Did you know that more than 80 percent of potential customers do their research online before making a decision about products or services?
If you’re a small business owner and you don’t yet have an online marketing strategy in place, those same potential customers are going to check out your competitors that do have a solid presence online. The good news is that properly implemented online engagement tactics can be a cost-effective way to improve brand visibility and boost your revenue flow by inspiring productive interactions and even in-person store visits. Not sure where to get started? Here are five online marketing strategies small businesses should be using in 2018.
5 Online Marketing Strategies Small Businesses Should Be Using in 2018
The main purpose of search engine optimization (SEO) is to put your small business front and center on search engine results pages (SERPs). All major search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) have a set of factors they use to determine how various websites and related content ranks online. Google, for example, considers the following ranking factors important:
Above all else, SEO is all about content in 2018. For small businesses, this typically means focusing on content with local references since most searches have local intent. But what the real focus should be on is writing content that matters to your target audience. Google is getting much better at determining content relevance thanks to innovations like RankBrain, an algorithm learning artificial intelligence system that attempts to figure out what people actually want when they search for something online.
These are the links that point back to your website from other sites. Google considers such links to be a sign that your content is useful. However, the quality of the source of such links matters. They need to come from relevant, trusted, and authoritative domains. Specifically, Google looks at:
- Number of backlinks
- Link authority
- Diversity of links
Google now looks at websites from a mobile perspective first for ranking purposes. If your business’ site isn’t creating a good user experience for on-the-go searchers, a good starting point is to opt for a responsive website design, which allows your site to adjust to whatever screen it’s being viewed on. “Mobile-friendly” also means paying attention to page load times and using convenient navigation features.
Google also considers everything about your site that’s related to user experience. This includes how you use internal links to direct visitors to other content on your site, how relevant your keywords are to the actual content on your site, and stats that suggest how well your site is performing, such as bounce rates rates, conversion rates, and length of time visitors stay on your various webpages. Google has also been cracking down on intrusive interstitial pop-ups, those things that take users to a new page when a call-to-action or ad is clicked.
Most people think of keywords when SEO Is discussed. And while keyword research is still essential to effective SEO, it’s just one slice of the pie. Technical aspects of optimization are just as critical. These are the things you do to help search engine crawlers evaluate your various webpages so they can be directed to he right searchers. The technical side of SEO includes:
- Website speed
- Meta descriptions and tags
- H1 tags and headers
- Optimized visuals with alt tags (search engine crawlers can’t “read” images)
- Website design and overall site architecture
- Structured data markup necessary for “rich snippets” (blurbs of relevant text Google pulls from your site to display on SERPs)
- HTTPS to make your site secure (a must for all sites per Google)
AdWords is Google’s paid advertising platform. What it can do for small businesses is quickly put ads in front of searchers likely to be interested in what your business is offering. It’s an auction-based system that involves bidding on keywords relevant to the products or services you offer. When AdWords campaigns are set up correctly, they can be cost-effective as long as many of the clicks your ads receive turn into conversions.
How much you pay for each click will depend on how much demand there is for your desired keywords. Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to run effective campaigns with more affordable keywords that aren’t as “in demand” with the right ad content.
Google also considers your Quality Score (QS) when determining cost-per-click (CPC) and ad rank. With QS, Google looks at the relevance of your keywords and the actual content of your ads. Additional QS factors include:
- Relevance of each keyword used to its corresponding ad group
- Historical performance of your AdWords’ account
- Click-through rates (how many people are clicking your ads)
Call-Based AdWords’ Ads
Some smaller businesses prefer to use paid ads to generate phone calls instead of website visits. If you do call-only ads, they’ll only appear on smartphones or similar devices that can be used to make calls. Just make sure you only run your ads during business hours when the phone will actually be answered.
