If you are like most business owners, you wear a lot of hats and work hard to stay on top of best industry practices — all while implementing effective online marketing strategies that seem to change faster than you can learn them. However, in a simplified way, Internet marketing is a lot like baseball. The first thing you have to do is get in the game.
Don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you on the bench for too long; if you do, your company will miss opportunities and the competition will pass you by. Now, start putting points on the board by touching all the bases — just like in baseball.
Get in the game with a website
A website is the foundation of Internet marketing. It can be simple, but to establish a presence online, you must follow a few “must dos.”
First, a website must be mobile-friendly (mobile-responsive). Google’s latest algorithm update directly benefits mobile-friendly, or responsive, websites. This update, labeled “Mobilegeddon,” potentially penalizes websites that are not designed for mobile users.
Google reported that it expects overall search queries on mobile devices to exceed desktop volumes this year. This statement and the new algorithm update provide two good reasons to have a mobile-friendly website.
Additionally, make sure the website has a blog function. In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), content is king. Google encourages current and relevant content on a website and rewards those that do it.
A blog enables you to write articles with keywords you would like to rank high for and provides helpful advice, tips and information to customers.
First base: SEO
Now that you are in the Internet marketing game, you are ready to start running the bases. SEO is important to keep a website at the top of an organic search. With a mobile-friendly/responsive website and blogs, you are already on track for SEO success.
However, more technical parts to SEO are also important, such as building internal and external links as well as meta data. You might want to consider outsourcing these components — particularly if you are in a competitive market. But, you can start implementing certain strategies today to improve your search rankings.
A Google Places or Google Maps listing can be an immense source of organic traffic. Take time to claim, verify and optimize your listing. You can get started by going to www.google.com/business to learn more.
“When it comes to digital marketing and SEO for your business, it’s important to look beyond just your website,” says Rachel Lindteigen of Search Engine Land. “For local businesses, a strong online marketing effort requires an investment in local directories, maps and review sites, too.”
Google’s “Pigeon algorithm update,” released in July 2014, gave more prominence to local map and directory sites such as Yelp. In many instances, Yelp listings now rank above a business’ website.
Here are five recommended steps to improve your SEO:
- Set up a Google My Business account. This is an easy way to create a listing or claim an existing one, allowing you to make sure the information is accurate and complete. Best of all, it’s free.
- Get started with review sites. Once you have claimed your business, you can update information, respond to reviews and upload photos. Love it or hate it, your customers are looking at review sites, such as Yelp, and you want them to find your business there.
- Optimize listings. Claim your listing and make sure the information is correct. Now, start optimizing your business information. This will include listing operating hours, adding photos, providing contact information, supplying the website address and more. You may want to look into digital management services, such as Yext (yext.com), to make the process even easier.
- Gather reviews. This is much easier said than done. If you provide outstanding service and take care of customers, they will be more inclined to leave a review; however, it also doesn’t hurt to remind patrons that you appreciate their opinions.
- Engage with customers online. You’re going to get reviews; and, let’s be honest, you may even receive some bad ones. People are just generally more motivated to leave negative comments. Take the time to respond in a professional manner. Thank customers for positive comments. Also, acknowledge any negative feedback, and try to make these concerns right if and when possible.
Now that you have gained momentum in online marketing by covering these steps, you are ready to round first base and start working toward second base.
Second base: Be social
Find out where your customers are hanging out and be there. Social media covers everything from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to LinkedIn, YouTube and much more.
Did you know that Facebook is the third largest search engine, and more than 1.1 billion people access it on a mobile device per month? Simply stated, Facebook is a popular social media platform, and you need to be there.
YouTube has more than one billion unique visits on a monthly basis and has a broad demographic of users who are 18-54 years old. As consumers, we spend 2.9 billion hours on YouTube each month. Guess what this means? You should be there.
You do not need to utilize all social platforms, but you should pick a FEW that best fit your target customer base and consistently work to build a strong following.
Social media gives you another opportunity to rank on Google and become more easily accessible. It also helps people to know, like and trust in your brand. Your social strategy should be simple, consistent and keep you in front of your target audience on a daily basis.
Third base: Advertising
Online advertising can help you reach your audience faster. Different types of online advertising are available, including Google AdWords, Facebook ads and retargeting ads.
Getting the most out of services like AdWords — also called “pay-per-click,” or PPC, advertising — requires ongoing experimentation. This can quickly get expensive if your campaign is not set up correctly.
Facebook advertising, on the other hand, is relatively inexpensive; and, for as little as $5 per day, you can significantly increase how many people see your ads.
Retargeting is also a great way to inexpensively advertise online by “re-marketing” to people who visit your website. For instance, when potential customers visit your website, you’re able to place “cookies” on their Web browsers that follow them wherever they go on the Internet, allowing you to stay on top of your “qualified” leads.
We have all been retargeted. For example, if you have ever looked into booking a vacation, all of a sudden you start seeing ads for that vacation destination everywhere you go online — tag, you’ve just been retargeted.
Although it is a relatively new concept, online marketing has a clear game plan for winning. When you touch all the bases in your Internet marketing strategy, the score will start to move in your favor.
Take it one base at a time; don’t get overwhelmed; and, definitely do not give up. There can be some quick wins in this game. However, it’s more likely that the big win will come over a period of time.