One of the benefits of the internet is that business owners can now reach a large number of potential clients and customers, and at little to no cost.
But digital marketing takes more than simply setting up a website or posting on Facebook. There are business goals to consider, strategies to create, and metrics like impressions and conversions that can easily be confusing.
In this article, I’m going to outline the basics of various digital marketing platforms, what they can do for your business, and how to best approach them.
Owning A Piece Of Internet Real Estate
For most people, the internet is the first port of call when looking for products or services. This makes being online essential for business owners. If a business doesn’t have a website or an email address, it’s going to miss out on a large number of potential customers.
Being online not only helps people learn more about a business, it also makes the business look more professional. And building this professional image starts with a dedicated domain name.
A domain name is the website or email address that people use to find you online, and you should own one that matches your business.
For instance, Wikipedia owns the domain wikipedia.org, and the New York Times owns NYTimes.com.
You can register a domain through a registration company like NameSilo. Make sure to include all your details when you complete the registration paperwork as this makes you the legal owner of that domain name.
Your domain name should reflect your business name, and you can even go so far as to register several other related names. This prevents anyone else from owning the name unless they buy it from you.
Be thorough with your research and be sure about how unique your name actually is. I have a friend who found out the hard way. She registered a domain with her own name and the extension .ca, only to discover that an adult film star with the same name had already registered the .com version of that domain – you can only imagine the confusion!
Then, once you own a domain name, you can make the arrangements for hosting your email and website.
If you imagine a website or email address as being your home, hosting is like finding a place to build that home.
Luckily, some domain registration companies already offer website and email hosting packages, including website building services like WPX Hosting. These usually include technical support, as well as maintaining and updating your website and email.
For email hosting specifically, you can use Google’s G Suite service or Microsoft’s Office 365 solution. G Suite has the advantage of being easily accessible, relatively cheap, and having great spam filters.
On the other hand, Office 365 is a good option for businesses that already use other Microsoft software for their day-to-day admin.
Once you’ve set up your email hosting, you’re pretty much good to go. Your website does, however, require a little more input. I’ll get into how to do this in the next section.
Appeal To A Target Market
A website can be a real asset for a business. It’s a space to connect with potential customers, and even sell your products or services.
There are many things to consider when planning a website. You can hire a reputable designer or developer to build it, or create a simple site yourself with a platform like WordPress.
If you plan to sell products you can add an e-commerce section, or build the whole website as an online store. It’s also possible to sell on an online marketplace like Amazon or Etsy.
Different businesses will have different needs. But regardless of who builds a website, or what functionalities it has, everyone should be able to use it.
Anyone visiting your website should be able to navigate it easily and find the information they’re looking for quickly.
Because most people access the web from their smartphones, you need to ensure that the site adapts to smaller screen sizes.
Your web developer or designer can use what is called responsive design to do this. And if you’re setting up the website yourself on a platform like WordPress, look for a theme that is mobile-friendly.
Beyond being accessible on different devices, a website should also be easy for everyone to use, including people with disabilities.
The best way to create such a website is by consulting the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Also known as WCAG 2.0, these guidelines outline how to ensure universal accessibility. In some parts of the world, it’s illegal not to follow these guidelines – so make sure you look into it.
Another key aspect of your website is the content. After all, this is what visitors will be consuming.
Your content needs to appeal to your target market. Think of the products or services that you offer, and then highlight these in a relatable, human way.
For example, a family lawyer using boring legal jargon on her website probably won’t gain many new clients. A better strategy might be sharing her career journey and the stories of real families that she’s helped.
In addition to being relatable, content should be engaging. Avoid long texts and, instead, keep things short, catchy, and relevant to your audience. Use high-quality images to make your content stand out.
You can get a professional to take pictures for you, buy images from a service like Shutterstock, or use free images from the Creative Commons website. Lastly, make sure to update your content regularly to keep people coming back.
Improve Your Site’s Ranking
Creating website content that captures the attention of visitors is one thing, but how do they find it in the first place? This is where Search Engine Optimization comes in, or, as it’s more commonly known, SEO.
