Starting a small business takes work. Between creating a business plan, lining up financing, finding a location, building a clientele, and doing the hundreds of other little things along the way, it’s difficult to know what you need and what can be optional. I definitely can’t tell you whether or not you need to look into dental plans for your part-time staffers, but I can tell you which elements of your Internet marketing strategy should have immediate focus and which can wait until you’re a little more established.
Instead of diluting your focus on the endless Internet marketing tactics available for small businesses, we’re going over the five key online elements that will give you the biggest return on time invested.
1. Get a Google My Business Listing Posted
If you have a brick and mortar location, you’re going to want people to be able to find you on the map. Literally, you need to show up on the map.
Nowadays when a Google user searches for a service, a majority of the real estate on the search engine results page (SERP) is an interactive map with dropped pins marking physical locations of businesses that match that query.
Let’s say I’m by the Rogers Centre waiting for a Jays game to start and I want to get a bite to eat before it does. If I search up Indian food, the map displayed on the SERP will show me all the Indian restaurants in a certain vicinity of the venue. The same thing happens with searches for your business. Whether you’re starting a photography company, an independent garage, or a clothing store, having people be able to see your business on the map is a surefire way to bring attention to your new business.
What happens if you’re not on the map? Well, Google is so well curated that most people find what they’re looking for within the first few seconds of their search. That means if you’re not pinned, your potential clientele could be scooped up by the competition before they even get to the organic listings in the search.
2. Get That Social Media Presence Growing And Glowing
Trust is a huge deciding factor when the public is choosing which companies they want to give their business to. Reading reviews, understanding their history and getting a feel for the kind of customer service they offer are all extremely common when vetting a company. Unfortunately, these are all pretty hard standards to live up to if you’re just starting out.
However, having a social media presence can help fill that void.
By being active on social media, you’re setting a brand tone and creating a business persona that people can connect with. You’re able to express company values, tell potential customers about upcoming events and promotions, and offer people a reason to give you a chance when you’re still in your infancy.
3. And While We’re Talking About Social, Run A Social Campaign!
Whether your intention is to like build, increase engagement, get clicks to your website, or increase conversions, you can do it all with a simple (or not-so-simple, depending on what you’re in the mood for) social ad campaign.
There are a ton of benefits to running social campaigns, but likely the biggest bonus are the targeting capabilities. You can get so niche with your targeting that you can choose the age range, gender, hobbies and interests of your audience, the industry they work in, radius they live in, salary range they earn, and a wide variety of other factors that will help you to ensure that your ad is getting in front of the exact people you want it to, and only the people you want it to. In doing so there’s no money wasted in advertising to people who won’t use your product or service, and you’ll still show up for those who are most likely to turn into likes, clicks, or conversions.
4. Write, Write, Write. And If You’re Not Good At That, Hire A Freelancer Who Is
If you’re at all familiar with the world of SEO, there’s no doubt you’ve heard the saying, “Content is king.” And there’s good reason for that: Because it is.
Content is really the only way that Google can understand who you are and what you do. If you have a sleek, modern looking website with only images, search engines can’t understand what it is you’re offering. If your website is talking about apple, is it referring to the fruit? The computer products? Gwyneth Paltrow’s unfortunately named daughter? You need to give context to your content in order for Google to understand what it is you do.
Aaaand of course content feeds into a wide variety of key algorithms in a ton of different ways, but that’s a blog for another day. The bottom line is that you need quality content, and you need it somewhat frequently. Build out your service and location pages to spell out exactly what you offer to who and where, and create a content calendar that you can hold yourself accountable to for keeping up a blog.
Blog. Right. I get it: I used to think of a 13-year-old’s online journal when I heard that word, too, but for new businesses (heck, for any business) a blog is a key component in establishing yourself as an authority figure. By answering FAQs that your target demographic might have about your industry, you’re proving that you’re a worthy competitor in the field, and that you’re a reliable source of information that people can relate to and rely on. Having that kind of solid footing can make the difference between struggling to market your new business and actually having business.
5. Start Your SEO Efforts Early
Let’s face it: SEO is both a really competitive marketing element and a really slow burn. If you wait until your business is already on its feet to throw your hat in the ring, you’re going to have an uphill battle ahead of you.
When you’re setting up your website, you should (at the very least) be going through the SEO basics. Do your keyword research, optimize your page structure for easy readability, ensure your content is crawlable by search engines, set up a sitemap, concentrate on site speed, get everything responsive, and, most importantly, start building quality backlinks.
Now more than ever that last element is the most important. When I explain the importance of backlinks to my clients, I usually equate it to a popularity contest:
Imagine you’re the new kid in school. If you go around and ask all the other students who the popular one in class is and they all point to Josh, you have a pretty good idea that it’s Josh. But if you ask the coolest kid’s table in the cafeteria who the most popular is and even they say it’s Josh, then you know Josh is the bee’s knees.
That’s what Google’s doing when it’s looking at your backlink structure. It’s the new kid in school and it’s going to all the other websites in your marketing vertical to see which ones are pointing to yours. The more, the better. And if it finds a website with a high DA that’s pointing to yours? Well that’s like the popular table of the Internet telling Google that you’re the Josh. We’ve gotten to a time in marketing where websites can manipulate their on-page content to the point that instead of the best business ranking first, the best SEO’d website ranks first. That’s not really ideal for search engines as their loyalty lies with the searcher to give them the best possible results, not with the website that doesn’t offer much but is oh-so-well optimized. However, no matter how good your marketing skills are, you still have to rightfully earn your backlinks — there’s no cheat code or quick fix to a strong backlink profile.
Starting a new company takes a ton of work, and it doesn’t get any easier once you’re ready to launch your online marketing strategies. And, unfortunately, that work isn’t always cheap to do, either. The chances of a new company having enough budget and free time to hit the ground running on every possible marketing element is about as good as Bon Jovi coming to my next birthday party (spoiler alert: That chance is basically zero — his people never return my e-mails). But if you dedicate your efforts to these five areas, you’ll be giving your business the online kickstart it needs to get attention and start generating income.
Think there’s a marketing element I should have included in this post? Leave a comment below and I’ll add them into my next article!
As part of the `Run a Social Campaign’ thing, you can build up a customer survey in the shape of a contact form to get feedback from clients and observe what you’ve been doing good or bad (if you had previous businesses or you’re relaunching an existing one) and what you should and should not do. That way, you also engage them in the process and make them feel valued.