[Updated May 2021]
Surviving online is just like surviving in the woods – and The Small Business Digital Marketing Survival Kit can show you some simple things you need to know to keep yourself alive and get yourself found.
Get the bare facts on how you can do more than just survive online – you can thrive and grow!
[The Small Business Digital Marketing Survival Kit transcript]
So, you’re all alone and lost in the deep dark internet.
How do you stay alive and get found?
Here’s everything your small business needs to survive (and grow) online…
Everything you’ll need
Sometimes surviving means knowing the difference between what’s time-honored wisdom and what’s just a tall tale.
For example, some people think you can survive online with just a website or a Facebook page. Some people believe getting to the top of the search results is harder than making a fire with wet matches.
The truth is, if you pack your digital survival kit with the right gear, you can do more than survive…you can thrive.
1) Watch the signposts
Make sure your reputation leads customers to your business…not away from it
When it comes to your business, first impressions are everything and believe it or not, the first thing a potential customer sees regarding your business is rarely your website. It’s far more likely a prospect’s first impression of you online will be the FACTS they see in search results and/or the FEEDBACK posted in customer reviews.
If you aren’t actively monitoring and managing both your online listings and your online reviews you’re basically just throwing your reputation to the wolves.
The FACTS are the bits of information about your business — Your name, address, phone number and more — that appear in search engine, directories, apps and voice search enabled devices.
The FEEDBACK are the rating and reviews you receive from customers on Google, Yelp, other top review sites and recommendations on Facebook.
71% of businesses are either missing a phone number or have an incorrect phone number somewhere across their listings
87% of U.S. consumers look at online reviews for local businesses
Facts + Feedback = Your First Impression
The Facts: Your Digital Listings
You may not realize it, but your business information is listed all over the web. Potential customers can find your business listed in dozens of places online, including:
- Search Engines like Google and Bing
- Local services like Yelp and Apple Maps
- Social media pages like Facebook and Twitter
- A.I. assistants like Alexa and Siri
Unfortunately, the information in online listings is often wrong. And when someone finds incorrect information, they don’t lose faith in the directory — they lose faith in the business… even if you had nothing to do with providing the information.
The Feedback: Your Customer Reviews
Word-of-mouth recommendations have always been the strongest advertising a business can get, until now. If you don’t have reviews, or if the bulk of your reviews are negative and show no response from you, you are going to find it very difficult to convince people to choose your business over your competitors.
The average consumer reads 10 reviews before feeling able to trust a business
Take control of your online reputation
Here are the three things you should be doing to make sure your online reputation is working to give customers a great first impression of your business.
- Monitor — Actively look for your business’ listings and reviews. Check the major sites like Yelp and Facebook, or just do a search for your business using a search engine like Google — you’ll probably find some listings and reviews in the search results.
- Manage — Reach out and respond to your customers even if they left you a less than stellar review. Every one of those unhappy customers is an opportunity for you to show people reading your review that you’re an upstanding business owner. Also, work to generate new positive reviews and share them where you can. The more positive reviews you can gather and share, the more out-of-place any negative reviews will seem.
- Maintain — The only way to be sure your reputation is sending the right message is to stay on top of it. With customers constantly writing new reviews and your online business listings changing every 6 days on average, you can’t afford to not pay attention.
2) Set Up Camp
Find a smart place (and a smarter way) to build your website
Your website is your business online. It’s your base of operations out there in the Wild Wild Web.
- It’s got to be strong and secure enough to fend off attacking competitors
- It’s got to feel like a safe haven for your customers — a place built with trust and experience
15 SECONDS. That’s how long your website has to capture a customer’s attention.4
There are plenty of paths your customers can take to find your site, which is why it must be built to:
- Get seen on Google and other search engines
- Show up when your customers use in-home and on-the go voice search devices
- Convert your site visitors into customers
You have plenty of choices when it comes to getting a website. You can struggle to build one yourself, or you can work smarter (not harder) and hire professionals to build your site for you. Either way, there are certain things that must be included in your site…
Your website checklist
If you want your website to be a smart long-term investment, it must be:
- Mobile friendly — so it looks good all devices — more searches are done on a phone today than on a desktop or laptop (and it’s very important to Google that your website is mobile optimized)
- Written and designed to convert visitors into customers — your site isn’t a smart investment if it doesn’t help your business grow
- Built with On-Page SEO to increase visibility — one of the dangers of DIY…there’s a lot that goes into a site that can’t immediately see
- “Visible” to voice search — make sure your essential business info can be found by virtual assistants like Alexa or Siri
- Linked to your social pages — linking your site to your Facebook and Twitter pages increases your visibility
- Secure — instantly tell your visitors that information they share with you in safely encrypted with SSL / HTTPS
- Loaded with first-person reviews — new customers look for testimonials and reviews from old customers – don’t make them look too hard
The “bare” facts about DIY
That checklist on the previous page was the bare minimum that must be built into your site. Before you trust your business to a site you throw together on your own, stop and consider…
- Can you invest the time it will take to build an effective, professional site?
