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.

In fact, 97% of people learn about local businesses online more than anywhere else.

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.

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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:

Website

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.

Blog

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.

Once you start writing, 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.

Email Tools

Email marketing is a critical part of your marketing toolkit. In fact, 73 percent of millennials prefer communications from businesses to come via email.

This strategy 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.

Conversion Tools

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.

Determine your brand's identity.

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.

Identify your buyer persona.

When you imagine a customer searching for your product or service, what are they like? What are their pain points? What is their job? Creating a buyer persona that tells a story of your ideal customer can help you make a website that's optimized for them.

By learning more about your target customer through creating a 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.

Design a logo and other assets.

To start getting the creative juices flowing, consider your color scheme and peruse palettes with Adobe Color 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.

Build your website with a CMS template.

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.

Track your site with analytics tools.

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.

Consult agencies or freelancers for web design help.

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.

Boost your Google ranking with 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.

HubSpot explains SEO 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.

Research keywords opportunities.

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.

Then, 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.

Optimize you website for mobile devices.

Most Google searches are done on mobile devices, so it's important to have a site that looks clean and easy to navigate when someone enters it on their smartphone. A mobile site can also be beneficial for SEO, with search engines like Google announcing that they will reward you with a higher ranking if you have a mobile site.

You don't have to be a tech expert to build a site that looks good on mobile. In fact, most CMS platforms like HubSpot already offer mobile-optimized templates.

Write optimized blog posts.

Content and blogging are extremely important when it comes to your search engine 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.

Make sure you're writing with SEO in mind -- use this SEO checklist for bloggers, or a WordPress plugin like Yoast.

Experiment with photo and video content.

According to HubSpot Research, more than 50% of consumers want to see videos from brands. Additionally, most social media apps, like Facebook and Instagram are embracing more visual layouts. To keep up with these trends, it's a good idea to make a few marketing videos. If you use these tips, producing a few can be quite inexpensive.

Hire a freelancer to help you scale your content.

If you need some help creating regular blogs or promotional content, consider hiring a freelancer over investing in a full-timer. Try Upwork for a freelance blogger, videographer, or photographer. You could also consider hiring a marketing agency for a larger project.

Launch business pages on Facebook and Yelp.

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.

Build out your social media strategy.

While Facebook and Yelp will be great tools for local searches and reviews, platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter will offer you even more opportunities to share your posts, content, and promotions.

If your customers can purchase your products or services online, these platforms will also give them another way to find you.

Be sure not to spread yourself too thin by joining too many platforms at once. To make strategizing easier, here's a guide to the five types of social media platforms and the pros and cons of each.

Use social media for customer service.

Once you're on your chosen platforms, be sure to answer customer or follower questions when they ask them through post comments or direct messages. This will make your company look responsive and credible. Here are some great examples of how brands have used Twitter for customer service.

If you have the means, consider hiring a social media manager with community management experience. On top of posting content on a regular schedule, community managers are charged with responding to questions or concerns of followers. Interested? We just published a guide on what it takes to be a great social media community manager.

Build interesting landing pages.

A landing page offers your potential customers a free resource in exchange for filling out a short form of contact information. When they receive the resource, they might be even more pleased by your company and more interested in buying the full product.

Because landing pages raise your chances of customer conversion, you want yours to look enticing. To get started, read this landing page guide to learn more about what makes this strategy successful. Then check out these free and professionally designed templates.

Plan an email marketing strategy.

Once you start creating regular content and building out landing pages, you'll want to share them with the prospects who seem most interested in learning more about your product. For this reason, we suggest building an email marketing strategy.

While you want to be careful not to bombard those who sign up for your email list with too many emails, you want to send just enough to keep your prospects informed and engaged. Here's how our metrics improved when we streamlined our email marketing strategy.

If you've never sent regular newsletters before, you can use HubSpot or a number of other affordable tools to create and send an email with a professionally designed template. Many email tools also offer basic analytics that allow you to track open and click rates.

Offer coupons in newsletters or on landing pages.

Placing a coupon in your marketing emails can engage and delight your audience. After buying a product or service at a discounted rate, they also might be more willing to pay for it in full price. If you have a subscription service, it can also be helpful to offer prospects a code for a free trial so they can test it out.

Share your distribution channels on your website.

Once you have a few social media accounts and can allow people to sign up for your newsletter, highlight this on your website so your visitors can follow you. One way companies do this is to display all of their linked social icons and a newsletter sign-up call to action on all pages of your website. A good place to include these are on the top right corner or on the footer of each page. This way they are visible, but aren't distracting from any content.

Offer a free webinar.

A webinar allows potential customers to sign up for a short online course hosted by you. These courses are usually between 30 minutes to an hour and allow you to give tips and answer questions related to a topic your brand is familiar with. While this strategy can help you boost your credibility in your field, they can also offer you potential leads and sales opportunities.

Consider PPC Advertising.

If you're working hard on SEO, but are still looking for an extra boost, consider PPC -- or pay-per click -- advertising. With this search engine marketing technique, you use Google AdWords or Bing Ads to show up higher. and as an advertised listing, in search results. Before you dive in to PPC, you'll want to make sure your landing page is as optimized as possible. If you are paying by the click and those who click on the page don't convert, you will lost advertising dollars.

To help you get started, read this ultimate guide. Then, use this PPC planning template to plan an optimized campaign. You can also use a few handy tools and software to edit, track, and report on your campaigns.

Advertise on social media.

Most of the major social media platforms offer affordable advertising options that can help you target your posts to a specific audience. While many small businesses have been advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for years, Instagram now allows brands to advertise through its Shoppable tool.

Experiment with influencer marketing.

Is there someone in your area with a high social-media following who's considered an expert in a field your company exists in? If you're able to reach out to them, see if they'd be willing to share an experience they've had with your product or service social media. This will alert their follower base of your product. These followers may also trust your product more because an expert is endorsing it.

If you can't find an influencer to volunteer, you can also consider paying one or two on a freelance basis. To learn more about this strategy, check out our Ultimate Guide to Influencer Marketing.

Try co-marketing.

Is there a local business in your area that isn't a direct competitor but offers a product or service to a similar target audience? Consider working with them on a cobranded campaign where you promote each other on social media, via email, or in your blog. While you'll give your partnering company added promotion, it will also allow their fanbase to learn more about you.

Draw up a go-to-market strategy.

Once you've activated all the tools you need to promote your product or service, you'll need to create a promotional plan that aligns with the customer journey. Consider which content will attract, engage, and delight your prospects and how you will convert them into a customer.

To help you plan out this process, use this template.

Encourage happy customers to share their experiences.

When a happy customer talks about how great your company is on social media or a review site, your product or service looks like a good investment. Even on social media, word of mouth is still a huge factor in someone's purchasing decision. If a prospect sees a friend raving about you on Facebook, or photo post of a meal from your restaurant on Instagram, they might be more likely to go.

If customers are telling you they love your product, encourage them to share about the experience on Yelp, Google, or social. If you have a physical business, you might also want to place signs up with your account handles so customers know who to tag if they post a picture of your product.

Try out marketing experiments.

If there's a new social platform you're interested in, or a new marketing trend, don't be afraid to experiment. If an experiment goes well, you could be considered ahead of the game.

When you experiment a new marketing strategy, be sure to have a solid hypothesis or question in mind. Also prepare for what your next steps will be if you get good or bad results. Here's a quick guide to leading a successful marketing experiment.

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.

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Originally published Jul 1, 2019 6:00:00 PM, updated July 01 2019

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