A common theme among many (if not most) small businesses are that their websites do not possess a blog. But why does that matter? If you as a small business owner/manager are selling a product or a service, you're not a blogger or writer so how does that help your business at all? It all ties back to SEO: Google loves and prefers fresh, new, relevant content when someone does a Google search. Having new content on the actual pages of your website is great, but at a certain point it becomes extremely "spammy" and actually turns potential customers off. If a potential customer is on your website searching for a certain product you sell, they want to see the product description and relevant information, not ten pages worth of content because you are trying to improve your Google search ranking. A blog is the perfect way to achieve this fresh, new content, without seeming spammy at all. Potential customers clearly do not have to visit your blog if they don't want to, but if they do a search in Google that is related to one of your blog posts, Google sees that similar information and shows your website sooner in a search result. The other aspect of a blog, albeit maybe less quantifiable, is that you can have fun with it. Blog posts don't need to be a sales pitch, you can post about an event coming up, a new product or service you're coming up with, a post about the staff, how the store originally came to be, etc. There is a lot of freedom in what you post on your blog, and for the most part, you can't go wrong. So, easily add a blog to your website and get writing with information you want out there and that you know would be helpful to your potential customers.
You've started exploring digital marketing for your business and looking into how your website attracts customers. Unfortunately, you find that any Google searches you do for your business, products, or services, your website is nowhere to be found in Google. So what next? An SEO Audit is a quick and effective way to have a professional (like us... hint-hint, wink-wink) review not only your website, but each item that plays a part in the larger picture that is the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of your website. Having an SEO Audit completed for you allows you to take action on improving your search ranking in Google, instead of spending hours and hours researching why your website doesn't appear in the first place. Some common items a digital professional might find and suggest to focus on to improve your SEO and search ranking: Does your website have any major, noticeable errors? Are there any broken links within your website? Have you listed your business on the many various local listing sites? Are you consistently adding new, relevant content to your site, such as through a blog? These, among many, many other things are what can be determined through an SEO Audit, that ultimately shows you and your business precisely what needs to be done and improved upon to optimize your website and show up at the top of a Google search every time.
As most of us know, social media outlets are an excellent, cost-effective way to communicate with existing and potential customers. The instantaneous of the communication and relationships it can foster are aspects traditional marketing and media simply cannot match. So where could a small business go wrong using social media? This blog post may be a bit opinionated, but I think it is something most, if not all, of us have experienced at some point in time and something we can relate to. At the end of the day, what is marketing really all about? To attract customers and generate new business, right? When we look at social media through this perspective, there is of course a selling component to social media. But where small businesses can go wrong, and the whole point of this post, is treating social media like it's a digital version of a sales brochure or direct mail piece. If the only messages a business is posting are in line with "Great deal going on now, don't wait, come in today to buy and take advantage of this amazing deal!", I can assure you that business is actually hurting themselves and losing potential customers through social media. In that scenario, it would most likely be better off if they didn't use social media at all. Why do we say this? Think of it this way: would you want a sales person constantly pitching something to you you're not even interested in? Absolutely not. Here's the thing to understand: many people that are connecting with your business through various social media outlets are not anywhere near the purchasing stage for your product or service. Of course, people connected with or followed your business profiles for a reason, either they are already a customer or like what you have to offer and want to learn more. That's why we say there is a selling COMPONENT to social media, but selling is not and should not be the constant focal point. Social media users want connections with your business, they want information about your business and products, they want to connect with the people that make the business human. This applies especially to businesses that provide periodic or seasonal products and services; let's say the business is an automotive dealership, do you think the customer that just purchased a car is going to turn around and purchase another car next month? The chance of that happening is slim to none, because a car purchase for most people is a periodic purchase, something that happens every few years. So how do you retain these existing customers or attract new customers that might not purchase your product or service for another year? Keep trying to sell them every day or consistently provide new content and information about your business, product, or service? The answer is always going to be focusing on content. What happens when you focus on content and providing the information potential customers are looking for is that when they do get to the purchasing stage, they already know they're going to the business they have a connection to and have trusted for information for the past year. Utilizing social media is playing the long game: it can and will undoubtedly get you new customers in the here and now, but the real power is the ability to retain customers and generate customers weeks, months, or even years from now. At the end of the day, post and share the sales your business is having or the deals going on, but if you want to "win" at the game that is social media, play the long game and be the go-to source of information your customers are looking for.
Facebook is a great tool to use for any small business; it allows you to show your personality as an organization, communicate directly with customers, and share updates of what's going on with your business. The only downside that comes with starting out on Facebook is it can take a bit of time to get a decent number of people to like your page and engage with your posts; it can be a bit frustrating putting in a lot of work to create content for only 10 people to see it. This is where Facebook Ads change the game. Facebook Ads do not take the place of organic (a.k.a unpaid) Facebook activity and posting, but they do greatly enhance your reach and can speed up the results you're looking for from Facebook. The two main takeaways for small business owners are: 1. Facebook Advertising is without a doubt the most cost-effective advertising medium available today. Being able to reach thousands of people for only a few dollars a day is unparalleled by other forms of advertising. 2. The ability to directly target your ad and message to those it would apply most to is also unequaled. If you know your target market is younger women, you can target women within a specific age range with a few clicks of a button. If you want to drill down even further, such as by relationship status, interests, or common pages liked, Facebook Advertising allows you to do that as well. As far as any paid advertising is concerned, Facebook Ads should be the first stop and go-to choice for small, local businesses. As far as the ads themselves go, Facebook gives you a ton of options to make sure your ad actually represents your business and personality. You can use a single image, multiple images, even a video and add whatever text you want for how the ad will read. The goal of your ad can be many different options as well, such as getting traffic to your website, having the customer fill out a form right from the ad, or even getting people to like your Facebook page. Facebook Ads can be made as simple or complex as needed, and the nice thing is complex doesn't necessarily mean better or that you will see better results, but the reality is, as a small business turning to Facebook Advertising is a must and will allow you to reach infinitely more customers than your competition.
