If you’re a small business and your overall Digital Marketing budget is under $1,000, our advice is simple. Stay away from Digital Marketing agencies and follow these basic fundamentals on how to market a business online.
Otherwise what will invariably happen is, you’ll have high expectations but will see massive shortfalls in the results. I understand, that when you’re a small business, every cent counts. However, there is no point investing in Digital Marketing to send traffic to a site that isn’t ready for it. It’ll just increase bounce rates and decrease conversions. In other words, you’ll spend money and get little to no results for your efforts. So here are our top cost-effective tips on how to market a business online that you can do by yourself.
1.Get your website and online brand right.
There are two elements to this. The first and most important is creating a credible brand online. The second element deals with securing a brand online (covered in point 3).
Firstly, getting your brand right.
It is amazing still to this day how many businesses I see that have invested in beautiful typography, logos and well-crafted storefronts but still have a @Gmail, @Hotmail, or @Yahoo account being advertised as their contact email. If you’ve taken that much time to make your business look professional in the real world, you need to do it online too. The credibility of a business is scrutinised much more seriously online as there is nothing tangible about it. It’s, therefore, vital that you get your online brand in order.
It costs as little as $10 to register your domain name annually. Add a hosting package to this (for your website and email) for another $50 per year. Now you’re now ready to have an online presence
2. Manage site add-ons with Google Tag Manager.
When marketing a business online, you’ll want to get it up and running as quickly as possible. As your site evolves you’ll find yourself wanting to install more applications to achieve your objectives. Whether it’s Opt-In forms, Remarketing Pixels, Advertising etc, each of these generally requires a specific script or plugin.As you add more and more plugins to enable these features, you’ll see a massive difference in the performance of your site. Particularly if you’re using a shared hosting service that has limited resources. Google Tag Manager provides an easy way for you to manage the majority of these scripts within 1 portal. This saves you hours of time having to manage them individually.
3. Use Google Analytics regularly
Now that you’ve got Google Tag Manager Installed, the very first thing you should do is set up a Google Analytics account. Then implement it through Google Tag Manager. This is by far the most important thing to get sorted, right from the start.
If you don’t know who is visiting your site, then the majority of your decisions will be assumptions. In order for you to deploy a comprehensive and successful digital strategy, you need hard data and research. It’s important, as it allows you to understand how to adjust your online efforts based on performance and market conditions.
Google Analytics gives you a wealth of data. It shows:
- where your visitors have come from
- the pages they visit most & the ones they don’t
- how long they stay on your site
- what they engage with
- products and services, they purchase
- revenue generated etc.
It should be the top system that you look at on a daily basis. However, don’t fall into the trap of adjusting your online marketing efforts on a day to day basis. Ultimately you should use Google Analytics to see what people are doing, compared to what you want them to do.
Fluctuations in terms of performance and analysis will happen with the best and most financed campaigns. So, yours will be no different. Although this will also depend on the market you’re in. If you’re an eCommerce business, fluctuations will vary more frequently with key dates and seasonality. If you’re a brochure site, however, you’re better off collecting decent data and analysing on a bi-weekly or monthly frequency.
Ensure goals and conversion tracking are set-up for key areas of your site. This is crucial so you can track the success of your marketing efforts. For more help on understanding how to use Google Analytics, check out their study guide.
4. Ensure you have Google’s Search Console setup.
This is as essential as Google Analytics and one of the first things you should do when your site’s ready. If your website is the engine, and Analytics is the speedometer – Google Search Console is the ignition to kick it all off.
It allows you to understand how Google indexes, crawls and analyses your site. It also notifies you of any errors that your site is throwing up and provides guides on what it is Google is actually looking for from businesses like yours.
5. Test the performance of your site.
Anything above a 2 second load time for pages on your site, and you’re going to start losing visitors. Nobody likes a slow site.
If you have a large proportion of your visitors coming through on mobile, you should investigate Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Project). The reason for this is simple. By using AMP, it strips away all the clutter that a desktop theme uses, and speeds up load time. The benefit is that your content is loaded using Google’s architecture which vastly increases speed and improves your visitor’s experience.
GTMetrix is a great free tool that gives you an overview of what’s slowing down your site. The 2 big scores you want to keep an eye on are the “Pagespeed Score” and the “YSlow Score”.
