Digital marketing is constantly evolving and growing.
I see a lot of new companies jump on the new shiny trend on the social media bandwagon and forget about the basics – like setting up a user experience that actually converts. Or getting onto google maps so that people can find you!
When I assess a business’s online presence, I check out four basic components:
A) Can They Find You?
This is your set up online. Can people find you when they have a problem that you have the solution for?
B) Can You Find Them?
If you’ve found your target market, are you reaching out to them in an effective way? Are you marketing channels optimised for maximum return on investment?
C) Are They Converting?
This is your sales funnel. Once they’ve found you (or you’ve found them), are you following up to ensure they choose your solution over everyone else’s? Is it easy for them to convert?
D) Are They Returning?
Returning custom ensures the longevity of your business. The only way to inspire loyalty is to build trust, by providing quality services consistently.
In the first instance, how you’ve set up your business online is the foundation on which everything else can be built, so this should be focused on first.
Here are 8 basic ways to make sure your business can be found online:
I’m going to focus on whether your customer can now find you, whether this be intentionally or by accident.
1) Google Maps
Your first step, especially if you’re based in a physical location, is to GET ON GOOGLE MAPS.
When I needed a hairdresser that could cut black hair, the first thing I did was google for anything local and I couldn’t find a single thing. I’m sure they exist, but if even one of them had put themselves on google, they would have gotten themselves an eager customer.
It’s easy to get on google maps – simply sign up for Google Business, input your address* & click on the button saying “get verified”. They’ll send you a postcard with a code on it, and within a week you’ll be showing up in google searches.
Add on all your information here, like opening times, photos & about the services you offer. This is also a good place to ask for reviews from customers.
*If you’re a solo trader & you don’t want to put your home address here, then either get a virtual address or use a venue that you’re friendly with (which worked for the dance school I helped).
2) Directories/ Comparison sites
Basically, anywhere that has a list of organisations like yours that they can link to. You may have to pay to get on one (for example, myBuilder for traders), but there’s also free lists in places like Netmums, the local library and event sites.
This is great because that site is doing the marketing for you.
It also has the added benefit of creating a back link to your site, which is great for SEO (search engine optimisation)
Another trick when getting set up is to get yourself on Wikipedia.
This only works if you’ve got people talking about you in other places online, because you need to link to external sources as evidence for any claim you make about your business.
However, if you do that have that then it’s worth setting up an article about yourself. It will show up in google searches, right next to your Google profile.
It’s free and easy to make an account, and there’s plenty of tutorials online on how to do create an article.
3) Your Website
Is this professional looking? Easy to navigate? Quick to load? Mobile friendly? Can they contact you easily if they need help with something?
Depending on what you’re trying to do, you may just need a single landing page – in which case, check out things like Convert Kit in order to get the most value out of your website.
Having webchat is an awesome feature as well. If a customer gets help when they need it they’ll be much more likely to carry on through to a sale.
And of course, make sure you set up Google Analytics (a free service), so that you can measure the amount of visitors you are getting and from where.
Testimonials and reviews are social proof that your service works, so that has to be somewhere.
And if you have any accreditation or award badges, put them somewhere at the bottom, so that people can see that you’re legit.
And most importantly, is it obvious what you’re selling? Remember that it’s not just you they have to find – it’s the service you’re providing.
When they land on your website the call to action has to be clear & the path to obtaining that service must be easy, straightforward and quick.
Whether this be a consultation call, a visit to your online shop, or to book a session with you.
Even if it’s just an audience you’re trying a build as an artist for credibility – make sure the call to action is to follow you on social media, or to sign up to your newsletter.
Just make sure whatever you do, it’s right there and easy to do when they find you. The whole point of the website is to convert people into customers, clients, fans – so make sure everything on that website is designed to do just that.
You’ve got your google business profile, you’re in a directory, or Wikipedia, and now you’re setting up your website…
Search engine optimisation is how they’ll find you using Google. It takes time to really reap the benefits in this area, but this is the most cost effective way to get found online in the long run, and therefore has the highest ROI for most online businesses.
