Marketing Your Small Business Online: 6 Places To Start

small business marketing where to start

There is so much information out there about how to create an online business and about the many techniques (some effective, many not) you can use to market your small business.  You can easily suffer from information overload, not knowing where to begin.

This article will provide you with practical advice on where to start and how to maximize your efforts when you are first starting off.  In order of completion here are the 6 places to start when digital marketing your small business:

1.  Create a Google Plus for Business Page

Your Google Plus For Business page is a hub for much of the information used to rank and display your business in the search engine results. It centralizes important information about your business like your business name, address, phone number, website, categories and important keywords.

As part of your linkbuilding activities (which we will discuss below) if you are a local business, you will be creating local citations for your business such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Yellow Pages, Foursquare and more.  As you create these pages you want to base them off the information that you used to create your Google Plus For Business page.  This way your main business information is standardized across local citations, gaining you more credibility.

2.  Create a Website

Creating a website is becoming less important at the same time it is becoming easier.  Changes to Google’s algorithm have setup a situation where your local citation profiles or your social media accounts are like websites in a big portfolio of websites.  Make sure you add as much information and additional content like images to these accounts.

Having said that, having your own website and domain name have their own unique advantages.  You have full control over the way you want to brand your business and have access to so many more ways to connect with customers.

Whether you pay a professional to design your website or create it yourself, focus on the mobile user experience first.  Also, don’t worry too much about the design at first, have a professional logo created and create lots of great content that will stand out to your visitors.  This includes the text of your pages, creative images to display on those pages and any videos you may have created.

If you are looking to design your own website, I would recommend the WordPress platform.  In order to display your website on the web you will need to sign up for a web hosting account.  Many of these web hosting accounts will assist you with installing WordPress for free.

If you want to design your own ecommerce or shopping cart website I recommend Shopify or Squarespace.  However, keep in mind that the gap between a free ecommerce website and a professionally created proprietary website is wide in terms of functionality and search engine friendliness.

3.  Setup Analytics For Your Website

As soon as you have your website completed or almost completed you want to start setting up tracking of your data by using analytics tools.  It is very important to start tracking this data right away so you can measure growth and changes over time.

The two most commonly used free analytics tools are Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

To setup Google Analytics you have to sign up for an account and give some basic information about your website and business.  You first verify ownership of the website by uploading a file to your web server or by some alternate method.  Once you have verified ownership you add tracking code to each one of your web pages that Google Analytics uses to compile a wealth of data about your site that you can view at any time.

Once you have setup Google Analytics you should be able to easily setup Google Search Console by verifying ownership of the website using your newly created Google Analytics account (If you are using the same Google account for both, make sure you do).  Google Search Console provides a wealth of information on search analytics, Google crawl errors, code errors, page speed, site security and more.  It also allows you to interact with Google Search by submitting sitemaps of your website, adding additional information about your pages called structured data and requesting that Google crawl pages that or new or have been updated.

4.  Perform Keyword Research

When you are starting out with web marketing the easiest and most cost effective way to do basic keyword research is using Google AdWords.  You can sign up for a free AdWords account using your Google account.

If you have the funds in your marketing budget you may want to do some AdWords advertising for your website when you first start out.  Either way, know that if you have a paying AdWords account, meaning you have a live advertising campaign, your keyword research data will be more detailed than if you do not.

Keywords have a score for competition level: low, medium or high. One of the main questions people have about keyword research using AdWords is should I use low competition keywords or high competition keywords?  The answer depends on whether you are a local business or a national brand and also depends on the results of actually looking at the search engine results of that keyword and deciding if it is a good keyword to target (discussed more below).

Keep in mind that “high competition” when you are using the keyword planner in AdWords refers to high competition among advertisers who are buying ads to be served for those keywords.  That means high competition keywords are more desired by advertisers and therefore, on average, more likely to convert.  It also means they are more likely to be competitive and getting on the first page of the search results will be more difficult (second page is useless).

As an example, suppose you have a local accounting business and you are looking for keywords to include on your pages.  For this type of business you would use location targeting to filter the data to include only searches in your local area.  In this scenario you can target all of the relevant “high competition” keywords because you are only competing with a small local segment.  However, all keywords must be checked in the search engine results as a final step before approval using the method I describe below.

If you had a nationally focused ecommerce brand you would face a larger pool of competition for important keywords.  In this scenario you want to find keywords that are relevant to the content on your pages, with enough traffic to make it worth your efforts but not too much that you will have no chance to compete.  Here you can make a list of keywords of all competition levels because once again the final decision comes down to the actual search results.

So once we have generated a list of possible keywords, their traffic numbers and competition level, we can go to Google and test them out.  In order to compare search results we need some benchmark data that we can use to decide how strong the competition is for each keyword.  One way of doing this is by installing and using a browser extension for website and SEO data.  Two of the more common extensions for this are MozBar and SEOQuake.  With these tools we can gain information about the competition like domain age, domain authority, page authority, number of Google indexed pages, links and more.  There are many other free and paid tools you can use.

Pay particularly close attention to domain authority and domain age, Google really likes them.  If you have a new website with a domain authority somewhere between 1-5 (out of 100) and you see an amazon web page on the first page of the search results with a domain authority of 99 you might want to move on to the next keyword on your list.

Also, local businesses have been overtaken somewhat in the search results by directories and aggregators.  If you search a keyword and no local businesses like yours appear on the first page, move on to the next one.

Find the keywords that best represent your content, that have a good amount of traffic and that you can compete for and you will have a great foundation on which to build your website marketing.

5.  Complete Website On-Page SEO

Your On-Page SEO is the way you structure your website and the words that you use in key places to describe your website.  It is based on the keyword research we described above and is based on some universal best practices.

With On-Page SEO we use our main keywords and variations of those keywords in web page urls, alternate text (image description text for people with disabilities), headings, head tags like title and description and in the text of our pages.  It is important to use these words and phrases in a conversational manner and not try to stuff them in where they don’t belong.

Internal linkbuilding is another important part of On-Page SEO where we create hyperlinks in the text of our pages to other pages on the site to encourage click-throughs and a continuous flow through the site.

6.  Build Links Back To Your Website

No matter how much digital marketing and SEO change with every Google algorithm update, there will always be an important place for backlinking.  It used to be that search engine ranking was based purely on who linked to your website and how important they were.  Not so anymore but linkbuilding is still critical because it is a ranking signal and more importantly it is a great way to drive traffic to your website.

As stated previously, the best way for a local business to build links is through verified local citation websites.  Social media accounts are a good way to get some easy links when you are starting out and these links gain value as your social media presence increases.  In addition, you can get links from blogs in your niche, a limited number of directories in your niche and other websites that are relevant to your business.

However, the best way to obtain backlinks is to create great content, whether it is a written article, a graph, video, media presentation, etc., and then market that content on the web via social bookmarking and social media.  Content is king when it comes to backlinking and any type of digital marketing.

Don’t get stuck in information overload.  Follow these six steps to marketing your small business online and you will be well on your way to establishing your online brand and making the competition take notice.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *