Small business owners know digital marketing is no longer secondary to traditional print marketing and advertising and is a great way for them to get more bang for their marketing bucks. (In fact, 95% of small businesses plan to increase spending on digital marketing this year.) But to get the best results, it’s important to understand digital marketing and keep up with digital marketing trends.
Digital Marketing 101
What is digital marketing? It’s often thought of as “online marketing,” but it goes far beyond internet marketing. Digital marketing refers to any marketing that uses digital channels to reach prospective customers. This includes mobile phone messaging (both SMS and MMS), email marketing, social media marketing, display advertising, search engine marketing and apps.
10 Basic Digital Marketing Strategies to Use
1. Your business website
No matter how active you are on social media, it can’t replace a business website. Your website is the digital “home” of your business and it’s the one place online where you are completely in control of your message. Your website doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to be mobile-friendly. that’s non-negotiable in 2019.
2. Search engine optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the process of increasing website traffic using the organic (non-paid) search results on search engines. There are many moving parts to SEO, including using the right keywords in your website, your social media presence, references to your website from external sites and much more. The complexity of SEO is one reason only 44% of businesses are currently investing in SEO, according to Clutch. The good news: Being one of that 44% can put you ahead of your competition.
3. Local search engine optimization
Since 2015, more searches have been conducted on mobile devices than on desktop computers, according to Google. Many of those searches are done while users are “on the go” looking for local businesses, so Google’s search results now favor websites that are optimized for local search by including location information and location-related keywords. In addition to optimizing your website for local search, claim your business location on local search directories such as Google My Business and make sure that your name, address and phone number (NAP) information is listed exactly the same way on all the local search directories. (No using “St.” in one listing and “Street” in another.) If your NAP varies from one listing to another, search engines may not recognize it as the same business, hurting your search results.
4. Email marketing
Nearly seven in 10 businesses use email marketing, making it the third most popular digital marketing method. Almost half (47%) of people across demographics check their email on a mobile device; 81% of those use their smartphones (as opposed to tablets). In addition, the majority (33%) of email opens occur on mobile devices. When you develop your email marketing messages, think “mobile-first.” Keep emails short; include a clear call to action; design in a single-column format; and use plenty of white space so it’s easy to click on buttons or links in the email.
5. Social media marketing
Social media is the number-one marketing channel used by businesses, according to Clutch: 83% of companies use it. There’s good reason for that: Statista reports 77% of Americans use social media. Be sure you’re keeping up to date on new social media channels, as well as where your target customers are spending time (for instance, are they leaving Facebook for Instagram)?
6. Content marketing
This practice refers to creating content (such as blog posts, ebooks, white papers, infographics, videos, etc.) that you share digitally. The goal is to attract users to view your content and take a desired action. For instance, you might write a blog post on How to Winterize Your House and Save Money and include a call-to-action such as “Contact us to get a free estimate on winterizing your home.”
7. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
Pay-per-click digital ads appear when users do an internet search for the terms you use in the ad. The name comes from the fact that you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. The most common place for PPC ads is on Google (using Google AdWords) but ads on Facebook and other social media channels are also considered PPC.
8. Marketing automation
Marketing automation software can automate many repetitive aspects of marketing. For instance, it can send automated responses or start a “drip marketing” campaign when prospects fill out a leads form. It can schedule your social media posts, determine the best time to send email newsletters, and more.
From SMS and MMS text messages to the use of messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Messenger, Viber or WeChat, you can market to customers using mobile messaging. Mobile messaging marketing applications can use location-based data to trigger messages at relevant moments, such as when a customer is near your store or restaurant.
10. Online ratings and reviews
You may not think of online review sites as digital marketing, but they’re a major factor in how prospects form an opinion of your business. Some 86% of consumers (and 95% of those age 18 to 34) read reviews for local businesses; 91% of 18-to-34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Optimize your listings on review sites the same way you would on Google My Business: Keep them current and add photos, descriptions, directions and offers. Monitor your reviews regularly and respond to negative reviews quickly (and politely).
10 Digital Marketing Trends to Know
Now that you’ve got a handle on digital marketing, here are 10 digital marketing trends every small business should factor into their plans.
1. Email marketing personalization via marketing automation
Nearly six in 10 marketers say personalization is their most effective email marketing tactic; in fact, emails that have personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. AI-powered automation tools can help you personalize email messaging by analyzing the data you capture about your email subscribers (such as what they open, click on and buy) and using it to deliver the right message at the right time.
2. Voice search
Voice search currently accounts for one third of all Google searches, and by 2020, is expected to account for one-half. Good general SEO will help you rank high in voice search, according to a recent study. But you can additionally optimize for voice search using keywords and phrases that sound the way people talk (“What bakeries are open right now?”) rather than the way they’d type into a search engine (“bakeries open now”). Creating an FAQ page on your website that answers questions people might ask about your product can also help optimize for voice search.
3. Content marketing overload
With so much content out there, are your prospects really paying attention? To keep driving customers to your website, make this the year you focus on creating less, but better, content. Instead of constantly churning out blog posts stuffed with SEO keywords, try crafting one or two really good, longer pieces of content a month. Content that answers prospects’ or customers’ questions in a way no one else is doing can really stand out.
4. Google My Business is more important than ever
Google search results prioritize Google My Business listings. As a result, many searchers don’t bother paging below these or clicking through to a website. they get all the info they need from GMB. Make sure your Google My Business page makes the cut by regularly adding new photos, posts, offers or videos and keeping your description current. You can now add Posts in Google My Business, too. Think of your GMB result as its own little website and add all the info you can to it.
5. PPC advertising comes of age
The Google search engine results page is getting crowded and fewer people are ignoring the ads at the top. Google’s algorithm is getting great at delivering relevant ads, and even being at the top of organic search results won’t get you the customer’s attention if that customer doesn’t scroll down. If you’re not already doing so, make this the year you incorporate PPC ads into your marketing plan.
6. Omnichannel marketing
Prospects use more than one digital channel to investigate your business. They might do an online search and see your Google My Business listing, click through to your website and read your reviews. That’s why all of your digital marketing efforts need to work together to promote a consistent branding message.
You can use conversational AI software (that is, chatbots) to engage with prospects in a variety of ways, from helping them navigate your website or answering common questions to suggesting additional products or even engaging on social media. For instance, you can program Facebook Messenger bots to answer your Facebook messages, saving you time and giving your followers quick responses.
8. Online video
By 2020, video will account for more than 85% of all consumer internet traffic in the U.S. (Already, YouTube is the second most popular website, surpassed only by Google.) Today’s up and coming Gen Z, in particular, has grown up watching YouTube videos and it’s the place they turn to for the answers to everything. Videos that show viewers how to do something, help solve their problems, interview industry experts or provide an insider’s look into your business are all popular ways to attract attention. Creating a YouTube channel is free and exposes your videos to a wider audience. Also look into getting online influencers to review your products. it can make a huge difference to your business.
9. Tell your story
Consumers crave authentic interaction with businesses. They want to know your story. Be transparent about your business, your staff and your values. In the digital world, live-action or short-term video content such as Stories on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube creates a feeling of immediacy and intimacy that can help build a bond with your target market.
10. Social media backlash
Facebook privacy problems such as the Cambridge Analytica data-sharing scandal have driven some users from the platform, and if you’re targeting millennial and younger users, Instagram is the place to be, with the vast majority of its users aged 18 to 34. But Instagram isn’t immune from backlash either, as the platform recently took steps to remove inauthentic likes and fake followers from influencers’ accounts. Remember, honest interaction is more important than numbers.
What digital marketing tactics do you currently use, and which are you planning to add to your arsenal?