This is a 2 Part blog — so don't miss the second PART of Digital Marketing for Small Business Owners
Digital marketing for small business owners, what you need to know?
In recent weeks, the topic of digital marketing has popped up several times with the businesses I work with, where I have come to realise many business owners shy away from digital marketing, due to its techy nature and perceived expense.
To my dismay, there appears to be a lack of awareness of what digital marketing is and the variety of approaches that a business owner can use and the benefits, as well as the broader reach to new audiences. Most importantly, not all types of digital marketing are expensive. There are many you can begin doing yourself until you are in the fortunate position to be able to invest money in outsourcing this task.
What you need to remember is “that your customers and potential customers are already online. Right now. Today. There’s a good chance they might already be looking for a business like yours, but if they can’t find you easily, they are probably going to choose someone else.”
In very general terms, digital marketing refers to any form of digital communication between your business and your current or potential customers.
Digital marketing communication enables you as a small business owner to make direct contact with your customers, new audiences and followers whether via social media, email, SMS, instant messaging, internet video streaming, or via SEO (search engine optimisation.)
All digital marketing approaches provide a small business owner with the opportunity to directly communicate across different internet search platforms and social media platforms to broaden your audience reach.
There are eight main types of digital marketing that you can implement in your business. Many of these are affordable and some you can learn to do yourself until to have more income to outsource.
When starting out as an entrepreneur or small business owner, we all try to do as much as we can ourselves.
With this in mind, I wanted to provide a blog that provides a simple explanation of how you can use the different digital marketing approaches in your business, alongside providing you with helpful resources.
Having a good grasp on what digital marketing is and how you can apply and implement it in your business is essential. Without a good understanding of the basics, you can’t be sure you are making the best decisions and using the most effective options for communicating with your customers/audience/followers.
Below I have provided more detail on each of the eight types of Digital Marketing, to support you in developing your knowledge and to build a better awareness of the different options out there.
1. Website SEO
Website SEO as a form of digital marketing is essential to all businesses, but especially for a small business owner. SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the name given to actions you take on your website to improve your search engine rankings on platforms such as Google, Bing or yahoo.
Getting your website SEO right is the difference between being found online or never being listed.
The bottom line is, if your customers can’t find you, then they are not buying from you!!!
It’s clear that in today’s digital world, the first place most consumers go to, when looking for what they want to buy is online. Whatever product or service they are searching for, they will most likely start their search with a search engine such as Google, bing, yahoo or AOL which is why it is so vital for your website to be listed.
A search engine will decide upon your site’s position on their Search Engine Results Page (SERP) depending on several factors. Some are technical, but on a basic level, your ranking is based on elements of your website, such as the performance, engagement from traffic driven to your site, usability of your website and the content. Alongside one very critical element, how the content, keywords and metadata on your website matches the terms people are looking for when using search engines.
You may ask what “metadata” is, well in straightforward terms it is “an underlying definition or description for data.”
For example, Metadata for web pages contains descriptions of the page’s contents, as well as keywords linked to the content. These are expressed in the form of metatags. The metadata containing the web page’s description and summary is often displayed in search results by search engines, making its accuracy and details very important since it can determine whether a user decides to visit the site or not.
So, when it comes to SEO, you need to know what your customers are searching for and think about how your content matches them or is answering their questions (this is referred to as ‘user intent’).
The better you match the “user intent”, the higher your ranking will be.
As a small business owner using website SEO as a digital marketing approach, one key factor you need to be aware of is link building. Simply put, this means having a good website to website relationships through links. When you have quality websites linking to your site (inbound), and you are connecting to other quality websites (outbound) the more authoritative Google and other search engines determine your website to be. More authority equals a higher SERP rank (Search Engine Results Page).
Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. A hyperlink (usually just called a link) is a way for users to navigate between pages on the internet. Search engines use links to crawl the web; they will crawl the links between the individual pages on your website, and they will crawl the links between entire websites.
Here are a few basics to get right:
- Create titles and descriptions for each page of your website.
