Why Promote Your Business Online?
Promoting their business is one of the top concerns that I hear about from my clients. When you make an earnest effort to promote your business online you’ll be building a foundation for your online presence brick by brick. You’ll see benefits to your brand awareness, referrals from past customers, and increased sales as leads get turned into customers. Promotion with sustainable results is not necessarily fast.
But if you want your business to work, you have to promote it.
1. Organic Search
This is your natural placement on a search engine results page (SERP). Improving organic search is a slow road so expect the dividends to payout over time. Once it gets going though, you can count on it. Remember, when your business shows up in a relevant search it means that someone is already looking for what you offer. So it’s your job to put yourself where they’re looking. Even if they don’t buy from you this time, repeated exposure to you in search results will increase your brand awareness.
The fast answer to improving your placement in organic search is to SEO the heck out of all your website’s pages. All of them. That means you’ll need to tune up your page titles, every page’s meta description, and add alt tags and human readable file names for every image.
The copy needs to be optimized on every page too. There should be a core concept at the heart of every page on your site. The front page is likely going to be based around your unique value proposition. Boil that concept down into a single phrase or a string of a few words like “Virtual Assistant Services for Accountants” or “Accounting for Restaurants”. Make sure that you stay on topic in all of this page’s copy and include your keywords so search engines know what your page is all about. Meta descriptions should reflect your UVP and include your keywords as well. Make sure that you’re using heading tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.) for your headers. Search engine’s look at the hierarchy of your copy to determine what is most important on a page. Make sure that your keywords appear in at least a few of your heading tags.
Repeat this approach on every page. Even the contact page can benefit by including some brief copy beyond your hours of operation. For you brick and mortar types, you could also include a Google map and some well tagged images of your location.
2. Social Networking
This means (mostly) Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (yes. Google+), Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Why social networking? A report from Shareaholic found that in the fourth quarter of 2014 social media drove 31.7 % of all traffic to websites. Remember that when you think that organic search results in Google are everything.
For all these social networking sites, as a rule use them to connect with colleagues, add links back to your blog posts (see below), post deals that you’re running, repost relevant articles with your commentary that could be helpful to your customers (but be selective and don’t give away your leads to competitors), and keep in touch with your customers where they are. Get it? Your customers are on social media so you be on social media. As a general rule for success with social media, be your most professional self and try to provide useful, valuable content for free to your followers most of the time. Only occasionally include a sales pitch.
Create a Facebook page for your business or business persona. For people who work under their own name, your business persona is separate from your Facebook profile. It’s the professional page that individuals would use to promote themselves and their work on Facebook. This approach separates your work life from your personal and makes a nice barrier between your interest in cute puppy pics and your self-promotion.
Either use your own account or create a new one for your business. It depends on how you use Twitter. Be aware of that if you click the heart, other people will know. As long as you assume that everyone is always watching you online then you’ll be fine. Use Twitter for short and to the point statements, links to your new posts, networking with others in your field, connecting with customers. I’ve even seen some companies use Twitter as a totally transparent way to deliver customer service. Check out @Zappos_Service or @AskTarget. If you go this route then you’d better be on top of your game because everyone is watching.
Yes, Google+ is still there and it still matters. This is especially true if you don’t already have thousands of visitors to your site every month. If you do have thousands of visitors then you should teach a class or write about how you did it! This is for everyone else. Google has very recently announced that it’s reimagining it’s Google+ project. This means that it’s here to stay for now.
Where it matters is for you business owners out there that use a physical address. The current SEO-nerd suspicion is that Google is preferentially listing local results on the SERP. So make sure to add your address to your business’ Google+ page.
There are a number of reasons to use Pinterest.
Pinterest content lives for years. 50% of visits occur 3.5 months after the content is pinned. Compare this to Facebook where a post lasts about an hour and half.
To make use of Pinterest you’ll need to come armed with a collection of drool worthy images. That’s the currency there. Businesses that deal with food, interior design, crafts, travel, and so on are especially well suited for this environment. Don’t let that stop you though! It’s still the wild west there. You can make a mark.
It’s not (quite) as stuffy as you think it is. LinkedIn has largely eliminated most of the annoying aspects and fixed most of the buggy behavior. Create a personal profile that is largely a resume on wheels and network away, find your target clients in groups based around their interests, and if you have a business separate from your name, don’t forget to create a page for it. With the expansion of LinkedIn Pulse to allow anyone with an account to post they’ve opened up a whole new landscape.
Write, write, write. This is nothing new but still not everyone has gotten the message. According to Hubspot’s 2014 State of Inbound Marketing report, prioritizing blogging results in a 13x increase in positive ROI. This means that blogging should figure in a one of the most important tactics used to increase the visibility of your business online.
Not all blog content is equal. It needs to be relevant to your industry and meaningful to your clients. There is a learning curve here. You’ll need to understand:
- How to choose topics that highlight your expertise and address the concerns or interests of your ideal customers. Try searching for a topic related to your business and looking at the first few results. This will give you a yardstick to measure what kind of article you need to write. Bonus: look at the comments for those articles and see what kind of questions people are asking. See if you can tackle any of those.
