7 Most Important Online Marketing Tactics for Any Small Business

Building an effective online presence these days has moved beyond the realm of the occasional event and into the daily routine of the marketing department. It doesn’t matter if it’s just you, as opposed to the traditional definition of department, online marketing must become a habit that’s practiced daily.

photo credit: cleev.

Now, I also recognize that there are many things calling for your daily attention. And, for some folks, the new set of online actions simply represents more to do with each passing day.

It’s import therefor to focus on the highest payoff activities to maximize the return on time spent.

Below are what I believe are the most important online marketing tactics for any small business. Focus on these actions before trying the chase this week’s new, new thing.

1. Research and revisit a catalog of keyword topics

Your entire content strategy should be informed by a catalog of themes and topics you visit and revisit in a predictable manner. You must commit to researching a core set of keyword phrases and topics and building an editorial calendar that helps you stay focused on your core “chapters” of content.

2. Produce content people will share

Once you’ve developed a plan for the topics you intend to cover on a frequent basis, you must learn how to produce content that people want to share. This, of course, differs for every industry, but there are proven techniques that can help start the sharing engine.

The most important element is value. Value is generally found in showing people how to do something they want to do, where to find resources that can make their life easier and providing insight into an industry challenge or trend. It’s no secret that list posts, such as this one, draw more attention and shares. Also, consider using video, audio and striking images as part of the content mix.

3. Use social networks to enhance email and attract links

Turn to social networks as a way to create awareness for your content and network for links. Share other people’s content as a way to increase value and attract links. Amplify your best content as a way to build your email list.

To me this is the immediate payoff for social network participation. It’s not about thinking of clever things to say, it’s about creating pathways to sharing that goes back and forth. Social media will always pay if you view it in this light.

4. Claim vast amounts of real estate

Go out there and build your Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, even if you have no time or plan to build large followings. Create YouTube, Slideshare and Picassa profiles. Claim and enhance your Google+Local, Yahoo and Bing Local profiles.

This free real estate will help you start to build depth to your presence, attract a few links and populate search results for your company name as you work to build a library of content and links from other sources.

5. Drive leads to landing pages

You must embrace the use of landing pages for all of you advertising, email marketing and social outreach. House your free content and promotional offers on highly optimized landing pages and use these pages to capture targeted leads and start the education and conversion process over and over.

6. Split test as much as you can

Testing is often an after thought and that’s a shame. Businesses that get in the habit of testing everything, right from the beginning, have such a competitive advantage over those that leave everything to chance.

Little tweaks to images, headlines and call to action buttons can create massive swings in conversion, but only if you test one against another to see the results of a change.

When you start to spend money on driving people to landing pages this is the make it or break it tactic that winners employ.

7. Use funnels to measure and drive conversion

I am a very big advocate of moving prospects along a series of commitments or steps on a path to educating, building trust and ultimately getting a sale.

Online this is accomplished by combining landing pages, offers, email marketing and follow-up to build on each stage.

Google Analytics allows you to build funnels that match your paths and score and analyze each phase of the funnel so that you can understand not only the impact of each element, but your entire conversion system.

Yes, I know, there’s more to do than you can possibly get done, so focus on the highest payoff tactics and what you do get done with produce greater results.

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  • Dan Dunbar

    Thanks, John. For “old-school” people like me, these online marketing tips are a help. I’m going to be reading more of your blogs.

    • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

      Good to hear Dan

  • http://www.linkama.com/ Kimmo Linkama

    John, if we’re talking specifically about small business, how do you propose the time-starved business owner—who in many cases will personally have to take responsibility for the company’s visibility in social networks—is able to follow your rule #4: Claim vast amounts of real estate?

    To me, there’s another problem with this philosophy. Contrary to what you say about building depth to your presence, it feels to me that will only result in breadth. There’s another school of thought that promotes selecting the best-performing platforms and focusing on them (depth) rather than spreading yourself too thin (breadth). Makes sense, too: empty or forgotten social “houses” hardly support the notion of a living business.

    Would be interesting to hear your views. Thanks for reading!

    • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

      Kimmo – I think you’re description is probably more accurate – what I do suggest is more like breadth than depth, but online depth can be breadth as well when someone does a search for you name and all 10 page one results are real estate that you own.

      I too suggest that you then go deep in just one or two as you discover what seems to be the best use of your networking time.

    • Paula Skaper

      @kimmolinkama:disqus One option that the time-starved business owner can look at is going outside your firm to get some help. You’re dead on that this is real work that takes time – look for an inbound marketing agency that specializes in supporting businesses like yours. They can help you select the right tools and platforms to significantly reduce the time you need to put in, source affordable content so that you don’t have do all the writing yourself and provide a range of other services depending on how strapped your internal resources are.

      The budget you’d need varies based on your specific situation and what you can reasonably afford, but you can typically retain the support of an inbound agency for a monthly fee of between $1500 and $5,000.

    • http://www.whitespark.ca/ Mikel Zaremba

      Breadth for results, depth for connection.

      This can be achieved pretty easily. I’d say about 95% of local businesses are indexed in some way on the web for their name, even if it’s not their website. Instead of spending vast amounts of time customizing platforms that you’ll never use, instead claim all the listings on the first page of the SERP’s and make sure all the info is correct, Name, Address, Phone Number NAP. (This could be done in a month, 7-10 results)

      Then pick 1/3 (FB, Twitter, Google+) social networks to work on to build connections. The business owner would need to spend about 30min each day on here to achieve measurable results.

      It’s not that hard and most will tell you that they just don’t have the time. I suggest local business owners spend the time doing this rather than talking to sales reps from YP, radio, TV, etc.

  • myfastfind
  • http://velocitylocal.com/ Velocity Local

    These tips are helpful. I guess the most difficult thing to do is to produce a content which people would really like to view and share and make them visit your site again and again.

  • Reece Bull

    Thanks for sharing this tactics to the newbies like me. This is indeed beneficial. Looking forward for more posts :)

  • http://www.nickmatic.com/ Nicholas Maddix

    All great advice, especially split-testing and using the Analytics funnel. When in doubt, trust the numbers.

  • http://us106.alphagraphics.com/ Stephen Eugene Adams

    It seems like every networking event I go to these days, I meet a few SEO and online reps from various companies. This is obviously becoming a big business. I just wonder if these companies are making any money. I do look at your list above and think that, yes I probably could do all of that, but no, I don’t have the time or energy to accomplish the tasks. I guess fortunately most of my competitors aren’t doing everything either.

  • James Hourigan

    I’m not sure how the Google funnel works – can you elaborate?

  • Bobbi Klein

    It is very important that you mentioned value here for sharing content. If it is not valuable why would a person spend their time reading it. Great advice here!

  • http://www.aboutourwork.com/hunegnaw David Hunegnaw

    “Claim vast amounts of real estate” inspired us to create a “small business social media monopoly” board, a guide to help identify the right networks to visit and create profiles: http://aboutourwork.tumblr.com/