According to Forbes, 80-90% of consumers research purchases online before buying.
Whether you're in the process of launching a new business or already have one, having a strong online presence for your brand is extremely important.
Small business owners looking for a way to track ROI and brand awareness need digital marketing. Not only is digital marketing a must-have for promoting your products or services, but optimizing your online assets is also critical to your business' overall success.
Trellis reports that over 90% of people searching online will not go past the first page of results on Google. To ensure that your website shows up in search ahead of your competitors, It's important for your company to invest in search engine optimization (SEO) and keyword research. For local businesses, it's equally as important to have essential and updated information readily available for potential clients.
If you're a small business owner with little experience in online marketing, this might all sound like a foreign language to you. Have no fear -- we'll go through what all these words mean, and why you should care about them!
In this post, we'll help you build and optimize your marketing strategy using inbound marketing, setting you up to attract new clients and ultimately grow your business. Organic traffic (someone finding you on their own through internet search) is the most cost-efficient way to acquire new business.
We are going to answer the following questions and provide marketing tips about promoting your small business:
- How can I make a website? How can I make a website without a developer?
- Why isn't my website appearing in Google?
- Why is my competitor above me in Google?
- What is blogging?
- Why does blogging matter?
- Why do I need social media accounts?
- How do I get more traffic to my website?
The Core Elements of Small Business Marketing
If you haven't officially started your business, check out this comprehensive guide for how to start a business. It outlines everything you need to become an officially established small business, including tax and licensing information, and all the other resources you'll need to get up and running.
If you've already officially launched your small business, check out these free apps for startups and understand the most important things you'll need to begin leveraging inbound marketing and acquiring new customers from organic search:
- Email tool
- Conversion tool
- Social media accounts
Having a professional-looking website is one of the most important assets you will create for your small business. This is where you will show who you are, what you offer, where you are, and how a potential customer can get in touch with you.
If you've never made a website before and aren't entirely comfortable with the technical elements, there are a variety of free tools and services to help you get started. When you create your website, make sure you implement Google Analytics or HubSpot Marketing Free (both of which are free products) so you can easily track who's looking at your site.
If you're a fairly tech-savvy small business owner, you'll probably want to build your own website. If you choose to do this, you can use a CMS (content management system) to do so.
Most CMSs offer pre-made templates for your site that you can get for free or purchase, then customize to your brand (we'll get to branding later). There are a handful of inexpensive and even free options for various skill levels -- from beginner all the way to advanced.
Once you've created your website, most CMS platforms offer plugins to help you optimize your content for search (look for SEO plugins). This will help you rank better in Google -- which we'll discuss more in depth in a bit.
Freelancers and Agencies
If you aren't on the technical side and want a website built for your small business, you can use a freelancer or a marketing agency that specializes in web design. This is a great option for businesses that already have a website but need it to be updated and revamped for SEO (search engine optimization) to help improve your Google ranking.
To find a freelancer or marketing consultant in your area, you can use Upwork (filtering by design/creative) or Freelancer. To find a marketing agency, try looking through HubSpot's Agency Partner directory. All HubSpot Partners are SEO experts and will help you rank in search engines and be found online.
Speaking of SEO and Google rank, what's that all about?
Google Ranking and SEO
If you already have a business, have you ever searched for yourself or your product/service online? If so, did you think, "Why isn't my website showing up on Google?" If so, you probably thought, "How do I rank on Google?" or "How can I improve my Google ranking?"
There are a lot of factors that play into why a certain site or page appears in the top spots on the Google (or other search engine) search engine results page (SERP). Backlinko reports some of Google's top factors, which include having relevant keywords (and their placement on your site), the length of your content, having high-quality content, how fast your page loads, how often you post content, and more.
When it all boils down, Google essentially tries to find the best piece of content to present to the person searching. For example, if I'm searching for the best salon in Newport, Rhode Island, it wouldn't be helpful for me to find a web page of a salon that has closed down and is located in Newport, Kentucky. It would, however, be helpful for me to find a salon in my area with great Yelp reviews, an easy-to-navigate website, and contact information readily available. Google always wants to surface the most relevant, highest-quality piece of content.
To rank higher on Google, you can leverage the power of SEO, or search engine optimization. To start learning everything there is to know about this powerhouse marketing tactic, check out The Ultimate Guide to SEO in 2017.
What is SEO? Well, first off, it's simpler than you might be thinking. HubSpot explains it as "techniques that help your website rank higher in organic search results, making your website more visible to people who are looking for your brand, product, or service via search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo." In other words, it's the basic concept of structuring your website and blog posts to be in the best shape for appearing first on search engines.
SEO strategy usually consists of a few things. These include buyer persona research, keyword research, and on-page SEO research. These three areas can help you learn how your target market is searching online, and position your business to get discovered by the right people.
