Digital Marketing 101 for Small Businesses
Once you've started your small business and developed your branding, the next step is to let your target audience know you exist. But how should you do that?
With 288 million internet users and 230 million social media users in the U.S.,1 digital marketing and advertising are the best ways to raise awareness of your business, and generate leads and sales.
Here are some of the key digital marketing terms and strategies you need to know.
Although there are many other channels where people can connect with brands, 47% of consumers say email is their favorite way to hear from businesses.3
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEO includes a range of tactics to increase the search rankings of your website. This results in more traffic and the possibility of more leads and sales. SEO focuses on organic traffic, which is the traffic you get when someone clicks a link on a search results page.
There are two main types of SEO strategies: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-page SEO is about optimizing your website and content to improve its search prominence. One way to do that is by using keyword research2 to identify the terms your audience is searching for and include them in your content pages.
Another SEO strategy is to build your brand's authority and trustworthiness via inbound links, social signals, and more. This is called off-page SEO and it helps all your pages to rank higher in searches because your brand is site is deemed to be higher-quality.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is marketing with content, and it's a key aspect of digital marketing. The content part is written, visual, and audio content like blog posts, articles, white papers, infographics, social media graphics, videos, podcasts, and more. Ideally, this content is of a high quality and meets your audience's needs.
With content marketing, you're not pushing marketing messages to your customers. Instead, you're enticing them to your business with valuable content. The right content can help people who don't know your brand to get to know you, and it can let people know you're an expert in your business. Once they trust you, they're more likely to want to buy from you.
What is social media marketing?
Social media marketing is using social media channels to increase brand awareness and audience engagement and to drive traffic to your website.
Key channels for businesses on social media include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. If your business targets a younger demographic, consider TikTok and Snapchat. Facebook is one of the largest social media networks with more than 2 billion users.
There are two types of social media marketing: organic and paid. Organic social media marketing is the use of social media without paying for promotion. To do this, businesses set up their social media profiles and share high-quality content that's relevant to their audience. This helps to keep their followers engaged with their brand and also helps gain new followers and customers if existing followers share their posts with their networks.
Paid social media marketing is advertising your business on social media. Most social media sites include a paid promotion option, such as boosted posts on Facebook or promoted tweets on Twitter. In some cases, this means promoting content you have already shared, but you can also create ads. In both cases, you can choose an audience, set a duration for your ad, and set a budget. Paid social media marketing gives you analytics so you can check the success of your paid social campaigns.
What is email marketing?
Email marketing is a digital marketing strategy that means sending emails to existing and prospective customers. Although there are many other channels where people can connect with brands (like messaging apps and social media), 47% of consumers3 say email is their favorite way to hear from businesses.
If you email customers regularly with relevant information, email marketing can help you nurture potential customers and retain new ones. Businesses use email marketing to share blog content, new inventory, offers, and company announcements, among other things.
What is pay-per-click advertising?
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is exactly what it sounds like. It's a type of advertising where you pay whenever someone clicks on your ads. PPC ads are usually used to drive website traffic.
There are several types of PPC ads:
- Search ads are promoted results on search results pages. These usually have a small banner showing that they're ads, but otherwise look like the search results.
- Banner ads or display ads are ads with photos and text that appear on web pages and within mobile apps.
- Native advertising is advertising that looks, feels, and works like part of the platform where it's appearing. A common example of native advertising4 is the ads that appear at the top of search results. You can click on them just like regular search results, but someone has paid for that prominent placement.
- Video pre-roll ads are short video ads that appear before the main content of another video.
- Remarketing ads are targeted ads for your products or services that are shown on another platform to people who have previously visited your site. For example, your ad could appear to one of your previous visitors when they are reading the news on a local news site.
- Social ads are promotions that appear on social media sites.
Which digital marketing strategies should you use?
Here's a recap of some of the key benefits of each strategy:
- SEO makes it easier for your target audience to find you via keyword research and other optimization tactics.
- Content marketing helps attract your audience and build their trust in your brand with helpful content.
- Social media marketing keeps your audience engaged and potentially helps you reach new people if your existing followers share your content.
- Email marketing nurtures your audience and potentially turns them into paying customers.
- PPC advertising drives consistent traffic, helping you to expand your audience base.
Don't let limited time or money stop you from launching a digital marketing campaign. As a small business owner on a limited budget, either you or one of your employees could start by devoting a few hours a week to content marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing. If your budget allows, you could hire a specialist agency to handle SEO and PPC advertising. Over time, as your business expands and profits increase, you may be able to hire an in-house digital marketer, or use an agency for all your digital marketing needs.
Important disclosure information
This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.
- Simon Kemp, "Digital 2020: The United States of America," DataReportal, published February 11, 2020, accessed July 29, 2020. Back
- Jacinda Santora, "Keyword Research 101: How to Choose the Right Keywords for SEO," OptinMonster, updated December 27, 2019, accessed July 27, 2020. Back
- Dan Alaimo, "Study: 47% of consumers prefer email messages from retailers," Retail Dive, published September 28, 2018, accessed July 27, 2020. Back
- Kylee Lessard, "What Is Native Advertising? The 6 Universal Types & How To Use Them," LinkedIn, published August 25, 2018, accessed July 27, 2020. Back