When the phrase ‘online marketing’ is bandied around amidst acronyms, digital jargon and consistent technology updates (with version 2.0 seemingly introduced mere minutes after the original) the whole process can appear wholly confusing, utterly time consuming and written off as a waste of money.
BUT WAIT! It doesn’t have to be this way.
Here are some basic, easy to implement, strategic steps that will effectively increase your online presence and deliver those key promotional messages to your target online audience (promise!)
( Guest post )
Image Credits: The Art of Social Media
CONTENT IS KING
You’ve got your website. It’s set up, functioning well and looking pretty great. But what now? With recent changes in search engine ranking (here’s looking at you, Google) it’s no longer as simple as using keywords, successful link building and relevant content. What is now primarily looked for is authority, authorship and quality of content to get that sought-after presence on their first few pages. Bad news for businesses who paid silly money for thousands of links to their site and use keyword stuffing to increase SEO, but good news for you as a newbie to the scene. And great news in the long run as over time you prove you’ve got superior industry knowledge, superior service and genuinely engaging content.
The next step then is to increase the amount of quality content on your site. The easiest way to do this is to set up a blog or specific content area not focused on product, where you can assert your authority and actively encourage engagement with your customers. Look at what your competitors are doing; it isn’t necessarily a case of having to do something different to them (an expense few small businesses can afford) but how can you do it better?
Make content relevant, make it compelling and memorable and soon you’ll have readers, followers and customers aplenty and Google will welcome you into their world with open arms.
MORE THAN WORDS
Image: The Dollar Shave Club hilarious & original video went viral in 2012. Link to YouTube video here.
The question then, is how to do this. A quick win is to not think about sales for a moment, but to aim for your content to go viral. Like a virus, obviously just way better, and won’t make you ill… The theory is, if people like something, they share it. They are intrigued, those they share it with are intrigued, they in turn share it with yet more people and they all then visit your site or Google your business to know more. Suddenly, you’re out there, exposed to the World Wide Web in all your glory; no pushy sales tactics necessary.
Image Credits: Make your content as catchable as a virus and you’re onto a win
Video and photography are essential players in this online marketing strategy. Make sure you do invest in equipment that ensures high-quality photos. This reinforces that you are professional – people generally like pretty things, so if you’re content looks good, you’re already encouraging sharing and engagement!
As for video, this can be used as an online marketing tool in two ways. Firstly, as a sales tool and an effective way of demonstrating a product’s features. Developing in-house video and visual content to showcase a new product is a cost and time-effective option, made easy by screencasting technology which uses software to record a video of your computer screen. Everything from mouse clicks to your audio commentary can be captured and edited into a video. Keep it light-hearted, personable, to the point and short, searchable and shareable.
Image: The ‘You Suck at Photoshop’ videos are hilarious as well as educational. The link to the video is here.
The second way is to create a stand-out campaign or commercial with the aim of encouraged sharing, in the hope that the video goes viral. Although requiring a little creative flair and imagination, if you can find a way to stand out, filming doesn’t have to be expensive. Videos are then shared across emails and multiple social platforms (especially YouTube) quickly appearing on various sites as an advertisement for your business, without the massive costs associated with traditional advertising. The other great thing about video marketing is that web analytic tools exist to help assess how successful your video is at engaging potential customers. Google Analytics, Salesforce and Optimizely enable you to understand what is working well and what isn’t, across different social media.
LET’S GET SOCIAL
It therefore goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) the quickest win and the must-do first step in online marketing for SME’s is to set up a Twitter account, Facebook page and if you do opt for Video marketing, best to have a YouTube account too. Maintaining the notion that content is king; make sure your posts follow the same rules as the content area of your website. Better still if you tie it all together from time to time e.g. ensure your Twitter feed shows on your main website or use Facebook links to photos or longer copy posts in your tweets.
So, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, your blog are all working well and you’re slowly pleasing the Google folk as you gain more followers. However, we’re not quite done. There is another social media channel that is fast becoming the most necessary platform for small businesses, Google+.
Google+ allows you to post information, join communities, follow individuals and businesses and add them to your circles. These circles are a great way to segment your communication, deciding which circles to make which posts available to, with relevant messaging reaching the right audiences. Additionally, all Google Places for Business and Google Maps entries now get automatically set up with a Google+ page so having an empty page is really an SME no-no.
Images: Google + profiles supposedly help your blog/website rank faster & higher
Google+ is also widely believed to contribute significantly to SEO rankings so do ensure all your details are added to your profile. Most importantly however, Google has rolled out a scheme that attributes authorship to articles that individuals write across different websites, so your content area of your own site can further be boosted by this nifty little feature. The next step is to then link up with other bloggers and Google+ users, establish a mutually beneficial partnership and collaborate together so that your content is shared with their audience, increasing your outreach.
FLYING, WHEELING, FLYWHEELING
All of the above is known as what has been coined as Flywheeling. You have to be willing to invest more time than in non-flywheel tactics, but it pays off. SEO and paid search are perfect examples; organic search takes time and effort to earn rankings, whilst paid advertising is a short-term, easy win. However, if members of the online community within your niche are engaged by your content, they’ll come back for more.
If they come back for more, Google recognises your authority, you get more customers, you make money, you maybe pay a little for Facebook ads, your followers increase further, you get more customers, you make more money, people want to link to your site, you build a relationship with them, you increase your reputation and influence on the web, your SEO starts to get easier, you’re recognised and you’re on that coveted first page of Google search results – and at what monetary cost? Very little.
Image: Rand Fishkin at SEO Moz explains in more detail how to really use a Flywheel to optimise your digital marketing strategy. The link to the post is here.
Getting started is hard; those first few fans, followers, links, shares, pieces of content, but after that wheel starts turning, the momentum takes off and in the long run, you’re rewarded with fans, respect and sales.
We all love an underdog! So roll up those sleeves, take on the big boys and get the ball rolling, the flywheel wheeling, the twittersphere tweeting – we’re rooting for you…
Tim Pike is a search marketing executive at Silverbean, a digital marketing agency in Newcastle upon Tyne. If Tim isn’t at work, you’ll most likely find him out running, cycling, or playing hockey.