Do you get discouraged with the constant updates in the world of internet marketing?
Are you confused by all of the social media and internet marketing platforms you are “expected” to use?
While internet marketing can seem daunting and overwhelming, just a little patience and experimentation on your part will provide you the best return on your investment for you and your business.
In this online age, you cannot expect to survive as a small business unless you use the internet to expand your customer base and keep ahead of your competition. As a small business, as daunting as it seems, you must learn to embrace updates and changes in the emerging marketplace.
We regularly get asked by local small businesses how they can be found online and in the search engines by their customers. They are eager to know what steps they should put into place to attract more visitors to their website and convert them into customers.
In the offline world, brick and mortar businesses – those that have a storefront or a physical location for people to engage with them need foot traffic. It is crucial if their business is to survive. Stores, restaurants, locksmiths, hair salons, art galleries, and bars all need passing trade or they would simply go out of business.
It is no different for companies with bricks and mortar to those that are online businesses. In order to survive everyone’s website needs visitors and then once the visitors arrive, you need to have strategies in place to convince them to buy from you.
To help you we have put together a tried and tested six-point plan as well as some essential marketing tactics that will give your online presence a much-needed boost.
Some of them cost very little to do (in fact some are free) and are things you can do easily yourself. Others though, may require a bit more expertise but they are worth it and will have a dramatic impact on your business.
1. It All Starts With Your Website
First of all, make sure you have a well-designed website that properly reflects your products and services. Take the time to read every single page of your website to make sure that is free from errors and it is current and up to date. For example, check the copyright date at the bottom – does it say “2011? If so, it makes your website look stale and won’t inspire confidence in your visitors to buy from you so change it to the current year.
Is your address and phone number at the TOP of every single page? Nothing is more frustrating than going to a site and having to hunt for an address and/or phone number. Make it easy for your visitors and give them a link to a clickable map so that they can easily locate you.
Is your website mobile-friendly? If not, then you really need to fix it. There are many great WordPress templates that are very affordable and in a lot of cases even free. Most of them are mobile-friendly, and your customers will thank you for it by buying more from you.
2. Get Your Business Listings Set Up and Claimed
One great Internet marketing tool to start using immediately is “Google My Business,” which puts your business on Search, Maps and Google+.
Google My Business really is a must-have tool for small businesses. It is crucial for small businesses to find success and to be found by their target audience.
Search engines such as Google have replaced the Yellow Pages in referring customers to businesses, and Google My Business is one of the major ways this is happening. By listing your company, your business will have more visibility and credibility as people search for the products and services you offer.
3. Get Your Online Reviews and Testimonials
If you don’t have any reviews you need to start nurturing and encouraging it as soon as you can. However, don’t just e-mail all your friends asking them to review you. If you get suddenly 50 reviews in a week when you had none before, that will be viewed as something very suspicious, and they’ll probably suspend your account. Getting reviews and testimonials is easier than you think and most customers wouldn’t think twice about doing it as it is part of the culture online. Gently nudge your customers one at a time to “tell you how their experience was”. Some will, some won’t but over time they will soon mount up.
Don’t be afraid of negative reviews. We all get one or two negative comments no matter how good our business is. If you have no good reviews, those negative reviews stick out like a big old sore thumb. On the other hand, if you have 50 great reviews, and you get a bad one, most people will discount the bad review.
The important thing for your customers, is how you respond to the bad review. Your response needs to be swift, professional and polite. Let the person know that you want to make their bad experience right – offer them their money back, or something else to give you another chance. This goes a LONG way in diffusing a bad review. Even if it costs you some money, not doing so will cost you more in the long run and will win you many more new customers.
4. Set Up Your Social Media Accounts
Don’t worry, you don’t have to do all of them, after all, there are so many. But at least set up a Facebook and Google+ account at first then you can start experimenting with others like Twitter and Pinterest at a later date.
Don’t use the accounts to blatantly sell to people. Instead, use them to communicate and engage with your followers. Tell them interesting bits of information about your business, your industry, something cool a competitor is doing (make it positive only – never trash someone else), and just engage with your community.
There is a familiar saying: “People buy into you before they buy from you.” That is especially true on social media. If your social media is current, has interesting bits of information, videos, articles, people will engage. If you haven’t posted to your page in three months, well guess what? No one’s listening.
5. Optimise Your Site for the Search Engines
The search engines want your business to be found by the people searching for the products or services that you provide. If they didn’t deliver the results that people wanted they wouldn’t use the search engine.
So let’s say that you run a hair salon. If a visitor types in “hair salon” into a search engine, they would expect and indeed, would find websites for hair salons. They wouldn’t expect to find websites of luxury cars or pet supplies in the search results.
To ensure that their users get the information that they are looking for, search engines are designed to detect what a website is about and how important that website is on topic — which is where we get into Search Engine Optimisation (SEO):
If you run a cheesecake business, the chances are that your website will be all about cheesecake. Cheesecake references would be found in both the descriptive content and blog posts on your website. It is probable that the search engines therefore will recognise that your website is genuinely dedicated to cheesecake.
The problem is that a whole lot of other sites in your niche are too and they are chasing the very same customers. In fact, if you are in a competitive niche, some of your competitors may be huge organisations with a marketing budget to match.
So how are you going to stand out from the competition and get your website on the first page of a search engine? This where SEO comes into play and why it is so important.
6. Get Started with Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising
Whether you knew it or not, you have most likely clicked on Google’s paid advertisements at some time or other. These ads are strategically placed to entice visitors like you into clicking on them in hopes of finding the most relevant information related to your search. Google’s paid advertising system generates billions of ad revenue dollars for Google and its publishers for one main reason….it works.
Of course, results can and do vary, but if a pay per click campaign is properly setup, managed and optimised, then pay per click can be one of the most cost effective forms of online marketing and deliver fantastic results (see my article on PPC).
It works simply by allowing the advertiser to only pay for clicks that are relevant to the keywords and phrases the advertiser is bidding on and the search engine user is utilising. When you stop paying for / bidding on key phrases the ads come down. When you bid higher than your competitors and optimise your account for the highest possible quality score, then your ads go and stay up – as high as possible. You are in total control.
The advantages of PPC
- Increased relevant, quality traffic to your site on a daily, weekly and monthly basis
- Increased conversion rates from your website visitors that come through the sponsored results
- Increased brand visibility in the search engines
- Results that you can track down to the penny
More Customers, Bigger Profits
By implementing some or all of these steps your business should see some significant results by providing you with more customers and bigger profits.
We realise that many small businesses do get overwhelmed by internet marketing. If that is how you feel, don’t forget that you don’t have to everything yourself and we can give you’re a helping hand.