With baseball season upon us, it is a good time to take stock of your marketing game plan, taking a close look at how you are managing the promotion of your business. That includes your marketing spend and how it is allocated. Small business owners consistently say they are overwhelmed and confused by all the advertising options available to them, and with smaller budgets and staff, there is not a lot of flexibility to experiment with unproven digital marketing strategies. Here are five rules to keep in mind to ensure you are reaching the customers you want and getting the results you desire.
- Freshen up. Rich content such as photos and videos help engage consumers and improve search engine optimization (SEO). The question then becomes how often should you update that content? The answer is at least quarterly. If your website also has a blog, update it more frequently and also be sure to host it in a subfolder or page on the primary website domain, not a link to a separate site, to keep your audience engaged in one place. It’s also a good idea to keep any headlines or calls to action such as offers or reservations above the fold so that they’re easily accessible.
- Get into a routine. Business owners should make it a routine to monitor what consumers are saying about them across the web, whether it’s a review, rating or social post. Personalized responses from a business owner make a powerful statement, and while they may take time, it is time well spent.
- Presence and performance matter. No matter the size of your budget, both presence and performance products are important. Your online presence is your business card in today’s virtual world. It needs to be current and cohesive across screens and devices. So make sure your business name, phone number and address are accurate. Also remember to check that all social media links are active and maintained. When it comes to performance campaigns, consider spending less on search engine marketing (SEM) bids when your business is closed (during weekends and holidays, for example) so that you can spend more aggressively on the days and hours you are open. This is called dayparting, and it is a good way to ensure your marketing dollars are working hard at the times that matter to your business.
- Drive quality traffic. When you’re first starting off in SEM, go smaller and more targeted to drive quality traffic to your site. Bidding on your business name is a great place to begin. The best converting keywords usually tend to be brand or business name keywords, like "Auntie Marie's Bakery" or "Fancy Nancy’s Pet Shop." Generic keywords, like "attorney" or "lawyer," will have tons of competition and higher click costs. So try category and geography keywords together, like "attorney Agoura Hills" or "lawyer Agoura Hills".
- Use ad extensions. Spruce up your text ad with ad extensions. Sitelinks allow you to add deep links under your text ad that drive users to specified pages within your website. Some sitelink examples are promo pages, product pages and “about us” pages. With call and location extensions, you can add your business phone number and address alongside your text ad. These extensions can be useful for local small businesses that might rely heavily on in-store foot traffic. Call tracking numbers will provide another tangible measure of value to the advertiser by tracking not just clicks on your online ad but actual calls to your business.
As consumers increasingly rely on different devices and media to find businesses that meet their needs, it is harder than ever to be where customers are looking and make it easy for them to find information about your business. But as the saying goes, part of winning the game is just showing up. By actively managing and maintaining a digital presence and then promoting it, local businesses can ensure they are in the game and playing to win.