We specialize in Local Marketing for small businesses. Marketing a small business online takes more than just building a website and waiting for people to find it.
There are some basics that every small business should be doing to increase their local marketing online, and this guide is meant to familiarize you with what those things are.
Advertising online can be intimidating for a small business owner due to the apparent complexity of it. The methods for advertising online are different than traditional offline advertising such as mailers, flyers, commercials etc, but the good thing is you can generally see the immediate results of your advertising spend.
Search Advertising (PPC)
The first method many small business owners use is to start a Google Adwords campaign, but that’s a terrible idea for most small businesses and will probably result in a loss of money. You can certainly get a lot of visitors to your website using Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising such as Google Adwords, but if you’re not bidding properly and your landing page for the visitors isn’t done properly you may as well just flush your money down the toilet.
There are other competitors to Google that allow you to bid on keywords or target specific sites (referred to as contextual advertising), such as Bing, Yahoo and countless smaller sites. Once again though, if you’re going to do PPC advertising you really need to make sure you know what you’re doing or you’ll just lose money. You can find some good Google Adwords tutorials on our blog.
Display advertising is buying image ads, also known as banners, for placement on websites where you think potential customers may see them. There are tools available to determine which websites your customers tend to frequent. One of the most popular methods for local display advertising is to run ads for your business on Facebook which we’ll cover later.
Cause Marketing describes any partnership (formal or informal) between business and charity. We built a platform on Purchase.org that enables local businesses to offer deals locally to customers, and when the customer buys the deal, a donation is made to a charity of their choice. This type of arrangement greatly increases customer loyalty since they equate your business with a cause that is important to them.
Affiliate Marketing is the name for online referrals. It’s no different than getting paid $50 every time you refer a new customer to a business, except it’s all done online with unique tracking links. Affiliate marketing can be extremely effective, but there are also potentials for fraud so you’ll want to make sure you talk to a professional to go over a plan. Affiliate marketing generally works best for businesses that sell things online, but there are ways to utilize it for any type of business.
Social Media Marketing
Social Media Marketing includes developing a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc, as well as any local forums or blogs that may be relevant to your business. The goal with social media marketing is to establish an online relationship with your customers. There is no set way to do this and it really all depends on your business. For instance, we always advise restaurants to build up a strong Twitter presence so that they can tweet lunch specials to their followers around 11am when people start getting hungry and thinking about food. It really all depends on what your business is, but there is always a solution for every type of business.
Search Engine Optimization
All of the above methods cost money, but there are a lot of things you can do to improve your website rankings for free. For any local business, your primary goal should be to show up higher in the search engines and for your customers to be able to find your business. The method for accomplishing this is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
There are two types of factors that affect SEO, on-page and off-page. On-page factors are within your control and have to do with making sure your website is properly formatted with pertinent information. There are a lot of on-page factors that many of your competitors will probably ignore, and if you take advantage of that you can rank higher than them in the search engines. Many of these things can be done quickly and at no cost.
Off-page factors can be a little trickier since they involve factors you have less control over. For instance, getting other sites to link to yours is very important for ranking in search engines, but it can be expensive if not done properly. There are a lot of tricks of the trade that can get you links to your site that don’t cost as much money, some of which you will find covered in our blog.
There are two very important things that every small business needs to do, but very few actually bother with. First, you have to make sure that all of your contact information is consistent across the Internet. If you search for your company name and you see different addresses, phone numbers etc for any reason, it will negatively impact your rankings and deliver you fewer visitors. The best way to do this is to claim as many of your business listings as you can. Most business directories will have a link where you can claim your listing and update the information. You’ll also want to make sure your information is correct with the Big 3 online data providers: Acxiom, Infogroup, and Neustar.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure that your website is mobile-friendly. Over 1/3 of your visitors will be coming to your website from their smartphones, and there is a good chance that they’re in their car and looking for your place of business so you want to make it as easy as possible for them to do that. We always recommend that every website for a small business be built with a responsive design that can display properly when viewed form a phone of tablet PC. This is something that can be done relatively cheaply without losing any of the contents of your website.
If you would like a free consultation about how you can improve your local marketing, be sure to contact us immediately.