Starting a business for the first time is both an exciting and a daunting prospect. As you start off, hopefully you have a clear idea of where you want to go, and what you want to achieve. But how will you get there?
In today’s world, having a strong digital presence is essential and your success is likely to depend on your ability to market your new business effectively online. But is this something you could do yourself, or is it the preserve of the professionals? Read on and make up your mind.
What is Digital Marketing?
In a nutshell, digital marketing comprises all the activities you undertake to promote your business in the online world. Your business’s home on the internet will be your website. As people visit your website, you’ll be introducing them to your business and what you offer, and hopefully converting them into clients.
However, no matter how good your website is, your potential customers need to know that it’s there and to be able to find it. This is where your digital marketing activities come in. These are likely to include Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Marketing (SMM). The creation of your website, and the accompanying digital marketing activities, are all things which you can outsource to specialist agencies, or which you can do yourself.
Designing a website doesn’t necessarily require any expertise in coding but rather the ability to write good content and illustrate it with strong images and other features. Lots of website builders exist, which are platforms enabling you to build your website without having to concern yourself with what actually makes it all work.
You might use Squarespace, Wix or WordPress, or a website builder provided by the company you’ve chosen to host your domain. Plenty of options are available. You can select one of the design templates provided by your website builder which means that the structure of your website is already laid out for you, together with things like the fonts and colours. You then provide the content in the form of text and images, and arrange things appropriately on each page. You can use your own photographs or utilise stock images available on the internet.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is about presenting ads on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP’s). When someone types a search term into Google, or Bing, or whatever search engine they’re using, you will want your ad to appear when that search is relevant to your business. You are charged each time your ad is clicked and so SEM is also known as Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC).
When someone clicks on one of your ads, they are taken to a page on your website. This page is called a landing page and is not necessarily your home page. In fact, landing pages should be designed to match as closely as possible the search intent of the prospective client typing in (or speaking) the search query. It is the function of your landing page to captivate the person’s attention, persuade them that they should engage with your business, and show them how to do so.
The most popular SEM platform is Google Ads, following by Microsoft Advertising. Within these platforms you define everything to do with your SEM campaign, including the target demographic and geographical location, the keywords to be used to trigger your ads, and the prices you are willing to pay for your clicks. As an advertiser, your goal is to be amongst the top results presented on the SERP. In order to achieve this you are competing against other businesses who also want to be in those positions.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The results displayed on any SERP are determined by Google, or Microsoft, or whichever search engine you are using. Someone looking for a particular product or service may be presented with a number of ads, followed by a small map with several local businesses listed underneath, then some structured snippets, and then ten organic listings, which may be followed by more ads.
The goal of SEO is to achieve the highest possible position as one of the organic listings. A click on any of these listings is free of charge, but the challenge is to attain one of the top positions. The vast majority of searchers don’t look beyond the first page of search results and so this means that ideally you want to be one of the first ten results displayed.
Search Engine Optimization involves the activities you undertake in order that one or more of the pages of your website should achieve the highest possible position on the SERP. SEO involves both on-page and off-page techniques.
On-page techniques are about creating the best possible content on your website. This content should be engaging and compelling, both in the text copy, and in the images presented. It should clearly articulate what you need to communicate about your business and should captivate the reader so that they will want to reach out to you after visiting your site.
As a result of the increasing intelligence of the algorithms used by search engines, content written for the human reader will be equally well understood by the search algorithm. This means there is no need to manipulate the wording of your text copy to try to achieve a better outcome.
Off-page SEO is about the links you build between your website and other websites. Many of these will happen naturally as you list your business in search directories and create social profiles. The most powerful links back to your website are those coming from other sites which have a good reputation on the internet. The links from other sites to your website are known as backlinks and are an indicator to the search engines that your website is worth visiting.
Google looks for high levels of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) in order to rank pages highly on its search engine results pages. It takes time to build the reputation of your brand and your website and this means that SEO requires a medium to long term strategy, requiring months or even years.
Social Media Marketing (SMM)
The third element of digital marketing is the use of social media. Multiple social media channels exist but the most useful are perhaps Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. You don’t need to use all of these and you might for example choose to focus on Facebook only. The starting point is then to create a page for your business on Facebook.
The general idea of social media marketing is that you post regular content which will be interesting and useful to your customers. The content needn’t be directly promotional as such but it should build your relationship and standing with your followers.
In order for social media marketing to be effective you do of course need to have followers. You can begin to build your following by leveraging off your personal contacts on Facebook. You can then grow your following further by emailing your customers following completion of jobs for them and asking them to like, follow or share your page.
PPC advertising is also available through social media, for example using Facebook Ads. Unlike Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising, these ads aren’t triggered by keyword searches but are presented based on demographics and geography.
This post has merely introduced a few of the building blocks of digital marketing. Undergirding each of the techniques described is the creation of content on the internet which relates to your business and your expertise. This is known as Content Marketing.
As you launch your business you’ll be presenting content through your website, your ads, your social media channels, and elsewhere. In the world in which we live today, content is truly king and the right content is what will draw customers to you and your business.
Success with your efforts!