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As a small business owner, it may be difficult to set aside enough budget to market yourself or even know where to start. While I may not be impartial, I really do believe that digital marketing is absolutely essential to small business success and it remains significantly cheaper than marketing over print media.
In fact, aside from the labor considerations and creating a website, continual SEO efforts are virtually free if conducted in house. SEO is an effective demand generator, branding tool, and sales machine that can lift from your brand from local zero to national hero.
SEO or search engine optimization is the practice of optimizing your website to rank high in a search engine result page. Under this umbrella term, includes technical considerations, such as website structure, and offsite considerations, such as increasing the amount of referral links from external domains to your site.
Don’t worry, it’s not as confusing as it sounds. Here, I’d like to share why new businesses need to invest in SEO to succeed and what steps they can take to get started.
The Importance of SEO
According to a HubSpot study, 61% of marketers said that improving their SEO was their top inbound marketing priority for this year. In the digital era, it’s apparent that most shoppers research products before making a final purchase.
More specifically, 89% of shoppers conduct research over a search engine before making a purchase. So what if your product page or informative content was sitting at the top result of this Google search? Would customers not turn to your business to make their purchase, even if days later?
Even local SEO has untapped value for emerging businesses. Google found that 50% of local searches over a mobile device lead to an instore visit that day.
Not only is online search another platform to sell your products, but it’s also an opportunity to generate demand for your products and convince shoppers to turn to your business for future purchases.
With this in mind, how do I get started?
Defining Your Goals and Objectives
Your digital marketing strategy will drastically differ based on your target customers and the structure of your business. Local real estate brokers will focus more on Google My Business and directory optimization, while enterprise businesses who sell healthy packaged snacks will focus on content marketing and link building strategies to build visibility.
Defining the efforts of your marketing strategy will affect the structure of your site and the content your serve. For example, what conversions are you seeking to track:
- Shopping cart checkouts
- Email sign up sheets
- Newsletter subscriptions
- Best buyer program subscriptions
These considerations will affect your marketing messaging, as well as the channels you market on.
Along the same lines, you’ll need to understand how to set up Google Search Console and Google Analytics to evaluate your marketing performance. Don’t worry, there are tons of free training guides out there to get you started.
Creating a Domain
Now for the nitty gritty: creating a website. Consider a few key points when creating or purchasing a website:
- Insert a brand name into the domain URL
- Implement mobile responsiveness on all pages
- Leverage a CMS for simple posting
- Invest in a reliable and fast server
- Ensure all URLs have SSL certificates (e.g. HTTPS)
- Ensure website architecture features top-down internal linking and navigation
Hire a reliable agency who can help you with website creation or migration. Beyond these technical considerations, you also want to focus on crafting a strong user experience (UX). This will be important for keeping people on your website and delivering a positive experience that will keep them coming back.
Completing Your Keyword Research
Once your website is starting to form, you now need to focus on page copy, as well as off site meta data. Meta data is important from an SEO perspective because it communicates to search engines (and users) what your website is about.
This is where keywords come into play. Keywords are the search terms and queries that internet users are plugging into search engines for their research. Properly placing these keywords into page content, page titles, and meta data will position your website to potentially rank for these terms, if the webpage is relevant to the user search and of high enough quality to outrank competitors.
Keyword research is very complex. Enlist the help of free keyword tools, such as Uber Suggest and Google’s Keyword Planner to give you some ideas. Simply plug in “shoes” if you’re a shop store and the keyword tools will spit out related ideas, as well their relative level of competitiveness.
Here are some sources for keyword ideas:
- Keyword tools
- Competitor websites
- Google search results auto fill
- Related Google search queries
- Google Trends
Generally, shoot for long-tail keywords (phrases of four words or more) that have more research intent and are generally less competitive. For local SEO, focusing on location based keywords will also prove crucial. While I wouldn’t recommend newbies conducting their own keyword research, there are plenty of tools available to help you get started.
Establishing Your Brand
Now, you need to establish your presence across the wbe. This will include:
- Registering in local/industry directories
- Acquiring branded citations across the web
- Guest posting on relevant publications to promote your brand
- Creating a Google My Business Page, as well as a Bing page
Branding should be top-of-mind when creating content on your own site. You’ll need to craft a unique voice in your content and tag each web page with brand logos, colors, and badges. Keep branding consistent and on-par with your value statement as a company.
The importance of a content marketing strategy should not be overlooked. Along the same lines as SEO, content is an effective demand generator and lead nurturer. Create content that seeks to facilitate conversions on your site, cultivate thought leadership on external publications, and answer user queries for relevant searches in your industry.
Blog content is also effective for keeping your customers up to date on company news, as well as creating authority for your brand in your industry.
Allocating Budget for Omnichannel Marketing
Finally, you knew there would be a catch. But you honestly shouldn’t silo your efforts to just organic search marketing. Paid media, email marketing, social media marketing, and retargeting are all effective strategies for acquiring more inbound leads and getting your brand some visibility over the web.
As an entrepreneur and business owner, I have seen firsthand the growth of the digital marketing industry and used it to successfully scale many of my businesses. SEO is a vrtually free strategy and one that you can’t afford to invest in.