2022 is almost here, and many local businesses are looking at this year as their big breakout. So how can we leverage all the digital tools available to make that happen? In this article, I’ll review the most common (and powerful) online marketing channels available and give a few tips on how to make them work for you.
Although your website isn’t a “marketing channel”, I felt it was important to put this first. Why? Because none of your marketing is going to work as effectively as it could with a weak website. All of your marketing is ultimately going to revert back to your website – it’s where your marketing channels will bring potential customers! Here are the three core areas your website needs to focus on.
Years ago, having a “good” website meant having a lot of really flashy graphics and animations. Today, though, the priority is mobile devices – and all of that flashy nonsense makes your website load extremely slow on cell phones. Customers expect websites to load as quickly as possible. Statistically, it’s actually shown that customers very often leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. You really have to prioritize the performance of your website – how quickly the website loads, how it formats on mobile devices (known as being “mobile responsive”), and more.
Very simply, nobody will take you seriously if your website makes you look like an amateur. Having clean, professional graphics and website aesthetics are a major factor to how many people become customers after arriving to your website.
Two terms have risen to prominence in recent years – “User Experience” and “User Interface” – UX and UI, respectively. User Experience represents the experience that your visitor has while navigating your website. User Interface is the actual design and visuals your visitors see while clicking around your site, which ultimately contributes in part to the user’s experience.
Your user needs to have the best experience possible on your website. When you’re trying to sell a product online, you need to remember that you’re also competing with the likes of Amazon, who has perfected their website. So you’re going to seriously turn your customers off if your website stresses them out. Long checkout processes, forcing them to create an account, pixelated images, and more all contribute to the usability of your website. Keeping your customers happy throughout their browsing experience is vital.
Once these three areas of your website are strong, then you can get started with your online marketing. Here are the marketing channels you should focus on.
The power of Google Ads come from the ability to put your message in front of people who are looking for exactly what you offer. With Google Ads, you can choose the exact search term to be listed for. Promoting your restaurant? You can show ads of your best burgers or offers to people who are searching for the best burger spot in New York. Or, perhaps you sell jewelry and want to show the perfect diamond necklace to someone within a few miles of your store searching specifically for diamond necklaces – that’s possible, too.
Google Ads have some strengths over social media advertising. You see, on social media, you’re often putting your message out there and hoping the right people see your message at the right time. This is half the battle with advertising. With Google Ads, the main benefit is that someone searching on Google has INTENT – they’re actively looking for what you offer. That’s extremely, extremely powerful.
Here are the primary ways to advertise with Google.
The most common ads are Search ads. These ads look mostly identical to the standard search results, which is a big factor as to why they work so well. This is typically the first place we start new clients – they work great and they work immediately. These are fantastic for reaching customers at the right time – by tailoring your message and landing page, you can make sure you reach the customer at the phase in the buying cycle you’d like to reach them. We tend to view Search Ads as the right choice when you’re trying to reach someone when they’re ready to purchase (at the end of their buying cycle), because they’re actively searching for a solution to their problem.
Display Network Ads
As said by Google, “The Google Display Network can help you reach people while they’re browsing their favorite websites, showing a friend a YouTube video, checking their Gmail account, or using mobile devices and apps.” The firt big difference between these Display Ads compared to the previously mentioned Search Ads is that these are shown as graphics, not lines of text. Secondly, they appear throughout the web on different websites – which is not the same as the visitor specifically searching for what you’re showing like they would with Search Ads. As such, we view Display Ads as a great way to reach potential customers earlier in their buying cycle – more towards the “awareness” phase, and you can put your ads in front of people before they start searching for what you offer.
Here’s an example of one:
For most local businesses, shopping ads are of no concern. If you’re trying to bring people into your restaurant or get customers for your construction company, its not going to happen on Google Shopping. However, if you are an eCommerce business, you’re already likely very familiar with this behemoth.
You can display video ads – known as TrueView ads – in the YouTube search results or before, during, and after videos on YouTube and the Google Display Network. Just like Display ads, these ads are based on reaching viewers by demographic and the content they’re consuming, not what they’re searching for. You’re charged only when a video actually is viewed by a user.
Running intelligent TrueView campaigns can provide great insight into your demographic insight. Who are the users? Where are they coming from? And most importantly, are they watching your ads or skipping past them?
Taken directly from Google, there are two types of Youtube TrueView ads (known as formats):
- In-stream ads run before, during, or after videos on YouTube or on video partner sites and apps. They give viewers the option to skip the ad after 5 seconds. These ads help you drive awareness for your brand and products while people are watching a video.
