If you’re a small business owner who’s not particularly well-versed in the concept, you might intuitively assume that “Internet marketing” refers to placing ads on websites. However, entrepreneurs who are more tech-savvy know that Internet marketing encompasses a much broader range of online promotion strategies for attracting customers and driving traffic to your small business. This discussion will provide an introduction to the most common (and effective) approaches.
You must make sure that your site looks professional and appealing; every page on your site should be directly relevant to your business and completely devoid of any spelling or grammatical errors. You should also review your site from time-to-time to confirm that all the information it provides about your business is completely accurate; for example, you wouldn’t want your website to include outdated or erroneous contact information for your service desk. Furthermore, you should constantly update your website with brand-new content. The quality of your content is one of the primary factors that search engines take into account when ranking your site (as further discussed below).
When it comes to effective Internet marketing, it is often said that “content is king.” Blogging is an excellent way to generate fresh new content for your brand. You can either have a stand-alone blog or include your blog as a tab on your main website. Note that the purpose of your blog is not necessarily to push your product or service; its primary goal should be to either inform or entertain your client (or both). Consistently adding blog posts — whether they’re written by you, your personnel, or outside contributors — can increase your brand recognition and cultivate a reputation for expertise in your field. In addition to building client trust, your blog also has the residual benefit of boosting your SEO results. For more information on how to effectively use a blog as a promotion tool, see Using a Blog to Support Your Business.
Once you’ve both established a website as your business’ online nerve center and used your blog to generate content, then the next logical step is to employ social media as a medium for connecting to your audience of potential clients. As most of us know, the term “social media” refers to the use of interactive websites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. If used effectively, these sites can provide tremendous exposure for your brand, products, and services — all free of charge (although some of these sites offer premium marketing services for a fee). These sites also facilitate direct audience interaction with your business.
If you are completely uninitiated in the social media universe, then start with something easy, like LinkedIn (which is specifically tailored for business networking) or Facebook (which can be used for either personal or business purposes). Although Facebook is more well-known for personal use, it also allows you to create a separate page that exclusively relates to your business. If your personal page is linked to your business page in any way, then be extremely conscientious about not including any photos, videos, comments, posts, or other content on your personal page that you would not want your business audience to see.
Regardless of what social media platforms you decide to use, you can build your followers by initiating and joining discussion groups, making comments, connecting with others, and sharing posts relating to your business. Furthermore, if your company maintains pages on multiple social media sites, most of those sites will allow you to adjust your settings to link your various pages to each other. This gives you the ability to publish a post on one site and have it instantaneously posted on your other social media accounts as well. In addition, by linking your social media accounts — and listing all of them in your various profiles — you can drive viewers and followers of one account (for example, your Facebook page) to your remaining social media platforms (for example, your LinkedIn and Twitter pages), thereby synergistically increasing your follower base on all sites. For more information on the interaction of your various social media platforms, see Nolo’s blogging resource referenced above.
Email marketing is another valuable tool for reaching out to potential clients and retaining existing ones (see 6 Tips for Nurturing Client Relationships). Assuming that you maintain a database with all of your clients’ email addresses, you can periodically send them an email newsletter with company information and updates, publications, offers, exclusive content, reminders, or promotions (provided that you have their permission to do so). You can also use these contacts to generate new business leads. For example, your company could offer to award discounts or free products to existing clients who refer new business to you (referral or promotion codes are often useful for these purposes).
In connection with the implementation of your Internet marketing strategies (particularly your website), you should familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO refers to an algorithmic process by which search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing try to optimize user search results based on a variety of factors. Your goal should be to turn your SEO knowledge into a game plan for inducing these websites to include your company in top-tier search results. The effective practice of SEO strategies can be described as both an art and science. As such, there are many websites and videos that can give you advice and tutorials on basic SEO strategies.
Note that you can use search engine analytics to view statistics about the search terms that most often direct users to your business or market area. This data will give you valuable information about each keyword, including their competition level and the frequency with which they’re searched during a given month. You can use this information to target high-volume keywords that have lower competition rates, and then create content on your website, blog, and other online platforms that features those keywords. Note that once you’ve familiarized yourself with SEO fundamentals, you can consider hiring professionals to help you achieve maximum search results.
The explosion of mobile phone usage has spurred a concomitant surge in the development of mobile applications. It’s well understood that mobile apps are more workable with certain businesses than others. However, you still might want to consider whether a mobile app could either make it easier for your clients to interface with your business or serve as an offshoot of your existing services. Feel free to think outside the box and get creative; or you can brainstorm with some mobile app professionals in your market area.
Here are some final tips you should take into consideration. Although these Internet marketing strategies might seem daunting at first, their day-to-day maintenance diminishes greatly with practice (and you always have the option of hiring an Internet marketing specialist to handle all of the legwork for you). Also, always remember to preserve your brand’s goodwill by assuring that the quality of your online presence is consistent across all platforms. Lastly, in addition to the promotion tactics discussed above, feel free to be as creative as your business model allows — this can include hosting a podcast, offering webinars or online courses, or joining various online groups in your same market space (such as business directories).