Small Biz Online Marketing Guide

What do you need to know?

Having an online presence for your business is of vital importance. As consumers take to the Internet on their desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets, business owners must be prepared to reach their target market. For example, 87.5% of Internet users shopped online in 2011, and that number is projected to increase to more than 90% in four years. With the expansion of services and control of search results offered by search engines, a business must choose to be competitive online as well as in its local market. Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center stays up-to-date on the trends and techniques that will assist a small business in having a well-rounded online presence. The main techniques ASBTDC finds important:

  • Website Optimization
  • Accurate Local Business Listings
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Integrated Marketing Plan with Traditional and Online Marketing Activities
  • Online Advertising
  • Email Marketing
  • Blogging
  • Mobile Website and Marketing

 

Website Optimization

Website optimization for a business begins with the perception of the website by the end-consumer and concludes with the necessary features to be recognized by search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Having a website for your small business is no longer an option. A website gives customers a sense of security about a business and gives small businesses another place to become a credible resource for products and services. How your website looks and how consumers reach your site are just as important as for a brick-and-mortar store. You wouldn’t put your store in the middle of the desert, so why wouldn’t you work to make sure your website can be easily found and navigated?  Here are a few basic website optimization tips on usability and navigation, keyword research and implementation of keywords for search capabilities.

Usability and Navigation

Key things to remember in reference to usability and navigation:

□   Is the page quickly viewed by most visitors? 

A one-second delay in load time can result in loss of sales conversion! Consider optimizing the size of photos and locating any additional java script that is added to the site at the bottom of the page. (This will allow other information to continue to load and not hold up the website load completion.)

  Does the site include search capabilities? 

Remember to be cautious when entering colors and styles. Using generic terms may be helpful or for example, calling blue multiple colors can help you guide a customer to a turquoise product.

  If the site is for e-commerce, does it feature any customer service options?

Having a way your e-commerce customers can communicate with your business can be a helpful tool for both parties. A feature on your site such as chat, email or direct calling gives the customer an opportunity to connect with your business directly, allowing you to answer questions, provide additional information and hopefully complete a sale.

  Does the page include a link to a site map?

Including a site map not only helps customers navigate your site, it also helps search engines navigate to other pages in the website, which can improve your ranking in search results.

   Does the page use text-based navigation?

Pages on your site should use text-based navigation to better enable search engines to find other pages in the website. Text-based navigation can be added to the bottom of the page if image-based navigation is used.

Keywords and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

As you look to improve your website’s ranking in search results, keep in mind the goal of the search engine. Search engines are trying to provide their customers (searchers) with sites that are most relevant to each customer’s search.  Optimizing a web page for search engines is about providing unique, relevant and up-to-date content while making sure the site provides the right clues to search engines so your page will rank higher in the list of search results.  Important components of your site for SEO are the keyword phrase, the page title, the page description and the page content.

The keyword phrase, page title and page description are part of each page’s HTML.  Choose the keyword phrase for each page carefully since it is central to reaching the right market and improving your search engine ranking. The keyword phrase describes what the page is “about” and this phrase should be carried out through the page title and page description meta tags.  The page content refers to the text featured on the page.  The page content should also contain the chosen keyword phrase for that page and While the purpose of your content is to communicate valuable information to your customers.

An example of how the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center would optimize a page:

Keyword Phrase:  Small Business Assistance

Page Title:  Small Business Assistance – ASBTDC

Page Description: Small business assistance can be found at a great local resource, the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center.

Page Content:  The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center offers FREE small business assistance across the state. Assisting entrepreneurs and small business owners through consulting, market research and training services….

The ASBTDC has tools that can provide you with the current status of the optimization of your website.

 

Local Business Listings

Where do you go to find information on where to eat, shop and play? Many consumers choose to easily tap or click their way to the best local establishment. Whether they are using a smartphone with a location feature turned on or a home or office computer engaged with a local I.P. address, potential customers are searching for the nearest and sometimes best-reviewed establishments to frequent.

You as a business owner have some control over what customers see online about your business. With so many search engines and specialty local listing sites, where should you begin?

Starting with GetListed.org will help you claim the business listing at the top sites including Google, Bing, Yahoo! and others. As shown in the examples below, the different sites gather similar information. You will want to place the same information about your business on each local listing site for consistency.

Google Places

ASBTDC Google Places

Bing

 ASU Bing Local

 

Social Media Marketing

Social media sites include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, MySpace, and the list goes on! Social media started as a way to communicate with friends and has evolved into a powerful tool for small business owners. Social media sites allow small businesses to reach their target market in a customized setting  Every site isn’t a good fit for every business. You must evaluate who your target market is and how you can most efficiently and effectively market to your target.

Here’s a quick checklist to get you started on determining how social media will play a part in your business:

Social Media in Your Business

□   Determine what social media means to your small business.

□   Make a commitment to your social media efforts – 30 minutes a day, one hour a week, three times weekly?

□   Be certain that you understand the necessity of your participation and transparency in social media to benefit your business.

□   Look to see if there are others (employees or family) involved in your small business who have a knack for social media and are open to delegated tasks.

Social Media Market Research

□   Determine your small business’s target market – Call the ASBTDC for assistance!

□   What is your target market seeking (i.e. more information on your product, forums, etc.)?

□   Locate the social media that your target market has shown interest in.

□   Remember market research will be a continuous effort. Look to sites like QuantCast.com and eMarketer.com for help in determining if the demographics of a site have changed.

Social Media Presence

□   Start with the basics – getlisted.org – Make sure you are on every available search engine!