AdWords Tips for Smaller Businesses
With the right approach to planning and implementation, AdWords can be a great way for smaller businesses to maintain an edge on competitors. Speaking of competitors, check out what keywords your top competitors are using to target the same audience as you narrow down your keyword list. There are plenty of handy keyword research tools you can use to gather this info. Also, make AdWords more likely to benefit your business by:
- Keeping campaigns and ad groups simple so you can easily manage them
- Including negative keywords to keep your ads from displayed with terms not relevant to your business
- Using ad scheduling and day-parting features to control when your ads are displayed
- Controlling which geographic areas your ads are displayed in if your business only serves customers in certain cities, towns, or neighborhoods
Social media is where most small businesses engage directly with customers, which is why it should part of your online marketing strategy. Start by determining which social media platforms will likely benefit your business. While many businesses opt for Facebook and Twitter, you may do better with visual platforms like Pinterest or Instagram if you have a business that’s highly visual in nature. If your main target is other businesses, then LinkedIn is the go-to platform for B2B social media marketing. Whatever platforms you choose, make sure you’ll actually have time to keep content fresh and remain engaged with your followers.
What social media marketing (SMM) does is boost your brand’s visibility, direct traffic back to your website, and improve the credibility of your business in the eyes of Google. Particularly, Google looks at sharing and overall social activity. As with any type of marketing, effective SMM needs to be driven by goals. There’s a difference in how you would use your social platforms if you just wanted to attract more attention to your business than what you would focus on if you wanted to primarily drive traffic back to your website. Social media marketing also tends to be more effective if you:
- Actively start conversations
- Provide enticements with your posts or perks for followers (e.g., alerts when there’s a sale, coupon codes, special discounts for followers who do a social check-in when visiting your business)
- Put your businesses’ personality into your social content
- Concentrate on doing an awesome job with one or two platforms instead of spreading yourself too thin
- Regularly pay attention to your stats with each platform to see what kind of engagement you’re getting so you know where to focus your attention
- Use a calendar to keep track of your posts so you can distribute social content with greater efficiency
- Include relevant photos, graphics, and videos to give your posts more pizzazz
- Place social share buttons on your website to attract new followers
Approximately 90 percent of customers read reviews online before making a decision about a business. Consumers also liken reviews to opinions from friends as far as how much weight they give them. If there is something negative that’s said about small businesses online, it can have a serious impact on engagement and, more importantly, revenue; especially since most searchers who find a local business online end up visiting the physical location within 24 hours.
This is why it’s critical to actively monitor how your business is presented online. Get started by Googling your business to see what come up. If you don’t see much, be more proactive about encouraging customers to leave comments or post reviews. Don’t forget to make sure your NAP (business name, address, and phone number) info is correct wherever it appears online. Inaccurate or inconsistent NAP can make people suspicious of your business. Further maintain and manage your business rep online by:
- Claiming your Google My Business listing so your business info (including related reviews) will show up with better consistency online
- Optimizing profiles on review sites like Yelp
- Purchasing your domain name to prevent other businesses from using it
- Using reputation management tools to keep tabs on your online rep
- Consistently producing fresh, relevant, and positive content
- Actively responding to valid negative comments or reviews since searchers are more likely to be forgiving if they see that you’re actually trying to resolve issues
Content marketing refers to any of the content you present online that’s related to your business in some way. Online marketing strategies that tend to work best for small businesses include a variety of content, not just text alone. In fact, searchers are more likely to pay attention to image-based content than content that’s primarily text, no matter how well it’s written. Regardless of the type of content that’s right for your small or local business, in order to be impactful in 2018 the content you present to the world needs to:
- Have a consistent tone or message that’s in line with your business
- Be easy to read and digest (e.g., short paragraphs, descriptive titles and subheads, and important points emphasized with bullets or numerics)
- Address the specific needs of the intended audience
- Be effectively promoted (e.g., using your social media posts to let followers know you have a new blog post)
- Target customers at different stages of the buying cycle or decision-making process
As for which one of these online marketing strategies is most important for a small business in 2018, the answer is all of them. You can have all of your SEO bases covered, for instance, but you’re not going to get the results you expect if you don’t have relevant content. Organic search is highly competitive, so the strategic use of paid advertising can cut through the clutter. What social media marketing does is amplify your brand’s image and give visitors more compelling reasons to visit your website. And none of these efforts will matter much if you are not paying attention to your online reputation or actively encouraging reviews that can influence other potential customers. Realistically, online marketing that’s done right is a combination of several strategies working together to achieve common, clearly defined goals.
If you need help with online marketing for your business, give us a call at 865-357-3600 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.