SEO stands for search engine optimization, as you've probably already figured out. But as a small business in a small town like Wabash, what does that mean for you and your business? Essentially, SEO is how relevant and easily accessible your website is for Google (and other search engines) when a person does a search that relates to your business. If someone does a search such as "Residential Construction Wabash" and you are a local construction company, having excellent SEO properties means your website will show somewhere in the top of the search results. If your website is not found on the first page of the search results, you can kiss any chance of that potential customer getting to your website goodbye. Pages 2-infinity in Google are where websites go to die (may they rest in peace). Now, how do you go about making sure your website and online presence is optimized to be near the top of the search results for relevant keywords? The first category we'll focus on is what's called "On-Page SEO", which simply means your website. There are various keys to maximizing your on-page SEO properties, including:
The second component of SEO is "Off-page SEO", which is just as it sounds and includes all the items not directly on your website that affect your search rankings. Off-page SEO is just as, if not more, important than on-page SEO in the fact it establishes "authority" for your site in Google's eyes. The components of off-page SEO are:
This article includes a broad overview of SEO and its two major components, but we will continue to post articles that drill down on each specific section and how to continually optimize your business's online presence. SEO is an ongoing, continuous game, just keep plugging away and remember Rome wasn't built in a day!
This can be a bit of a loaded question in all truthfulness. Each business is different of course, but at the end of the day you as the owner of your small business are going to be the one to decide how much you're going to spend on marketing and where specifically that spend is going to go. In a place like Wabash, traditional marketing mediums ABSOLUTELY still have a very valuable presence and are still what some people prefer. However, the complication with traditional marketing is when someone asks: so what was the return on your investment for that marketing promotion? Does each new customer that calls you or comes in the store tell you they got your newsletter in the mail? They saw your flyer on Cass street? They heard your radio ad early one morning? The resounding answer to those questions is usually going to be a big fat no, unless they are already a customer of yours and have a relationship with you the business owner. Enter digital marketing. The real genius of digital marketing is not only reaching customers where they're at in the year of 2018 (the answer is on their smartphones), but it's also being able to effectively track every single dollar you spend on digital marketing and what the result was. Through tools such as Google Analytics, every occurrence online can be tracked and followed through the sales and marketing funnel. As an example, let's say your small business runs a Google AdWords campaign (the green ads at the top of a Google search) and you want to of course be able to track your return on that investment. Your Ad campaign is for the newest red t-shirt your store just got in, so your ad describes the shirt, what's great about it, and includes a call-to-action for the potential customer to click the ad to visit your site and view the shirt. Once the ad is clicked, it's essential the link takes them to the information they are expecting to see: in this case it should take the customer directly to the page of your website with the new red t-shirt. At this point, the customer adds the t-shirt to their online cart and purchases it from your store. Guess what? Every single interaction and step in this process can be tracked. Google Analytics will show the source of the visitor is Google AdWords, that the customer added the shirt to their cart, and then purchased the shirt. It will even show what type of device the customer was using, what browser, what city they're in, they're demographics (age, gender, etc.) and so much more. If you know you profit $10 each time you sell a $20 shirt, and through Google's tracking tools see that your Ad campaign sold 100 shirts when you spent $500 on the Ad campaign then you would know your return on investment is 100% ($500 profit on $500 spent). So the real questions to ask when determining your marketing budget is this: 1. Am I able to track the money I am spending on marketing? 2. If I am able to track it, which specific methods are providing the highest return on investment? and 3. How much can I spend as a business owner knowing and seeing that each dollar I spend for these high ROI methods is making the business money?
Digital marketing is a term that gets tossed around a lot, but what exactly is it? At the end of the day, digital marketing is your entire online presence and how you're reaching your potential customers through that presence. This includes a wide range of things, from social media pages to google advertising to having an online ecommerce store. This idea can be scary for some because there truly are hundreds of different avenues a business can use in a digital marketing plan. But here's the great thing: a business that truly crushes it in digital marketing and grows their business exponentially is the one that finds their niche, what specifically their customers are using, and only focuses on that. In a small town like Wabash, your storefront and reputation are two things that go a long, long way and I believe always will in such a tight-knit community. Here's the misinformation I believe small businesses in small towns all across the country are getting: that the idea of focusing on your physical presence and reputation are opposed to focusing on your digital efforts. That simply could not be further from the truth. An effective business plan in a small town focuses on both areas, being a known provider throughout the community while also reaching new potential customers online that might be from outside of Wabash, a younger population, or simply someone that is doing research on multiple providers online. The basic thought needs to come back to this: if a potential customer is shopping for my services online, are they going to choose the business that has a great online presence with plenty of information or the business they cannot find anywhere online? When 80% of America is shopping online, reaching and garnering customers where they're at matters.
Dev Thompson is the CEO and founder of Wabash County Digital. Being Wabash born and bred, Dev simply wanted to find a way to educate and assist Wabash businesses in growing their reach and achieve their ultimate business goals. Also, please note that Dev's wife is way out of his league