In 2018, online marketing will be the number 1 way customers & clients will discover your business.
Using the right online marketing methods depends on what your business does, and how far along your business is established or ready to move on to a particular marketing method. If you're just starting out, Email Marketing & Google Adwords are the best methods to begin with. And if you're getting lots of traffic to your website, and your business is growing, doing regular SEO, blogging, and Social Media can compound your online marketing effectiveness.
The first thing you should do before setting up any online marketing is to get a Google Analytics account hooked up to your website. This will help you track all data coming into and away from your website to see what marketing methods are most effective. One of the most important metrics to use is to track "Conversions" on your website, which means tracking how many people enter their email address, fill out a contact form, or place an order on your website.
For most businesses, an email marketing campaign is the lowest hanging fruit for online marketing. Even if you only have 20 people on your email list, this is the best way to test out ideas with an audience and link people back to your website. Even if you just have a list of only friends & family, any email list is better than no email list. And, in my opinion, Mailchimp is the best email marketing tool for small businesses. If you don't have one yet, here is where to sign up for a free account: www.mailchimp.com
Google Adwords can get expensive. And it is better for service-based businesses that sell more expensive services or service-related products. A good starting ad budget is about $300 per month on Adwords, or about $10 per day. Because Google.com is the number one website in the world, this is where most of the action is, even above Social Media. But if you sell inexpensive products, Google Adwords is usually not the right place for your business. Also, Google Adwords helps jump-start your SEO ranking, which will quickly boost the amount of people who visit your website through natural, unpaid keyword searches. Get an account set up at adwords.google.com and don't do the dumbed-down version called Adwords Express, which is a waste of money.
Just like Google Adwords & Search Console, the Google Business tool helps people find your business through a Google Search much faster. Google prioritizes businesses that give their phone number, address & website publicly, because Google wants to build personalized trust online and de-rank websites that seem anonymous. This tool is also free and easily helps your website rank higher in SEO. So setting this up is a must for businesses who want to be found more easily online. To get started, simply go to business.google.com
Just like Google Business, Yelp helps give credibility to your business, especially through real customer reviews. Having a Yelp profile is free, and also helps you rank higher in Google SEO searches. In smaller cities, Yelp isn't as popular. But in major metropolitan areas like Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Seattle & New York, Yelp is a trusted source for many online users. Even in smaller towns, setting up a Yelp page will still help establish you as a professional business and get you additional attention that your competition is likely missing out on. Get a free Yelp Business account at biz.yelp.com
Google Search Console (SEO)
This is a free tool that allows you to see what keywords are working best to capture people and bring them to your website. Once you start to get even a little bit of data from the Google Search Console, you can use this information to write blog posts specifically on topics that people are searching for. As you write new blog posts on those trending keywords, Google typically will bump you up even higher, giving you more insights into what people are typing into Google. And from there, the cycle continues. After about 3 months of doing this, I typically see the average business pull in around 500 visits per month to a client's website, and it typically grows steadily from there. So optimizing your SEO, keyword and blogging content can typically have long-term positive impacts for your business.
A good blog does two things. First, it helps educate and inform your visitors about the expertise you have learned over many years and can share with others freely. You can tie all of your email newsletters, social media and other online marketing into your blog to regularly drive traffic back to your website. The second is to build a collection of valuable posts and pages that will be eventually indexed by Google to drive even more traffic to your business, which also helps your SEO ranking. While most of my Clients don't enjoy the idea of blogging, if you can write about topics that you are passionate about that you've learned over time about your own specific industry, eventually you'll find blogging to be much easier. Blogs don't have to be super long. They can be just 1 paragraph and a few bullet points. And not all blogs need to have images either. Blogging regularly can help you develop content for all of your other online marketing, so it's something that every business should think about and put together a plan to implement. Even just 1 blog post per week will be enough to build a lot of sustainable traction over time.
Right now, the most popular Social Media platform - especially for visual-based businesses like Interior Design, Photography, Art, Architecture & Custom Home Building - is Instagram. The big downside to this marketing method is that it typically requires regular posting, usually 4 times per week, Monday to Thursday, in order to be effective. Also, people on Social Media typically convert to clients & customers at very low rates. That's why it's crucial to have a strong on-boarding method that brings people from Instagram to your website and captures their email address quickly to later get them into your regular, weekly email newsletter. I only recommend Instagram for businesses that are prepared to take custom photos daily or have a staff person who can regularly put together graphics to keep their account up-to-date every single business day.
Facebook recently downgraded their preference for showing Business pages because of widespread criticism. However, companies that are able to stay socially engaged and lead great conversations and community projects can do even better on Facebook than before. Facebook also gets ranked by Google for Reviews. So, in addition to Yelp & Google Business, this is an important part of SEO. For posting, it's likely best to post one very good, socially-oriented post per week on Facebook that will drive conversation with your followers. Avoid sales pitches, promotions, and posts that feel too business related.
In my opinion, Pinterest is one of the best places to grow your business over the long term - especially for visually-based businesses like interior design, custom furniture, artwork, photography, and custom homes. That is because Pinterest is less socially-oriented, and is more based around keyword searches and helping people "Pin" their visual ideas in a single place. While it can take a while to get traction on Pinterest, this can be an extremely effective long-term strategy that most businesses should keep on their radar once other online marketing methods are put in place.
Twitter is primarily a place for people to keep up to date with news and very short, rapid-succession conversations. For this reason, it's typically not the best place to promote your business if you do things like Architecture, Interior Design, or Photography. However, if you keep up with the progress of your industry, especially if those topics are newsworthy, Twitter is a great place to help educate people who follow you on academic or news topics. For instance, if you are an Architect in Malibu, California, and the City of Malibu recently change the laws on residential architecture and zoning, Twitter would be a good place to post that sort of thing, as well as on your Blog & Email Newsletter.
The last thing to think about for your online marketing is to create a consistent and compelling branding message. What is your business about? How can your products & services solve your customer's problems? What information do you know in your industry that is going to greatly improve the lives of other people? If you keep your business's vision in mind and how to serve your customers well, then online marketing on Email Newsletters, Google Adwords, Blogging and Social Media will come more easily, and you'll see better long term results. Remember that most people will need anywhere between 5 and 15 impressions to your brand before they're ready to buy from you. So building a long-term online branding strategy is extremely important in order to create a healthy, stable business in 2018.
Successful online marketing can only be done one step at a time. And doing all of these methods, or even some of them, all at once is going to be overwhelming for every business. So make sure to only choose 1 or 2 methods at a time that will bring the most Return On Investment for you. And, at some point, you're going to want to hire your own online marketing assistant to keep up with these things daily for you. Remember than online marketing is the best way to drive long-term sales. So a sustainable business will definitely want to plan to shoot towards doing all of these online marketing methods roughly over a 12 month timeline.