The last few years have been crazy for small businesses. Five to ten years ago the approach to online marketing was pretty straightforward. Companies would invest a certain amount of the marketing budget in paid search ads and perhaps try a little bit of search engine optimization. Cost per click on paid ads was relatively low and it only took a few links to rank for important keywords. Website traffic would roll in and the business would earn new customers.
But things have changed and small businesses now face different challenges.
Today, there are so many different aspects of online marketing. Search has changed. SEO has changed. There are a million different social media networks. It’s hard to know what is important and what is best left alone. However, there are a few key areas where you can feel safe investing your time and money.
1. Content-Driven SEO
Many small businesses have noticed a change in SEO during the last two years. For some, the change has been a drop in organic search website traffic. Google has pushed out two major updates – Panda and Penguin – that changed the emphasis for high rankings.
Google and other search engines continue to repeat the importance of producing content that people find interesting. This means blog posts, videos (more on that later), slideshows, and all kinds of content that will entertain, educate, and enlighten.
Search engines are getting better at determining the most relevant results for keywords. For small businesses, this means starting an ongoing content strategy in order to continue getting organic search traffic.
2. Mobile Devices
By 2017, an estimated 68% of the US population will be using a smartphone.
Smartphones are changing the way people access information. There is a higher demand for information and any company focused on providing that information has the opportunity to grow.
Small businesses have the opportunity to access target customers throughout the sales process. When your customer has a question on their morning train ride to work, your blog post could be the first answer they find when in Google. That’s content marketing.
When your customer is checking their email before bed, your email newsletter can give them something interesting to read and an offer for your newest service. When your customer is near your location, a text message can alert them to your daily deal.
In the coming years, people will access the Internet primarily from their phones. Optimizing your marketing strategy for that new reality positions you for marketing success.
3. Higher Design and Usability Standards
Simply having a business website is still good enough for some companies, but there is a higher importance placed on design and usability. And in the coming years, websites optimized for the mobile experience will find a growing audience.
Consumers want fast experiences. Networks are improving, but websites and apps need to keep pace. Consumers won’t wait for a website to load. If it takes too long, there are plenty of other places they can find the same information and service.
Design and usability are no longer a complement to your marketing strategy. Design and usability are quickly becoming an essential part of marketing efforts because if users don’t like what they see they’ll leave. Make it easy for them to find what they are looking for with a fast loading site that is easy to navigate.
4. Video Production
More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month. Internet users are watching more video than ever and they’re demanding more. Search engines like Google are also giving more real estate to videos in the search results. If you want access to your target market in the coming years you’ll need to build a video strategy.
Product videos, demonstrations, testimonials and more can all be part of your online marketing strategy. As others struggle to figure out video you can take advantage now and start earning new customers before everyone realizes the importance of video in online marketing.
5. Social Media Audiences
Every business relies on an audience. A small, local business depends on their local market for new customers. They build up a customer base and those customers tell their extended network by word of mouth.
Today, social media presents a huge opportunity for small businesses to grow an audience with no location barriers. Building an audience of followers on Twitter, connections on LinkedIn, and subscribers on YouTube gives you access to an nearly unlimited amount of potential customers. It’s is quickly becoming an essential way to grow your business.
If you’ve noticed a change in the way your small business has acquired customers in the last couple years, you’re not alone.
Many businesses have been caught off guard by the change in online marketing. But strategies like better content, greater social media engagement, and video production will be the big items to focus on going forward. By putting a strategy in place today, you can start getting ahead of your competition.