When people run a search on Google, a list of the top-ranked relevant websites will appear. SEO is the process of making sure a website ranks highly on that list and can be discovered by more people. Fortunately, there’s an easy-to-follow formula for SEO.
We can divide SEO into two types: on-page and off-page.
On-page refers to content and source code that can be optimized while off-page refers to links and external factors. It’s a bit like dressing well. Your website’s ranking goes up when it looks good to search engines, much like a spruce-up leaves a positive impression. The Google search engine is motivated by keywords. These are terms used when searching for information. For instance, someone looking for a chair from Denmark might type “Scandinavian furniture” into a search engine.
Including relevant keywords in your content, web page titles, and even image descriptions will improve your on-page SEO. To find these words, use an online tool like Mangools. This will help you identify which keywords are popular with your audience.
When other websites link to yours, Google sees this as a stamp of approval and ranks your website higher. If that website happens to be popular, that’s even better.
Think of the impact of someone sharing your link on Twitter versus a publication like CNN linking to your website. Google pays closer attention to the latter.
Good quality content will get you noticed by other websites, but there are additional steps you can take to increase your off-page SEO.
For building your digital marketing business, you can guest publish on other blogs and build relationships with relevant organizations, bloggers, and influencers. This connection meant that all these websites started to link back to your website.
The last strategy for better SEO is perhaps the simplest; let search engines know where you are.
Google shows users which relevant businesses are close by. So, to reach people in your area create a Google My Business profile. All you need is your business address, contact details, working hours, and a few pictures. It’s easy as pie and it’s completely free!
Social Media Success
Think of the brands you love, the products you use daily, and even your local supermarket. Chances are they’re all on social media, and if not, they should be! Whatever the size or budget, any business can and should benefit from social media. But there’s a trick.
Social media platforms are like cliques in a school, each has its own characteristics and social dynamics, and each kid finds the clique they have the most in common with.
Likewise, you should join the social media platforms that are most popular with your target market.
The biggest platform, Facebook, reaches every demographic. It is, however, more popular with older people, and less so with teens and people in their twenties.
Because posts from family and friends are the focus here, businesses can struggle to get noticed. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is all about professional networking and is great for targeting other businesses that need your products or services.
On Twitter, you’ll find generation X and older millennials, but be prepared to engage frequently. Youtube is also home to millennials and focuses on creative videos.
Women under 50 are the largest audience on image-based Instagram, and Pinterest has a similar audience that collects images for inspiration.
Try out the different platforms to find the right fit for you. If something doesn’t meet your business goals or you don’t enjoy it, delete the account and focus your attention elsewhere.
Once you’ve identified one or two platforms that make sense for your business, the next thing to figure out is what to post on them.
I suggest that 80 percent of your social media content should be, well, social. You can feature your employees, have interactive video chats, or share relevant content generated by your audience.
The rest of your content should highlight your business. This can be links to your website, testimonials from customers, or promotional competitions. But remember that each platform has its own tone and format, so the content must be tweaked accordingly.
If you’re worried about staying on top of content creation as well as each platform’s needs, there are tools that can help.
Create social media guidelines to ensure that your content and tone when engaging is consistent, no matter who is running your accounts. And use a social media calendar to plan content a week or so in advance. You can even schedule the content to automatically publish through a platform like Hootsuite.
Effective Email Marketing
Off the top of your head, how many marketing emails are you subscribed to? With so many businesses inviting you to sign-up, it can be hard to keep track. But there’s a good reason why email marketing is so popular.
Email marketing doesn’t require much money or technology, and it allows businesses to communicate any information that serves their goals and needs.
This can be news about products or services, industry insights, or special offers to entice customers.
Building an email marketing list is also fairly easy. Simple sign-up forms on a website and invitations on social media do work, as do physical sign-up sheets in stores or at events. But to get the most out of email marketing, your content should be worthwhile and hard to miss.
Every email you send out should mean something to both your business and the recipient. Consider what information will best serve your business goals and be useful to the readers. You need to establish this even before you build your list so that you can let people know exactly what they’re signing up for.
Ask yourself how you’d like readers to respond to your emails. Maybe you want them to share your message with other people, make a purchase, or visit your website.