- Internal links — This is the headings or text/content that visitors can click on to be taken directly to another web page, either on your site or anywhere on the Internet.
- Add alt text to all your images — search engines can’t read images, adding ALT text to your images, always the search engines to read it, these should be a concise written description of the image.
There are many plugins you can apply to your website if you are using a mainstream website building platform such as WordPress or WIX, Weebly, Squarespace that can help guide you through the process of improving your SEO, such as:
But also the search engine Google has many additional applications which are free use and allows you to monitor the activity and traffic you are getting from google to your website.
BENEFITS of Website SEO
As a small business owner, it is crucial to be able to understand the benefits of using digital marketing to ensure you are getting value and a return on your time and money.
There are several apparent benefits for ensuring your websites SEO is performing well:
- It’s efficient and has a direct effect on your visibility on search engine ranking.
- You do not need to pay for ads to get positive results.
- Website SEO attracts quality traffic, as it increases the chances of those customers explicitly looking for your products and services to find your website/business via search engines.
- If you get your SEO right and invest time in it, you can move ahead of your competition by being ranked higher on search engines. So again it’s getting the application right, not about how much money you have.
- It’s relatively easy to achieve. If you are using a standard website builder tools such as WordPress, Wix, square space, etc. there is a certain amount of SEO you can do for yourself.
Many free plug-ins are beneficial and will give lots of guidance on how your website is performing in terms of SEO.
Hotjar is another excellent tool that helps you see the journey your traffic is taking around your website, where are they visiting and clicking. HotJar
2. Social media (organic and paid)
ORGANIC — free social media postings
Organic social media digital marketing refers to the number of people who come across your social media posts without boosted/paid for ADs. As a small business owner, most of us start with building our organic audience; however, it can be a slow process.
Your organic audience refers to your current followers and those people who click and engage with your post at the time of posting.
Organic reach is the same concept for all social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn.
In previous years businesses were able to increase their organic reach via posting regularly and making sure they had good content, offerings and products/services.
Sadly, for all small business owners, this is no longer such a successful digital marketing approach, due to changes that social media platforms have made, which have put in place many restrictions regarding how far your posts/content reaches.
Social media platforms have changed the way their algorithms and parameters, regarding how far “organic” posts reach. Meaning the only alternative option for a business is to use paid advertising, such as Facebook Ads or LinkedIn Ads. It’s been reported these changes were introduced due to feedback from users, who expressed they no longer wanted to be inundated with business posts in their news feeds all day every day, as it was causing negative user experience.
The platform I find almost all of my clients use is Facebook Business Page
In early 2018 Facebook changed their algorithms that resulted in significantly reduced reach of all organic posts. In real terms, what this meant for businesses is that anyone with a Facebook business page would now only reach a small percentage of their followers. You can no longer rely on this form of content posting to generate a significant amount of leads.
You may ask, what is an Algorithm?
Algorithms are unambiguous specifications for performing calculation, data processing, automated reasoning, and other tasks via a computer sequence.
Organic reach is shrinking across all leading social media platforms, as they move towards their paid channels to monetise platform activity. Therefore it is very pertinent that small business owners are aware of the effects, to help aid them in making informed decisions about which digital marketing activities are appropriate and to spend their time and money in the best way.
In reality, Facebook has restricted the reach of all businesses organic posts which have resulted in instances where an average of only 2%-5% of your total followers will receive your content. You can see the results of your posts by looking at the INSIGHTS section on your Facebook page. Sadly with the exceptionally low reach of organic posts, it means less engagement, sharing, liking and commenting, which in turn, is limiting the opportunity to increase your reach to new customers.
However, Facebook reassures businesses they have not left you without alternative options, as they do provide the Facebook Ads functionality. Which they assure will support you in targeting and reaching new audiences.
Another technique Facebook uses in its ranking the reach of your business page is by assigning each page a rank. Sadly this ranking isn’t purely based on the number of likes or followers you have; instead, it’s based on-page activity. Therefore, the more people that are interacting with your content by sharing and commenting, the higher your Facebook ranking will climb. As that ranking climbs, so will your organic reach.
