The Online Marketing Code

A strong SEO strategy will almost always lead to good results in the end.

When it comes to online marketing, the purpose and objectives are generally the same as traditional strategies in terms of increasing brand awareness and finding new customers.
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[source: Entrepreneur] There are a number of ingredients that go into a successful digital promotion all the way from planning to sales. Perhaps the biggest benefit online marketing has for small businesses is that it enables them to spend each dollar more efficiently to yield a higher ROI.

Here are some ways in which small businesses are making the most out of their online marketing efforts.

Producing strong content

Content marketing is the cornerstone of every online marketing strategy. Producing stellar brand material is a surefire way to create loyal visitors and encourage sharing.

At the end of the day, the most important goal of content creation is to turn visitors into customers. This can start with small objectives like earning a follow on social media, signing up for a newsletter or taking a survey or poll.

Regardless of what type of content you are producing, such as a video, image, blog or social media post, you need to have a clear vision of how your content is going to add value to the life of the reader. Successful small businesses don’t just produce content for the sake of keeping a schedule. Typically, they know exactly what the concerns of their target audience are and they gear their content to address them in a profound, meaningful way.

Everyone benefits from quality content. Consumers get gratifying material and businesses earn better rankings on the SERPS. Small business can take advantage of their tight-knit followers and cater to their precise interests.

Localized SEO strategy

A good SEO strategy is the key to getting noticed in on the SERPS. Local SEO is extremely important for small businesses, especially ones with a physical address.

The end goal of local SEO is to gain high rankings for searches around your geographic location. When users search keywords or phrases in the area, you want your Website to be at the top of the list.

Localized SEO is great (but very competitive) for smaller companies such as dental offices or law firms. For example, a Tennessee injury law practice has used local SEO to dramatically boost their rankings to increase business. With consistent efforts, they’ve ended up ruling Google’s Map packs and local results for keywords like “injury lawyer Nashville TN.”

When someone is in need of legal counsel, they are checking the yellow pages less and less. They turn more to Google. With the help of some great local SEO efforts, a law firm with the right SEO strategy can be one of the first few names that pop up in the search.

Currently, only 17 percent of small businesses are investing in SEO. Now is a great time to jump onboard and find the best ways you can leverage the SERPS to increase your online exposure.

Web site marketing

To compete in the rapidly evolving digital landscape, having a strong Web site is a must for businesses of all sizes. Keep in mind, 51 percent of Web site traffic comes from organic search. Your positioning depends on the reputation of your Web site.

Perhaps one of the most important factors that go into a Web site’s reputation (that influences Google rankings) is speed. Loading time has a huge impact on how users interact with your platform. Page abandonment drastically increases after each second.

A great way to optimize Web site speed is to select a good host for your Web server. A lot small businesses miss the mark in this area because they’ve put together a site using a basic CMS like WordPress, but don’t have a good technical team to support them.

For a small business evaluating a Web site platform, the free trials are typically pointless. Building and marketing a good Web site takes a lot of work and resources. Committing to this task is one of the best investments of time and money you can make for your business.

One of the greatest things about online marketing is that it gives small businesses a chance to compete a relatively level playing field as the bigger enterprises. Success is based on smarter, more efficient strategies rather than total money spent. Having a solid content creation plan and SEO approach is crucial in getting your Web site in front of the eyes of your target audience.

 

Is responsive design necessary?

Aaah, the good old days.

It was a much simpler time… Websites were straight HTML. Screen sizes were about the same size and ratio. 640 x 480 at 72 dpi.

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Wow, have things changed, and for the better. It has caused me pain and angst seeing perfectly good Websites become obsolete before my eyes. With the introduction of smart phones, tablets, and wide screen displays on both the laptop and desktop, the challenge is to make sure your Website looks good on them all. While not an easy task… it is a necessity to say the least. Because now more than 51% of activity online is from smart phones and tablets, just seven years ago it was 12%.

So now we at least know the challenge we are dealing with. Make your Website look good on all devices at the same time. And here’s the kicker. Now Google will derank your site (push it down in the search results) if it is not mobile friendly. They are doing this because they now how much traffic is from mobile devices and they want to make sure the experience for the end user is the best it can be.

 

Little to No Online Presence

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Many small businesses are at a competitive disadvantage.

Redshift Research survey commissioned by Web-hosting company GoDaddy reports that well over half of very small businesses have no Websites or Facebook pages.

[source: Inc.] About 60 percent of very small businesses (made up of one to five people) don’t have Websites, according to a recent survey. Of those, about 12 percent have Facebook pages.

That leaves a lot of businesses relying on word-of-mouth to get their name out, though many may have a presence on online platforms like Yelp.

The Redshift Research survey, commissioned by GoDaddy, showed that the percentages were roughly the same for the U.S. and the aggregate of businesses surveyed globally, in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S.

“While we take for granted that everyone is online, the reality is that for many small businesses it’s simply not true,” said Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy, Inc. said in a press release.

