Why is digital marketing as a small business so hard to get right? It can be frustrating at times to see lacklustre results or not knowing whether your efforts online are effective or not.
It is crucial for a small business to start their digital marketing activities from a strong foundation.
Understanding how digital marketing functions as a whole will save time and money, resources that are invaluable for entrepreneurs.
We have compiled the most important aspects of digital marketing while linking to useful tools and tutorials.
If you want a more extensive pdf version of this blog, download our free guide here.
So let’s get straight to it, here’s our beginner’s guide to small business digital marketing.
Digital marketing encompasses many elements, so a common mistake small businesses make is that they either spread themselves too thin or only focus on one aspect.
Digital marketing Activities can be broken down into three main components:
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Social Media Marketing (SMM)
- Paid Advertising
These activities have distinct functions. However, they should ultimately lead to the end goal of acquiring sales. At the centre of these activities is your website.
A website serves as an online destination where you will be able to provide information to your visitors and convert potential leads into customers.
The most effective digital strategy is to integrate all of your activities into one focused approach. This leads to a multiplier effect where the results are significantly greater when the activities are combined than if performed individually.
Even with a shoe-string budget, it is viable and in-fact crucial to include other aspects of digital marketing. But why is having an integrated approach so important?
Well, there first needs to be an understanding of what the customer experiences from initially being exposed to your brand, to their purchase decision. This is known as the Customer’s Journey.
When it comes to the Customer’s Journey online, the following describes the typical process step by step.
- Exposure: Discovers your website through SEO, social, or paid search content
- Evaluation: Compares your offering with your competitors
- Research: Visits your social media for proof of your quality
- Consideration: Returns to your website
- Action: Fills in call-to-action (CTA)
- Purchase: Converts into a customer
It becomes clear that different segments of the customer’s journey require particular activities. Without having a comprehensive and integrated strategy, there is a large potential opportunity cost of losing customers along the way.
The first and arguably the most important step when it comes to small business digital marketing is to have a website. Having a website serves many purposes, but is primarily the main hub where your marketing activities lead to.
Knowing the basics of HTML and CSS are a plus when it comes to developing and designing a website. However, there are many website development platforms out there that make the process accessible to anyone.
We recommend using WordPress as it is a powerful tool, due to its versatility and being intuitive to use. A survey showed that 32.3% of all websites on the internet use WordPress, making it the most popular Content Management System on the internet.
Some examples of top companies that use WordPress are Facebook, Time Magazine, CNN and many more.
Here are the three main aspects to consider when it comes to creating and managing a website.
The structure and design of your website need to be easy to navigate and access information. Having a clear layout contributes to positive user experience and makes it more likely that the user will revisit or share the website.
Some of the core pages that make up the foundation of a company’s Website are:
- Homepage: The first page a visitor lands on when visiting your domain
- Services/Products Page: Information about the products or services you offer
- About Page: Information about the company including values, origins, etc.
- Contact Page: A page dedicated to customer inquiries and contact details
- Blog: Provides content to your website viewers and for SEO purposes
Optimising for Search Engines
SEO will be described in more detail later in the blog, however, it is essentially optimising your website to rank higher on a search engine’s result page (SERP). Having a website that is developed for SEO increases your Google rankings, thus attracting more site visitors.
Some key aspects of website SEO include:
- Optimised Content: Focusing on specific keywords and using appropriate formattings such as Header 1 and 2 Tags
- Anchor text: Have internal links to other pages of your website to keep them on for longer
- Google Search Console: Submit your sitemap so it is more accessible to Google’s crawling bots (HubSpot)
There are many more methods to further optimise your website. These include off-site activities which will be described in the SEO section of this guide.
Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)
Your website is where your customer purchases your service or product, so you want to make the process as clear and easy as possible.
Tweaking your website so that it is more likely to convert website traffic into leads and sales is referred to as Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO).
A common way that digital marketers perform CRO is to conduct A/B testing. A/B testing involves having two versions of the same page and presenting them to different groups. If one version of the page leads to more of the desired behaviour such as signing up to a newsletter or making a purchase, that version will be used moving forward.
Important website elements to improve your conversion rates are having a call-to-action (CTA) on your pages. A CTA elicits an immediate response from the visitor to take a certain action. An example of this would be a “Call Now” tab on the bottom of the page.
Now that you have a website up and running, you can begin your online marketing activities!
1. Search Engine Optimisation
SEO refers to the process of increasing visibility of your website on the SERP by ranking higher. Businesses usually focus on Google as it is the most used search engine in the market. Small business digital marketing strategies tend to incorporate SEO often due to it being organic and low cost.
The way Google ranks your page is based on several signals. Examples of these signals are which keywords appear throughout the blog, how long people stay on the page, the links on the page and many more factors with varying levels of importance.
The idea is that Google is trying to give people what they’re looking for when they search for a particular keyword, therefore providing them with the most value. Understanding this is key to being successful with SEO.
The following are ways you can improve your SEO.
The content you have on your page should be made to bring value to your visitors, but also with SEO in mind. The basis of having SEO content involves keyword research.
Keyword research involves looking into which keywords are relevant to your business and how difficult they would be to target.
The tool we recommend and use for researching keywords and general SEO activities is SemRush. Here’s a great tutorial they made if you want to learn how to use their tools.
Once you know which keywords you want to target, make sure to use them throughout your website.