PAID — social media paid content/ADs
Whilst most of the social media platforms are urging business pages to move towards providing paid marketing content rather than organic, many administrators of business pages realise they’re now expected to pay for Ads if they want to reach new followers, audiences and customers.
Paid or promoted posts refer to content that businesses have voluntarily boosted the reach of by using one-time or ongoing payments. These posts can be targeted toward specific demographics and reach a much larger audience than organic content.
The content you post does not need to change because you are using paid-for Ads, the only difference is that you will need to consider how you will get the audience to interact, read and click through your Ad. This is referred to as “call to action.”
Knowing how to construct good paid for Ads, is not necessarily that straight forward. From my experience, many of my clients have found they have attempted to create Ads but have not gained the traction they had expected or hoped. To use paid for Ads will require a certain amount of knowledge and awareness to get the most for your money. Using Ads successfully comes down to ensuring you are targeting the Ad correctly and having a clear “call to action” as well as content/images that will attract people to click through.
I would always suggest that if a small business owner wants to explore this type of digital marketing themselves to take a course. There is so much information online from sources like Youtube or Udemy courses. I would always invest your own time in building your knowledge and skills, so you understand how to get the most return on your investment.
Paid Ads can provide an excellent return on the money you invest in them. But no one wants to find they have spent money and had no customers as a result.
Please be aware there will always be a certain amount of trial and error, to begin with, if you are doing it yourself.
One question I get asked time and again is “HOW MUCH SHOULD I PAY FOR AN AD?”
There is no hard and fast rule, in theory, the larger your budget, the higher the return. But this is only the case if you are confident you have targeted your Ad correctly and are getting engagement. Therefore I always suggest to my clients to start small with perhaps £1/£2 a day and then build up. You will have more modest results on a smaller budget, but at least you can test the Ad and the results without making a significant financial commitment for a low return.
Benefits Of Paid Social Media
With paid Ad content, you can increase your target audience and markets. You get to guide your own marketing campaigns and can adjust them as necessary. There is no restriction to your audience, only your budget and knowledge of using Ads.
There are many benefits to invest in paid social media content such as:
- Increases Brand Awareness
- Supports your Search Engine Rankings
- Customer Satisfaction and reassurance — many customers look for reviews and expect to be able to communicate with a business via social media.
- Helps drive traffic to your website
- Using Social Media is cost-effective — It provides a small business owner the choice to DIY if budget requires or to outsource.
Benefits Of Using Social Media — Organic and Paid content
To help reinforce the benefits why a small business owner, should use this form of digital marketing in their strategy is summarised well from research that Crowdtap undertook, that revealed: 64% of 3,000 people surveyed confirmed they use social media to find inspiration for shopping and guides them to purchasing choices (up 51% vs. the prior year 2017)
Therefore there is a healthy return on investment in using paid social media to reach your current followers and broader audiences.
However, don’t be disillusioned with the changes to social media platforms; it is still one of the primary online resources a customer will visit when making purchasing options.
It is important to remember that posting regularly is still an essential part of building a reputable business and brand presence regardless of whether it via organic or paid-for content.
3. Email marketing
Email marketing is a very straight forward digital marketing concept in terms of; it does what it says on the tin.
In its purest form for a small business owner, email marketing is a form of digital marketing where you use emails to promote products and services. This form of marketing is also used very successfully to develop relationships with potential new and existing customers.
You can use email marketing for activities such as circulating your business content, support your customer’s needs, provide newsletters and to send special offers.
Email marketing is the act of sending a message, typically to a group of people, via their email address. A business will need to collect customer or potential customers emails in a CRM or email management system, which can then be used to send messages to targeted groups of people.
Email marketing is still one of the best ways to build a personal relationship with the target audience. If you do it smartly and your e-mails also add value to the recipient, then e-mail marketing can work very well.
