In a 2018 Deloitte study commissioned by Google, “digitally advanced small businesses” saw twice as much revenue per employee than those that didn’t leverage online marketing or e-commerce.
It’s been five years since that study, and it’s safe to say that online tools are only getting more effective.
If you want big success for your small business, finding the right online strategy will play a big part in taking you there.
The same study said that 80% of small businesses were not fully leveraging available technology.
If this sounds like your business, this article can help jump-start your online marketing efforts.
The great news is that you don’t need to be a digital marketing expert to implement a lucrative online marketing strategy – you just need the right tools in your toolkit.
What Is Online Marketing?
Online marketing, AKA digital marketing, uses online platforms and digital technologies to promote products or services. In other words, it’s everything you do to help people find your business online.
From a website to a business’s online branding assets, a spectrum of tactics fall under online marketing including:
- Digital advertising
- Email marketing
- Online promotions
- Social media marketing
- And a lot more
However, small businesses don’t always have the option to adopt the same expensive marketing approaches that big businesses with large budgets employ.
Therefore, we’ll focus on budget-friendly options that are both effective and useful for small businesses.
Setting the Stage for Your Online Marketing Approach
Before you execute online marketing strategies for your small business, you should develop a game plan.
This plan should outline what you want to achieve, who you’re trying to reach, and how to go about doing this online.
This ensures your marketing actions are targeted and impactful.
Identify Your Business Goals
Setting clear goals is the foundation of any successful marketing campaign. Goals give you direction and help you stay on course.
Goal setting should be clear and actionable, with measurable results. Start by defining what you want to achieve online—for example, boosting website traffic, increasing social media followers, or building your reputation.
Consider the SMART method of goal setting.
Next, determine how you can measure these goals. Often, business owners can measure goals by establishing baselines and determining key performance indicators (KPIs). Relevant KPIs will depend on the goal you set.
Some examples of a small business online marketing KPIs could be:
- Appointments made through the website
- Online orders/purchases
- Website traffic
- Search engine rankings
- Social media engagement
Google is an excellent starting point for tracking your website’s performance. Google Analytics and Google Search Console are free tools that provide valuable insights into your site’s traffic and user behavior.
Think about what’s most important to your business. How do you get more leads and customers? Your KPIs should tie in directly to getting more customers or more revenue from each customer.
Consider an example bakery that offers online ordering. If the bakery wants more orders, it can aim to increase website traffic by 20% in the next quarter. Then the business owner could focus on improving the store’s online presence to get more online orders.
Semrush has numerous free tools to get you started on website visibility, such as On-Page SEO Checker. This tool can help you monitor and support your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) to get more website traffic from search engines.
Further reading: How to Set, Track, and Reach Digital PR Goals
Understand Your Target Audience
Knowing your target audience informs your small business strategy. It’s not just who they are but also how they spend their time, what they value, and how they behave online.
In our bakery example, this means determining not just that the audience is locals who enjoy baked goods but also preferences that can guide niches.
For example, do they like gluten-free and organic options, or are they interested in elaborate decorations? Understanding these preferences can help you drive market strategy and fill gaps in consumer demand.
Google Analytics can go a long way in helping you understand your consumer’s behavior online. If you need help configuring Google Analytics, check out Google Analytics for Beginners: Getting Started with GA4.
In addition, Semrush’s Audience Intelligence app can help you tap into your audience’s online behavior and preferences by showcasing demographics, interests, content engagement, online habits, and purchasing behavior.
The Audience Intelligence app also reveals potential social media creators your audience trusts, allowing you to uncover the most relevant channels, media outlets, and social networks to reach your audience.
Once you have an understanding of your target audience, it should be easier to select your online marketing channels.
Further Reading: Target Audience: What It Is & How to Find Yours [+ Examples]
Choose Your Business’s Online Marketing Channels
Before considering the digital marketing strategies for your small business, let’s review the digital marketing channels that can be leveraged to reach your audience.
Video marketing involves creating and sharing videos to promote your products or services and engage your target audience. Videos help demonstrate how to use a product, share customer testimonials, or tell your brand’s story memorably. With videos, you can get more attention from YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and other channels.
Email marketing encompasses sending targeted and personalized messages to your audience via email. This can include newsletters, promotional offers, and product announcements.
