There has never been a better time in the history of the world to start a business. The internet has removed the barriers to entry that used to exist and has allowed anyone with a computer and an internet connection to be successful. Below, I have briefly listed 8 tips that can kick start (or enhance) your business online marketing plan in 2016.
Start with a review of your current marketing activities. It’s interesting the number of businesses that don’t realize how much they are spending on marketing or how much of a return on their investment (ROI) they are getting. Think about it for a bit. Where are you spending your marketing dollars? How much is going to yellow pages, local newspaper, direct mail, website, internet marketing, etc.? Do you know where your new business is coming from? What forms of advertising is paying off? Where are you getting new clients? Are you meeting your revenue goals?
If needed, set aside a few hours to review your current marketing activities and your marketing ROI. Find out what’s working and what’s not working. Reallocate money into what is working, or better yet, start using the money that is not working by expanding your overall marketing options. Get more into the new online marketing opportunities that have fast become mandatory for accelerated business growth.
Is your website performing?
Your website should be an asset that is building your business value on a year to year basis. If it isn’t, you should seriously consider if you have made the right website investments and whether your investment level has been serious enough to compete in today’s business environment.
Give your website stats a hard look. Make sure you are using Google Analytics (it’s free) or some other high quality stats package. Know your number of website visitors, where they are coming from, what pages are ranking on the first page of Google, your visitor to customer conversion ratios, etc. These are critical performance factors of your business.
Your website needs to be fast, it has to be easily navigated and it needs to be functional. This is your new business storefront. Use your website to tie everything together including links to your social media pages, blog, subscription to your email newsletter and more. If your website is not doing what it couldor should, then get help ASAP.
Is your website ranking for the most important phrase in your industry?
More than 70% of local consumers of your product or services will “Google” you before purchasing. An astounding 98% of searchers will only review the first page of search engine results. That means that only 2% of searchers will find your business if it is not on the first page. Search for your business in the major engines, Google, Yahoo, and Bing to make sure your website is listed, if it comes up then you are fine. Your search should be for the main industry phrases, not your business name. Hint: Consumers that already know your business name are a small percentage of the local consumer you want to do business with. Instead of business name, search for “City + Industry Keywords”, e.g. “Portland Dentist”, “Portland Bookkeepers”, “Portland Accountant”, etc. without the quotes. If your business comes up on the first page, then keep doing whatever you are doing. If not, then make ranking a high business priority for 2016.
Are you getting your share of the Google Places Goldmine?
If you are a small business owner, you can’t go anywhere on the Web without hearing about Google Places. Google is certainly making a hard push toward local search with the back-to-back launches of Place Pages, Place Search, Google Hotpot and a seemingly never-ending list of local announcements. If you’re a small business owner, it’s not always an easy job to keep up, but it’s really important that you do. Google Places is a goldmine of opportunity for those smart enough to get first page positions.
Google has reported that more than a billion searches each month are for local products and services. That number is growing each month. In addition to the local focus, Google Places has the advantage of being faster to rank than traditional SEO and is less expensive than Pay Per Click (PPC).
Here are few pointers to help you rank for less competitive markets.
- First thing is claim you’re listing, completely.
A big mistake that many small business owners make with Google Places is not claiming their listing or taking the time to accurately fill out all of the fields. You want to make sure your profile is as complete and accurate as it can be. When you claim your listing, you’ll be asked to include basic information about your business, such as business name, address, phone number, website address, e-mail address, categories, service areas and location settings, hours of operation, payment options, photos (up to 10 photos), videos (up to five YouTube links) and any additional details. Every available field should be filled out in order to give your business the best chance for ranking high.
- Smart Keywords.
When you fill out your listing, be smart about your keyword usage – using terms related to what you do and your location. Do your keyword research to know which terms searchers are using to find your business. Make sure those keywords are included in your description, and be sure you are listing your business in the right category. Do not stuff the description with keywords (you only have 200 characters), but do keep search engine optimization in mind when you’re writing it. Keywords are one of the factors Google uses to decide when it’s appropriate to show your site. Be smart, use the right keywords and don’t overdo or under do it.
- Add images.
Why should you bother uploading photos of your business? Well, because the new Place Search is putting those image thumbnails right next to your site URL in the search results. Your site + Places page now shows up in the same package. This gives you another opportunity to grab a searchers eye and get them to click on your listing instead of competitors.
- Encourage Reviews.
It is wonderful how the opinions of friends and online peers are so highly valued. We check reviews before we buy from Ebay, we check Amazon reviews before buying there, and we check reviews before we book an important dinner. There is a massive social trend toward a pervasive use and dependence on reviews. Reviews are already a heavily weighted component of the Google Places ranking algorithm. With Google Hotpot and reviews becoming part of Social Search, it’s clear that reviews could very soon become part of Google’s overall ranking algorithm strategy.
As a small business owner you need to encourage customers to leave reviews about your business. Reach out to them during checkout, after the purchase, in e-mail newsletters, in company mailings and at other touch points. Teach them how to leave reviews and direct them to the appropriate sites. Let customers know how important reviews are to your business. You need to start figuring out how you’re going to positively solicit reviews from customers in a way that won’t turn them off.
Local search has changed. Web search has now become local search, and that means small business owners must compete much differently than they did before. More than ever, it’s all about creating a comprehensive online strategy, showing users and search engines that your business is a relevant and trusted brand. Search engine optimization is about to become more important for local businesses than it ever was before. Make sure you have a smart 2016 online marketing plan to compete and succeed!
Other important areas to consider:
- Mobile Marketing
- Pay Per Click Marketing
- Starting/Expand an eMail Newsletter
- Integrating Online and Offline Promotions
- Getting Really Serious about Social Media Marketing