The reason given by many of those surveyed, according to GoDaddy senior vice president of business applications Steven Aldrich, is that they perceive themselves to be too small.

The survey reported the percentage of businesses that saw themselves as too small for Websites at 35 percent. Other reasons given were that they lacked technical expertise (21 percent) or couldn’t afford a website (20 percent).

The statistics seem surprising until you consider that 39 percent of businesses surveyed globally and 46 percent in the U.S. consisted of only one person, according to GoDaddy.

Of course, Web-hosting business GoDaddy, for which small businesses are the core audience, thinks businesses without Websites are missing out. Aldrich points out that being on the Web makes a business easier to find.

Of the surveyed businesses that have Websites, 83 percent said their online platforms gave them a competitive advantage over businesses without Websites.

“What is clear is that these very small businesses are realizing that if they don’t fully engage online, they are at a competitive disadvantage,” said Irving.

The survey was conducted of 4,009 businesses of 1-5 employees each, with the sample size split roughly equally among the eight countries where businesses were surveyed, according to GoDaddy. The survey had a margin of error of +/- 1.5 percentage points.

 

Small Business Mobile Strategy

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We’re living in the age of technology.

Evolving ecommerce solutions are making it simpler than ever to reach customers across the globe, while new apps and social trends are constantly popping up and shifting the goalposts in terms of marketing strategy.

In order to stay competitive, small business owners have got to keep up with the times. Yet according to researchers, a vast number of companies are still a bit wary of hopping on the bandwagon. They tend to rely on traditional, tried-and-tested marketing methods, and find the prospect of developing digital, mobile-friendly strategies a bit daunting.

But believe it or not, taking steps to reach new customers via digital and mobile technologies is completely pain-free. Better yet, you don’t need to be a tech genius in order to implement these tools. At the end of the day, crafting an effective mobile marketing strategy is really about common sense — but to help you get started, here’s a list of quick tips that will enable your business to join the rest of the twenty-first century.

1. Make Sure Your Website is Mobile-friendly

Nowadays, users spend more time surfing the Web on mobiles or tablets than they spend on clunky desktops. That means you’ve got to ensure your Website translates well onto all viewing platforms. If your site doesn’t look great on a smartphone, it’s worth taking a look at what aspects are and aren’t working. Sometimes embedded videos, over-sized images or odd numbers of menu items can be enough to bring an entire homepage crashing to the ground.

When in doubt, if it’s not working on a mobile, lose it. After all, there’s no point spending time and effort marketing your company to people if they aren’t able to get the most out of your Website.

2. Use Responsive Design

Another important mobile marketing basic is to ensure that your Website uses responsive design. That’s essentially a fancy way of describing whether a Website automatically adjusts its layout and content depending upon the size of screen and type of device it’s being viewed upon. Again, this is pretty important to Web marketing, as users typically don’t have the time or patience to fiddle with zooming in and out of your pages.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be terribly tech-savvy in order to create a responsive Website. If your company’s Website is hosted via an affordable Web builder like WordPress or Squarespace, there should be a host of free templates at your disposal that have been coded to be fully responsive and 100 percent mobile-friendly.

3. Try Sending Some Texts

SMS marketing has been increasing in popularity over the past couple of years, and it’s definitely worth a shot. So long as you maintain a up-to-date customer contacts list, you don’t even need to bother with some overpriced marketing agency in order to reach customers via text. That being said, you’ve got to be smart about it.

Users will be very likely to open your marketing messages, but you’ve got to give them a reason to click through to your responsive and mobile-friendly site. Special, time-sensitive discounts, limited quantity offers and exclusive information typically perform well.

4. Use Social Media

Social media is one of the most important weapons in your marketing arsenal – especially if you’re experimenting with different mobile marketing strategies. If you are sending SMS messages or HTMLs out to potential customers, push them onto your Facebook page. Encourage them to ‘like’ or share mobile images and get involved in conversations about your products, services or the wider industry as a whole. By engaging users on social media, you’re unlocking a whole new level of brand potential.

5. Optimize Your Emails

Believe it or not, company newsletters are just as effective today as they were twenty years ago in terms of marketing potential. The only difference is that nowadays, emails have gone mobile. Around 65 percent of all emails are now opened on smartphones rather than desktops or laptops. Bearing that in mind, you’ve got to ensure your emails are mobile-friendly.

That means you should tone it down on the big images or graphics. Be concise, and don’t be afraid to go crazy on the hyperlinks. Push users onto your social media channels, landing pages are particular product pages on your own site.

6. Use Abbreviated URLs

Mobile users typically want brands to be short, sweet and to the point when it comes to marketing messages. That’s where abbreviated URLs come in handy.

If you’re keen on sending customers to a specific landing page or item on your Website, it always helps to provide them with a short URL that’s easy on the eyes and easy to remember. There are loads of free URL shorteners out there. It might seem like a trivial detail, but it’s always the little things that can make the biggest differences.

