Note: If you’re just here to improve the online marketing or produce more sales for your business, and want to skip straight to the actionable stuff, then click on one of these links! SEO, Local Listings, Social Media, Paid Advertising.
There’s no getting around the fact that your business must be online now if you have any chance of it being successful enough to build and scale. Even if the business you do is service-based, like the carpenters and builders we work with, people now search for everything online.
Think about the last time you needed some emergency plumbing, a new notepad or a nearby pub, what did you do?
You grabbed your phone and searched. That’s exactly what your customers are doing!
In the past, all you really had to do to make great sales was:
- Have your business in a place with great footfall
- Have eye-catching window dressing and signs
- Create great word of mouth and network
- Put out advertising in newspapers, radio and TV
Now bear in mind that’s a simplified process, but it all came down to being visible to new customers and pleasing current customers.
Without being visible to new people, you couldn’t make any new customers and if you don’t make your current customers happy, your bad reputation will precede you!
With everything now moving online, these 4 processes now have modern counter-parts:
- SEO – Search engines are the new high street
- Local Listings – Eye catching window dressing (reviews & photos and signposting)
- Social Media – word of mouth and networking
- Paid advertising – Only now, on Google, Facebook, Youtube etc. Where the attention is!
These are the 4 main pillars of the online world you should now be focusing all your marketing efforts on. While they all require a time investment, only paid advertising requires a monetary investment!
So, now you know why a business has to be online, what if you’re just starting out and don’t have the money to afford an online marketing company such as ourselves?
Well we think if you can manage to put 4 hours a day into the right things, within a few months you’ll be making sales from your new online presence!
At this point you’re probably thinking to yourself “how can I find the time and money to learn all of this stuff while starting my business or moving it online?”, well we’re here to help!
In this blog post we’ll outline each of these 4 pillars, their pros and cons and 3 areas to focus on to produce the best returns on your time investment. In future blog posts we’ll go even deeper in depth on each of these topics for those of you that want to learn a bit more!
As part of our onboarding for all new clients, we help teach them these basics, so not only can we hold ourselves accountable to them, but they can also know what to look for if they hire someone in-house to take care of their marketing!
This first pillar is a big one, with the best ROI and arguably the most important form of online marketing for long term results.
SEO is the main avenue we focus on at LeadFocus because we believe it’s the best long-term option for any business and delivers the best lifetime value. Following good SEO practice on your website will allow it to sit there generating visitors and sales for you for as long people are searching online, without having to pay anything for advertising or spending time updating social media!
Now SEO is a massive subject, but we’re going to focus on 3 main areas in this blog post – User Experience, Relevance & Mentions.
Get these 3 things right and you’re doing better than 80% of other websites out there and likely to get onto the first page, if not the top spot in less competitive markets!
Search engines want to serve searchers the most useful website for them, and those websites will be ones that people enjoy spending time on – reading, socialising and contacting. At the same time, with over half of all searches now being done on mobile and search engines catering to this, you need to be leading the pack!
This leaves you with a few key areas to focus your efforts on.
- Site loading speed – Google wants the internet to be fast, not necessarily big. This means the loading time of your site should be as low as you can possibly get it. People start to click back off a site if it takes longer than 2.5 seconds to load. Take out any sliders, move to a faster host and implement any optimizing plugins you’re able to. Focus more on making a clear, minimalist site rather than a “designy” one.
- Mobile Useability – With so many people now browsing the internet on mobile phones, search engines have move to a “mobile-first” mentality, starting with Google. That means they now crawl the internet as if they were a mobile phone. They take into account how the site looks, if it loads properly, how fast and its useability on smartphones.
- Keeping users on your page – The longer people spend on your page, the better it looks to search engines. There’s clearly something useful on the page if people are spending so long on it! This is where great content comes in. If your pages are compelling, relevant or entertaining, then users will spend longer on them. Write great, engaging content that people want to share and suddenly you’ll start to see your rankings making a dramatic movement!
How relevant is your site to people searching? Well this is where all the talk of Keywords comes into play! If you’re a small accountancy firm, you don’t want to be appearing to people that search for “Underwater Basket Weaving”!
At the same time, If you want to rank #1 for “accountants” across the world, then it won’t be within your budget or man-power. That’s why it’s very important that you figure out what your main target keywords are!
You need to appear to people that are searching for your product or service so that you are appearing to them at the right time.
