2005 was a busy year for the internet. Last year more than a billion people went online, more than 250 billion searches were done, and total online sales accounted for over $170 billion (Forrester). More people than ever are turning to the internet to find--and buy--the products they need.

This year, resolve to get your business off to a great start and make more money in 2006. To do that, here are the top three sure-fire strategies you need to boost your profits this year!

Strategy #1: Know How to Beat the Search Engines and Drive Free Traffic to Your Site
The key to getting your business name to pop up in search engines is to use sound online marketing principles, rather than trying to manipulate the search engines with tons of keywords and inflated link popularity. That means you should:

  • Provide useful information, valuable content and links that are related to your business.
  • Make your domain names and page titles relevant to your business and keywords.
  • Solicit links from (and link to) sites with good reputations, traffic and Google PageRanks.
  • Keep your content current and image tags appropriate--don't make them long, repetitive or off-topic. (Image tags are the small bits of text that describe your image files. You can't see them on your web page, but the search engines read them in your source code.)

As long as your links are designed to enhance the value of your site's content or to increase your credibility and authority, then your site will continue to see good rankings on Google.

Strategy #2: Take Advantage of Brand-New Profit-Making Opportunities with Pay-per-Click Advertising
There have been some big changes in pay-per-click (PPC) search engines recently, and more and more people are starting to realize exactly how profitable they can be.

Bidding on your best keywords and securing top results in the search engines is probably the easiest and fastest way to drive potential customers to your site. To get a number-one ranking in pay-per-click advertising, all you have to do is bid more on your keywords than the #2 bidder.

In 2005, there were a ton of changes across the industry, with each of the "big players" offering new and exciting ways for you to succeed. Let's look at each in detail.

1. Google AdWords : Two of the most useful features Google AdWords added are:

  • The ability to include or exclude specific sites from your campaign. Google already tries to keep your ads from appearing on competitors' pages, but there are plenty of unsavory websites out there that you don't want to be unwittingly associated with.
  • Different pricing for having ads on search sites and content sites. Search ads get more eyeballs on them, but content ads are on sites that are more relevant to your customers and generally have a higher click-through rate.

2. Yahoo! Search Marketing Solutions (formerly Overture): Overture, the previous industry leader, has been revamped and streamlined. In an effort to unify their brand, Overture was renamed Yahoo! Search Marketing Solutions. Their next move was to simplify their entire sign-up process--formerly one of their customers' biggest complaints.

Yahoo! has also made some changes to their program that should be welcomed by small businesses and online entrepreneurs: the deposit has been lowered from $50 to $5, and the monthly minimum of $20 has been scrapped, so even the tiniest internet business can get in on the action. This brings them into line with Google's pricing.

Things are looking up for the new Yahoo! Search Marketing Solutions in 2006. Even though Google's AdWords seems to drive more traffic, advertisers point to better conversion rates in some markets for Yahoo!, especially younger demographics. Try testing your pay-per-click campaign on both services to see which results in higher profits for your business!

3. The Challengers: Although Google and Yahoo! are the clear industry leaders, it can still pay to look at the smaller service providers. Although the traffic isn't as heavy on these sites, it's far easier and cheaper to get #1 rankings on these up-and-comers. Depending on how competitive your market is, you may want to test pay-per-click advertising with:

Remember that new advancements in pay-per-click advertising are developed every day--so pay attention to the industry headlines! For example, MIVA, one of the smaller providers listed above, is now offering pay-per-click advertising in e-mail format. MIVA Mail allows pay-per-click ads in newsletters and HTML e-mail communications. Watch for the bigger players to follow soon.

Strategy #3: The Hottest Online Marketing Strategy for 2006
2005 was the year of the "blog explosion" on the internet. The number of blogs more than doubled between June and December, and will double again this year.

Blogs (short for "weblogs") are a simple way for anyone to post new content in an easy-to-read website format with the newest information always on top.

Blogs are absurdly easy to start and even easier to maintain. Some even let you post with your e-mail--just sit down, write a letter, mail it to your blog address, and you're done. It's so easy that some people post a dozen times a day.

But how can a blog benefit your business? Your blog can boost your ranking in the search engines, increase your traffic, and improve your credibility--all of which will ultimately lead to more sales!

Search engines love the content-rich element of blogs. If you blog about a specific subject, like your industry or hobby, people interested in that topic will visit your blog and read it often. With a well-written blog, it's easy to establish your credibility by demonstrating your expertise in your subject area. Over time you'll develop relationships with your visitors--which ultimately lead to more customers. Links to your sales site and product pages are a natural fit here, too.

Final Thoughts
2006 is shaping up to be another record-setting year for online business, with 200 million more customers, 20 percent more sales, and more exciting developments that'll undoubtedly change the way we do business on the internet.

Just remember: All it takes is one successful technique to start seeing real growth in your sales and profits in 2006. Don't think you have to do everything at once! Choose one strategy, implement it, and start making money from it today--then move on to the next strategy.