Another tool to use is Google’s Pagespeed service, which is also free. This allows you to check both mobile and desktop versions of your site independently in order to see where the bottlenecks are. If you’re managing the site yourself, be prepared for a lot of searching on Google to find resolutions for specific issues that are thrown up. One you’re bound to see a lot is “Leverage browser caching”.
If your site is built on WordPress, one recommendation of a plugin is WPRocket, which is paid (at $39 for one site), but I’ve seen vast differences in site speed compared to W3Total Cache and WP Super Cache. You can check out WP Rocket here.
6. Understand how people interact with your site.
Looking at analytics is one thing in terms of seeing what pages and posts visitors interacted with on your site. But do you know how they really interacted?
Hotjar is a great tool that you can also install through Google Tag Manager. It allows you to view heat maps, recorded screen sessions and even create polls on specific pages, so you can get feedback from your visitors. They have a free version that allows up to 2,000 page views a day.
Whether your site is a brochure site for kid’s fitness, selling t-shirts or providing SAAS (Software As A Service) the user experience is what truly matters. Your site is the first touch-point that helps convert your prospects into customers. So, it’s important that you nail it.
You should ask complete strangers to give you honest feedback on your site and specific sections you’re interested in. They have no involvement, so they’ll be honest and that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
Use Hotjar to create polls on your site, and leverage your mailing list to conduct user experience surveys. Social Media is also a great tool to get feedback from your targeted demographic. By being open about it, it also shows you care about your users’ experience. You’ll be surprised what small things will come back that can make a big difference to your overall objectives.
All of these play a significant role in your overall strategy. If your site is poor to use, then your marketing budget is being wasted driving people to a site that they will inevitably press the back button on. This, in turn, will increase your bounce rate and affect your organic ranking. Make sure to get the user experience right.
7. Setup email lists early.
You may have heard “Email is dead”. In fact, it’s far from it. Email is still one of the most effective marketing tactics when done properly. You may be thinking that building an email marketing list from scratch is difficult, but it isn’t (as long as you abide by GDPR Regulations of-course)
How many emails do you receive on a day to day basis from different brands you’ve subscribed to over the years? Now have a think about how they got your information in the first place. It wasn’t that much of a sell for you to give it to them, was it?
There are plenty of platforms out there that offer free use of email marketing software to a certain threshold. MailChimp (https://mailchimp.com) is one of the more popular ones that allows you to send 12,000 emails a month to 2,000 subscribers. After that, you start moving through their paid models that are dependent on the number of subscribers.
In terms of building a subscriber list, make sure to use Google Analytics and Hotjar to see if you have calls to action to entice people to sign up on your site. If you do, split test to see if the CTA’s are in the right place and if they’re noticeable enough. If not, test other areas and track the performance to get the best result. Experiment with implementing landing pages with special offers (e.g. discounts, eBooks, white papers etc.) to really entice people to give you the data you want to collect. Just make sure not to go crazy on a number of fields you want someone to fill out. The less you can ask of them, the more likely they’ll sign up.
8. Invest in Social Media.
Quite simply, when it comes to Social Media – engagement is free, promotion isn’t.
The one mistake I see continuously are businesses using social media as a platform to just sell their products and services. What’s social about that?
Social media networks are communities of people that don’t want to be bombarded by your products and services with every post you publish.
If they’ve liked your page, that’s a good start. You’ve done some good groundwork in terms of capturing their interest. Now you have a short time-frame to keep it. Don’t blow it by constantly asking them to buy something from you.
Engage with your audience. Take the time to talk with them and find out what they want, what they like and how you can improve. Make sure to post entertaining and unique content that has a synergy to your business. Then when you’ve got them to buy into the sentiment (positively) of your brand, that’s when you can show them your special offers and new products or services without triggering too much churn.
If you haven’t already heard of him, check out Gary Vaynerchuk and in particular his book – Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. He is the perfect example of a successful Guru when it comes to marketing a business online.
A ratio that I’d advise you to aim for is at least 5:1, particularly when looking at Facebook. That means that you look at 5 posts of entertaining unique content and 1 soft sell. If you’re having trouble coming up with the content, go to Fiverr and spent a bit of money getting some Memes and posts created for you, so that you have a bank of them to use as inspiration for your future posts.
