The face of small business marketing has changed significantly over the past decade. The widespread use of the Internet for shopping and the increased connectedness that results from mobile devices like smartphones mean that even the smallest business needs to be switched on to the digital world, ensuring the basics of good online strategy are in place and looking for opportunities to get a creative edge over the competition.
That said, there is an awful lot of bad advice floating around and many misleading myths about where a small business should focus their time and resources to get the best online results.
So what are the most important components of a small business marketing strategy online? Where should you focus your limited advertising dollars in order to get a good return in a reasonable time frame?
For starters we’ll discuss the importance of web design, then we’ll take a look at how SEO (search engine optimisation) can help small businesses grow cost-effectively. We’ll also touch on where many small businesses go wrong with their online marketing investment.
Small Business Web Design
Small business web esign is important because it goes a long way towards establishing trust and credibility online. It’s also a significant part of your branding – your web design needs to encompass the ‘feel’ of your brand in a way that resonates with your target market.
Remember, although shopping online is now common, many people are still wary of doing business via the web with a company they aren’t familiar with. Design is all the more important if your asking customers to make transactions via the web. If your website doesn’t put forward a feeling of trust, professionalism and integrity, few people will be willing to make a purchase.
That said, design is not the only important factor – many great looking websites fail to sell. The most common reasons are that they aren’t compelling and persuasive (they lack good copywriting and video content), or they simply don’t get enough traffic. This is where SEO and web design have to be integrated together to ensure the website not only converts well, but also has a strong and consistent stream of visitors to actually convert.
Small Business SEO
SEO (search engine optimisation) is often seen as a kind of mysterious and dark art – and many SEO professionals like to play this myth up to justify their high fees. The reality is that the basics of SEO are relatively simple – but there are very thin margins for error. The actual work involved in ranking is fairly straightforward and often involves simple, repetitive processes – it’s knowing which processes to repeat, and which keywords to target in the first place, which require a high level of expertise.
As a small business person, you would do well to start by using the Google Adwords keyword tool to get an idea of what customers are searching for in your market. Then incorporate these words into your site’s content and META tags (if you’re not sure how to do this, drop us a line). This will take care of the fundamentals of on-page optimisation. It will help you start getting some traffic, but if you want to rank for big, competitive keywords, you’ll also need to look into off-page optimisation. This is where our monthly ranking services can take a lot of the mystery and guesswork out of the process.
Is SEO Really Useful for Small Businesses?
There’s a lot of skepticism about the usefulness of SEO for small businesses with tight budgets. Let’s lay that to rest here.
In fact, SEO is a great way to get an advantage over competitors with a bigger budget because it’s very much about using a smart and efficient strategy, rather than buying lots of ad space. A relatively low-budget small business can outrank bigger competitors and pull in more qualified, organic website visitors while spending less altogether on marketing. SEO is one of the 80/20 marketing strategies that all small businesses ought to be leveraging if they want to compete with better-resourced organisations.
Small Business Web Marketing Pitfalls
Now let’s quickly touch on some of the common dangers business owners run into when it comes to small business marketing on the Web.
Over-Reliance on Social Media
There’s a lot of buzz around social media at the moment – that means sites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The reality is that a heavy investment in social media is often not a great idea for a small business – dollar for dollar, investment in search marketing beats social media marketing almost every time. Social media is more of a relationship-building tool to use for existing prospects and customers. It’s nowhere near as useful as search when it comes to connecting you with qualified, ready-to-buy new visitors.
Focus on Traffic Without Conversion Optimisation
Another big problem many small businesses run into is that they spend a lot of money on Pay Per Click ads and SEO, only to find that traffic doesn’t convert into customers. It’s extremely important to make sure you optimise your website to convert well before you start throwing money at driving traffic, and once you start driving traffic you continue to tweak to improve conversions. Traffic is only half the equation – you also need to convert in order to get a good ROI on that traffic-driving spend.
Questions about small business marketing, web design and SEO? Contact us – we can help.
Tom McSherry is the founder and chief strategist of Premium SEO NZ. Tom has been in the digital marketing industry for 8 years providing digital copywriting and optimisation services to businesses in New Zealand and around the world. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.
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