Guide to Marketing for Small Business

SEO, PPC or Both?
Quality Content is King
Embrace the Future of Mobile Marketing
Follow the Crowd, But Don’t Lose Your Head
Use Your Marketing Dollars Wisely

Ask a small business owner what they struggle with most, and marketing will be among the top answers. It seems simple enough. You create an ad, then you show it to anyone who will look. But that’s where it gets tricky: who wants to look at your ad? Knowing your target audience is half the battle. For instance, if you own a comic book shop, you want your ads to be seen by young men, as they are the ones most likely to visit your store. On the other hand, a boutique clothing store owner would want to target women of all ages.

Once you figure out who you would want to target with your advertisements, you have to figure out how to get your name in front of them. Just in the past decade, marketing has taken bounding leaps forward. On top of buying airtime on radio and television, now you have online ads — ads that are already almost dead due to adblocking software. Sure, you can buy an ad on Facebook that targets single men, ages 24-29, living in SoHo, Manhattan, but will they actually see it?

As reaching your target audience becomes more complex, your marketing strategy must evolve with it. Some staples, like television ads, are here to stay for the time being (even if more and more people are turning their back on cable). But to find true success in marketing, small business owners must adapt to reach the most important audience: the local market.

SEO, PPC or Both?

Perhaps the most important factor in any digital marketing campaign is search engine optimization. In theory, it’s easy. Come up with a few keywords, write some good pages and bam! You’re at the top of Google results. But Google enjoys frustrating marketing professionals and small business owners alike by changing its algorithm every few months. Nonetheless, staying on the cutting edge of SEO, especially local SEO, is crucial to the success of your small business.

Whether they’re on their smartphones or on their computers, when consumers search for local information online, they want relevant results they can act upon. According to in-house research from Google, half of mobile users who searched for local information visited a store that same day. About a third of desktop and tablet users did the same. If you aren’t organically ranking (that is, without paying for ads) in the top 10 results on the first page of Google, you are missing out on a massive customer base.

Clearly, SEO is important. But another major player in digital marketing is pay-per-click ads, or PPC. The idea is simple: every time someone clicks on your ad, you pay a small fee. It’s literally a small price to pay to show up at the top of results when a user searches a certain keyword. But without relevant information, it’s all for naught. That same research found that over 60 percent of users want ads with local information. They want a quick address or phone number. In addition, nearly 70 percent use buttons like “Get Directions” or “Call” when they’re available. Do your ads live up to these standards?

Having a professional handle local SEO for your business costs money. So do PPC ads. So, which one should you choose? Consider these statistics:

  • Organic (SEO) results are over 8 times more likely to be clicked than PPC ads
  • PPC ads are 1.5 times more likely to convert click-through rates — that is, people actually coming to your site

When you consider these numbers together, it becomes clear that organic results are more beneficial than paid ads. However, PPC should not be disregarded, nor should you trust your local SEO to inexperienced hands. Click here to learn more about how we can help you.

Marketing for Small Business

Quality Content Is King

Through all of Google’s algorithm changes, one thing has remained constant: Good content is vital to success. There are a few reasons for this. One, it shows Google that you are an authoritative voice in your industry, and therefore can be trusted. Two, fresh content is always prized by the search engines. It makes sense, logically. If someone were to search for “How to fix my washer,” fresher content that may feature newer washing machine models would be more beneficial than a 5-year-old article on the same topic.

Quality is also a crucial part of content creation. In the old days of Google, “keyword stuffing” was a common — and beneficial — practice. That is, writers would use a keyword like “used cars in Toledo” 15 to 20 times on one page. They would get top spots on search results, even if the page didn’t actually provide any real information. However, Google has gotten much smarter and now punishes such deceptive practices. Instead, it looks for content that is actually beneficial to users. Google has gotten so advanced, in fact, it can tell whether a piece is easily readable, if it’s popular and overall provides a good user experience.

On a more basic level, quality content keeps users engaged. They are less likely to leave your website quickly if you provide the information they are looking for. And when users are staying on your site longer, they are more likely to buy your product or service. So not only is quality content good for local SEO, it’s also good for sales conversion.

Embrace the Future of Mobile Marketing

In 2014, mobile app usage surpassed all other forms of media consumption, including desktop usage, and the world hasn’t looked back since. Between app usage and mobile web browsing, consumers spend on average 60 percent of their online time using their phones, while desktop media consumption fell to 40 percent. While much of that time was once spent on apps, new data is showing app download rates are falling. Rising up to take its place are micro-moments.

Micro-moments are a result of more consumers turning to their phone for Google searches instead of their desktop. They allow for in-the-moment answers to quick questions, like, “How much is a flight to New Zealand?” or, “How many ounces are in a gallon?” In fact, 91 percent of smartphone users look up information on Google while they’re in the middle of a task. Here are a few more statistics to consider:

  • 66 percent of smartphone users turn to their phones to look up something they saw on a commercial
  • There are twice as many “near me” searches as there were a year ago
  • 82 percent of smartphone users go to their mobile browser when looking for a local business
  • Mobile conversion rates have increased 29 percent in the past year
  • While shopping, 82 percent of smartphone users turn to their phone while deciding what to buy

So, in addition to buying PPC ads and in-app ads, small business owners must also consider the power of micro-moments. Consider the comic book store owner again. If someone were to ask Google, “When does the next edition of The Walking Dead comic come out?”, the comic store could rank by having a release date calendar on their site. Google has gotten so advanced, in fact, it can tell whether a piece is easily readable, if it’s popular and if it provides an overall good user experience.

Follow the Crowd, But Don’t Lose Your Head

Understanding trends and patterns, especially on social media, can be a great way to get new eyes on your website and new customers in the door. However, buying in fully to certain trends can be disastrous. For example, consider the mobile game Pokemon Go, a game in which players must travel around their local area and beyond in order to succeed. During the summer of 2016, it was the hottest app in the world. So, some savvy local businesses created sales and deals to capitalize on the new market. However, Pokemon Go was a quickly-bursting bubble: Just a couple months after its launch, it had lost nearly 80 percent of its players. By the end of 2016, marketing using Pokemon Go was an easy way to get laughed at (at best) or be avoided altogether (at worst).

That’s not to say you should never use local trends to boost your company outreach. But there are more solid venues to be found that should be focused on. For instance, being listed on local directories, including your Chamber of Commerce, means it’s easier for potential customers in your area to find you. Listings on other sites like Yelp and FourSquare show databases like InfoGroup and Acxiom — the engines that drive most online searches behind the scenes — that your site and company can be trusted.

Never heard of InfoGroup or Acxiom? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Because databases aren’t as flashy as latching onto emerging trends, most business owners aren’t aware of their existence, much less know how to become verified in their systems. The good news is, you don’t have to go at it alone. Our access to Acxiom and InfoGroup (among other directories) helps us ensure our clients are listed and, therefore, found more easily on search engines.

Use Your Marketing Dollars Wisely

Knowing how and where to spend your marketing budget can make or break your small business. Now more than ever, your advertising must be highly developed and highly targeted to reach potential customers. If this sounds like a task you simply don’t have time for, you aren’t alone. Thousands of small businesses rely on marketing experts to ensure their message is seen and heard. Let us help your marketing dollar reach its full potential.