A strategy many websites use is to make a blog page. Having a blog allows you to have more opportunities to create SEO content and that is your visitors will also want to read and share.
Check out our piece on SEO tactics for more in-depth tips.
Backlinks refer to when other websites link to your pages. The number of backlinks serves as an important signal for Google’s ranking algorithm.
Having a large number of relevant websites linked to your page will lead to more competitive ranking on Google as well as more traffic to your website.
There is also a metric known as Domain Authority (DA) which indicates a domain’s ability to rank high on a search engine and how reputable it is.
You should aim to get backlinks from websites which have higher domain authority. You should also avoid irrelevant or spammy sites which could potentially hurt your ranking.
As mentioned previously, developing your website with SEO in mind is a must to rank higher.
Some additional factors that you can optimise on your website that serve as ranking signals for Google are:
- Page Speed: How fast the website pages take to load
- Mobile Website: Whether the mobile site is
- Average Time Visiting: How long visitors stay on a page or site
- Bounce Rate: How often visitors exit the page upon visiting
These are some of the most important factors that should be optimised when developing and managing your website.
2. Social Media Marketing
Social Media Marketing is comprised of activities such as posting content, interacting with followers and managing online communities.
As a small business, using social media in your marketing strategy is ideal as it is essentially free to use as a platform. Brands primarily use social media for increased exposure and as a way to provide credibility.
However, it can be hard to measure the impact social media has, so it is often misunderstood.
The content you make and understanding which channels you use is vital for your social media strategy.
The key to using SMM successfully is consistency and quality. Having consistent content increases the chance of your audience being familiar with your brand.
Quality content can be broken down to providing value, whether it be entertaining, informative or interesting.
You may wonder which social media channels you should be active on? Here are the main four that small business digital marketers tend to focus on:
Deciding on which channels to promote your business requires you to have an understanding of your target demographic.
If most of your potential clients use LinkedIn, then you should invest extra time and effort into that specific channel.
A free automated SMM tool we use is Hootsuite. When managing and scheduling content across multiple platforms a tool that we recommend is Hootsuite.
3. Paid Advertising
Paid online advertising has many benefits including being able to accurately track the effectiveness of your campaigns and being able to target specific users based on their online behaviour and demographics.
This highly targeted approach, as well as the option to retarget online users, is a big contributor to its success in creating leads.
Before starting your paid advertising campaign, you need to decide on your objectives and your budget. Having the right objectives and metrics is key in achieving the results you want.
- Click-Through Rate (CTR): Rate at which people click on an ad
- Conversion Rate: Percentage of conversions per ad interaction
- Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): Total revenue divided by total spent on an advertising channel
Types of Paid Advertising
Depending on your requirements, there are many different paid advertising routes you can choose. Here are some of the main forms of paid advertising:
- Display Ads: Text, image or video ads that appear on the Google Display Network (collection of websites)
- Social Media Ads: Ads that appear on social media platforms
- Search Engine Ads: Ads that appear on the search engine results page (E.g. Google Adwords)
- Video Ads: Commonly appear as a short ad clip that plays before a YouTube video
- Native Ads: Type of ad that matches the form and function of the platform being used. (sponsored content, product placement, etc.)
- Affiliate Marketing: Having others market your product while paying them a commission
On top of the types of advertising, there are also different pricing models that are available.
- Pay per Click (PPC): Pay a fixed amount every time someone clicks on your ad
- Cost per Impression (CPM): Pay a flat rate per 1,000 impressions
- Cost per Acquisition (CPA): Pay for every lead generated through an ad
- Revshare: Share a specified percentage of the revenue gained from the clients that are referred to you
For an in-depth look into paid advertising, here’s a great article by Spokal evaluating each advertising model.
As a small business, your digital marketing strategy may not include paid advertising as a top priority due to the cost involved. It is often overlooked that as long as you maintain a high ROAS, paid advertising can be a sustainable and effective tool for growth.
If you want to learn more and be officially certified for paid advertising, we recommend doing a course by Google Adwords.
Other Notable Activities
Email Marketing is an important tool that small businesses can use to find potential customers and manage relationships.
Many clients still prefer to be approached through email by businesses so it is an important channel to consider
Compiling an email list will also have benefits long term as you can generate interest from previous or potential customers.
Try out MailChimp if you are interested in an online Email Marketing tool.
Tracking – Analytics!
To bring all this together, you need to know whether your activities are actually having any impact on your business.
An important term to know when tracking analytics for your marketing activities is Key Performance Indicator (KPI).
KPIs are the specific metrics that matter the most and directly demonstrates whether you are making progress on your set objectives.
For each marketing channel, you need to determine which KPIs you should be tracking. Once your analytics are set up, you can make decisions and changes based on this data.
This allows you to have feedback, making it possible to optimise your efforts.
You can get your KPIs from Google Analytics, Social Media manager accounts and SemRush.
As a small business, digital marketing can seem daunting at first. After you’ve done your research, we find that the best approach is to simply try things out and learn by doing.
There is a huge potential for growth through online platforms. It is a valuable opportunity that startups have to consider.
Although you can learn a lot about digital marketing online, you still need to consider the time it takes to learn the best practices and maintain these activities.
When you realise the importance of digital marketing and how beneficial it can be, but are limited by time, you can free up your time by outsourcing to an agency.