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How to make your small business a big hit online – A Digital Marketing guide for small business owners

September 12, 2017

digital marketing tools

For many small business owners, the term ‘digital marketing’ could very well generate a concerned or baffled look, and the temptation to turn around and hide in a darkened room.

As an established small business, or even someone setting up a new business, you might know all about offline marketing like posters and billboards, flyers and direct mail, and word-of-mouth advertising, but when it comes to promoting your business online, it’s unchartered territory.

So to help you safely navigate the online marketing landscape, conquer new marketing activities and promote your business in the digital world, here’s a small business guide to the basics of digital marketing;

1. SEO

What is it?

SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimisation”, and it’s a term which gets thrown around the internet a lot. A few years ago, it commonly referred to practices employed to “cheat” search engines and push websites to the top of results pages.

Nowadays however, SEO is a more long term marketing strategy, which must work with the factors search engines use to help improve the visibility of a website.

Why it’s important

In a word, Google. (And other search engines too!)

How often do you turn to a search engine when you need to find out some information or look for a business?

Having a strong presence on SERPs (search engine results pages) will improve your brand visibility and increase the amount of traffic which visits your website, all of which contribute to more business!

SEO in digital marketing

How to do it

There are a host of tactics relating to SEO which can be employed to help improve site visibility, including keyword optimisation, link building, and on-site technical improvements.

However, search engines also have strict guidelines now, so you’ll need to be careful that you don’t employ older practices which will do you more harm than good, including keyword stuffing and bulk link acquisition.

You’ll likely need an expert to help with technical aspects like site speed and crawl rate optimisation, but if you have a user friendly content management system (CMS) there might be some things you can do yourself.

On-site optimisation

Does your content tell your customers what they want to hear? Does it mention the keywords which they might be typing into Google? Is it informative and helpful? Does it encourage them to get in touch?

Meta descriptions

These are displayed in the SERP and tell a user what the page is about. You can edit yours to make them as convincing as possible for a user to click, but you only have between 150 and 160 characters to do this.

Title tags

These are what search engines read as the title of your page, and they should relate directly to the content on it. Google uses these to help decide the relevancy of your website, but you only have 55 characters which will be displayed here.

Learn more about the intricacies of SEO in ByteStart’s guides;

2. PPC

What is it?

PPC stands for Pay-Per-Click, and is the paid form of digital marketing advertising. It’s how your website can be featured at the very top of SERPs. It’s also the reason why you might see advertising images of certain websites or products on other pages you are visiting too.

Why it’s important

Many users instinctively click on the paid links in the top of Google and other search engines. PPC is also a great advertising tool because you can set your own budgets and directly monitor the results through conversions, analysing both the amount it costs you to get a user to click on your ad, and the amount it costs to get them to convert on your site.

This will help you constantly improve and target the right audiences.

How to do it

Whilst anyone can set up their own Google Adwords or Bing Ads account and follow the instructions to create an advertising campaign, it can quickly get complicated and you could easily find yourself burning lots of money.

For an effective PPC campaign, you’ll need to have a highly targeted keyword list, excellent landing pages on your website which relate directly to the ads you’re running, and good on-site conversion rate optimisation.

You’ll also need to make sure you’ve set up analytics and code tracking correctly to monitor campaigns accurately.

With the right kind of help, you can use display advertising to place specific banner ads on sites which you know your target audience visit.

You can also use re-marketing and abandoned shopping cart marketing to follow visitors from your site, placing adverts in front of them to remind them of what they’re missing out on and attract them back to your site.

3. Social Media

What is it?

It’s the overarching term used to refer to the different digital networks which people use to interact, share experiences, and socialise. Whilst there are dozens of social media channels, the big ones are:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

And to a lesser extent (depending on your business)

  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest

social media tools resources

Why it’s important

Social media is everywhere, and it’s a key influencer in the lives of your customers. You’d be hard pressed to find a brand or business today which isn’t on some kind of social media channel.

And if you’re not already, you definitely should be.

It’s the place to humanise your business and interact with potential customers on a more personal level. And it’s where you can target users based on their interests.

Done properly, social media can build brand awareness, drive traffic to your website and generate hot sales leads.

It’s also extremely useful for competition research and staying up to date on current trends and interests in your industry.

How to do it

Firstly, it’s important to remember that there are two types of social media activity – the organic, content based kind, and the paid kind.

Given that there are so many social media channels available, it’s also crucial not to spread your efforts too thin – focus on those which will make the most difference to your business, i.e. where your target audience is.

With organic social media, you should be aiming to post content relevant to your potential audience and current customer base. It should be helpful, inspiring or engaging, and you should try and do it on a frequent basis, on the main channels like Facebook and Twitter.

Let’s not complicate things with the number of posts per day or the time at which you should be posting just yet!

Don’t forget that social media is fast paced, and users will be expecting responses from you to any questions or comments within a short time frame.

For paid social media, you can use strategies like Facebook advertising to grow your organic following and to target specific groups of users who you think will be likely to buy from you.

With Facebook regularly expanding its repertoire with the likes of Atlas Solutions and Facebook Exchange, businesses are able to:

  • Compare data of current customers to target ‘lookalike’ audiences
  • Advertise across multiple devices to follow users around
  • Retarget to potential customers who have already visited their site

Advertising can also be paid for on Twitter and LinkedIn, with more social networks looking to capitalise on this in the future.

There’s a fair amount of guidance on how to set up campaigns in Facebook Ads, but if you are struggling and want to ensure that you don’t ‘burn’ any money, it might be an idea to get some help from an expert.

For more tips on making the most of social media, read;

4. Website design and development

What is it?

This one doesn’t need much explanation as to what it is, that bit is fairly obvious.

Why it’s important

Having an appropriately designed website is absolutely vital for your overall digital marketing strategy. You’ll be driving all traffic to your site, and you need a design that’s both appealing and can effectively convert visitors into business.

How to do it

Unless you have design skills or some coding knowledge, there’s probably not much you can do here without some outside help.

Spend the time choosing the best designer and developer by shopping around and testing out different companies and individuals. Ask to see examples of their work, and be sure they understand the importance of a website which converts users, not just one that looks great.

You should aim to have flexibility with landing pages, so that you can make changes whenever you need, and make sure that your website includes plenty of “Calls-to-Actions” – buttons, links or images which encourage users to buy or get in touch.

To help you avoid mistakes small businesses frequently make read;

 A complex digital network

We’re just scratching the surface here with digital marketing strategy. There are plenty more angles and avenues we haven’t even mentioned, like content marketing, email marketing, digital PR and affiliate marketing.

As with any kind of marketing strategy, on or offline, what works for one business or industry might not work for yours.

Naturally, it’s going to take some trial and error. But the good thing about digital marketing is that you can make mistakes. You can track and measure your campaigns, and you can see results (or lack of) fairly quickly.

About the author

This article was written by ByteStart’s regular web and technology contributor, Nick Pinson. He is a Director at iWeb Solutions, an e-commerce website design agency based in Staffordshire. Twitter: @iwebtweets. Other ByteStart guides written by Nick include;

More tips on promoting your start-up or small business

And for more on promoting your business, both online and through more traditional routes, try;