Online Marketing Guide for Small Business Owners

Online marketing is a cost-effective way to increase your business and see immediate results. It can be targeted more directly than print advertising, giving you a higher return from your investment.

Online marketing can easily be done in-house by a small business, or it can be outsourced to experts.

Most businesses have websites. Many of them receive a high proportion of their sales or business leads through online sources. If your business is one of them, there are a number of ways you can optimise your online presence.

Social Media

You can use social media (such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) to direct visitors to your site. It can also compliment your other online marketing efforts. Ensure that your website promotes your social media presence, for instance by including a Facebook badge that links to your page, or a ‘Follow’ button that links to your Twitter account. Likewise make sure your social media accounts clearly shows your website address so customers can click through.

Social networks allow you to advertise special offers and promotions, and encourage a two-way flow of information between your business and customers/potential customers. LinkedIn allows you widen your reach with business contacts – it’s like giving out a virtual business card. It also lets you post updates which remind your contacts of the services you offer.

Online Advertising

Google dominates the online advertising market. There are two ways to increase traffic to your website through search engines:

Search Engine Optimisation

By improving your website so it appears higher up the list in relevant searches, you will increase the clicks through to your website. This is known as search engine optimisation (SEO). Although it’s sometimes referred to as a dark art, it’s not that complicated and there are lots of books and websites that take you through the basics. It’s essential to appear on the first page of search results if your site is going to be noticed. If this isn’t happening when you type in some relevant keywords, it’s worth asking a professional to take a look at your website to see what improvements could be made. If your business has little competition then it’s easier to appear higher up the search results list. But if your business operates in a competitive environment (for instance, a hotel in London), then it will take a creative approach to climb the SEO ladder. It’s an ongoing task to keep your site optimised, so it's important to dedicate regular resources to this.

Google AdWords/Pay per Click (PPC)

You can pay for adverts to appear in prominent positions on the search engine results page to encourage people to visit your website. Your adverts can be carefully targeted to attract only those who are likely to be interested in your service or product. It involves you selecting keywords that apply to your business and bidding on them. If your bid wins, your advert will appear higher up the page on the sponsored links section. Your adverts will also be assessed by Google for their relevancy and quality, so the more successful your adverts, the less you have to pay for keywords to reach the top of the page.

Blog

A blog lets you add fresh content to your website on a regular basis, which is helpful for SEO purposes. It also gives you a space to demonstrate your expertise. Having extra content that is of value to your customers can build relationships, encourage them back to your site and also ensure they stay on your site for longer.

Online Marketing Increases Business

Online advertising is a simple and direct way to draw customers to your website. Getting customers there is only half the battle; once they arrive at your site you need to capture their attention and ensure they follow through your call to action.

Whatever online marketing campaigns you are planning for your small business, it's essential to write down your SMART objectives and measure the results so that you can evaluate your success.

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