In a world dominated by the internet and endless online activities that span from social media to streaming videos, no wonder marketing has evolved from its “traditional” form, into this brand new concept of digital marketing for small business.

So what actually is digital marketing? And more specifically, how can small businesses effectively utilize digital marketing? In this guide, we will learn the answers to these questions.

First, lets look at and discuss the basic concept of digital marketing.

Digital Marketing for Small Business

So, What Actually Is Digital Marketing?

I mean, we’re all familiar with how marketers often developed new jargons and buzzwords just to sell more things, or simply to just sound smart. Is digital marketing just one of those buzzwords?

Actually, it isn’t.

In a nutshell, digital marketing is any marketing activity involving electronic technologies as the medium. So, actually advertisements on TV and radio belong to this category, and it’s not solely limited to the internet-related marketing activities.

However, ever since the rise of the internet and even more so after social media rose into prominence, the term digital marketing is now more commonly used for marketing activities on the internet.

In this guide, however, we will focus our discussion on online digital marketing tactics for small businesses: the important tactics, the necessary optimizations, and most importantly, how to implement them to your small business.

Lets discuss the many different tactics included in the online digital marketing umbrella.

What’s Included in Digital Marketing?

Online digital marketing is actually a very broad subject covering many different activities. Here, we will list several important ones before we will further discuss them one by one.

  1. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  2. Content Marketing (Can be combined with SEO as “inbound marketing”)
  3. Paid search advertising, sometimes called Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  4. Referral or affiliate marketing
  5. Mobile marketing
  6. Social media marketing (both organic and paid)
  7. Email marketing
  8. Marketing automation

How To Implement Each of Them For Small Businesses?

1. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

In essence, SEO is the process of optimizing your site to rank well on Google search results. For local, especially brick-and-mortar businesses, there’s another aspect we should consider, which is local SEO, which is a totally different game. If you’re interested in a free seo audit for your small business, click the link.

So, let us first discuss how to implement “traditional SEO” for small businesses, which actually comprises just four core steps:

  1. Find the target keywords: use keyword planner tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, SEMRush, and Ahrefs among others to find relevant keywords with enough search volume.
  2. Develop your content to target these keywords (more on this when we discuss content marketing below). Make sure your content is valuable for human readers before the search engines
  3. Optimize the technical aspect of your site
  4. Get more backlinks especially from high-quality sites. There are various tactics to achieve this, but generally, if your content quality is good, someone will link it sooner or later

Local SEO, as mentioned, is a different game, and here your aim is to rank higher on Google Maps, which is tied to your Google My Business listing. Here, there are also four main steps:

  1. Register and verify your Google My Business account, make sure your information is complete and up-to-date (i.e. use the same address used by the USPS or your local postal service)
  2. Build local citations on review sites and online local directories of your industry. A quick Google search will help you in finding these directories
  3. Solicit positive reviews from your customers. You might want to offer incentives. Also, address negative reviews properly
  4. Target local keywords (i.e. restaurants in new york) and develop your content

SEO might seems complicated at first, but it’s actually quite simple once we’ve broken down the process. One thing to remember, however, is that both SEO and local SEO is a long-term game. Expect to invest 6-12 months before you see your site on the top search results.

2. Content Marketing

As we have discussed, content marketing is closely tied to SEO, although the benefits of content marketing can extend outside SEO purposes.

Consider the fact that people only purchase products/services from brands they can trust, and in this online world, there’s no better way to establish credibility than consistently publishing valuable content pieces.

With a proper content marketing, we can establish our position as the thought leader or expert of your niche, and this is the core concept of inbound marketing.

We should also remember the fact that now content can come in many different forms from textual content to podcasts to videos. Explore your options, and optimize the medium(s) most suited to your niche.

3. Paid Search

Above, we have addressed that the main issue of implementing SEO is time: it is a long-term investment, but sometimes we simply can’t wait that long.

The answer to this issue is paid search or SEM. It is also often known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising due to its pricing model: you only need to pay when someone clicks on your ad.

The most popular paid search platform is Google Adwords, and here, you must bid the price you are willing to pay on a specific keyword. As you may imagine, the more popular the keyword is, the more expensive the bids will be.

Paid search, in combination with SEO, can be really powerful in increasing your business’s visibility on the search engines.

4. Referral Marketing

Customer advocacy is a very important aspect of the modern business world: people trust their peers more than advertisements or other promotions. Yet, turning customers into advocates can be easier said than done. To tackle that issue, there’s the referral marketing, or often known as affiliate marketing.

With affiliate marketing, you offer incentives to people outside your business that are selling your products/services, in which we refer to them as affiliate marketers.

The key to a successful affiliate marketing campaign is your incentive: offer too little and you will generate little interests. Offer too much, and you risk the quality of your referrals, as there will be people looking to take advantage of you. Your job is to find that delicate balance and offer a proper incentive.

5. Mobile Marketing

Mobile devices are now a very important part of our lives, and mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic in the past half decade or so.