□   Choose one social networking site to begin your social media venture. Think about adding more as your comfort level and ease of management increases.

□   Look at adding a bookmarking site as part of your daily routine. When you find articles that interest you they are added to the chosen site and become easy to sort and search through.

□   Get a Gmail account – add Google Reader and the subjects that you find interesting!

□   Listen  and Engage your online connection with information relevant to your industry.

Tips and Tools for Management & Measurement

□   Create a schedule or full marketing plan for your social media. Make sure to prioritize your social media duties to ensure you are getting the most return for your time.

□   Research online tools that can help manage your social media. Sites and applications like Google Reader, Friend Feed, Seesmic, Flock, and Tweetdeck are a great start.

□   Gain access to tools like Google Analytics for measuring your ROI.

 

Integrate Your Online and Offline Marketing Efforts

After you have a firm grip on what you can and want to address regarding your business’s online presence, be sure to integrate your online and offline marketing efforts. The branding of your business is at stake. You must represent your business the same way online and through your traditional marketing efforts. Your traditional marketing pieces can often be re-purposed and used as resources for information for your online presence. Don’t recreate the wheel.

Consider updating your website to feature the seasonality of your business, posting neighborhood information on Twitter or getting feedback on new products on Facebook.

 

Advertising

If you plan to invest advertising dollars online, you have several options in the realm of paid online advertising. Consider which advertising venue will reach your target market, identify the necessary steps to create an optimal ad for that venue and most importantly, set a budget for online advertising.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and Pay-Per-Impression (PPM) Ads

Pay-per-click (also called cost-per-click) Internet advertising drives traffic from search engines to businesses’ websites. PPC advertisers pay only when their ad is clicked. Advertisers usually bid on certain keywords and phrases relevant to their target market, and the PPC ads appear with or near related content. Google AdWords is the most popular pay-per-click operator, but the others (such as Microsoft Advertising adCenter for Bing and Yahoo!) work similarly. Pay-per-impression (also called cost-per-impression) is similar to pay-per-click in that the end goal is to drive traffic to a website.  PPM differs from PPC in that the advertiser is charged per impression (when an ad shows up during search results).

Google AdWords

Get your small business to appear next to related Google searches by using AdWords. You write the ads and choose the keywords so your business will appear next to the most relevant searches. Google uses “contextual targeting” to match your ads with the most appropriate searches. You also decide where visitors will “land” (such as a specific page of your company website) when they click your ad. You can review your ads’ performance and where they appear with Google’s “Placement Performance Report.”

One of the features of AdWords that business owners find most attractive is that they can spend as much or as little as they want. For example, you can set a daily budget of $5 and a maximum cost of 10 cents for each click on your ad. Since AdWords is a form of PPC advertising, you are only charged when someone clicks on your ads – not when your ad is displayed.

Display Advertising

If you want a bigger ad with photos or video, go with a display ad (sometimes called a banner ad). Many e-newsletters and websites, not just search engines, sell display advertising now. Consider where your customers are looking as you decide where to place your advertising.

With Google, you can choose if you want your ads to appear on pages related to your product or specify target sites. Google’s optimization tools for display ads are similar to the tools for AdWords. Google’s image ad builder allows you to build your own ad using its template, and you can customize the text and image to match your brand.

Facebook Advertising

More than 800 million people actively use the social networking site Facebook. Facebook allows you to promote your business using a variety of tools: pages, ads, sponsored stories, and platform (plug-ins and custom apps). Facebook ads and sponsored stories are paid services.

If you decide to advertise on Facebook, you should first identify what you want to promote – your business’s Facebook page or maybe an event, app or website – and the goals you want to achieve. Facebook then allows you to select your target audience. You can choose the gender, age, education, work, location, “likes & interests” and more of your target audience.

The next step is to design your ad. Facebook recommends that you use a simple, eye-catching image, provide a clear call to action, highlight the benefits and target different audiences to determine which groups are most responsive to the ads.

You can determine if you want to pay on a cost-per-click or cost-per-impression basis. You set the maximum amount you want to pay each day; your ad will no longer show once you hit your daily budget. You can review your ad’s data with Facebook’s Ad Manager to help optimize your ad’s performance. The Ad Manager provides information on number of clicks and impressions; your audience’s age, gender, and location at an aggregate level; and shows specific time periods so you can see how your ad performance has evolved.

 

Email Marketing

Email is a low-cost, efficient, and effective way to communicate with customers and drive traffic to your online sites. A number of email service providers (ESP) offer one-to-many emailing with list management and tracking tools at a reasonable price for small businesses. By using an ESP, you can send professional-looking email campaigns in a snap — and abide by anti-spam laws. Even with the growth of social media and texting, email remains the preferred method of commercial communication for three-quarters of online adults, and 63% of the population check email daily on their mobile devices. See this infographic on the “State of Email Marketing” from Constant Contact.

 

Blogging

A blog is a collection of posts, with the most recent post appearing at the top. Short for “web log,” a blog is like an online journal with regular entries. For a small business, a blog can help your ranking on Google and other search engines, and the content you produce for your blog can be repurposed into social media posts and emails. Blogging takes commitment; to gain followers, plan on blogging at least three times per week. Several free and simple blogging tools are available.

 

Mobile Website and Marketing

Just as having a website is no longer optional for a small business, that website increasingly must be accessible to customers on their many mobile devices. Some businesses choose to maintain one website for all devices and browsers, while others choose to create a mobile version of their site. See our Mobile Tech Tips for more information.