To start off with, you’ll want to pick 3-5 main keywords that are products and services you deliver, within your industry, competitive enough that there’s search volume, and not so competitive they can’t be beaten out!
You’ll also want to pick 10-15 keywords that are “long-tail”, that is, they have 4 or more words in the phrase i.e. “local registered tax accountants”. These phrases aren’t searched very often, but those people that do search are MUCH more likely to be at the buying part of their journey rather than research.
These keywords then need to make their way into your site’s headers, images, back-end and most importantly your content! Search engines will read through all of the user facing and non-user facing elements of your site and pick out what keywords you seem to be talking about the most, they’ll then show your site to people searching for that term.
This is where user experience comes in! If those first few searchers seem to spend a lot of time on your site, then Google will see it’s of high value for those keywords, and you’re off to a running start!
The third part of the secret sauce of SEO rankings is mentions – backlinks, social media shares and social media tags. If people and other sites are talking about yours, your content, sharing it with their users or linking back to it, search engines can see it’s something worth spreading.
Either you’re providing a great service, have great content, or something else is drawing people in. Either way, people are saying that more people should see it.
This is a fantastic way of proving trust to search engines, because if people are spreading it around of their own volition, then there’s obviously something of value for a search engine’s users when they search for certain keywords.
There are a few main ways of getting more mentions, but the biggest one is to provide as much value as you possibly can! Have content so relevant, engaging or entertaining that you don’t even have to ask people to share it with their friends, they’ll do it anyway because it’s so good!
There are a couple of ways to garner backlinks that are a little more controllable.
The first is sending out press releases whenever you have news worth sharing – A new product offering, a new cornerstone piece of content or your team has won an award.
The second is getting your business into as many industry directories as possible. These almost always come with backlinks, and are just a bit more flavour for search engines.
Local listings are a fantastic way to get found by even more people online than just having a website, but in some industries they are criminally under-utilised!
There are a few important things to bear in mind with local listings: They are necessary if you’re a location-based business such as a bar or bakery, they’re much more likely to generate you sales from mobile phone and device searches & in many industries, you can leapfrog all the organic website results and achieve a few months of SEO work in a few weeks with the map pack in Google!
Here’s an example from one of our clients’ websites – Loft Conversion Newcastle. You can see that when people search for Newcastle Loft Conversions, the map results appear first, then the non advert websites (you’ll notice our client is top in both, and take up 2 positions on the first page!)
So how do you go about creating local listings?
First, head over to Google My Business, https://www.google.com/intl/en_uk/business/. Once there, Google will ask for various details about your business – it’s important you fill in as much accurate detail as possible, including your business address! If your business address is your own home address, then still fill this in, but you can choose not to show the address publicly!
The more information is available, the more valuable your listing will be to Google, and the quicker it’ll climb the map listings. Upload as many photos as possible of your business and its services, and make sure the images are named correctly with what they’re displaying – “Raspberry Donuts.jpeg”, “Newcastle Loft Boarding.jpeg” etc.
Next, Google will want to verify your business and its location by sending the address you filled in a postcard with a verification code. This normally takes a few days to arrive and you just put it straight into your local listing page and it becomes verified!
An important thing to remember is that Google isn’t the only search engine people use! Create a listing on not just Google, but also Apple, Bing and Yahoo, to make sure you’re hitting as many searches as possible.
Once you’ve created them, there are 3 ongoing things to do:
- Keep your listings updated: Keep adding new photos as you take them, update business details as they change and fill in new fields as Google adds them to the local listings!
- Reviews: Source as many reviews as possible from your customers and respond to their reviews whether good or bad! Search engines love activity more than anything so just replying to these reviews with a “thanks!” will help more than you’d think.
- Citations: Add your Name, Address & Phone number (NAP) to as many directories as possible, as well as having a copy of it on your website’s footer so it’s easily traceable. The more of these search engines can find, the more they can see your business is being mentioned, which gives it more value and trust.
Social media is a divisive subject with every business owner we work with. Many believe that it’s only good for personal use, except for LinkedIn, and many others don’t think they’d have the time to do it.
However, with social media use only increasing exponentially, and many people now looking to social media to pass the time (especially in a post-COVID world), building a brand and releasing regular content becomes basically free advertising and marketing!
The best way for a small business to tackle social media is to start in one controllable place – Your website’s blog.
Here you should try to write out around 800-1000 words of content a week about your work, the services you do, the industry you’re in etc. This has two benefits.