Content marketing applies to creating and sharing valuable content to attract and engage your audience. This practice can combine multiple content formats (like videos, email marketing, blog posts, ebooks, infographics, and podcasts) in cohesive, cross-channel campaigns. The goal is to provide helpful information that solves your audience’s problems, establishes your brand as an authority in your niche, and builds trust with your clientele.
Search Engine Optimization
SEO includes optimizing your website and online content to rank higher on Google or other search engine results pages (SERPs). The closer your business ranks to the top, the more likely it is to be seen.Usually, content marketing and SEO go hand in hand, as you need content in order to rank and be found on Google.
Local search optimization is similar to general SEO with the addition of focusing on search results in your geographically specific location. Developing a Google My Business profile and incorporating city or state-specific keywords are examples of local SEO optimization techniques.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing incorporates social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn in promoting your products or services. Social media offers the invaluable opportunity to communicate with your customers directly.
Paid advertising (also called search engine marketing or pay-per-click) revolves around purchasing ad space on online platforms to promote your business. Campaign examples include search engines, social media, display, and native advertising.
To cover your bases, a combination of SEO, social media, email marketing, and paid strategies might be the best route for your online marketing plan.
Combining these tools and channels allows us to align with our audience’s habits, bolstering our digital presence and, in return, our business.
Further Reading: 7 Effective Digital Marketing Channels & How to Use Them
Implementing Online Marketing Strategies for Your Small Business
Clearly, committing to a small business digital marketing strategy is a worthwhile step to reaching your business objectives. By understanding your goals and identifying your target audience, you can tailor strategies to yield results that improve your bottom line.
And the best part? Business owners can leverage many online marketing tools for free or at low cost.
Let’s look at four essential strategies using a hypothetical bakery business as an example.
1. Create a Content Marketing Strategy
Content can be a game changer, but not all content is created equally. Quality content offers genuine value to the readers, providing a connection with consumers.
This connection contributes to engagement, ultimately increasing lead generation, trust, and sales conversions.
Quality content begins with a solid content strategy.
Consider the following:
Define Your Objectives
Defining your objectives involves zeroing in on the intent of the content. Your goals will guide your content type choices.
Dive into your target audience’s content consumption habits. Emails, blogs, videos, podcasts, e-books, white papers, and infographics serve varied purposes and resonate differently.
If you already have content, review its performance. Content audits help in refining your approach and identifying content gaps.
Create a Content Calendar
Draft a content calendar, marking when and where you’ll publish. This consistency keeps your business visible.
Ensure your content reaches a broader audience by sharing it across platforms, collaborations, or email newsletters.
Analyze and Iterate
Regularly monitor content performance. Adjust based on insights to ensure continuous alignment with business objectives.
Need help getting started? Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool can help you generate topic ideas based on your main keywords.
You can use the Keyword Magic Tool for free. Simply type in a main keyword (or “seed” keyword) and hit search. You can review modified phrases, questions, and related keyword groups from there.
Creating Content: Do It Yourself or Hire Help?
Authoring content can be cost-effective but time-consuming, especially across different platforms. If your time as a small business owner is too limited for content creation, Semrush’s Appp Center offers various tools for small businesses to streamline production.
Here, you can choose from several applications to generate video, social media, or website content at scale for your business.
Ultimately, a successful content strategy involves understanding your audience, offering value, and balancing quality and cost. Once your content is ready, remember to advertise it across social media platforms.
Tracking the impact of your content marketing can be measured by new website traffic, content downloads, and engagement when sharing content on social media.
Further Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing
2. Leverage Social Media
Social media can promote your brand and offer the ideal forum for businesses to showcase products, engage with customers, and get instant feedback.
Choosing the right platform again depends on your audience. Researching where your target demographic spends most of their time is key.
Planning posts is another important step, and consistency in posting keeps your brand top-of-mind. Using scheduling tools can help maintain a regular posting rhythm, ensuring you never miss an engagement opportunity.
For $19.75/month, Semrush Social tools can manage, schedule, and analyze your social media on various platforms, allowing your business to gain traction.
And if you need the work done quickly, the AI Social Generator can help you generate captions, hashtags, and videos at scale for social media usage.
For our bakery, Instagram could be the answer. Regular posts of freshly baked goods, behind-the-scenes glimpses of the baking process, and interactive stories or polls about the next flavor can not only engage but also drive customers to the physical or online store.
As a KPI, the bakery could track its website traffic from social media or total engagement levels over time.