CAUTION ALERT: With GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) changes that came into effect from May 2018 there are strict rules about gaining permission from a person before you can use their email address for email marketing purposes. Its referred to as “opt-in” permission. You will need to collect affirmative consent from each person and it must be “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous” to be compliant.
For consent to be valid under GDPR, a customer must actively confirm their consent, such as ticking an unchecked opt-in box.
GDPR not only sets the rules for how to collect consent but also requires companies to keep a record of the consent.
You must also clearly explain how you plan to use their personal data.
Keeping evidence of consent means that you must be able to provide proof of:
Here are some very low cost and well-known email marketing platforms you can consider. Most of these platforms will guide you through the process of email marketing and the collection of data, to ensure it is compliant and opt-in is correctly received:
BENEFITS of email marketing
- Two of the most significant advantages for a small business owner to use this form of digital marketing, is its relative cost and ease of use, compared to the other types.
- Email marketing is an inexpensive way to advertise your business and its products or services, compared to the other digital marketing options.
- The setup can be very straight forward.
- You can easily track the emails, the click-through rate and open rate, to provide you with information/data of what is working and what isn’t.
- There are many low-cost email marketing packages out there. Most of them have very easy to use interfaces to help guide you through set up and learn how to get the most out of your email marketing campaigns — making it very accessible and budget-friendly as a preferred digital marketing choice for small business owners.
- One final and essential benefit I tell my clients is that you own your data and can continue to build your email lists, there are no limitations.
3. Content marketing
Content marketing is a type of digital marketing which is very easy to start to create and integrate into a small business owner’s digital marketing strategy.
Content marketing involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that support the promotion of the business and its brand via stimulating interest in its products or services from the written content.
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Great content encourages people and potential clients to click through and link to your pages and shows Google your pages are engaging and authoritative and pages people want to visit. Search engines are looking for this type of content because they want to show new and informative pages in its search results.
The simplest way to think about content marketing is:
Quality content = more shares, which equals more links and better SEO value.
Content marketing is an inexpensive and consistent approach. You will always reach your audience by distributing and sharing it through all your online channels (websites, blogs, social media posts, guest blogging, email marketing, media articles etc.) The sooner a business starts creating content, the sooner it will begin to see results, which for all small business owners, is a crucial reason to include it in your digital marketing strategy. Content marketing is unique in that the more you create, the better the results. But never forget about the importance of quality. People want to read valuable content that meets their needs, not irrelevant or poorly written information.
Whether your digital marketing strategy is to increase traffic, or higher conversion rates, or just better relationships with your customers, its essential that content marketing is part of all small business owners digital marketing strategy. It is also one of the least expensive digital marketing activities, as it is purely your time that is needed unless you choose to outsource. However, it is often advisable to build a core following via your own written content to start with, to ensure you build the brand message, value and loyalty.
BENEFITS of content marketing
Adopting Content marketing as an approach that will help improve your visibility in search engines. Every new piece of content you write is another page that Google can search and index. However more pages don’t always correlate with more search traffic, but having quality pages indexed can grant you more opportunities to rank higher in more online searches. If you target the questions, keywords and topics that your customers frequently search for, you should have no trouble appearing for those searches with your archive of information.
There were four other types of Digital Marketing I mentioned earlier in my blog, which requires a level of financial commitment:
- PPC -Paid per Click
- Influencer Marketing
- Lead Generation
- Affiliate Marketing
But given all the information I have just covered regarding website SEO, social media marketing, email marketing and content marketing I’m sure like me your brain is at overload trying to pick your way through this slightly techy topic.
Therefore I will be following up with the last 4 types of Digital Marketing, in the second part of my blog, which I will be sharing shortly. So please keep a lookout on my blog.
In the meantime, I hope the information in this blog has been useful.
As a small business owner, there are so many aspects of running a business you need to learn and understand. I hope this blog has provided you with a sound basis of what digital marketing is and what approaches would be best for your business.
Why not continue reading more about the other forms of digital marketing I cover in PART 2 of my Digital Marketing for Small Business Owners
By Heidi May (www.oasis-support.co.uk)