- How to select keywords for SEO. Long tail keywords are low hanging fruit. Go there first. These are terms that are very specific and closely associated with your industry but are also not heavily competed over by other people’s SEO efforts. Remember that you don’t just want traffic but you want the right kind of traffic. You want people who want to be on your site but just don’t know it yet. Some good resources to get started with keyword research:
- Google’s Adword Keyword Planner (free but you’ll need a Google Account).
- Google Trends (free)
- A regular old Google search (This is a secret! Search for your topic and scroll to the bottom of the first page to see “Related Searches”. These are less common but related search terms.)
- How to craft a title that draws attention in search results or social networking sites
Once you get comfortable with these challenges and get to the writing, here are a few tips: Place your keywords in the title and sprinkle them throughout your post. No keyword stuffing though! Google has long been onto that. Moreover, Google more and more understands synonyms. So don’t be shy to dust off that thesaurus (or use one online like the rest of us) and mix up the words a little. It will keep your writing more interesting to your readers and won’t get you penalized by big brother G. Don’t forget SEO for your posts too! Make sure that you optimize the title and include a meta description for each one.
- How to create an editorial calendar and hold yourself to it. This is a specialized, goal achievement type of challenge so I won’t go into that too much here. The point is that you need to post regularly if you want results from blogging. Occasional traffic spikes are good for the ego but they won’t have much (if any) effect on your business. You don’t need vanity. You need your blog posts to position you as an authority and help turn that website visitor into a customer.
4. Email List Building
This is huge. How exactly are you gathering leads? A business lives and dies by it’s database. That’s not my quote but I don’t know who to give credit. If you do, let me know.
Yeah, Facebook. Yeah, Twitter. Yeah, content marketing. Email marketing still beats them all. Everyone has an email account. Everyone checks it often. People rarely anymore change their email address. Imagine the hassle! This is all good new for marketing your business. Imagine running that big promotion but no one shows up to buy. Your email list is how you let them know about it. Your list is filled with people who have some interest in you, your business, your products, etc. Maybe they’re customers already. Maybe they just got into your sales funnel. Either way you want them to stay there. This takes trust. So don’t be pushy. Mostly send messages that include valuable content (there’s a theme here) and every so often send an offer or promote something.
Collecting Email Addresses
This is how you gather all those email addresses. Remember that an email address is valuable so treat it that way and give something to get something. Most people won’t just sign up for your newsletter. Why would they? They don’t know what’s in there. So offer something in return.
Trade them for it. Give away a 15% off coupon for their next order or an ebook like the “Top Ten Ways To [Something]”. But make it good. Make it valuable to them. What do your customers need? What does your business do? Where do those two things meet? That’s your incentive offer.
Put your offer someplace visible like on top of a sidebar, in the footer, in a popup, or a special lead page. There are literally dozens of options and combinations of options to collect email addresses.
5. Online Advertising: Paid Search and Paid Social Media
I grouped these two together even though each is a big enough topic to warrant articles entirely of their own. I want to cover just the basic concept of this and get into more specific detail at another time.
Say “paid search” and most people immediately think of Google Adwords. Google has long been the main game in town and Adwords is it’s moneymaker. With an Adwords account, you can create ads, bid for keywords when your ad will appear, and pay per click when someone clicks on your ad. Keyword relevance is the game here. You want to get the most of your clicks. That means you only want your ad to show up for people that would be legitimate business. The smart approach is to go after those less competitive, long tail keywords just like in SEO. The bid amounts are much lower than the more competitive keywords and the likelihood increases that your ad will show up for better targeted customers.
Paid Social Media
Every major social networking platform has a paid ad program now. Facebook allows you sponsor stories by boosting them in people’s news feeds. You can also place standard ads similar to Google Adwords but with an amazing amount of targeting.
Twitter has a paid ad program similar to Facebook’s. A great option here is to promote a tweet. Twitter also includes a lot of targeting options. The idea is to promote an already popular tweet. This can be great for brand awareness.
LinkedIn has fairly standard ads as well as a Sponsored Update ad that looks just like a regular status update. Just like with Twitter and Facebook, choose a popular update and sponsor it to expand its reach.
Pinterest has a fairly distinct niche among social networking sites. It’s user demographics lean toward women but there is some evidence that it may be changing. Pinterest allows you to promote a pin and ad keywords and targeting to display it.
You don’t need to be an expert to put these tips to work. You will have to be diligent though. I think that is the part where most efforts will fail. You can’t let yourself be discouraged slow progress. I recommend working on each of these channels, evaluating your progress, and then tuning as needed. You may already have more success in some than others and feel pretty good about that. However, making efforts in all of them will have a greater overall effect than working in any one alone.
How will you know if any of this is working? The answer is that you’ll need data. Track everything!
Have questions about online promotion? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form. I always write back and I’d love to hear from you.
Photo by Doug Kerr