Further Reading: Guide to social media for small businesses
3. Optimize Your Website for Search Engines
SEO is about making your website more visible to search engines, helping drive traffic to your website naturally. And if your store has a physical location, local SEO is also pivotal in being found.
A great starting place with SEO is to set up your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts. These tools will help you gain a baseline for your current website traffic and visibility.
Another initial step is to identify terms your potential customers use by referencing keyword research. Incorporating these keywords into your content optimizes your website for user searches, allowing it to rank well on Google.
For our bakery, that might include trending dessert-related keywords like “bread bakery” or “gluten-free bakery near me.” The goal here is to choose keywords with traffic volume (volume) that are not highly competitive (keyword difficulty or KD%).
Next, ensure your site structure is intuitive. This makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your content. Regular site audits can pinpoint issues like broken links or slow-loading pages, ensuring optimal user experience.
Link building is another integral component. Quality backlinks from reputable sites signal to search engines that your website is trustworthy and can lead to higher rankings on Google.
There are a few easy ways to grab backlink opportunities as a small business. These include:
- Linking from social media profiles: Link back to your website from your social media bios.
- Enlisting in local directories: List your business in local directories like Yellow Pages or Yelp.
- Local collaborations or guest posting: Partner with local businesses to advertise each other’s services.
Another way to build links is by monitoring mentions of your brand online. Apps like Media Monitoring can track these mentions and convert them into backlinks, further boosting your SEO.
To track your SEO success, you can measure KPIs like organic traffic and keyword rankings for the most important pages on your site.
With a solid SEO strategy, your online visibility will increase naturally. However, it’s worth considering paid advertising campaigns to supercharge your traffic and conversions more quickly.
Further Reading: Small Business SEO: 14 SEO Tips for Small Businesses
4. Consider Paid Advertising
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a method where businesses pay a fee each time their ad is clicked. But when is it ideal?
PPC is beneficial when you want quick results. While SEO is a long-term strategy, PPC can provide immediate traffic. It’s especially beneficial for seasonal promotions or new product launches. However, without a proper strategy, PPC can be costly without guaranteeing desired outcomes.
By setting clear objectives and budget constraints, businesses can ensure they’re not overspending for the traffic they receive.
When starting a PPC campaign, choose the right platform for your target audience. For our bakery, Google Ads targeting local baked goods enthusiasts could be impactful.
Ads Launch Assistant is a free app that can help launch campaigns in collaboration with Google Ads. This app combines Semrush keyword data with AI to assist in campaign creation and monitoring through AI-powered keyword and copy suggestions.
For a local bakery, targeting ads for “fresh pastries near me” or “best local bakery” can attract nearby customers searching for a satisfying treat.
After launching, use tracking tools to measure the campaign’s effectiveness, ensuring you get value for your investment. You can adjust the strategy as needed based on performance metrics.
KPIs for this strategy would include conversion rates, sign-ups and payments from ad traffic, and click-through rates.
Further Reading: 12 Paid Advertising Mistakes & How You Can Make Your Ads Better
Measure Success with Key Performance Indicators
KPIs are specific metrics used to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns against preset objectives. They’re like scorecards for your marketing efforts and will show you if you’re achieving your goals or if you need to adjust.
You can use tools like Google Analytics for website performance or to see information from specific social media sites. These tools offer valuable data like website traffic, traffic sources, user engagement, and conversion rates.
For more streamlined reporting, My Reports in Semrush can gather metrics from different sources into a single PDF view.
Take our bakery, for example. Suppose the bakery introduces a new pastry, and an observable spike in website visits occurs, coupled with increased mentions and shares on social media. In that case, we can attribute this to interest in that new item.
Conversely, if a special promotion on bread doesn’t increase store visits or online orders, the bakery may need to revisit its promotional tactics.
For the bakery, important KPIs include website traffic, social media shares, and the conversion rate of their Google Ads. These could all be included in a simple monthly report.
By regularly monitoring these metrics, the store ensures they’re moving closer to the goals, adjusting their approach as required.
Further Reading: SEO KPIs: 12 KPIs for SEO to Track & Measure
These online marketing strategiescanhelp your business reach more people and build consumer trust and website authority with a budget-friendly approach.
And with the right online data tools, your small business can understand what customers like and adjust their strategies for the best results.
Remember that you don’t need to be an online marketing expert to gain traction in the digital space; it’s all about having the right tools at your disposal.
Try out a free trial of Semrush to see if these tools are right for your small business.