Your email content should encourage people to perform these desired actions. For example, if you want people to buy the new product you’re announcing, consider offering them an exclusive discount.
To learn what gets the most engagement from your readers, experiment with a few different tactics. This applies not only to the content of your emails, but to how you deliver them, too.
Some subject lines will attract more readers than others, while sending an email at the wrong time could mean it never gets opened.
You’ll only learn what works by testing different options. Luckily, email marketing platforms such as GetResponse allow you to run A/B tests. This means sending two different versions of an email in order to see which one hits the mark.
To get even more insights about your email marketing campaigns, link your platform of choice to your website. This will allow you to see if emails are leading readers to the website, and what actions they’re taking when they get there.
Offer People Something They Want
How many ads do you think you see every day? Five? Five hundred?
If you live in a city, then according to an article in the New York Times, you come across more than 5,000 ads on a daily basis! Throw online ads, across all our devices, into the mix and it seems like we’re completely surrounded by advertising images and messaging.
For a business, the thought of trying to stand out in this crowded space can be daunting. But it is possible. Online advertising shares some basic principles with email marketing.
That is, every ad campaign has to support your business goal, offer people something they value, and invite them to take action.
Once you’re clear on the goals of your ads and the value they bring to customers, the next question is where to place them.
There are a few online advertising options available to small businesses, and each has its own advantages.
Have you ever noticed the ads that appear when you Google something?
They pop up with your search results and on the websites you visit. These are Google Ads, and they’re effective because they are relevant to topics and information people have searched for.
If you use Facebook or its sister app, Instagram, then you’ll most likely have seen a few Facebook ads. They allow you to target people using criteria such as gender, location, and interests.
Another option to consider is placing one-off banner ads on other websites. You can contact website owners directly to arrange this.
Whether you advertise through Google, Facebook, or another website, you’ll be charged in the same way.
You’ll either pay based on the number of people the ad could reach, or on how many of them actually click on it. The more clicks and the bigger the audience, the more it will cost you.
Because of how expensive online advertising can get, it’s important to tread carefully. Start by spending small amounts of money on various platforms.
When you figure out which platform is working well for you, put more money behind it. It’s like going to a casino, you have to try a bit of everything to find the game you’re good at.
Keep An Eye On The Metrics
The previous sections covered various ways of marketing a business in the digital world. But once you’ve set up a website, are sending off emails, and navigating social media, how will you know if it’s actually growing your business?
The answer is by looking at the numbers. Whether on your website or Facebook, you have access to every metric related to your digital marketing activity. One or even several of these metrics will relate to your business goals.
To understand how your website is performing, I recommend connecting it to the Google Analytics tool.
This provides insights on your audience size and demographics, and which of your website sections are the most popular.
Plus you’ll learn whether visitors are finding your site through social media, a search engine, or another website.
Google Analytics can also track key actions that you determine, such as when visitors buy a product from the website or subscribe to a mailing list.
Social media platforms have their own inbuilt reporting systems. Here you can find metrics like how many people your content is reaching, whether or not they’re engaging through comments and likes, and if they’re clicking your website links.
The metrics you follow on each platform will depend on the goals you set for your business. If you’re aiming to sell more products, then look at how many people are completing sales on your website.
You can even learn if their journey starts on your social media page, marketing email, or via an online ad.
If your goal is to get exposure for your brand, look at how many people you’re reaching through the website and social media.
But, not all of your metrics will be digital. You might start getting more visitors to your brick-and-mortar store, or a higher number of phone calls. So keep an eye on these, too.
Look at your key metrics regularly, perhaps once a week, and benchmark the numbers against past performance or competing businesses.
The idea is to learn what’s paying off and what isn’t, and then make the necessary adjustments. As your business grows and your goals change, you’ll have to try different marketing tactics and even identify new key metrics.
Your digital marketing efforts should always be based on your business needs and goals.
Decide what you’re working toward and choose platforms and metrics that best align with this.
Whether you opt for a website, social media, emails, or ads, your content should be valuable to your audience, and should encourage them to engage with the business.