- Video discovery ads appear in places where viewers discover content, like on YouTube search results, next to related videos, and on the YouTube mobile homepage. They invite people to click on a thumbnail to watch your video ad and help surface your videos to an interested audience.
Email remains the highest-converting marketing tool. If you can collect someone’s email address, know who they are, and know what they’re interested in, you can send them direct messages of the highest relevance.
There are two primary email marketing strategies that we utilize with our clients:
Newsletters are an easy way to keep customers informed about your company and latest products. However, it’s easy to annoy people and get viewed as spam. That’s why email newsletters are best-used when promoting to people who are familiar with your brand – people who have already purchased from you or requested information from you. If you try to send people newsletters prior to this familiarity with your brand, the message probably won’t be targeted enough to them and they’ll likely unsubscribe.
Another tip with newsletters is to keep them exciting, and don’t make them all about the sale. I personally receive a few newsletters from graphic design companies, and the reason I stay subscribed (and open) their emails is because they often have great fonts and graphic assets I can download for free. Of course, there are also ads in the newsletter which is what they’re really trying to get me with. However, I’m always going to see their ad because its mixed in with the exciting stuff they’re giving me. So, the point is to use newsletters to sell, but don’t make them just about the sale.
Drip Campaigns (Funnels)
Drip campaigns – sometimes referred to as “funnels” – are a big piece of marketing automation. Drip campaigns are simply a series of predetermined emails you set in advance to be triggered by a specific condition. These are a really great way to guide a customer deeper into the buying funnel, or closer to buying. The majority of people who heard about your products or services may not even be ready to purchase at that moment. Capturing their email address somehow – perhaps by offering a valuable video series or tutorial in exchange for their email address – allows you to send them repeat messaging over the next few weeks or months pertaining to that topic. After establishing trust over time, they’ll be much more likely to purchase from you when the time is ready.
Advanced drip campaigns enable you to custom tailor your email sequencing based on whether or not the recipient opened your email or took action.
Facebook and Instagram are mandatory business tools for 95% of the world’s businesses. Put simply, you don’t exist if you’re not actively using Facebook and Instagram. Pinterest is another great option depending on your products and services. So what are the keys to winning on social media?
Post Interesting Things
There are some fascinating ways to increase the likelihood of people clicking on your ads. But the most important way to get people to click on what you’re posting is to actually post interesting things. Duh!
When you post on social media, it should not only be about selling your product. It’s about having a connection and conversation with someone. If you were speaking to a friend, you’d be pretty annoyed if all they did was try to sell you things, right? Use social media as a way to post about interesting topics. This will cement your brand identity in the reader’s head. If you’re a surf and skate brand, I’d be blogging about what the latest surfers are doing, writing about the coolest surf spots, giving surf and skate tips, and more. Mixing your product promotion within these types of articles are a great way to boost your conversions.
Move Beyond Standard Posting
If you haven’t experimented with paid advertising on social media, you’re missing the biggest opportunity that social media has to offer. Facebook and Instagram, in particular, allow you to send laser-targeted messages to your ideal audience. Sure, they cost a few bucks – but so does all advertising. Posting organically on social media has benefits, but ads and promoted posts allow you to reach your audience in much more effective, targeted ways. Contact us to learn how to use social ads as a primary revenue source for your business.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Getting on the first page of Google should be incredibly important to your business. After all, Google is how the majority of people will find your business.
Unlike Google ads – which are displayed on Google according to your budget and the keywords you set – showing up on the first page of Google is determined by having relevant content to show the searcher. If someone is searching for the best burger in New York, Google will show you the listings it feels are the best match. The benefit to this is that it’s free. SEO takes time and skill to get onto the first Google listing page, but you don’t actually pay for the listing to show up or when people click on the ad. It’s based on how relevant and properly-formatted your website is.
SEO Content Pages
The first backbone of SEO is content pages. These pages – when written correctly with proper SEO formatting and best-practices – will tell Google what your website is all about. In return, Google will show your visitors this information if it deems it worthy and authoritative enough. This is why blogging is so important. Blogging is essentially a way to give Google ammunition to show your customers.
Link Building Strategies
Links are the second backbone of SEO. You see, Google uses links as a way to judge your site’s reputation. Getting links back to your website from major websites tells Google that you’re a reputable business trusted by big businesses they already rank highly, so therefore you should be ranked high in the search results as well. Whether you’re a local or nation wide business, you can use your SEO content pages to attract links to your site, thereby increasing your Google rank.