No doubt that the launch of a new or redesigned website is a key event in your small business marketing, but it’s the beginning—not the end—of your digital marketing journey. In fact, without regular effort, your new website’s search ranking will head steadily downward. Why is that and what should you do?
Google and other search engines reward relevant and current content with great rankings. And they give good rankings to sites with great social authority. Put together, these things mean that maintaining a good search ranking for your site is an on-going process. Your site must be regularly updated with great content, and your business must be active on social media networks. Here’s how most small businesses do that.
The old maxim is still true: Content is King.
Getting Great Content Onto Your Site
Most websites are designed with “static pages”; those being pages whose content rarely, if ever, changes. The static content describes your firm, its value proposition, products/services, and contact details—again information that doesn’t change often. But, as we’ve noted, that doesn’t satisfy search engines, so most small businesses opt to publish a blog.
A blog is a regularly published post on your site that informs and excites prospects. (Note that the word “sell” wasn’t used in that description at all).
As marketing people, we are always tempted to be selling, we are taught to do that. Truly nothing could be less effective as a strategy for blog content.
Internet users are literally inundated with information constantly; that has resulted in an average attention span of about 7 seconds.
In other words, if your content doesn’t appeal to visitors at first glance, you can be sure they’re gone off your page in a flash. That’s why you can’t offer a sales pitch; it simply has to be great information. So how do you approach that?
Simple, you know the questions your prospects/clients ask most frequently. If you don’t, just ask your Sales Team. What kind of expert advice might you offer them? What kind of choices are they commonly making in deciding about products & services in your industry? How do offerings differ from one another? When you can answer questions like these, without overt selling and promotion, your site visitors will come to see your blog as offering information of great value. They come to see you as a “trusted advisor”. They look forward to your posts.
Elements Of Great Content
Great writing is great writing, in print or on the web. Well-written and informative content is liked by readers everywhere, the web is no exception. But in writing for the web, the content must be extremely current. While there are more than 200 different criteria using in ranking sites, relevance and currency stand out as the two most important.
So again, you need current content, and it has to be relevant. Does it answer prospects’ questions? Does it help them weigh choices they will make in the buying process? Does it help them understand trends in the market, important new capabilities, and so on?
No one can tell you what you should write about, except your prospects. The folks who do sales and customer service in your organization surely have a few to get you started.
There’s more. Your readers are interested in where your information came from and how your conclusions are supported by data. You will want offer links to 3rd party content that supports your blog. And, the more authoritative the source you cite, the better. Some of the authority from the links you use will add to your post.
Make sure you proof the content well. Poor spelling and grammar turn off today’s readers too.
The finest content in the world won’t help your small business if no one can find it, so part of good content is great SEO (search engine optimization). This lengthy and technical-sounding term refers to work you do to help Google and other search engines find your stuff.
SEO is a technical specialty, but that does not mean you can’t do some yourself.
In fact, not many years ago SEO was primarily designed to fool search engines into displaying content that was not especially relevant to the search. Those techniques (now called “Black Hat SEO”) are well-known by search engines and, when detected, are penalized with poor rankings or, in extreme cases, with being blacklisted from results entirely.
Modern SEO is about helping search engines understand what the content is about. One way we do that is to be sure that our content contains the keywords we want it to be found for. That just makes sense, right? If we’re trying to tell our clients about swimming pools, for example, certainly that phrase will appear in our writing. What’s really important is to fit these keywords into your content naturally.
We also want to be sure that search engines know about the other things in our post, like images. We do that by adding an ALT tag to the image that tells Google what the image is about.
While its impact on SEO is now considered to be minimal, crafting a great meta description helps with SEO and improves your clickthrough rate (how often people click through to your site from the search results page).
Creating A Presence On Social Media
The idea that social media is all about posting what you ate for dinner last night or how much you enjoyed the last concert you attended is a very dated concept. Successful business are on social media in a big way, they cannot afford not to be.
Elements Of A Great Social Media Post
Not unlike on-site content, social media posts should be relevant and current to start with. Social media posts are shorter than blog posts, there’s probably even less attention span in social media than on the web in general. (Some networks, like Twitter, limit the length of posts on their networks). Use your posts to keep your readers up to date on industry news and trends.
Also, like your blog posts, social media posts are not for selling. In fact, best practices dictate that about 80% of your posts should be informative, not actively selling and branded.
Choosing Social Media Networks
Social media networks are not all the same, differing significantly in the number of users each has, the demographic focus of each, and the ‘reach’ given to your posts by each network. Depending on the markets your firm serves, some networks may be better than others in reaching your prospects. Facebook, the largest network, tends to be more oriented toward consumer-facing businesses (B2C), while LinkedIn positions itself as a network of business professionals (B2B), although these lines blur more every day.
(Organic social media, like we are describing here, deserves a sidebar. Many businesses look at all marketing efforts through the lens of acquiring new prospects. That is not the direct goal of the social media programs we are describing here; rather they are part of a strategy to maintain/increase your site’s search ranking. In other words, do not expect your phone to start ringing when you begin your posts).
When And How Often To Post
Since the goal of your social media program really isn’t conversion of prospects, do you really care when you post? Of course, you do want to post at times you think your prospects are looking. That gives you the best chance of a like or share, both good things, even though interaction with prospects isn’t your primary goal.
The how often question is a bit tougher. Considering starting with posting daily and see how that goes. It is easy to adjust going forward. You don’t want to post so often that you irritate or offend, but often enough to enjoy the SEO benefits we’ve mentioned.
Making It Into A Strategic Commitment
Since small businesses are the market we serve exclusively, we know them well. Time to develop marketing strategy is something that’s pretty rare: most small business people are too busy running the company. But without an ongoing commitment to doing the things necessary to support your digital marketing, it simply won’t be successful. And it takes time, know that:
…digital marketing is like running a marathon, not a sprint
It’s not really that much different that a brick and mortar store. You keep the building nicely painted, the landscaping trimmed, and your signage up to date. Your company’s digital face is no different, it takes sustained, regular effort to make it an effective part of your business.
If you have questions, give us a call or send us an email. We know a thing or two about digital marketing for small businesses, and we’re happy to share.