Here at Web It 101, we have created a small business digital marketing checklist for business owners. Here’s what prompted us getting it done.
Not long ago I attended a networking event with local business owners. One nice fellow was talking about the new website he built for his janitorial company. When I pulled it up on my Samsung phone direct from his new business card, and (not) to my surprise, it was a desktop only site that was unresponsive to my smartphone. I could not read the text or select menu options such as ‘contact” without pinching and zooming aimlessly around his “desktop” website.
I was talking to one of our new clients today and she attends those types of meetings/networking/get-together events once in a while. It got me thinking about the importance of a small business digital marketing checklist that she could take to these informal networking meetings.
We created a digital marketing checklist for small business owners of any size, so they can see what they need to do to create and maintain a positive online presence that brings results and provides business growth.
Small Business Digital Marketing Checklist
- A well-designed and user-friendly, mobile-friendly website. Think of it as the customer’s first impression of your organization, because it is. If the user experience on your website is anything less than friendly and easy, you need to know that not much else will work without a proper website as the anchor. A website must be mobile responsive to all devices. Remember a website is only the beginning of your digital media presence, but without a solid foundation, you’ll have nothing to build on. It’s also important to have a blog in a subdirectory of the main domain (which you can’t do on the “build your own website” sites). Additionally, Google has announced that before 2017 fades into memory, they will be instituting a ‘mobile first’ policy. The easiest way to explain this is that since 2015, there have been two sets of search returns – one for mobile that shows mostly mobile-ready sites, and one for desktop/laptop that shows all the search returns without concern for mobile-ready websites. That ends this year. Across all devices, by 4th quarter of 2017, only one set of search returns will appear. The mobile search return pages. Now more than ever, you must have a 100% mobile-friendly website by Google standards (it must pass their mobile ready tester page).
- Brand Your Business Using Social Media. Social media allows business owners to connect directly with customers and build lasting relationships. This allows you to sell softly by using messages and content to the right people at the right time, who then share this information, sometimes even on another social platform. Much the same as putting your logo on your vehicle, printing brochures and business cards, buying local radio airtime, and other outbound marketing, effective use of social media is one of the very best ways to generate inbound leads and brand your business at the same time. Again, you’ll need to optimize these pages with crisp photographs and pertinent, informative content that separates you from your competitors.
- Social Media Optimization. We agree that just posting content to a social media channel is better than doing nothing. But without optimizing the hashtags, categories, circles, groups, and more, you will not attract the customers who are looking for your product or service. This is where the professional optimization will put you in front of active buyers. Platform usage and demographics differ, so the platform used is important to the type of customers with which you want to engage. For example, millennials are more likely to use Instagram or Pinterest while the 30 and up crowd use Facebook. Engineers and IT folks love Google+, and if you want to more business-to-business traffic, start a LinkedIn page. Looking for older, established Millennials and young Gen X? You’ll find them on Twitter.
- Content Marketing. These are custom articles written for your website that are more commonly called blogs/news/updates pages that you find on a website. Web It 101 develops an active blog in a sub-directory that cashes in on keywords and long-tail search phrases. This is tied directly to the SEO efforts, because a blog post that is not optimized to Google Best Practices, is just a post and no more than that. But when optimized, it’s the best thing you can be doing for increasing your digital footprint on Google (and Bing). The blog will also force search engines to crawl and re-index your website on a regular basis, increasing your “freshness score” and further advancing your SEO. In a nutshell, content marketing make an enormous difference in digital marketing efforts.
- Content Search Engine Optimization. No small business digital marketing checklist is complete without SEO. This is how your content marketing and social media posts get indexed for organic search returns. SEO and location based SEO is the meat and potatoes of any digital marketing effort since mobile searches are up 34X in just the last three years. It’s tied to many factors such as focus keywords, long-tail phrases, meta-tags, H1 and H2 tags, meta-description, website freshness score, alt-tags, alt-description and so much more. Web It 101 follows “Google Best Practices” to insure best results. And be cautious about buying search ads, because between the user hesitance and the proliferation of ad blocking (AdBlock, iOS, etc), you’ll find that organic SEO is much more effective for promoting your business. Content Marketing without professional SEO on the text, images and video, is just posting and is not considered to be a marketing tactic.
Other Avenues to Explore – Secondary Small Business Marketing Checklist
Once the basic building blocks of a user (and mobile) friendly website, and active social media platforms are running as well as after you are seeing content marketing showing up in Google and Bing searches resulting from experienced SEO, there are some other digital avenues you may want to explore.
- Pay-Per-Click. These are the labeled ads you in search engine result pages see (if you’re not blocking them like 40% of internet users). There are times when a PPC campaign can work, such as seasonal sales, unique promotions, or a response to a competitor. The big benefit is it starts working the day you say go. The drawback is it can tear through an ad budget in a heartbeat. The big gains are from organic SEO for long term results. Why? EVERYBODY sees those.
- Email Marketing. Depending on the business, if email marketing is done right, it can produce results. If not it gets deleted. Biweekly or monthly newsletters can help drive traffic you your site.
- SMS (Texting). Back in the day, when cell carriers charged users users on a per text basis, it was a bad idea. Now, with virtually everyone on an unlimited text plan, it can work, and the response rate is even better than email (especially for millennials). Using it for a Flash Sale is a good example.
- Mobile Apps. For a select few business, you may want to consider a mobile application, but keep in mind that a website with responsive design that automatically changes dependent on device can serve the same purpose as a well-designed app.
- QR Codes. QR Codes kind of came-and-went but since you still see them around now and then, you might consider them. QR codes are a tough sell on the general public. Those who are not technologically savvy likely do not have a QR code reader on their mobile device to begin with, which makes your QR code useless to them (no phone comes with a QR reader, the app needs to be downloaded).
As a small business owner, if you’re not familiar with Content Marketing, that’s ok. Content Marketing belongs at the top of a digital marketing checklist, but without a mobile responsive website and social media, it just doesn’t work all that well. The best definition comes from the Content Marketing Institute:
“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
A property executed content marketing strategy:
- Puts a human face on your business
- Establishes you as an authority
- Kicks search engine optimization efforts into high gear
- Supports your public relations efforts
- Creates greater customer loyalty
- Provides content for social media that dives traffic to your website
Online Content marketing has become the most effective digital marketing method for doing business. Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying advertising, buying marketing email lists, and praying for leads, inbound content marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your product/services, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert.
Most importantly, a well-executed content marketing campaign can have a significant positive effect on your bottom line.
Summary – a responsive website, content marketing, social media and SEO form a unique synergy that can increases your online presence and using content marketing as your primary digital effort creates inbound leads at much less of a cost than traditional outbound marketing.
So there you have it! The small business digital marketing checklist.
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