lot of online interacting; sometimes what you’re advertising just isn’t piquing people’s interest. Most small companies are actively trying to improve their online platforms. Just because you had a bad experience last year doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again with your local online guy this year. The internet isn’t new any more, but it is constantly adapting, rendering it more useful for local media outlets, so they are getting better and better at doing online ads.
Keep in mind that advertising locally will probably hit your established audience, whereas advertising on a search engine will attract a new audience. The people reading your local paper – even online – are the same type of people who already shop at your business, which is also a local business. That’s the type of audience that’s invested in local media. Plus, they’ve seen past ads you’ve put in the paper, so they know you exist. But a Google ad will hunt out new people in your general vicinity. The oldest marketing advice has always been the cliché “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Keep that in mind when advertising online, as well! It’s important to get your message out to more than one group!
Emily Enger is a Millennial farm kid turned farm journalist. She also works in marketing, serving as communications director for a nonprofit that covers nine rural counties in northern Minnesota. These opinions are her own and should not take the place of legal or professional advice. To comment or pitch future topics, email her at For reprint permission, email editor Joan Kark-Wren at