Regularly updating your website with new, relevant content will help you climb the organic rankings in search engines, and cause users to stay on your site for even longer, and could also generate backlinks creating a positive loop. You’ll also have a consistent well of pillar content to draw from that you can cannabalise for social media:
- Your 1000 word blog post can be placed on LinkedIn and Medium along with a link back to your site.
- You can post it to Facebook along with the most relevant engaging paragraph (and boost this post for a few pennies for a little extra push!)
- A few Tweets can be made from engaging lines of the content, along with links back.
- The content can be edited into a Youtube video that you also record for a Podcast
- Finally, if suitable, you can create a few Instagram posts from the content or photos of your work, and definitely create stories from both of these things to help engage your current followers!
If you can set up automatic systems for this, then you’ll leverage a ton of time and seem omnipresent! If you have the marketing budget, it may even be worth hiring a VA to cannabalise the content for you once you’ve written it and marked it up for them!
It cannot be overstated just how important social media now is to businesses as both a form of brand recognition and customer service, but also a form of free advertising to those both interested in your industry and searching for services like yours.
Finally, we come to paid advertising, the most proven but most costly form of online marketing! This can be done on any number of platforms, but the most popular are:
- Google – Fantastic if you want to engage with people that are on the verge of buying as opposed to just browsing. You’ll bid to appear for certain search terms and have full control over what exactly you want to be found for.
- Facebook – Advertising on Facebook is your best option when your advertising objective isn’t just for sales, but for enticing scrolling users with a lead magnet, encouraging brand recognition or otherwise getting your message out there. Where
- Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Tiktok etc.- When it comes to the other social media platforms, it mostly comes down to your target customers, the kind of advertising that makes sense for your brand (visual, video, written etc.) and where they would spend their time. Twitter, Instagram and Youtube work for most kinds of audiences. If you’re looking for younger audiences, get on Tiktok and Snapchat. Professional industries and almost all B2B would be LinkedIn.
There are a few steps you need to take before starting any form of advertising though, if you want to make any return on investment from it. You don’t want to start throwing your marketing budget down the drain in the hopes that you’ll get somewhere! You need a systemised, thoroughly thought out approach you need to go through first.
- What is your ideal target market – Who is your customer? Where would they spend their time? Where are they based? What are their spending habits? Go into as much detail as you can so you can narrow your audience down
- What is your goal – Are you trying to get more marketing leads to funnel down? Are you trying to get your brand’s name out there more? Are you trying to find venture/funding partners? Are you trying to get direct phone calls? Each of these goals would need very different advertising, and very different measures of success.
- What do you want to be found for – This is obviously important, you want people to only find you when they need you, there’s no point paying for impressions to people that don’t need your business! This comes down to the keywords you want to be found for on certain platforms, and target audiences on others. Narrow this down as much as possible so you’re finding people at the best stage for your goals.
- How will you test what’s working – This is the final piece of the puzzle, as a DIYer marketer, you won’t be able to guess what works in the market. You will have to test what gives you the best ROI and push more of your budget towards that. The best way to do this is with different ad content for the same audiences, and the same content for different audiences. This requires quite a bit of time and money investment, but once it pays off, ROI can get a bit ridiculous! We’ve seen some of our clients start to get £9 for every £1 they put in, though bear in mind, Google’s official average is every $1 gives you $2 back.
We’ve seen many businesses become untrusting of paid advertising because they’ve tried it themselves by shooting in the dark and starting campaigns before doing any of this work. This usually results in them spending a few thousand and making no money which means it’s a hard sell for us to convince them of the power of it!
Where to begin online marketing
Now you have a brief run-down of what the building blocks are of improving your revenue, you might be wondering where you start the journey of online marketing!
Really, we recommend always having a website and focusing on SEO and a local listing if it makes sense, then your use of social media and paid advertising will depend solely on your budget and time you can spend updating them!
Social media is great for brand recognition and building up trust, while paid advertising will depend on what your goals and budget are and if it makes sense in your current business cycle.
While every business is different, this process will help any company that wants to improve their marketing, or move online:
When you get a free couple of hours, sit down with a coffee & turn off any distractions. Really go through what your current goals are, what you can spend in terms of money and time & where your ideal customers are. This, along with the knowledge you now have will give you a starting point to map out where you need to focus on next.
If you need any help along the way, we’re here to be a guiding hand, or we can take care of all this for you so you can focus on what you love! Click here to organise a free consultation session to go through how marketing could help you, so let’s get started!