7. Use QR Codes

QR codes are just about everywhere nowadays. You see them in magazine ads, on wine bottles and all over store shelves – and they’re absolutely brilliant. By taking a quick snap of a code using a mobile phone, you can be instantly transported to a custom-built landing page designed to tell you all about the product or service you’re on the verge of buying.

Better yet, even the world’s biggest technophobe can create a custom QR code for their business without breaking a sweat. There are loads of free tools out there, and they couldn’t be simpler to use.

8. Use Google AdWords

If you’ve ever considered investing a bit more in your company’s digital presence, you have probably come across Google AdWords. It’s a brilliant tool that helps you to capitalize on searches from would-be customers – but not everybody takes advantage of its mobile optimization capabilities.

You can actually now segment mobile searches and manage mobile ads separately. By doing so, you can learn to track and measure all of the mobile-traffic your site gets, which will also help you decipher whether your other mobile marketing methods are actually paying dividends.

9. Buy Mobile Ads

Unlike sink-or-swim print advertisements, mobile ads are dynamic beasts that can provide your business with unprecedented returns. Because you can target your audience based upon demographics or their geographical area, mobile advertisements are able to reach individuals that are far more likely to be engaged by your marketing messages.

There are quite a few mobile advertising networks that offer a range of affordable PPC rates.

10. Create Mobile-friendly Content

It’s all well and good to attract users to your responsive Website using well-crafted SMS messages or mobile ads – but if the content on your site puts people off, all your hard work will have been for nothing.

Mobile users are typically going to be checking out your Webpages on small screens. They’ll probably be surrounded by distractions, too. Bearing that in mind, all of your Web content has got to be short and snappy. Don’t waste time with colorful descriptions or passive tones of voice. You’ve got one shot in order to get people’s attention – make it count.

At the end of the day, these are just a few basic tips. Once you’ve laid the groundwork for an effective mobile marketing strategy, you can start experimenting with different techniques and trying out a range of emerging trends.

Just remember that mobile marketing is all about consolidation. Texts, emails, ads and social media have all got to work alongside one another in order for you to effectively promote your small business online.

Why Your Business Needs a Website

Web design for small businesses.

Even if you’re not planning on selling online, a well-crafted site is essential for any business.

Q: My business is very small, just me and two employees, and our product really can’t be sold online. Do I really need a Website?

A: That’s a good question. In fact, it’s one of the most important and most frequently asked questions of the digital business age. Before I answer, however, let’s flash back to the very first time I was asked this question. It was circa 1998, during the toddler years of the Internet.

[source: Tim Knox, Entrepreneur] I was giving a speech on the impact of the Internet on small business at an association luncheon in Montgomery, Alabama. Back in 1998, which was decades ago in Internet years, the future of e-commerce was anybody’s guess, but even the most negative futurists agreed that all the signs indicated that a large portion of future business revenues would be derived from online transactions or from offline transactions that were the result of online marketing efforts.

So should your business have a Website, even if your business is small and sells products or services you don’t think can be sold online? My answer in 1998 is the same as my answer today: Yes, if you have a business, you should have a Website. Period. No question. Without a doubt.

Also, don’t be so quick to dismiss your product as one that can’t be sold online. Nowadays, there’s very little that can’t be sold over the Internet. More than 20 million shoppers are now online, purchasing everything from books to computers to cars to real estate to jet airplanes to natural gas to you name it. If you can imagine it, someone will figure out how to sell it online.

Let me clarify one point: I’m not saying you should put all your efforts into selling your wares over the Internet, though if your product lends itself to easy online sales, you should certainly be considering it. The point to be made here is that you should at the very least have a presence on the Web so that customers, potential employees, business partners and perhaps even investors can quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products or services you have to offer.

That said, it’s not enough that you just have a Website. You must have a professional-looking site if you want to be taken seriously. Since many consumers now search for information online prior to making a purchase at a brick-and-mortar store, your site may be the first chance you have at making a good impression on a potential buyer. If your site looks like it was designed by a barrel of colorblind monkeys, your chance at making a good first impression will be lost.

One of the great things about the Internet is that it has leveled the playing field when it comes to competing with the big boys. As mentioned, you have one shot at making a good first impression. With a well-designed site, your little operation can project the image and professionalism of a much larger company. The inverse is also true. I’ve seen many big company Websites that were so badly designed and hard to navigate that they completely lacked professionalism and credibility. Good for you, too bad for them.

You also mention that yours is a small operation, but when it comes to benefiting from a Website, size does not matter. I don’t care if you’re a one-man show or a 10,000-employee corporate giant; if you don’t have a Website, you’re losing business to other companies that do.

Here’s the exception to my rule: It’s actually better to have no Website at all than to have one that makes your business look bad. Your site speaks volumes about your business. It either says, “Hey, look, we take our business so seriously that we have created this wonderful site for our customers!” or it screams, “Hey, look, I let my 10-year-old nephew design my site. Good luck finding anything!”

Your Website is an important part of your business. Make sure you treat it as such.