Most small business owners have a vague idea of what they should be doing online. Many understand that search engine optimization is important, and that they should be active on social media. But that is not where an online marketing plan should start. Any business must begin and end with their audience in mind. To coordinate a strategic plan for online marketing, they must determine who their target audience is and what they use to find products or services that they want and need.
It’s also helpful to break down all revenue sources to highlight the biggest opportunities for growth to focus on those aspects of marketing.
When building a website, the most important thing to keep in mind is how the target audience will interact with it. Most small local businesses are selling to local consumers who live on-the-go. This means their primary resource is a smart phone. As of April 21st, Google has announced that it will not display sites in mobile search results that are not mobile friendly. With mobile searches now overtaking desktop searches in 2015, this means having a site that is not mobile friendly could result in a loss of 50% of visibility in search.
To compliment mobile-friendliness, websites should be in a content management system that is easy to adapt, like WordPress. This is because analytics should dictate updates and revisions to a site on a regular basis. A good philosophy is that a good website can be built in a few weeks, while a great website is never done being built. So every website should be easy to update for user experience.
Search engine rankings fluctuate constantly depending on competition and link growth. They also display different results for users based on search history, device and location. Because of this, every small business owner should be aware of their visibility through Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. Many many factors influence visibility online, but they largely boil down to content production and distribution.
Business has always been built on relationships. Social media is the digital way to maintain the relationships that keep clients coming back and feeling invested in the brand. Not only is social media network activity and visibility important, but so is engagement with your target market on the platforms they use. The biggest trick for higher engagement is to frequently produce original written, photo, and video content.
There are several tools that can assist in distribution of content, such as Buffer and Hootsuite. However, nothing replaces manual check-ins on every social media account at least once a day to respond to and interact with your clients. In other words, every small business owner should at least have the Facebook Pages app on their phone.
Content production is vital for online visibility and engagement with readers when they visit your website. An essential strategy to grow your business’ online presence is to regularly create blogs on topics that relate to your industry and target demographic(s).
Not only do listings and mentions grow your website traffic through referral traffic, they are the best way to increase your online visibility. For local businesses, the first step is to set up tools like MOZ local, Yext or Single Platform to manage all local listings. This is much easier than individually claiming profiles on Yelp, Foursquare, Tripadvistor, Google+ and others, one by one.
For larger campaigns (regional or national), links from related credible websites adds to your brand’s online credibility and thus your search engine rankings. In general, the key is to be involved in your industry, write for other websites and share your knowledge. In this case, paying it forward really pays off. Building a relationship with industry leaders is important for visibility.
While videos and photos do show up in search results, sharing them on social media is the best way to really engage with your audience. Posting original videos on Facebook offers the highest interaction rate of any content distributed online. The reading retention of the human brain has also been found to be substantially lower when reading online than when reading off of paper. Therefore, visual and audio methods tend to be more memorable to educate potential clients.
You don’t have to pain over it either. Most times people love seeing “insider videos.” Any iPhone is more than capable of filming high enough quality content to share on social media. Every small business owner has something relevant to share; filming it instead of writing it down will always make your audience feel a more personal connection to you and your brand.
Small businesses should not just rely on organic traffic to grow their visibility online. When advertising, there are plenty of tools to observe what your competitors are doing to advertise and discover what works. Tools like SEMRush can help identify who is bidding on which keywords, and with what kinds of ads. This will not bleed over into the display ad network and it allows PPC advertising to begin with eyes wide open.
Set up Google Analytics with conversion goals and track them. Every small business owner should know exactly what their cost per acquisition is, and have goals on how to make it better. Gone are the days when you need to waste half of your ad budget on ignorance. Even through the simple connection between Adwords and Google analytics, the return on investment for every ad can be tracked and accounted for.
Search engine algorithms will change, competition will grow, website standards will update, customers will give feedback, and analytics will prove all of it. Your strategy for marketing your brand, and sometimes even your products and services will have to adapt. All of these resources should be a means to share your brand with the market, but they are also an avenue to listen to the market. Evolution is not survival of the fittest; it’s survival of the most adaptable.