- Are you a Web Designer?
- Are you a Copywriter?
- Do you understand SEO?
- Do you understand mobile optimization?
- Can you link your site to your social pages? (And can you set up all your social pages?)
- Can you link your website to all the sites across the web that show your business information — like your name, address and phone number?
- Is your site secure?
- Can you build your site and do everything you need to do to get found by search engines and with voice search, and do it all now — while you run your business?
That’s a lot to carry — especially when your main focus is running your business. And remember, your website is never “done.” You’ll need to write new content, update the design and add, upgrade or sometimes repair functionality as needed.
3) Go with friends
You’ve got to be active in social media… or you’re likely to get lost online
It may sound obvious, but you’re safer going camping with friends than heading out on your own. That same simple idea applies online today, too.
Your customers are on social media
Sure, young adults continue to report using Facebook at high rates, but older adults are joining in increasing numbers.
84% of people with access to the internet use social media
More than 69% of online adults in the U.S. actively use Facebook
The average U.S. adult user spends more than 1 hour a day on social media
By posting original content you create yourself (stories and photos of your business, services and products) and sharing curated content (posts you share from relevant and popular sources), you can build a relationship with your customers, gain their trust, and build credibility. And you can reach more of your customers with targeted ads on the social sites they’re using most.
Social media marketing is all about reaching your customers
One of the main challenges many small and medium-sized businesses face when they’re starting off
on social media is to decide which social network to be on. Here’s some data on three of the most
popular networks to help you decide which might work for your business.
- Facebook — If your customers use the internet, they’re probably on Facebook. The first thing you’ll need is a Facebook Page – in addition to making your business discoverable, it’s an easy way for you to share updates and more with your customers.
- Twitter — An account on Twitter would give you a chance to instantly interact with your customer base in real time. The most successful brands on Twitter use it to promote their own messages and to quickly address the interests and needs of their customers.
- Instagram — If you have products or services you can photograph (including “before and after” shots or “behind the scenes” shots), Instagram might be the perfect fit for your small business. Plus, it’s easy to share your Instagram pictures to your Facebook Page.
The Facebook Factor
Facebook’s precise targeting makes it a must for local marketing
Facebook is far and away the largest social media platform. Of course, reaching the world is not what makes Facebook important to your business – what matters to you is how well Facebook helps you reach your local customers.
Facebook targeting lets you reach extremely specific customers – by location, demographics, device, and more — even specific behaviors. And that’s not all, Facebook’s advanced technology allows you to…
- Get in touch with people you already know – connect with current customers, contacts, even people who visit your website
- Build audiences based on people similar to your customers – “Lookalike” Audiences help you find people on Facebook who are similar to your customers, increasing your chances of reaching people who might be interested in your business
- Run tests to find what works best – You can A/B test your approach and creatives to continue to hone your social marketing strategy
According to Facebook:
“With local awareness ads, businesses can quickly and easily find new customers by showing ads to groups of people who are near that business’s neighborhood. Local awareness ads are built to be more cost-effective than traditional advertising channels like newspaper while offering more precise targeting and greater reach.”
4) Build a signal fire
Do what you need to do to get yourself seen — starting with ads on Google
If you’re lost in the woods, the key to getting found is getting seen. And it’s the same if you’re lost online in the thick of dozens (or hundreds) of local competitors.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is your signal fire — it puts you at the top of the search results, where prospects and customers are looking for you. Best of all, it puts you directly in front of people who are actively searching for what you are selling.
With SEM, you pay to put your ad at the top of search results pages – you know, those results that appear in the “sponsored ad” section.
Two things that make SEM a very cost-effective way to get seen by your target audience:
- Your ad only appears when someone is searching for what you offer — your search campaign is completely customizable — it is aimed specifically at your target audience. You only attract park rangers, not bears.
- You only pay when someone clicks on your ad — that’s why SEM is called “Pay-Per-Click” advertising.
The key to search marketing — Testing. Testing. Testing.
- Research and test your keywords
- Vary your campaign budget and test your bids
- Study your competition and test your ads and your offers
- Try different call-to-action options — test phone calls and/or form fills
- Be aware of the journey and test different landing pages
Search marketing terms you need to know to survive
- Keywords: the “key” to your search marketing, the targeted words or phrases you choose – they are the words you believe your prospects will be searching for, and the words that will make your ads appear when someone is searching for what you offer
- Ad Groups: sets of keywords used to target your specific audience – testing different ad groups will help you determine which keywords work best for you
- Campaign: all the ad groups that you have budgeted for and are running at any one time
- Click: when someone presses your ad with their cursor or finger
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC): you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad
- Cost-Per-Click (CPC): the average amount you’re charged for a click on your ad (calculated by dividing the total cost of your clicks by the total number of clicks)
- Optimization: fine-tuning your campaigns to improve performance
- Impressions: the number of people who see your ad (different than clicking on it)
- Text Ad: ads that are only words
- Display Ad: ads that include a graphic or visual
5) Shine a Light
Put your brand where your audience is looking
You’re lost in the woods. You’ve got a signal fire going, but there are so many trees (aka competitors) in the way that no one can see you. You have to figure out a way to shine a spotlight on yourself, to make sure you’re seen by your target audience.
