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"I want the family farm - the backbone of our country's heritage - to thrive and survive for future generations."

Articles/Press Releases

Online Advertising Now a Strong Choice

By Jane Eckert

More farms are now choosing to spend marketing dollars with online advertising. This marketing switch appears to be a major trend among the farms that responded to my 2010 year end farm survey. In fact, 26% of our survey responders are now using online Internet advertising—a 10% increase over 2009.

You’ve probably read about this relative to the decline of newspapers and local television stations.  Internet advertising is a huge growing trend nationally and is in fact often replacing or at least reducing marketing dollars being spent on the traditional daily newspaper, television, radio and yellow pages. Consumers today (and particularly the younger family demographic) are opting to go online for their news and local information.  If you want to reach them with your advertising dollar, you need to include online marketing in your 2011 plans.

The most accessible Internet advertising programs can be found on Google, Yahoo, and other search engines, as well as on the popular social network, Facebook.  I understand that you’ve been pretty busy, and you may not have had time or inclination to learn about this advertising medium, but here are the basics. 

If you are not aware of search engine advertising then I suggest you go to your computer, get on the Internet where you access websites, and type in www.google.com.  Google is the best known search engine, although there are many others.  The “engine” refers to what you don’t see—a huge amount of programming and computer power.  The “search” refers to what all that programming power does- search all the information on the Internet and gives you a listing of the words you are searching for. 

So now, in the white box on google.com, enter the keywords “farm vacations.” (NOTE: I didn’t say to enter “pick your own apples” because this isn’t the right time for any of us to be advertising using those keywords.)

As soon as you enter the words, two columns appear:  a wide column below the search box, and a smaller width list to the right at the top of the page. Now the wider column below the search box contains listings that are not paid ads, but are sequenced based on very complex formulas that Google uses to rank sites as the most probable sites to address your key words.  The list often continues for many pages.  This whole list is  called the “organic listing” and is based on the content of the websites.  For more information, contact your webmaster.

The focus of this article, however, is the list on the right side of the Google page.   Notice at the very top of this right hand column, in small type, you’ll see the word “ads”.  That means that those listings which appear in these locations have paid to have their ads appear on the search page for “farm vacations.”  This is paid internet advertising, and what these farms are paying for is the right to appear on the first page of the search near the top of the list.  These farms are also able to personally select which keywords will result in showing their listing.

To sign up for Google’s online advertising, you would click on “Business Solutions” on their home page, and then click on “Adwords” to begin your journey.  I’ve summarized a lot of that process below to help you get a better overview:  There are several key things you need to understand about the search engine advertising programs.

  1. You don’t have to spend a fortune, you can set your budget of how much you want to spend.
  2. You can choose the keywords that will result in the appearance of your ads.
  3. You can choose the geographic region/cities where your ads will appear on consumer computers (no sense advertising in California if your farm is in Maine.)
  4. You can start and stop your marketing campaign in matter of minutes.
  5. You have immediate access to know how many people have looked at your ads and clicked through to your website.

In other words, you have control of your marketing campaign and you will actually know the number of people who have seen your ad.  Compare this to your local newspaper, who can tell you how many papers they print, but they have no idea how many people actually will look at and read your ad.  Likewise, radio and television can only tell you how many people can receive their signal, not how many will be listening at the time your ad is aired.

Those of you who enjoy a high listing in the organic (free) searches may be asking whether you still need to consider online advertising. My answer is YES.   You can’t control every search engine and how they rank all the millions of websites on the Internet.  And you may be coming up at the top of the list on some keywords, but perhaps not on others. Online advertising can assure you being on the first page of search not only for the most prominent keywords of your business but also for other offerings that are not as prominent or known to your business.

Click thru Rate vs Cost per Impression

Here’s how to compare online advertising with print and broadcast advertising.  The key measurement term used when spending money on search engine ads is called your “Click Thru Rate.”  In other words, money is only being spent from your budget when a person actually clicks on your ad and is shown your website.  If he sees your ad, but doesn’t click thru to your website, there is no charge.  No click = No charge. 

Facebook Advertising

The other popular form of on online advertising is being done on Facebook, a very popular social network now frequently by people of all ages, not just kids. Not only can you choose the cities and zip codes where your ads will appear but you can also make demographic selection based on the known information of the Facebook user such as sex, age, income etc. The major difference between Facebook and search engine advertising is the way they compute the cost. 

Facebook charges you based on “Cost Per Impression,” similar to a newspaper ad.  This means that every time your ad appears on the right hand column of any Facebook member page, that is an impression.  Your cost (CPM) is based on cost per thousand of page views. 

The actual “cost per impression” is much less than the “click thru rate,” however, the “click thru rate” assures you that a person actually came to your website, versus just having the opportunity to see your ad on the Facebook page.

Both these types of online advertising programs, along with others, are currently being used by farms today and found to be effective.  Of course, I have certainly not been able to explain to you the finer points of these programs; they do require you to read and research for yourself and, of course, this can all be done online.  Of the farms who responded to using online advertising, 69.8% managed the program themselves and 30.2% hired it done. 

Whatever way you may choose, online advertising is definitely a growing trend and another major marketing strategy for your consideration.

Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.