We get it. As a small business owner, there are rarely enough hours in the day to juggle all your responsibilities and keep your business afloat. You may feel too overwhelmed to dedicate time to marketing your operation.
Growing your brand through digital marketing is easier and more influential than you think. The right strategies can raise awareness of your business to new audiences. The key is to take things one step at a time.
Here is our digestible digital marketing guide outlining the top practices and strategies you should prioritize to grow your business.
The Essence of Digital Marketing
Let’s get started by determining what digital marketing is, and uncovering how it differs from traditional marketing.
The difference is in the delivery. Essentially, digital marketing is selling and promoting products/services on the internet via electronic devices. Traditional marketing includes anything outside of that.
Traditional marketing is broadly broken down into broadcast (radio and TV), print (newspapers and magazines), and Out-of-Home (billboards, signs, and the like). The messages go one way – from the advertiser to the consumer.
Since digital marketing delivers content via an internet signal, advertisers can understand a little more about who is consuming their ads, resulting in better targeting and analytics.
OTT advertising (over-the-top ads delivered through streaming devices), for example, is considered digital marketing since it’s a commercial transmitted through streaming video via an internet connection. It’s the perfect hybrid between traditional and digital marketing.
Other forms of traditional marketing include flyers, direct mail, events, and sales calls.
Why Digital Marketing?
Digital marketing generates thorough, real-time feedback that allows you to be more strategic. It provides you with more control and the ability to shift at almost any point in your campaign. Here are the major benefits:
- Economical: You can disburse your dollars across different platforms utilizing multiple strategies. It’s flexibility allows you to start with a smaller budget instead of spending big money all at once on one particular campaign.
- Targeted: Understanding your audience allows you to create campaigns that appeal to their needs and interests. With digital marketing, since your budget is a bit more flexible, you can hyper-target these demographic segments and run multiple campaigns. For instance, a billboard can be seen by a large audience, but a significant portion of those viewers may not be part of your target market.
- Measurable: While traditional marketing does provide some performance statistics, the numbers aren’t as detailed as digital marketing. You have real-time access to impressions, views, shares, clicks, and time on page. The beauty of consistent reporting means you can pivot, decrease spending, and even pause a campaign that may not be performing to expectations.
The Practices you Should Tackle First
The list of digital marketing practices is extensive; knowing where to begin may be difficult. Here are three concepts to tackle first: digital advertising, search engine optimization (SEO) and social media.
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Paid vs. Organic. In the world of digital marketing, viewers get to your site either through paid ads you invest dollars in or via strategically placed non-paid links (SEO or search engine optimization).
Digital ads are paid marketing campaigns that direct customers to your website or a strategic landing page. This will help determine the actual content you’ll have in your ad and the type of campaign.
Search vs. Display Ads
Digital ads can be broadly categorized into either search ads or display ads.
Search ads show up at the top of page results when users are looking for a particular service or product – the ads are pulled based on the keywords you choose to target. They are primarily text-based.
Display ads are placed on relevant third-party websites in the form of a banner, image, and text. They appear based on demographics or user activity. Where the ads will be placed depends on your preference:
- Site placement: Advertisers can choose specific websites to place the ads.
- Contextual: Advertisers can shop for placement on relevant sites by their topic—for example, an ad for veterinary services placed on a pet adoption website.
- Remarketing: Display ads that appear for users who visited your website or landing page but did not complete the call-to-action.
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How do you know which ad is the best for you? Display or search?
If your budget allows it, you can leverage both since they complement each other well. The weakness of one is the strength of the other.
Search ads target a narrow segment of users who are actively looking for the service or products you offer in real-time, falling into the conversion stage of the sales/marketing funnel.
Advertisers use display ads primarily for building awareness (excluding remarketing). It exposes future prospective customers to your brand. They may not need you now, but they will in the future.
It comes down to the nature of your company and the type of business. If your company is related to home services such as plumbing or HVAC, you will likely benefit from both search and display. Homeowners will need immediate service due to an emergency or might be due for maintenance soon. Display ads will expose your brand to them over time, so users think of your company when considering making a purchase.
Click here for an in-depth explanation of the sales and marketing funnel.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
SEO is designed to drive traffic to your website organically – there is no paid campaign. The goal of SEO is to appear higher in search engine results when users look up a topic.
Search engines have designated bots that scan the internet and serve as an “index.” These bots consider multiple factors and rank the websites accordingly depending on how broad or specific the user gets when searching.
There are both immediate and longer-term steps you can incorporate into your SEO strategy. Renowned SEO expert, Neil Patel, categorizes the core elements of SEO into two equally important paths: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
On-page SEO consists of mostly short-term steps you can implement into your website today. Those include incorporating consistent keywords throughout your website, keeping your site user friendly, and updating titles and meta descriptions.
Whereas off-page SEO is achieved over time with a lot of patience. Every SEO expert strives to master a common goal to attain as many backlinks from “authoritative” sites as possible. In other words, they are generating high-quality content that is linked to and referenced by trusted, credible sites.
For a small business dipping its toes into SEO, thinking hyper-local is a great place to start. Greg Gifford, Vice President of Search at SearchLab, joined Better Business Bureau’s webinar series and explained why this is the best approach for beginners. Thinking hyper-local significantly shrinks your pool of competitors.