The most basic OFFLINE marketing is putting ads where your customers and prospects will see them. It’s the same ONLINE.
With online display advertising, you can grow your business 5 ways…
- Put your business on hundreds of the web’s most popular sites
- Reach targeted prospects when they visit their favorite sites
- Drive visitors to your site and social pages
- Bring “shoppers” back to your site when they’re ready to buy
- Build your brand by putting and keeping your business in front of customers and prospects
Display ads put your business where you need to be
Online display ads help you reach your customers in the three most important places online…
- Your ads are LOCAL — Your ads are targeted to reach the customers you want – the specific, local audience that should deliver your hottest leads
- Your ads are MOBILE-friendly — Every display campaign delivers ads to mobile users and includes “click-to-call,” so prospects can reach you with one touch
- Your ads are on FACEBOOK — Your ad campaign will reach the biggest group of social consumers – Facebook users – with geographic, demographic and interest-based targeting to maximize results
Leading prospects back to you when they’re ready to buy
Online display ads have a built-in feature called “retargeting” that automatically keeps your ad in front of the people who visit your site. They’ll see your ad again and again as they visit their favorite sites, keeping you in front of these “hot” prospects so they think of you when they’re ready to buy.
Plus, your campaign is continuously optimized to give the best results.
- Step 1 – Prospects visit your site…but leave without contacting you
- Step 2 – Prospects see your ad on the sites they visit
- Step 3 – Prospects come back to your site when they’re ready to buy
6) Climb to higher ground
Work your way up the search results page with SEO
You can’t talk about marketing your business online today without hearing the word “optimization” — specifically Search Engine Optimization (or SEO). But SEO isn’t just one thing — it’s a series of online practices that work together to increase your visibility online.
Effective SEO is crucial to both making sure your business is seen when someone searches for you, and making sure your business appears above your competitors on the search results page.
75% of clicks go to the first 3 organic Google results. If you want to survive online, you must climb to the top.
Google explains SEO as…
“Search Engine Optimization is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results.”
Effective SEO makes you easier to find in 3 ways
- On-Page SEO is made up of things actually built into your website – SEO copy/content, Meta tags, correct page titles and more. Make sure your content speaks to your customers’ needs. Avoid using Flash, and of course, your site needs to be mobile friendly.
- Off-Page SEO is the process of getting your site’s pages to show up when people search for terms related to your business. Customers searching for the products or services you provide – instead of just your name – will likely depend on Off-Page SEO to find you. Effective Off-Page SEO includes publishing content that links back to your website, social media posts, videos, and blog posts.
- Local SEO includes ALL the references to your business across the web – search engine profiles like Google My Business and Bing Places For Business, and directory listings like Yelp, Foursquare, Yellowbook.com and more. Even the social media profiles for your business could be considered part of Local SEO. Anywhere your business is referenced online is a potential path for your customers to find you — either by visiting that listing, visiting your site, or reaching out to you directly (by calling, emailing or stopping by).
SEO – What else should your business know?
- SEO is a process, not an event — SEO is never “done.” From adding new, properly-tagged pages to your site (to boost your On-Page SEO relevance) that focus on a specific topic (to boost your Off-Page SEO relevance) to managing and maintaining all of your online directory listings (to boost your Local SEO accuracy), SEO is an ongoing activity your business needs to engage in — just like doing inventory or sweeping the floors.
- Each page of your site can show up on the search engine results page (or SERP) — The more pages you have, including blog posts, the more chances you have to show up in the SERP. And the more you can focus each of those pages on a specific topic — and include well-written content that visitors will find helpful — the better your chances of showing up for a specific search query.
- SEO is just ONE way customers can find you online — Don’t forget about Direct Traffic (people typing in your URL after seeing or hearing it somewhere else, or clicking on a link to your site in an email), Referral Traffic (links to your site on other sites, including your social media profiles), Pay-Per-Click search engine advertising and Display advertising.
Don’t hesitate to ask for directions
It’s easier to survive with a professional guide
It’s easy to get lost on your own – and it’s easier to get to the top of the mountain when you’re working with someone who knows the way.
You’re an expert at running your business. Don’t be afraid to reach out and work with a partner who has the digital marketing expertise your business needs.
Whether it’s building your website, social and reviews or creating your Search and Display campaigns, effective digital marketing demands a time commitment you probably can’t afford. Plus, when you work with a partner like Hibu, you get the added advantages of our scale and business relationships that you could never match on your own.
Consider your options carefully — look for a partner who can do everything you need
- Are they experienced?
- Do they provide a range of services (not just websites)?
- Do they specialize in businesses like yours?
- Will they be there when you need help?
- Do they offer analytics to show how well your marketing is working?