Advertising seemed simpler 10 years ago. Back in the dawn of the Internet era, a business owner didn’t have many choices in advertising: radio versus television versus newspaper; maybe a billboard or bus advertisement if there was enough money in the budget. You spread the word in the few places available and hoped that someone would notice. And it all cost money. Usually a lot of it.

Today advertising a business may be less expensive — many business owners even handle much of it themselves — but the multitude of choices and the complexities of technology mean that the savvy business person must either spend a lot of time learning to be a marketing expert for his particular business, or he must still hire an expert. Or two.

To help business owners learn more about building the best website, the Princeton Library is sponsoring “Going Live with a Website for Your Business” on Thursday, June 10, at 7 p.m. in its community room. Cost: free. For more information go to www.princetonlibrary.org.

Panelists will include #b#Rick Simmons#/b# of Dinkum Interactive, #b#Pamela Abbazia#/b# of Digital Brand Expressions, attorney #b#Carole DeNatale#/b#, #b#Rich Lin#/b#, principal of Forward Internet Solutions, and #b#Janel Bisacquino#/b#, marketing, technology and media coordinator for the Small Business Development Center at the College of New Jersey. Each will discuss different aspects of putting together a successful business website, including dealing with the many issues of intellectual property, getting started with search engine and social media marketing, technical aspects of building, and inbound versus outbound marketing.

What is inbound and outbound marketing? Inbound marketing is drawing potential customers in to your website, while outbound marketing is the message you want those customers to hear, explains Abbazia, a member of the technical services team at Digital Brand Expressions, a website design and marketing company based in Kingston.

Abbazia is responsible for developing customized search engine optimization (SEO) and social media strategies. Although a journalism major at Rowan University, from which she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2005, Abbazia never thought the she would become a social media expert. The job hadn’t even been invented when she was in college.

She was one of the first-generation users of Facebook. “I remember sitting in my dorm room waiting for Facebook to open up to us,” she says. At the time, the fledging social media company was only open to students at Ivy League schools. Its move to open its doors to college students everywhere in the U.S. was one of the first giant leaps in social networking.

Abbazzia now has extensive expertise in content development, search engine optimization, search engine reputation management, and social media marketing. She helps clients “leverage their online presence in brand-aligned ways that drive new business,” she says. She often leads interactive workshops for business people who would like to better leverage LinkedIn’s networking tools.

#b#Letting customers find you#/b#. Many of the older advertising tools involved “casting a wide net to search for your customers,” says Abbazia. Today, however, SEO and social networking means it makes more sense to “allow your customers to tune in to you. The best tools for this approach are optimization, keyword bidding, and social media.

#b#Search Engine Optimization#/b#. SEO is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site or a webpage from search engines. The higher the ranking your website receives on a search engine, the more likely it is that a customer will click on your site. SEO uses a variety of “organic” or “free” techniques to improve search engine ranking.

These include using keywords strategically within your site, linking to other related sites, and using social media sites to increase your presence on the Internet.

#b#AdWord marketing#/b#. AdWord marketing involves searching for the most precise and targeted key words that your customers use when they search for information, products or services that you provide. You then pay only when your word is typed into a search engine such as Google or Yahoo. “There is not a lot of overhead involved in this kind of advertising, plus with the analytics available on the web it is easy to see what is working and what is not,” she says.

She recommends Google Analytics as one of the best sites to track your Internet advertising progress.

“You can see exactly how many people have visited your site, how long they stayed there, what they purchased. You can set it up so you can see which products are selling best and whether certain pictures or copy are more attractive to your customers.”

#b#Social media for businesses#/b#. Social media is all the rage right now and every business owner is sure that they need to be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and every other networking site available.

Not so, says Abbazia. “When someone tells me they need a Twitter profile, I ask them why. What do they want to get out of it?”

The first mistake most business owners make with social media is not planning a strategy. She believes in the “POST” strategy. Define the people you are looking for, develop an objective, or what you want them to do, develop a strategy to target those people, then look at the best technology to accomplish the goal.

#b#A look at the future#/b#. If there is one thing we have learned in the past 10 years, it is that as soon as we become comfortable with one new technology it will be replaced by another. Abbazia has her own theories about where social networking for businesses will move in the next few years.

“Things will become even more specialized through Geo-Social tools,” she says. Geo-Social networking involves adding geographic services and capabilities such as geo-coding and geo-tagging to social networking sites to develop ever more specific niche communities.

For instance, explains Abbazia, when you move to one social networking site from another it will be able to track where you have been and display a page targeted with information specific to your interests.

As business owners try to get on board the latest technology in Internet marketing, while still not understanding last year’s innovations, Abbazia sees her job as helping business owners navigate the waters of Internet marketing. “I show people how to ride the wave, not be drowned by it,” she says.

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