By learning more about your target customer through buyer persona, you can better figure out what types of things they may be searching for so you can include those terms on your website.
Keyword research is an extension of buyer persona research. You can use the personas you've created to search for the best keywords for your brand, then use a tool like KW Finder to find related keywords for your target audience.
Finally, you can do some on-page SEO research and optimization. This is where you put those keywords in the correct places on your website -- like in the meta-description, page titles, and H1 tags.
As we learned in the SEO section above, content and blogging are extremely important when it comes to ranking. The more often your desired keywords appear in your high-quality and helpful content, the more likely you are to appear in search results. A great way to become an authority on your topic, product, or service is to blog. For HubSpot, most of our traffic comes from our blog and content marketing campaigns.
To start a blog, you can use an inexpensive or free website tool to make a free site and use one of their templates. Even if you only publish once a week, it will improve your website's visibility online and help educate your potential customers on why they should trust your company.
If you're planning to write your posts yourself, check out this beginner's guide to writing. If you need some help and want to hire someone to write for you, try Upwork for a freelance blogger, or use a marketing agency like I mentioned above. Make sure you're writing with SEO in mind -- use this SEO checklist for bloggers, or a WordPress plugin like Yoast.
Once you start writing blog posts for your small business, you can add a call-to-action on your posts for visitors to subscribe to your blog and receive emails This is a great way to start collecting leads and offering potential customers a way to get information if they aren't ready to buy anything from you yet.
Having a consistent brand identity to promote your business will make you look more professional and help you attract new customers. According to a study from Facebook, 77% of people are loyal to brands.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has described a company's branding as "what other people say about you when you're not in the room." In other words, your brand is the feelings and emotions people have when hearing your company name. It's is a combination of your brand name, logo, aesthetic, and the design of all your assets.
To start getting the creative juices flowing, consider your color scheme and peruse palettes with Adobe Kuler or Coolors. You can create your own or look through pre-made or customized color palettes.
To create a logo, I'd recommend checking out Upwork and Freelancer, or reaching out to a marketing agency. There are free and less expensive options for designing your own logo online, although using a freelancer or agency can give you a higher quality product and connect you with a designer who can change and update your brand assets as your company grows.
Email marketing is a critical part of your marketing toolkit. MarketingSherpa reports that 72% of adults prefer communication via email. Email marketing is an easy, free, and scalable way to communicate with both new and existing customers.
Once you have an email marketing tool in place (many are inexpensive or even free), experiment with emailing out newsletters (with your sleek new blog posts), and other promotions to your database. We know small business owners don't have tons of free time to devote to digital marketing, so consider using marketing automation to make this process even easier for yourself.
To get started planning your email marketing strategy, check out this guide and template from HubSpot.
We've been talking a lot about the assets you need to grow your business, but haven't really covered how these will help drive revenue yet. One simple way to start generating leads or customers from your website is to implement a conversion tool.
A simple, free option is HubSpot Marketing Free. By using this tool to add a pop-up widget to your website, you can start collecting email addresses of potential customers. From there, you can send out promotions and offers and convert them into paying customers. You can also implement any of these 24 conversion tools to help you optimize your website and use it to drive leads.
Social Media Accounts
Social media might seem like it's just a fun platform for people to socialize and connect, but it's actually a powerful business tool. Social media can help you increase traffic, improve your search engine rankings, and engage with potential customers.
Social Media for Local Businesses
If your business is focused on a local area, the most important accounts for you are Facebook, Yelp, and Google's business feature. Having high Yelp reviews improves your authority online and helps your search ranking. You can claim your business on Yelp for free, customize your profile and add pictures, and start asking for reviews.
The same thing goes for registering your Google business page. You can register your business with Google (for free) and add pictures. (If you've ever searched for your business in Google Maps and been disappointed not to see it, it's because you haven't claimed it yet!)
On Facebook, you can create a Facebook business page so that people can find your location and hours.
For any business, having up-to-date social media accounts will help you be found and engage with prospects. Create a Twitter account for your business, Facebook page for business, learn how to use Instagram for business, create a Pinterest page for your business (if relevant), and use them as a way to discover new clients. You can also try your hand at using Snapchat for business if you've already mastered the basics.
Small Businesses Need a Strong Digital Presence to be Found
Well, there you have it. You probably have a long road ahead to build your online presence, but any steps you can make will have a huge impact on your business. Some things like blogging definitely take a few months to start kicking in and sending you traffic, but social media accounts and posts can have immediate effects.
Congratulations on starting or updating your small business! Let us know in the comments if any of these strategies helped you.
Originally published Mar 6, 2017 6:00:00 AM, updated April 04 2018
I've gotten a few questions from a number of companies recently that basically ask "What is the shortest thing I can read that will help me get started on search engine optimization?". Here is my response for how to optimize one page of yo...