Small Business Digital Marketing Guide
Someone once truly said, if you have 100 quid to start a business, spend 95 on the marketing.
The single most reason why small businesses fail is the lack of investment in their marketing. Either they don’t plan their marketing well or ignore it at all.
If you are not being found by your customers, then no matter how good products/services you are offering, you are never going to be successful. This is particularly true for small businesses which are struggling to market themselves.
I have been planning to write this quick but very comprehensive guide on digital marketing for small business since long time. I have worked with hundreds of small business around the world, and I learnt that with very minimum budget, you can still grow your business steadily using the power of internet.
Whether you are a start-up or an established business, and you want to get more customers and traffic using digital media, then this guide gives plenty of practical, up-to-date and useful information for your marketing needs in and beyond 2020.
What is digital marketing?
Also known as internet marketing, digital marketing is a form marketing that utilizes internet and online channels to reach your potential customers to sell your services or products.
Digital marketing channels
There are tens of digital marketing channels that you can use to grow your business, however, not all the channels are used by every business. For small businesses in particular, depending whether you are a B2B or a B2C business and the type of your products and services, you may need only few channels to start your marketing efforts.
If you search on Google, you will find a quick list of most popular digital marketing channels;
- Search Engine Optimisation (organic traffic)
- Paid Advertising (PPC)
- Social Media Marketing
STEP BY STEP ACTION PLAN FOR YOUR DIGITAL MARKETING NEEDS
Professional Website – Your Real Estate:
Before you start any form of digital marketing, you need to have a brand name, a domain name and a website that would be your focal point for all your digital marketing efforts.
Your domain name (and the website) is the identity of your online shop. This is a window which tells your potential customers what your shop is all about. Choose your domain name very carefully reflecting your core business.
Pro tip: Do not try to stuff your domain name with your keywords.
Try to keep your domain name as small as possible, ideally less than 10 letters. Avoid using dashes ( – ) or numbers in your domain. If available, always try to use top level domains (TLDs), .com, .co.uk, .de etc.
Now that you have got a great domain name, next step is to get a catchy web design for your business.
The most important thing to remember during your web design process is to keep your website light, fast and responsive (mobile-ready).
Keep your navigation user friendly and present your company, your products/services and your contact information clearly.
Even though there are tens of website builders out there, I personally recommend using WordPress CMS (Content Management System) to run your website because of ease of its management, thousands of free plugins, and because of its SEO friendly URL structures.
If you have not yet developed your website, we do offer SEO friendly web design packages for small business.
SEO: Organic traffic using search engine optimisation:
SEO is a technique whereby you optimise your website to make it both user-friendly as well as search engine friendly. The website needs to be structured in a way that your user could find the right information within 3 clicks and search engines can crawl all your deeper pages. If you need more in-depth information on how to do SEO, request our beginners guide to SEO for small businesses.
Below is a list of SEO action plan for your website
- Do a thorough research on the keywords that your customers will search in Google to find your products/services. You can do that by typing names of your competitors and then going through their website and see what type of keywords they are targeting. You can also create a Google Ads account and use Google Keyword Planner to do your initial keyword research.
- Create SEO friendly URLs and landing pages for each set of keywords.
- Map your list of keywords with their relevant URLs. For example, if you are running a restaurant then here is how your URL structure and Keyword mapping should look like.
- Create a Google Analytics account and link your website to your analytics to understand your traffic and how visitors behave, what they are searching for, where they are coming from etc. Here is a guide on how to setup and install Google Analytics.
- Technical audit. It’s important that your website is technically healthy to rank better for your chosen keywords. Make sure that your website speed is above 50 for mobile and 80 and above for desktop. The higher the better. You can check your website speed using Google Pagespeed Insights. It will give you an average score of your speed like this:
- Create a Google Console account (Google Webmaster previously) and monitor any crawling issues on your website. Google Console is free to use and you can connect it with your Google Analytics account. Google Console monitors health of your website and provides alerts if something is not working well for search engines. You can also submit your sitemap using Google Console.
- Find a list of local directories in your region and sign-up for free accounts. Give a small description of your business and leave your website and contact information. This will not only boost your website authority but also bring some off and on visits to your website. Avoid using your focus keywords in anchor text.
