Understanding digital marketing can be confusing for many small business owners. But the reality is that having a digital marketing plan can be one of most effective ways for you to attract new customers and grow your business.
You only have to look around you to understand why. The internet has fundamentally changed the way that we connect, research, share information and buy things. And digital marketing has forever changed the way that businesses promote their products and services. It’s no longer enough to just have a website and hope that ‘if you build it, they will come’ – you also need strategies to drive potential customers to your website and that’s the primary role of digital marketing.
Don’t know where to start? Here we outline the basics of digital marketing to help you understand how it can help you grow your business.
What is digital marketing?
Digital marketing (also called online marketing) refers to marketing activities that use online search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Bing) and electronic devices (such as smart phones and computers) to promote your business, products and services. These activities generally include:
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) – SEO strategies are designed to improve your search engine rankings so that your website pages appear higher up when people search for targeted terms. It is usually a strategy for longer-term, organic growth (traffic that grows naturally over time).
- Search engine marketing (SEM) – SEM involves purchasing ads on search engines (such as Google Adwords) to promote your website for targeted search terms. Also referred to as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, SEM costs more upfront than SEO, but can be effective in helping you reach potential new customers quickly.
- Social media marketing (SMM) – social media for business strategies includes both organic and paid advertising on social media platforms ¬¬– such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and LinkedIn – to build brand awareness, drive traffic to your website and increase engagement with your audience.
What is the best approach for your small business?
One of the most common questions that small business owners ask when it comes to digital marketing is ‘what channel best suits my business? The short answer is that there is no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to digital marketing (or any marketing strategy for that matter), but there are some steps you can take to understand what might be best for your business. Chances are, like most things in business, it will take a bit of trial and error to get it the right for your business.
SEO and SEM vs social media for attracting new customers?
To summarise the unique benefits of SEO, SEM and social media marketing for small business:
- SEO helps to build your reputation and high-quality engagement for the long-term
- SEM (paid advertising) can target buyers quickly and provide data on current engagement; and
- Social media helps to increase awareness and engagement with your business.
In terms of attracting new customers, SEO could be more cost-effective if you are focusing on conversions for long-term success. The combination of local SEO and SEM can help to generate leads and make sales faster. And social media campaigns help to spread the word about your business and drive traffic to your website to increase conversions further.
The best results are usually achieved using a combination of SEO, SEM and social media and diversifying your activity across different platforms, giving you a greater chance of success – as long as you don’t spread your efforts and budget too thin.
The first step is knowing your customers
The first step you need to take in working out how to market your business is doing your research as it will give you an understanding of who your target audience is, what motivates them and how to promote your products and services to them.
One of the benefits of digital marketing over offline marketing approaches (such as print advertising) is that you can more effectively target audiences by demographic factors (like age, gender and geographic location) as well as personal interests and hobbies (e.g. the brands and topics you ‘like’ on social media platforms).
Tip: If you understand what problems solve for your potential customers, you’ll get a head start when it comes to targeting them with keywords and search terms as part of optimising your website and developing your content plan.
Start with your strategy
Before you rush into creating content and signing up for a Google Adwords campaign, make sure that you have a strategy in place that ties into your overarching business goals and marketing strategy. It’s important that you consider what is the primary purpose of your digital marketing strategy? For example, is it to:
- Build greater awareness about your business and brand – and attract new customers?
- Drive customers to your website and/or online business (e-commerce) store to generate sales and enquiries?
- Engage with customers and create a community for your brand?
- Showcase your products, services and case studies?
- Position you and your business as thought leaders in your industry – to build credibility, trust and eventually sales?
Optimise your website
Having a website is important, but it’s not enough to guarantee your customers will find you. Optimising your website to improve your SEO can be quite technical, so it does pay to engage the services of a digital marketing specialist to help you build and tweak your website. But there are also simple things you can do to optimise your website including:
- Conduct an SEO audit to see how well your website ranks in search engine pages
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
- Research keywords to identify the words and phrases that your target audience type into search engines, use free keyword research tools such as Google Keyword Planner
- Build internal links between pages on your website and external links from other sites to your own
- Focus on getting reviews – good reviews don’t just give potential customers confidence, they also help search engines understand what you do, which can lift your site rankings
- Update your free Google My Business profile. As a small business or start up, you won’t be able to compete with big businesses when it comes to SEO but you can stand out locally.
Create great content – and plan for it
Google and other search engines will ignore your website if you do too. Your website should be regularly updated with new content (such as a news or blog page) to help your SEO and also reassure your customers that you are open for business. Your website also works as a ‘home’ for your SEM and social media campaigns to drive to.
Make sure you have a plan and structure for your content that takes into consideration:
- Who your audience is and what interests them
- Your keywords and search terms – include these in your content
- Resourcing – what aspects of your content creation can you outsource to another team member, digital agency or freelancer?
Tip: Consider including video content – video is the fastest growing type of content and statistics indicate that consumers prefer it, and it delivers ROI. The videos don’t need to be high-budget productions – with a little editing know-how you can learn how to make simple, effective videos from your smartphone.
Track and measure results
When you’re investing time and money in digital marketing, you want to make sure you’re getting the best possible returns. Improving your SEO is a long-term strategy and it may take six months to a year before you get results.
Adding Google Analytics to your website will help you track where your website traffic is coming from helping you to determine the relative success of your SEO, SEM and social media activities.
And finally, remember that your digital marketing strategy should be considered within the context of your overarching business goals and marketing strategy, not in isolation.
The Australian Government’s business.gov.au website contains useful information for small business owners including a guide to social media for business.
Contact us to find out more about how BOQ Business can support your small business