For example, I’m looking for ‘dance classes in my area’.
What comes up when I type that exact phrase into Google?
If you’re a dance school, that’s what you want to be found for.
SEO is a huge topic, of which there are lots of resources & tools for making the most of it, but a lot of it is centred on which KEYWORDS you use on your website.
Other major elements you need to work on in order to get found on Google:
- Amount of backlinks from reliable websites (.orgs are better than .coms, for example).
- How often the site is updated.
- Amount of time visitors spend on each page – the longer time they spend the better the page will rank in Google, because Google will believe that the page must have something very relevant to the visitor.
If your visitors take one look and then leave (called a high bounce rate), that doesn’t look good.
It also takes into account things like readability and word count, but those are the types of details that plug-ins like SEO Yoast can help you with.
(Just to say as well, that if by chance you haven’t actually got a company name yet, then if you keep these SEO keyword principles in mind when you think of your name, for example, ‘Black Hairdresser Dudley’, would be the most productive name for a business that…you guessed it! Does black hair in Dudley.
And if you already have the name, maybe sneak the keywords into your tag line/ slogan.)
A Note on KEYWORDS
The only way anyone will ever find you is via the keywords you use throughout your website, so this needs to be the first thing you research and build your website copy or blog around.
Use Google’s free KEYWORD PLANNER or Google Trends in order to find what people are searching for the most each month.
If you want, use a free trial to check out what your competitors are using with sites like MOZ (which also helps with listing the places your competitors have backlinks from, for you to copy).
If you’re serious about putting up good solid foundations for your website, spend a good few hours and get up a spreadsheet listing all the possible keywords and how many searches per month.
Google Analytics will help you keep on top of it too – you’ll be able to see what keywords and phrases your visitors are finding you by, so you can adapt to that over time.
Specific vs Generic
Google is really picky when it comes to keywords.
For example, there might be 1000s searching for ‘dance class’ but only a 100 searches for ‘dance classes’ in plural, so be detail oriented.
Another thing to consider though is the competition – lots of people might be using the exact same keywords as you, trying to get on the first page of google search.
The easiest way to rank, then, is by being more specific.
For example, instead of ‘dance classes’, try ‘swing dance classes birmingham’, to be more specific
Terminology for this is ‘short’ and ‘long’ tail keywords.
Longer the keyword = more specific = more unique to you = better chance of ranking higher in google search for that particualr long tail keyword = easier to be found.
I personally use a mix of long & short tail keywords in everything I do.
The more keywords Google finds consistently throughout your site, the more relevant the page looks to its users, the more it will show in search results.
When I say ‘consistently throughout your site ’, this includes keywords being used in the name and description of any page on your website, the name on the photos you use on the site (called alt tags) and the content of each blog post.
Bottom line is:
- Do your research
- Be specific
- Be consistent
Oh, and one last thing:
Get a Mailing List on Your Website
When setting up your website, I HIGHLY recommend that you have a sign up form on your website, in order to get emails from people.
I will go into more detail another time, but main reasons for this are as follows:
- Use their email address to re-target them and people similar to them on Facebook ads
- Remarket things to them over time & keep them updated directly
5) Influencers / PR
The most effective way for a Start Up to be found will be by leveraging the audiences of third-party channels.
Do you have any popular blogs or news sites that cater to your audience and your niche that you could contribute to?
Really wrack your brain for this, because these key influencers can really help you be found. It really helps with backlinks, too.
Are their any Awards from a major Influencer within your niche that your could search and apply for? Even a nomination would be a badge you can put on your site.
Even if you’re a sole-trader in any capacity, there are bound to be online publications for your community or cause.
If you have any data or knowledge, consider offering your insight to these platforms.
The big ones are always hungry for new content. Just make sure they put in a link to your website as well. That big site will be doing to marketing for you, to their fan base.
It’s a win-win scenario when this works.