- List and claim your business on GMB (Google My Business) here. It’s easy and you can get tons of free traffic for your local searchers because of the low competition. Here is a quick guide to setting up Google My Business account.
- Blog Writing. I normally suggest writing at least one blog post per week related to your industry that fits your audience. Blog post should be minimum 350 words and you should write something that is of great interest to your customers. Your blog should always be on topics of general interest around your business niche and should always be editorial and not advertorial. If you don’t have time to write regular blogs, check out our monthly blog writing services for small businesses.
- Analyse your Google Analytics data regularly to see user behavior and acquisition channels. If you have turned Audience Definition on from your Google Analytics, then you can also analyse your audience based on their demographics (interests, age group etc). This data is extremely useful to modify or create new strategies for your business growth and will also help you run successful PPC campaign.
I understand that small business will not have always budget for paid advertising, but at the start of your business when you are still branding yourself and improving your organic traffic, spending some budget on paid advertising always comes handy.
Paid advertising can be done through a variety of channels, but we are going to discuss only the most important channels that we believe can bring good business flow for small business owners.
Three most common paid advertising channels for small businesses that we are going to cover in this guide are:
Google Ads (Adwords previously) is a paid advertising channel offered by Google using the power of its search engine. 80% of internet traffic comes from Google and when a user searches anything in Google search bar, along with the organic search result pages, Google also offers to show your ad should you opt to use its paid platform. These are mainly top 3 places before organic results and couple of places at the bottom of the page.
Google Ads platform works in a real time auction mode. Your bids, keyword and ads quality and user search terms are all matched to fit the equation.
Using an algorithm, Google platform decides which ad is the most relevant to show to the customer.
Misconception: It’s not always true to get on top of the paid advertising because you are bidding higher
The quality score of your ad and relevance to what user are searching determines when your ad will appear in Google.
In the example above, the advertiser-1 has the minimum bid but due to its quality score, its ad rank is higher than the advertiser-4 and hence will show its ad at a much lower CPC (cost per click).
During recent years, Google has improved its ads platform tremendously and now with a little practice small business owners can run basic campaigns without any problem.
To start, you will need to create a Google Ads account, and it’s free. Just use the gmail account that you used to create Google Analytics and signup for a Google Ads account.
Pro tip: Always try to use one gmail for all your Google accounts.
This will help you in verification process while you are logged in.
Starting a Google Ads account process is quite simple, just follow the wizard to setup your Google Ads account. It will ask you about your website, target industry, country and some other basic information.
You don’t need to setup billing or submit your financial details to be able to start using Google Ads interface.
Use Google Keyword Planner to get good keyword ideas with their monthly search volume and their CPC. For example if you search for the keyword “pizza restaurants London”, you will find over a 1000 keyword ideas with their average monthly searches and the average bid amount.
Use the keyword planner to group your keywords, adjust bids, create ads and start showing your products/services to potential customers.
How to create ads and best practices is not the scope of this guide, but if you need to learn more in depth PPC skills, ask for our detailed guide on using PPC for small businesses.
Advertising principals on all paid media are almost the same. It all starts with finding the right audience for your ads using right ad content or keywords. Same is true for Facebook.
There are three main objectives for a Facebook ad campaign viz;
Different ad formats that you can use to achieve any of the above objectives are;
- Dynamic Product Ads
- Lead Form Ads
Again, you will need to create an image or video ad copy first. Creation of video ads takes more time and is sometimes expensive, so you can just use different images to create a carousal of your products/services.
The good thing about Facebook ads is that you can choose exact demographic where your ads will be shown to make sure it reaches only the target customers.
Moreover, Facebook ads are comparatively cheaper than Google ads.
YouTube is owned by Google so it’s not different when it comes to advertising methodology. However, it’s a different breed and the paid advertising on YouTube is slightly different than all other channels mainly because it’s all about videos.
There are different formats that you can show your ads on YouTube as you can see from the above image.
Like Facebook, in YouTube ads you need to choose demographics and audience that fits your niche and then bid to show your ads on relevant video content.
You will also need to create your YouTube account using your gmail and then create your YouTube channel.
YT has recently started YouTube Studio which provides a lot of publishing tools to help you create and edit your videos.