So, it is important to understand that -especially if you are a local business-, the majority of your website traffic comes from mobile devices, and if you are not taking a mobile-first mentality, you are missing out on a huge chunk of the market.

Mobile marketing by itself, however, can be a pretty broad subject covering many different areas. To begin with, here are the important steps you should cover:

1. Understand your mobile audience

Understanding your audience is the core part of any marketing strategy, and for some businesses, the mobile audience can be really different from the desktop ones.

So, use Google Analytics or other analytics tools (like KISSmetrics) to analyze the demographics of your existing mobile traffic. Use this data to develop a buyer persona with detailed demographic data and especially a thorough prediction of their needs and problems.

Also, study the mobile behaviors of your audience: how much of their online activities happen on their mobile device? How often do they purchase from their phones? How often do they open their emails on their phones? And so on.

2. Mobile-first design

Make sure all your campaigns, websites, and landing pages are mobile-responsive. Also, make sure all actionable items on your site/campaign are mobile-friendly.

For example, if you list a phone number on your site, make sure it’s easy enough to click on a mobile device, and the user can directly call this number by clicking. If you have forms (registration forms, survey forms, etc.), make sure they are easy to fill on a mobile device and don’t use too many fields.

Have a mobile-first mindset for every marketing campaign and activity.

3. Monitor important mobile metrics

You can use Google Analytics or other analytic tools to monitor several important metrics such as:

  • Mobile traffic
  • Mobile content engagements
  • Conversion rate from mobile devices

To do this, you can add “Device Category” on your Google Analytics dashboard (on Site Content), and so you can track mobile traffic to each page on your site. You can also track other metrics like bounce rate, page views, and so on.

Isolating mobile traffic and conversion rate from mobile devices is important, so you can track the effectiveness of your mobile marketing.

Some common implementations of mobile marketing include:

  • SMS and MMS marketing, possibly the oldest form of mobile marketing, and still effective today
  • Mobile advertising, especially on emails
  • A mobile-friendly website, discussed above
  • Mobile apps

6. Social media marketing

We need no further explanation on how social media is the center of so many people’s lives today. The average person spends 116 minutes on social media every day, and so there’s no doubt that social media is one of the most powerful marketing channels available.

There are two main aspects of social media marketing: organic and paid. First, we should understand that organic reach and engagements on major social media platforms (especially Facebook) have rapidly declined in recent years. But this doesn’t mean that organic social media marketing is dead, as there are still many benefits we can get from it.

Let’s discuss these two different aspects, and how we can implement them for small businesses:

1. Organic social media marketing

There are two important factors to focus on here: the number of followers and engagements (likes, shares, etc.). So, organic social media marketing is mainly about your content, and how you align these content pieces (in the form of posts) with your core brand messages.

2. Paid social marketing

Similar to PPC ads discussed above, you can always rely on paid social advertising to generate more traffic and engagements. The key here is how to maintain cost-efficiency.

With social media advertising, maintaining cost mainly comes in the form of targeting: the more precise your targeting is, the more cost-efficient your social media marketing will be.

Facebook, for example, offers very flexible targeting options, and there are also remarketing options to further refine your cost-efficiency.

In a nutshell, we should approach organic and paid social media marketings similar to SEO and paid search: organic social media is a long-term investment (but also long-lasting), while paid social media will help mitigate this with short-term results.

7. Email marketing

Even with all the newer technologies and platforms, email is still one of, if not the most effective marketing channel to promote your products or services. Email marketing, when done right, can even reach 4,400% ROI, significantly higher than other marketing channels.

The reason for this effectiveness is fairly obvious: people are very attached to their emails -especially now when everyone is using smartphones-.

There are several tactics you can implement:

  • Personalize your emails by using the first names of your audience, many email marketing tools can help you with this.
  • Your subject line is extremely important, make sure it’s interesting and yet, to the point. You can also use first name personalization here
  • Use interesting animated gifs, images, or even videos. Yet, make sure they are mobile-responsive with fast loading speed
  • Keep your email content to the point and comprehensive, no one likes to read emails that are too long.

Email marketing can further be enhanced with marketing automation, which we will discuss directly below.

8. Marketing Automation

A major aspect of any marketing is delivering the right message to the right people at exactly the right time. However, the time factor can be a huge issue, and this is where the marketing automation tools can help.

For example, you can schedule your email marketing, as well as implementing custom-targeting based on their previous actions, demographics, and so on.

Also, advanced marketing automation tools like HubSpot, InfusionSoft, or ActiveCampaign among others can control, monitor, and automate various campaigns and marketing channels in one place.

These tools can help tremendously in measuring your marketing effectiveness, as well as improving it by automating some of the time-consuming and labor-heavy processes.

Some Final Words

As we have discussed, digital marketing can be a pretty broad subject covering many different tactics. We should remember that each tactic has its pros and cons, and the key here is to combine them together as an integrated digital marketing strategy.

The key to the success of digital marketing is consistently monitoring your progress: track the important metrics, set up the necessary attributions, and optimize your strategy according to the data.

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