Influencer marketing principles should be part of the content and social media plan at all times. Marketers should always be looking to reach a wider audience, and the inclusion of influencers is one way to reach new target audiences.
* A Note on Major Influencers
Major Influencers will typically have a large, engaged follower base, and they are willing to share relevant and high quality content for a price or offer of free products.
If your company is selling something direct to customers (B2C), a mention/review from an Influencer is an effective way of getting your product or service out to a target audience.
This can be incredibly effective. The most recent example of the potential of paying influencers for a mention is Fyre Festival, which PR week described as“one of the most successful influencer campaigns ever conceived.”
“Traditional” influencer marketing will require budget. Sprout Social did a roundup of average costs, which is worth a read.
As a start up, depending on your audience and industry, the use of micro-influencers (< 1,000 followers) may be a worthwhile test.
6) Organic Social Media
Selling a service on social media is difficult. They are on social media to be social with friends – they are not usually looking for something to buy.
More than that, it’s increasingly difficult to go viral on organic social media. Your reach is limited.
But here’s why Start Ups need to be on at least one social media platform:
People who have never heard of you don’t know you, so how can they trust you or your services?
This is your ‘cold audience’ – and they are difficult to sell to.
Recommendations and testimonials are by far the best way to gain trust. It’s social proof, a mega trust-builder.
But if you haven’t got many testimonials yet, then the 2nd best way to generate trust is familiarity.
SOCIAL MEDIA ALLOWS YOU TO GET FAMILIAR TO YOUR CUSTOMERS.
= BRAND AWARENESS
This not only converts prospecting clients, but breeds loyalty and returning custom, too.
And if you’re going to run a paid advertising campaign on social media, it becomes much easier when re-marketing to a warmer audience.
My advice to small businesses is to keep your chosen social media profiles active but don’t invest too much time or energy in trying to reach audiences this way.
With that in mind,
Which social media channel suits your company?
Each has its pros and cons.
Focus on your customer – which platform are they on the most?
Whichever it is, stick to that platform for now.
Facebook still dominates for the most part, with billions of users & super intense audience targeting abilities. Not to mention Instagram ads come with it.
Pinterest is most suited to B2C startups.
Linkedin & Twitter tend to be where professionals dwell – be that business, celebrities or the self-employed.
If you’re unsure where to set up camp, then check online stats on who is hanging out where.
Once you’re chosen which social media channel suits your business, your first step is to install the relevant pixel / conversion tracking on your site. This can be used to create custom audiences, which means that anyone who visited you site can be targeted later on a facebook ad, for example.
Social media updates can be prepared and scheduled in advance with platforms like Hootsuite, which makes the process more efficient.
However, companies have to have a hands-on approach in engaging with enquiries and complaints on social media. Customers increasingly prefer to engage via social media.
Okay this isn’t strictly digital marketing – but if you have a service that you can demonstrate or entertain with, then get out into the real world and show them what you offer.
Preferably in a busy place, perhaps as part of a festival and event, or fundraising for a charity.
Take photos of that event if you can and put it online, too, as social proof of the quality of your service.
Shareable content is an asset that can stir interest in your services across multiple marketing channels.
It takes many forms:
- Blog Articles
- Case Studies
- Press Releases
…to name a few.
It’s a long-term strategy, in that it will cumulatively achieve ROI. It will also be the fuel that feeds your paid ad campaigns, so it’s worth investing time in developing some quality, on-brand content that your audience can find you by.
To get the most of a marketing budget, I take a holistic approach to the marketing.
Paid advertising is too tempting to ignore, so I see a lot of companies putting a lot of time, energy and money into it before they even have the foundations of their marketing channels set up.
In order to make the most of a Google Ad, the website would benefit from having keywords to match.
SEO is supported by back links from blog articles from influencer websites, and by your Google business profile.
Social is supported by social proof of real events and quality, shareable content.
Needless to say, I prefer to take an integrated approach when making sure that a business can be found online.