Keep in mind, though, that I’m not suggesting you post all 5 entertaining pieces within an hour and then hit them with the sell. You’ll want to keep a close eye on when your audience is online, the gender split and age profile (as this will dictate your tone), the geographic areas they are from and what types of posts they are engaging with. The more visual you can go with your posts, the better. You should also take current events and seasonality into account. Don’t bulk schedule everything way in advance. That has a risk of backfiring on you if your content clashes with current events.
Also remember that when looking at Facebook for example approximately 1% of your audience will see your organic posts. That means that if you have 5,000 followers, approximately 50 people will see your posts on average unless you advertise them or ramp up your audience massively.
So yes, you’re going to have to invest in some social media advertising as well – particularly if you’re looking to create awareness of your brand. Even more so, since Facebook is changing their algorithm which will affect brands and publishers.
9. Monitor & improve your SEO continuously.
My lecturer used to have a great line anytime he heard someone ask “But isn’t SEO dead?”. He’d typically respond with “If there are approximately 60 trillion web pages and 1.9 trillion annual google searches – how does Google know what results to show up then for searches if SEO is dead?” – That was in 2013. Imagine what those figures are today.
SEO is by no means dead. It’s just evolved into a very sophisticated tactic. It’s ultimately how Google determines what results to show up based on a user’s search query. One thing to understand from the off with SEO though is that it’s the long game. You could have an online advert up and running for your business in a couple of hours and you’d see results pretty quickly. That’s the sprint. SEO, however, is the marathon.
When it comes to SEO, there’s no one big thing that will make a huge difference to your ranking efforts. Keep in mind that SEO is a lot of little things done correctly over time.
Google is constantly changing and shifting its algorithms to improve the results that are shown which affects pole positions. If you want to know more about the last 4 major shifts over the last few years, then do a search for “Google Panda”, “Google Penguin”, “Google Hummingbird” and “Google Pigeon” – you’ll see what each of them have focussed on since 2011. Or else just read this article over at Moz.
Some of the technical aspects of your SEO, I covered earlier in this article. However, there are other considerations to take into account as well. If you have multiple locations, you’ll want to ensure your local SEO is in place. Moz has a good checklist that you can get here for that.
However, one of the biggest factors is in relation to content on your site. If you don’t have a blog section or content hub, implement it and move to the next section below.
And if someone tells you it’s all about keywords on your site – walk away quickly. They’ll quickly stall your efforts to marketing a business online, and could penalise your site in the long run.
10. Create and deploy a Content Marketing strategy.
A major part of Google’s ranking algorithm for SEO is content (nowadays). It wants to see that your website is consistently publishing high quality, informational and educational content that’s meaningful to the end user. So, don’t go and just pump out a whole load of content for the sake of it. If content is King, context is God.
With everyone now putting more effort into content, you need to make sure that your content engages the reader and provides them with some sort of value. Don’t just create good content—it has to be great.
Visual content tends to have a greater impact compared to loads of articles, as more and more people have short attention spans and want to digest information quickly. Look at static & animated infographics, videos and other content to get you to stand out from your competitors. Look to repurpose existing content in other formats too. A perfect example of this is taking a piece of research that no-one will probably read and turn it into a data visualisation.
However, long-form articles also have an important role to play. Particularly when it comes to “how to….” topics that readers want the answers to and will invest the time to sit down and digest.
The biggest mistake I see with content is companies using their blog to talk about their services and products. That’s what your main website and salespeople are for. Your content should be likeable, shareable, have some sort of virality and more importantly provide value. It needs to have a synergy to the business, without directly pushing the products and services.
11. Use advertising to create awareness
When it comes to Google Adwords or Bing, Paid Search (or PPC) can be a daunting tactic. There’s no doubt there’s a lot to learn and understand. From CTR’s, CPA’s and CPC’s to conversion rates and quality score – it can be confusing to the uninitiated and a budget killer if not done properly.
If you don’t have the budget to work with an agency, in the long run, try working with a specialist for a short time to get the ball rolling, it can work wonders for your business. In tandem, you can also study Google Adwords for free (which I’d highly recommend) so as to have a better understanding of what’s happening with it and adjust accordingly when you need to. Check out this link for a variety of courses from Google on Adwords, Display, Video, Shopping and Mobile.
Don’t however just focus on Google. Take Bing into consideration as well. Bing typically has an older demographic (40+). This is largely due to the fact that it’s the default search engine on Windows machines, and most people who fall into the age bracket don’t switch the default search engine to Google.
