Marketing your small business is about having a multi-channel online presence that influences customers, improves your brand image and drives traffic. It’s no secret that the Internet is where consumers go to find businesses, products and services. Being there is essential and that means all businesses must invest in online marketing. And today, online marketing is a complex landscape. It’s not just about getting favorable positions on Google. It’s about having a presence across a variety of channels that influence customers.
Besides organic search results, there are social media platforms, review sites, map sites, local search and more. Does that mean you need to hire an expert in every field to get visibility for your business? No, there are several ways to minimize costs, invest in the important things and build as you go.
In this Marketing Your Small Business guide we explore how to get maximum exposure even with a small advertising budget.
Branding Your Small Business
Having a full, multi-channel presence not only helps you reach a broader range of customers, it also helps brand your business.
If your target market is Millennials and you don’t have a multi-channel presence – you might as well not exist. Millennials grew up on technology and they know how to use it to tune-out and zero in on what they want to see. They are not as influenced by ads like their parents and grandparents. They may find you on search, but, they rely on peer reviews, social platforms and trusted review websites to make purchasing decisions.
If someone searches for you and finds no social profiles and an address in Google maps that shows like an anonymous warehouse… it will appear you have not invested much in your business. It’s the equivalent of trying to do business without a business card, logo or references. It just doesn’t work.
The same is true with your online presence. You can’t just spend a few dollars on SEO and hope that carries you through. You need your business to be visible in all the top places that consumers look:
- Organic Search Results
- Paid, Sponsored or Shopping Results
- Local Search Results, Maps and Review Sites
- Social Media
Plan your Strategy
With a good strategy and a little effort – you don’t need to hire a different professional for every task. Some tasks you can do yourself and some can be handled by one professional that understands small business marketing.
Not surprisingly, search engines are the number one place to be. But, did you know there are a variety of ways to appear in the search landscape. Previously, a search yielded results with 10 listings on a page and some paid ads. Today, search engines offer a variety of results and more opportunities for you.
- Organic Listings: Generated by Search Engines and ranked in order based on an algorithm
- Sponsored Results: This unique form of advertising ensures your website will appear in top results for specific keyword phrases you target.
- Local Search: Another form of organic results, local search may appear in response to a search query that has local intent
- Rich Snippets: these snippets are embedded in search results pages and feature product info, recipes, reviews, events, videos, news & more. Being featured in one of these snippets gives you a real boost in traffic.
- Mobile Search: With paid and organic listings, mobile search is another opportunity to reap the rewards of a top listing – make sure your website and content is geared toward mobile visitors as Google uses mobile factors in their ranking algorithm.
- Knowledge Graph: A special set of encyclopedic answers directly in Google search results
Arguably this channel will ultimately bring in the biggest ROI – clicks are free and if you obtain a high-ranking listing, they tend to stay in place for a long time.
Search engines choose which pages to position high based on hundreds of factors like the content on the page, Meta data, inbound links, etc. The only way to get visibility in organic search is to improve your website through a process of SEO (search engine optimization). But, results from SEO are never instant. Achieving visibility takes time – the amount of time is based on:
- Your competitive environment and selected strategy
- Keyword choices (more competitive keywords take much more time/energy)
- Your total investment for SEO
Most experts will agree it takes three to six months to start seeing results – but, that may mean you go from position 189 to position 52 for your favorite, high traffic keyword. That’s certainly a start, but, if you are not on page one – you don’t really exist.
Tips you can use to win at SEO:
Optimize for many, less popular keywords in addition to a few highly competitive phrases. Every page in your website has the potential to rank for a few different phrases, so, don’t skimp on pages. Publish relevant, keyword-rich content that has value to your potential customers.
Don’t put off SEO – the sooner you start, the sooner you will realize results. If you have a limited budget, tackle the easy parts of SEO (page improvements, content building, meta tags) first. If you only have a five-page website – concentrate on building quality content. One new page a week or two a month will add up quickly.
Mobile Search Results
Google began rolling out a shift in ranking preference to mobile devices back in 2015. From there it has become a mobile-first world. Even if you have a new, mobile optimized responsive website – you should check to ensure ALL pages in your website are mobile friendly and FAST loading. Google’s Mobile-first Index ranks your web page based only on the mobile-version of the page even if you’re searching from a desktop.
Test your pages with Google’s tool and make sure they are all mobile friendly.
Initially, your investment in SEO will be greater than the ROI, however, at a certain point that should turn around as your traffic increases and your SEO starts to pay off. This could happen in six months, a year or even two… the time it takes is directly related to the keywords you target and your investment level.
Paid ads (sponsored ads, pay per click, Google shopping results) usually appear above organic search results. For a small business, I find paid ads especially attractive. It is the only way to reap the benefits of a top position without the effort, time and upfront investment associated with organic search and SEO.
Paid search is also one area I strongly recommend using an expert. The costs for this type of service are relatively small compared to the level of expertise it takes to do it right and the potential benefits for your business. And, with the right expert, you can expect to pay far less than the average advertiser for your clicks, get better performance and hopefully recoup all costs associated by finding new customers.
Tips you can use to win with Paid Search Marketing:
A PPC management expert will select keywords, setup your account, setup your geographic targeting and usually setup a way to track “conversions”. Conversions happen when a visitor takes a desired action (phone call, form submissions, subscription, direct sale) as a direct result of viewing your ads. This allows the PPC manager to evaluate which keywords or creative ads led to the desired result and use this information to continually improve your campaigns over time.
- Set your campaigns to utilize one network at a time (search network or display)
- Keep your ad groups tightly themed with a small group of relevant keywords
- Avoid using broad keywords until you have a positive ROI from your campaigns
Local Search Results, Maps and Review Sites
Local search marketing (sometimes referred to as local SEO) is a subset of SEO but with a focus on how your business appears in searches with geographic intent (“plumber Baltimore” or “plumber near me”). The results appear on Google in what is commonly called the “local pack”. These results are also on Apple Maps, Google maps and many other local portals.
It is estimated that over 48% of all searches have local intent so this should be priority for Retail stores, doctors, lawyers, and service type businesses that depend on geographic areas for their customer pool.
Tips you can use to win at Local SEO:
- Claim, verify and optimize your Google My Business and Bing Places profiles first and foremost. It doesn’t take much effort to get them in good shape.
- Claim, verify and optimize all other profiles you can find (Yelp, Foursquare, YellowPages, etc.)
- When claiming your local profiles make certain your business name, address and phone number are identical across your website, social media profiles and all local profiles. Discrepancies can hurt you – even something as small as using abbreviations on one and not the other.
- Used geographically based content on your website (maps, service area pages, etc.)
- Use Schema Markup on your website (this gives search engines a clear picture of local info for your business)
- Encourage and obtain as many customer reviews on your local profiles as you can.
Social media marketing is the process of promoting your business, products and services on a variety of social platforms. Some of the biggest platforms include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube.
Because this guide is geared toward small business, I know it is hard to stretch your time and effort across so many channels. My clients always say, “I don’t have time to tweet”. I get it. But, connecting with customers on social media is here to stay. You can increase brand awareness, drive direct sales and develop a loyal following. It has taken some time for business to understand how to communicate on social media, but, the results are evident.
Tips you can use to win at social media marketing:
At a bare minimum, you should claim and optimize all your social profiles and put some real time into a few that you feel have the best resonance with your target customer.
Create a content plan, publish posts that your followers will find interesting and engaging. If every post you make is about you, your product or your service – you will find yourself without any followers. Your content can’t be too over-promotional. Promotional content should be occasional – not the norm.
Social networks are a place to converse and share content… check it regularly and be responsive to your followers.