Google looks for relevance, prominence, and proximity when generating its top results for a local search. Understanding each facet is pivotal to taking control of Google’s algorithm. The beauty of Google is that it levels the playing field – no matter the size of the business, high-quality content is key.
Does your website have all the attributes the searcher is looking for?
Searches range from general to specific. Someone may simply be looking for a plumbing business near them or they may be asking how to unclog a bathroom sink – you need to keep yourself relevant to match what people are looking for.
It may be tempting to have all your services listed on one page of your website. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for Google to sort through all that information. If you want to show up as a top search result, include individual pages dedicated to specific concepts/categories.
Additionally, you must select your keywords accordingly and utilize those consistently across your content. Be careful not to go overboard and unintentionally “keyword stuff.” Google’s bots have become very advanced and will detect shortcut behavior.
The more specific you can get or the more intentional you pick your keywords, the less competition you’ll have. Broader the keyword are more difficult to rank towards the top since many more pages are likely to be using them. If you are one of the first pages to start using a specific keyword set, you’ll likely rank high for that keyword due to less competition.
Here’s a handy guide from HubSpot on how to choose keywords step-by-step.
Does your website stand out from other search results?
Google is designed to look for the best answer every time a user searches a term or asks a question. Writing content for the sake of writing content will only take you so far – always strive for high-quality content. Your expertise and insight are very valuable – tap into that potential!
Explain why your business is the best in the local area. Pinpoint what makes your business unique, why you’re the better option and differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Is your physical address located within the area the consumer is searching?
Proximity is the one variable that differentiates a local Google search from a traditional Google search. While it may be tempting to include a long list of all the cities you serve, it won’t be as likely for Google to select your website out of all the available options. You’re encouraged to prioritize and focus on the one city you want the most traffic from.
Integrate local information and terminology to make it clear you’re from the area and that you care about serving that community. Talk about how long you’ve been serving the area, programs you’ve initiated in certain neighborhoods, or philanthropy/volunteer projects you’ve completed.
Optimize your content so it’s clear to Google what services you provide and the area you serve. Add one consistent keyword for your main service, the city, and the state to all the following areas on your website: Title tag, H1 Heading, website content, URL, alt text in images, meta description.
The Hierarchy of SEO Needs
Rand Fishkin, Founder of SEOmoz, created a comprehensive visual deemed “Mozlow’s Hierarchy of SEO Needs” – modeled after Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. To reach the peak, you must start with a solid foundation of necessities and work your way up.
1 Credit: moz.com
If you are ever feeling overwhelmed about SEO, Mozlow’s hierarchy is a handy resource for you to circle back to and focus on one element at a time.
Social media is currently the most accessible form of digital marketing, perfect for trial and error with minimum loss. It provides instantaneous feedback on what is performing well to help adjust your strategy accordingly. Both organic and paid social media can garner high ROI with a relatively low budget with enough practice.
Digital marketers insist on focusing on one platform at a time. Select accordingly based on your target audience since each platform has a unique set of demographics, activity and formats. The voice and tone you use to communicate with your audience, the composition of your content, your posting cadence – they’re all influenced by the platform you choose to use most.
Here’s a breakdown of the top social media platforms detailing active users, history and demographics.
Work with the Algorithm, Not Against It
Algorithms are becoming more sophisticated by the day. They are as straightforward as they are a mystery. Facebook faces constant criticism for making it almost impossible for content to reach users’ news feeds without investing dollars. The reality is that thousands of posts are published each minute, so it’s up to the algorithm to sort through the content and keep things in order.
Most algorithms place content in front of users based on their activity, demographics, and interests. So, the content you produce and then share should be authentic and high quality.
It’s all about relevancy. The types of posts and content the user regularly interacts with will continue to be placed in their news feeds. Therefore, it’s important to truly understand your brand, your unique value/expertise and stick with it.
Types of Social Media Content
The type of content you’re most comfortable producing will also help determine which platform you’d like to focus on.
- Social Networking
The keyword here is networking – except it’s digital. It’s the art of interacting and building connections online to leverage your strategy. Examples include posting discussions about topics important to you, posing questions, liking/tagging partner companies, commenting on posts, and actively conversing with other users.
- Photo Sharing
Photo sharing is a great method for “humanizing” your brand. Sharing photos of your employees, company events, site visits, before and after shots, store locations, etc., will build trust with your audience.
- Video Sharing
Video is the way of the future. Platforms are quickly adapting and prioritizing video over other types of content. Videos can be as straightforward or strategic as you’d like them to be. Examples include going live and interacting in real-time, posting clips on stories, editing short snippets with text or a voiceover/audio, video blogs, or professionally produced videos.
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- Interactive Media
Get your users involved! Anything that gets your users to interact with your posts directly or encourages them to incorporate your brand in their content. Examples of interactive media include polls, hashtag campaigns, branded filters, giveaways and contests.
Sharing blog content on your social media channel is a great way to invite users to engage and comment on your posts, thus building that community. Not to mention directing traffic back to your website and helping your SEO. Whether you’re sharing industry tips, company milestones or employee stories!
Still feeling overwhelmed? Our Marketing Solutions Team is the perfect resource to help you get started with digital marketing for your business. Click here to schedule your complimentary consultation.