You’ll also find that a lot of your competitors will just focus on Google advertising, so you won’t have as many to contend with on Bing. As a rule of thumb, you should spend about 10% of your Google advertising budget on Bing (as that’s an average of their market share in the search space).
To get the most out of your budget, choose your platform carefully. Display advertising is excellent to create awareness of your brand, products & services however it will spend your budget quickly. You’ll drive a lot of traffic to your site, but it may not be the customer profile you’re going after. That’s the last thing you want when marketing a business online. Keep the target demographic targeted at all times.
PPC Search is excellent for intent (when someone has already decided what they want or are conducting research, e.g. “Plumber in Florida”/” Flower shop in Rye, New York”). Decide what stage you’re at, and choose your tactic accordingly.
12. Ensure you have Remarketing setup
Have you ever visited a site, and found that you keep seeing their ads in the days and weeks to come as you surf the web? That’s “Remarketing” (also called “Retargeting”).
It’s a form of display advertising that allows you to stay in front of potential customers who have already visited your site, as they continue to do their online research. It’s an excellent amplification tactic, but not something I’d recommend you use as a primary advertising strategy – i.e. use it in conjunction with Google Adwords and social advertising.
Should you choose to use just Google Remarketing, your campaigns will be limited to just their display network. However, if you use companies such as Adroll, you can use Google’s Display network as well as social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, as they’re partnered with them.
When someone visits your site, a piece of code (cookie) is dropped into their browser. This allows you to target adverts to people who may be interested in your site so that you can get them to come back and convert. When marketing a business online, this is crucial to the “awareness” phase of your marketing strategy. It will allow you to reinforce the brand and product/service offerings.
Google Remarketing focuses on just the GDN (Google Display Network), whereas companies such as Adroll have partnered with the GDN, Facebook, Twitter and other channels. So, budget depending you can target multiple networks. So, if you use Adroll for instance, you could follow users who have visited your site around the Google Display network on other sites, Facebook and Twitter as they progress their browsing through the days and weeks to follow.
Facebook also has their own pixel that works in a similar fashion but provides some advanced targeting. It provides the ability to define audiences that may be interested in your business based on their interests and behaviours.
Even if your budget doesn’t allow you to use Remarketing now – install the code. It’s very simple and free. This will allow you to track visitors now and potentially target them up to 18 months later (depending on the age of the cookie that you set).
At this stage, you are probably glad that you installed Google Tag Manager.
13. Keep an eye on your competition
Are you watching them regularly to see what they’re doing? Do they have social media accounts? If so, what are they using? Are they offering giveaways, discounts and special offers? How are they doing it? What website architecture is their site built on? Have you visited their site, to see if they have certain systems in use that you could also explore and use?
When it comes to Social Media, keep an eye on how active they are. Have a look at what content works for them and when they post it. Also, make sure to analyse what content their fan base is sharing the most.
BuiltWith can provide a good insight into what a competitors site is built on. This can help your research in terms of looking at some systems and themes that you could also utilise.
One free plugin that is great for having a look at different tags is “Ghostery“. It gives you great insight into how your competitors are tracking their visitors and provides you with some inspiration for systems you could be looking at. This is particularly important if you’re a publisher, as no doubt you’re heavily reliant on advertising on your site.
14. Listen to what your customers say online
When marketing a business online, you’ll never get it 100% right from the get-go. So encourage your customers to help along the way. Listen to what your customers are saying and use it to refine your marketing efforts. If you can afford advanced brand monitoring software (Hootsuite Insights, Mention, Keyhole for example) go for it. However, it can get quite expensive on a monthly basis. Most platforms allow a trial or provide entry point pricing. However make sure you have a full digital strategy planned and implemented before you fork out for the subscriptions.
Your customers give you a different perspective that is unbiased. They often have great feedback for small businesses because they know you can adapt more quickly than the bigger companies. So, ensure you engage with them as much as possible.
At the end of the day, you may have a great business but if you don’t plan and execute a well thought out marketing strategy people won’t buy from you if they don’t know who you are and what you do. You’ll constantly adapt strategies and adopt new technologies. However, if you keep your focus on the customer experience, from start to finish you can’t lose. If you have any other tips on how to market a business online, we’d love to hear from you.