Online marketing strategies are no different from traditional marketing strategies when it comes to goals and purpose. Both types aim to increase brand awareness and find more customers for the particular company.
Online marketing or digital marketing as it is more widely known, has a number of components that cover every aspect of online promotion from content creation to delivery and sales. These components can be combined together and form 5 basic strategies that can be used by any type of online business to get more traffic and customers online.
1. Search engine marketing
Search engine marketing (SEM) is the first online marketing strategy you can use and it has two major components. First is SEO (Search engine optimization) and second is PSA (Paid Search Advertising). In simple words SEO will help you get more organic visits from search engines for free while PSA can get you visits from search traffic but you will have to pay for them.
What is your goal with SEM? Your goal with SEM is clear: get more visits from search engines either from organic search or through carefully designed and targeted PPC campaigns
How: To get more visits from search engines you need to make sure that your website is optimized for search. Things like your page titles, descriptions, web page speed, Google authorship, design and structure, incoming links, content freshness, ALT text for images and many more are important.
Tools: There are many SEO guidelines you can follow and although each rule is important on its own, if you apply a number of rules together, that would produce better results. You can use these 2 articles (5 on page SEO techniques and SEO tips for beginners) to guide you through the process and once you are done, you can perform an SEO Audit of your website to ensure that it is in good shape before continuing with the rest of the online marketing strategies.
Tip: When you make changes to your website to improve SEO, these changes will not be immediately taken into account by Google or other search engines. You have to be patient and monitor your pages for improvements in their ranking through google webmaster tools (search queries report).
2. Mobile Marketing
Normally after search engine marketing you can expect to find social media marketing or content marketing as the next online marketing strategy for small businesses but the increase in the number of mobile searches raises the importance of mobile marketing. As stated by Google, mobile marketing isn’t an option but it’s an imperative for every business. Some recent statistics about mobile usage re-enforce this statement:
What is your goal with mobile marketing? To provide your users with the best possible experience when browsing your website using their mobile devices.
How: How can you achieve the ‘best possible experience’? First you need to make sure that your website looks good and usable when viewed through a mobile browser i.e. you need to have a mobile friendly version of your website. Second, you can also offer your users native apps to download (from the itunes store, Google play, amazon store, windows store) and install on their devices.
Tools: If you are using wordpress you can easily create a mobile friendly version by either changing to a responsive theme or by using a plugin.
If you are not using wordpress you can use services like conduit to create mobile friendly versions of your website.
Make sure that you understand the difference between a mobile friendly version of your website and a native app. A native app is different than a mobile website and you need to hire a mobile developer to build an application for the specific platform. For example if you want to create an application for your website and have this application published on the Apple Store then you need to hire an apple developer to code the application and prepare it for submission to iTunes.
3. Content marketing
Content marketing is the heart of every digital marketing campaign. Once you have a good foundation (that’s search engine marketing) and a good delivery platform that can cover all your user needs (that’s mobile marketing) then the next step is to take all actions needed to create content that rocks!
Content is what will create loyal visitors, comments, social media shares and most important of all sales.
What is your goal with content marketing? To put it simply, your goal is to create high quality content that your readers want to read and try to convince readers to become customers or execute a call-to-action process (register to a newsletter, follow on social media, vote for a poll etc.).
How: Before even creating content, whether it is an article, a video, a table or image, try to think how that particular content will benefit your readers or customers. Don’t just create and publish content for the sake of keeping a publishing schedule or to satisfy your desire to have something to publish.
In the past this technique of publishing mass amounts of content to trick search engines used to work but not anymore. It is more important to have less published pages but with good content rather than lots of published pages with low quality content.
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4. Social Media marketing
Social media marketing is naturally the next marketing strategy for your business. You managed to have in your hands great content (from the previous strategy) so now it’s time to spread the word out and the best way to do that is through a well-designed social media marketing strategy.
What is your goal with social media marketing? Your social media campaigns should serve two purposes. First is to gain as many targeted followers so that your content and brand gets as much attention possible and second to get visits from social networks that will eventually convert into customers.
How: You need to establish a good presence in all major social networks (Facebook, google+, twitter, Pinterest) by sharing useful related content on a regular basis and by engaging with people interested in your website, products or brand. Have a look at these 3 articles to get started: 10 social media marketing tips for beginners, social media mistakes to avoid, how to get more followers on facebook.
I know that it’s not an easy process to follow and it is rather time consuming to run campaigns on many networks at the same time but this is how online marketing works for small businesses these days and you have to do it too.
The good news is that social media traffic does convert (despite the initial believes a few years back that visitors from social media don’t become customers) and if you don’t have the time or knowledge to manage your social media presence, there are professionals that can do it for you.
5. Local SEO strategy
Since we are talking about small businesses, I thought that it is more appropriate to have local SEO listed as a separate strategy because it is very important for them. Local SEO is a must for every company that has a physical address. Whether you are a doctor or florist, a mechanic or retailer, local seo can help you find more customers online.
What is your goal from local seo? The goal from local seo is more than clear: to get high rankings for searches related to your area. When people search for long tail keywords with the addition of location in the query (for example: “Web hosting companies in Uganda”) you want your website to be listed in the top positions.
How: There is no straightforward answer for that, as with any other SEO related question. What you can do is follow Google SEO best practices to ensure that Google will not penalize you for trying to cheat on their algorithm and optimize your website for local SEO.
Think outside the box
While the 5 online marketing strategies explained above are great and can generate fantastic results, you need to also think outside of the box for even better results. For example besides search engines, mobiles and social media what are some other ways to increase traffic coming to your small business website? To be more precise here are some ideas that worked for some of my clients:
Chrome web store: Registering your website as a web app in the chrome store can generate an additional flow of quality traffic coming to your site.
Direct Advertising on other websites: Besides running PPC campaigns on Adwords and Facebook you can also try to ‘rent’ advertising space per month on other related websites. You can easily find related websites in your niche that offer advertising and contact the webmasters directly and ask for their rates. It will cost you less than PPC and with proper tracking you can evaluate the results and ROI.
Guest posting on high traffic websites: Guest posting for traffic (and not for links) is a good way to increase your online reputation but also gain traffic from other websites. If the website you are guest posting on has a good social media presence then the benefits are even more.
Small businesses can succeed online if they follow proven techniques and practices. When you build your website the first thing that you should look at is search engine optimization. Once you get this right then you need to enhance your delivery channels by going mobile. After that you need to revisit your content strategy and ensure that you have content that matters and makes sense. Next in line is social media marketing that will help you to push your content to the world.