You can also claim a custom URL or unique name for your video channel after you have fulfilled the basic requirements that are;
- Your account must be 30 days old
- Your account must have at least 100 subscribers
- You have optimised your channel icon/art properly
There are some free tools that you can use to create simple explainer videos for your website and can use them on your YouTube channel as well. A good example is https://www.rawshorts.com/
Social Media Marketing:
Social media channels are growing and they are growing fast.
It seems impossible to create and maintain all your social medial channels at the same time. That is the reason, you must choose and select only the right channels that you think will help grow your business without having too much of workload on your shoulders as a small business.
Depending on your niche, products and service, here are the main social media channels that you must have your presence on;
- Facebook: Facebook is social networking platform that you can use to market your products and services. If you are an eCommerce store and sell online, there is an option of “shop” in the Facebook, that you can use to display your products. This is very simple and wizard guided.
Also make sure to fill your business and contact information completely to get better exposure online by click “Edit Page Info”.
Facebook is a low-cost marketing channel where you can share your business information, pictures, videos, sell your products using “shop”, create target paid advertising and steer traffic to your real-estate (your website)
- Twitter: Creating a Twitter account is quite easy but keeping up with regular, productive Tweets is not. Twitter is mainly for short updates/news about your brand or something in your industry and you can only write a couple of lines. However, you can add an image or a video to increase your post length. Try to follow people in your industry and they will follow you in return. This is the easier way to get some quick followers.
Don’t forget to use important hashtags for your business and your products. These hashtags give you quick exposure if you are working in a niche market. Go to your competitors and do a research and see what type of audience they have. Don’t forget to get a quality background image for your Twitter profile page and use your logo in the Twitter icon placeholder.
- YouTube: We discussed paid options in Youtube above, but Youtube could also be a good source of organic traffic. With over 1.3 billion users, video content is going to be the main marketing channel for small businesses in the coming years. If you upload regular, informative videos on your channel and try to push them through other social media, you will see people subscribing to your channel.
Pro tip: A quick way to start YT videos is to create a power point presentation and then save it as video file.
You can also use YT to create vlogs and podcasts which are very helpful in attracting new visitors to your website.
Your business could use YouTube to launch and promote your products, express your brand personality, monitor feedback and provide customer service and help.
IMPORTANT: Any video you upload, optimise it thoroughly for its content, keywords, headline and description. Don’t use generic description for each video. Use custom title and description including your important keywords in the body text. This will help your video go higher in search results not only in the YouTube but also in Google searches.
- LinkedIn: Linked in a networking platform that is more geared towards B2B industry. However, nevertheless, it’s a good opportunity to create your LinkedIn account even if you are in a B2C industry. You can create a personal LinkedIn account or a company page. Being a small business, I would suggest creating a personal account should be good enough to start with. On LinkedIn, you will always find like-minded people and industry updates related to your niche. You can also use long posts and short updates for the people who show interest in the products/services you offer.
You can also join relevant LinkedIn groups whereby you can keep in touch with your industry fellows and stay tuned with any new developments.
- Instagram: If you are selling physical products and have an eCommere store, Instagram page can help attract people who can see your product updates and follow you. These followers ultimately become your customers and land on your website. Even if you do not have a physical product, updating Instagram with stories, pictures and videos related to your company and services you offer can still help engage your visitors and turn them into clients.
We have a more in-depth guide on how to create and effectively manage the top social media platforms for small business.
Creating an account and starting your presence on all the above social media is quite easy.
However, you may need to hire a graphic designer to create a branded layout for all your social media platforms to reflect your brand and synchronize these platforms into your overall digital marketing strategy.
Just search on Google social media design packages and you will find very affordable packages to create professional artwork for your profile.
From my experience, if you can spare 30 minutes a day, you can create some good social media presence without hiring a full time specialist. Stay on top of your industry updates, give your opinion and discuss matters of common interest in your niche industry. Follow other veterans in your industry and see how your competitors are managing their social media. You can use apps like “Buffer” or “Hootsuite” which have free accounts which should be good enough for your small business social media marketing needs.
I tried to keep this guide brief and simple. I keep revising and updating info if something has changed or updated. You will always find this guide up to date with recent information. I would love to hear your views on it.