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In this post I’ll take you through the process that we at Skyhook take our small business customers through when helping them market their businesses online. It’s a process that has worked for us, so you should find it useful whether you’re considering hiring an agency to promote your business or trying to tackle the problem with an in-house team.
Preparing to market my small business online
Before launching your campaign, we take a few steps that will maximize its effectiveness:
- Competitive analysis
We start by analyzing a few of your top competitors. We find them by searching Google for the keywords you think you want to rank for, then observe what they’re doing to market themselves online. Are they running pay-per-click (PPC) ads? Is their website friendly and easy to navigate? How strong is their value proposition? Are they engaging with customers via social media? How long has their website been around, and how many backlinks does it have? If necessary, we’ll work with you to adjust your strategy to make sure you won’t be overlooked when you compete with these businesses head-to-head.
- Keyword research
When we did your competitive analysis we were searching for words we thought people were typing. But what are they really typing? You may think most people know you as a “personal injury attorney,” but in reality, the search data may show that most people are looking for something more specific like “dog bite lawyer.” There are many different tools that you can use to help you brainstorm synonyms, misspellings, or different angles to investigate. There are then many more tools that will help you gather search volumes (such as the Google keyword tool). One of our favorite approaches is to run an actual PPC campaign for a few weeks on a variety of different keywords and see which ads perform well in order to inform our keyword targeting recommendations. The goal of keyword research is to determine which keywords and phrases will be most profitable for you to rank for on search engines.
- Conversion rate optimization
The next step is to take a close look at the experience a visitor has when they get to your website. It does no good to bring in a potential customer only to have them scared off because they are confused or lost on your website. For conversion rate optimization, we perform a 25 point check on various aspects of your website like readability, how fast it loads, how easy it is to navigate, how well the content is written and so forth. Before driving any traffic to your site, it’s important to make sure that it will convert as much incoming traffic as possible into new customers.
How will you know if your marketing campaign is succeeding? Metrics are critical to the success of your campaign. We first help our customers define what “success” means for their website. Is success measured by the number of phone calls generated? Or the number of forms filled out? Or simply the number of visitors who see the site? Downloads of a whitepaper? Next, we help our customers set up Google Analytics to track traffic patterns and further inform our campaign. If appropriate, we’ll also set up call tracking to observe results that aren’t measurable by your website.
- Baseline report
You may have already have some traffic coming to your website before hiring us, so we run a baseline report to assess where your marketing campaign is at the onset so we can see how much we help you improve. A baseline report will include information like total number of visitors and conversions/leads, an assessment of your conversion rate, your current search engine rankings and other useful information which we can compare against in future reports.
How to market my small business online
Now that the initial preparation is done we’re ready to market. Depending on our findings during phase 1, we adjust our strategy to fit your industry & business. However, the resulting monthly package usually includes some combination of the following:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO is the process of helping Google and other search engines recognize that you are the “authority” or most relevant source of information for what their user is searching for. In order to determine this, Google crawls your website far in advance and uses over 100 factors of their algorithm to “rank” you against other sites. That way when a user searches for information, they just need to look you up in their database. Some of the key factors for SEO include what the title of your page is, how often you use the relevant words in your content and how many other sites link to you. During the SEO process, we’re making changes to content on your site and visiting other sites to encourage them to link to you so that the search engine “bots” will give you a higher score when they come to rank you.
- Local directory marketing
Many visitors rely on sites like Google Maps, Merchant Circle or Yelp to find local vendors. For many businesses, it can be extremely worthwhile to make sure your business’ listing on these services is clear, concise and ranked highly. Many of the same techniques from SEO apply to local directory marketing. Many industries have industry-specific directories apart from the big name directories.
- Paid advertising
One major downside of organic marketing is that it can take a long time (3 to 6 months or even longer in some industries). Paid advertising is nice because it’s instant (as soon as you pay, you’re up and driving traffic) and it’s scalable (you can generally do as much of it as you want). When doing paid advertising, you’re usually paying a site like Google or Facebook to run your ads, but Skyhook can manage your budget for you to ensure that you make the most of your budget.
- Relationship marketing
Everybody knows that it’s far easier to keep a customer than to bring in a new one. With relationship marketing, we help you automate the process of following up with customers on regular intervals, thanking them for their business and reminding them of your other services. This is often through email, but can also be through social networks. Through relationship marketing, you can also gather feedback from unhappy customers that will help you improve your business.
- Social media marketing
Social media is online word of mouth. We can help you give your happiest customers a megaphone so that they can spread the word to their friends. We can help you deal with the negative effects of an unhappy customer who leaves a bad review online. People are talking about your business online right now, so why not be a part of the conversation?
How Skyhook does business
Online marketing requires nearly constant attention and effort, but the payout can be huge if it’s done properly. At Skyhook, we’re so confident that you will see return on investment from hiring us that all of our contracts are month-to-month. We’re in constant communication with you, and we send a monthly report on the results of our efforts so you can see exactly what your dollars are buying you.