How to Promote Your Business Online
Table of contents
This guide will teach you the ins and outs of digital marketing and SEO and how to use these techniques to promote your business.
Best reasons to promote your business online
Promoting (or marketing) your business online is the most effective way to get more business since you can reach more clients with less cost.
Your competitors will be online too. Everyone is attracted to the online world and it’s become highly competitive, with businesses from further afield competing for the same clients.
To succeed online, you need to be better than your competition. You need to play to your strengths, spend your marketing budget wisely and know how to target clients.
There are so many ways to promote your business. It’s important that you find the right way for you.
Working with an expert is important as they can help you plan your digital marketing and SEO activities.
Long term advantages
Businesses need to look ahead. Investing in online promotion doesn’t always pay immediate dividends but in the long term, you’ll have a stronger business and continuous payback from your investment.
Some digital marketing and SEO companies are expensive but Starfish has a much more affordable approach.
Find better clients
Some businesses survive with the business that comes their way. Other businesses are successful enough to have a choice of customers. You can be in this position if your promote your business effectively.
For any business, working with the right clients as opposed to any clients makes a huge difference in profitability, ease of doing business and growth potential.
Attract better staff
Having a better online presence attracts a better caliber of staff. This is just as important if you’re a small business as if you’re a corporation. Good reliable staff make a company and good reliable staff want to work for companies that have a good online presence.
Improve your business
What you learn from working with a company like Starfish is invaluable for your long term success. You will learn what works for you and what works for your clients and how to find them.
This data can then be used to promote your business in earnest or how to improve and promote your business to be more competitive.
Find new markets
The world’s markets are changing continuously, this applies as much to a local business as it does to a global one. If you’re not exploring these opportunities, you may find your current market has dried up before you have had time to jump to a new one.
Stabilize your business
Particularly for small or new companies, where stability is an issue: regular promotion, be it for staff, existing or new clients or new markets ensures stability, reputation management and survival.
How to use Digital Marketing and SEO to promote your business
What is Digital Marketing?
Digital marketing is an umbrella term for all the techniques (including SEO) that can be done to promote your business online.
There are dozens of techniques and sub techniques. It’s a whole world of knowledge.
The art of digital marketing is knowing which techniques to apply, how to apply them, under what circumstances, given your business type, your stage of growth, budget and whole range of other factors.
What is SEO?
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a well-known and important part of digital marketing.
It refers to a wide range of techniques that help you rank higher in the search engine results, when people type in a particular set of keywords.
Like digital marketing, the art of SEO is knowing which techniques to apply and how to apply them, given as a whole
Digital marketing and SEO in 2021
The world of Digital Marketing and SEO is continuously evolving.
Digital Marketing in 2021
People spent even more time at home and online. The amount of money spent on digital advertising increased as competition heated up.
Spending on digital marketing (rather than relying on natural ranking in SEO) is ever more important since the amount of quality content out there is reaching saturation point and getting your page on number one position is not a realistic option for many. At this time, digital marketing is already a must to promote your business online.
On the plus side, there are plenty more opportunities in 2021 to find new audiences. Planning and experimentation is a must – which is why a holistic approach to Digital Marketing works so well.
SEO in 2021
At the heart of SEO, is quality, desirable, useful content. This is what people want and what search engines place in front of them.
SEO, the use of Search Engines to promote your business has become more challenging as businesses try to one-up their competition by producing better and better content.
The simple tricks have stopped working a long time ago and now you need a longer-term strategy.
The good news is that SEO is evolving continuously and there are always new opportunities to be had over established players without going head-to-head.
This is why an all-encompassing and natural approach to SEO is where the game is heading.
Before delving into the details of digital marketing, a broader understanding of marketing to promote your business will help everything make more sense.
What is marketing?
Whatever it is that you are selling, you need to present your product or service to potential buyers and persuade them to buy from you, rather than from someone else.
- Knowing who might be interested in your product.
- Presenting it to them in a persuasive way.
Marketing is creative and based on good ideas that people can relate to but it also involves a lot of research and analysis.
You need to base your creativity on an understanding of your business goals, the needs of the market and what your competitors are doing. With this understanding, you’ll be able to promote your business effectively.
Lastly, marketing is putting it all together using the tools and techniques and budget that are at your disposal.
Why should you understand marketing?
Marketing is complex because people are complex. No one knows for sure what will work, but you should try to make your decisions as rational and as scientific as possible.
Understanding marketing reduces the guess work out of promoting your business. If you don’t know what is likely to work and what is likely to fail – it can be an expensive guessing game.
Leaving those choices up to expert digital marketing agencies can give you a short term promotional gain but in the long term – you won’t know if what they did was effective or simply a one-off.
Understanding some basic marketing principles will allow you to direct your digital marketing and SEO initiatives with more confidence and promote your business with less expense.
Basic marketing concepts
Some basic understanding of marketing concepts is important to promote your business online.
B2B vs B2C marketing
There is a big difference in how you promote your business in different types of markets – the business market and the consumer market.
B2B marketing is promoting a product or service to a business. Business decisions are more rational, involve more people and take longer.
B2C marketing, is promoting a product or service to a consumer. Consumers make faster, less rational decisions without consulting other people.
B2B websites have different characteristics to B2C websites.
Understanding your market
Whatever your business, you have competition. Businesses that do similar things to you and who serve the same group of clients. This is the market.
You may be in several markets and, within each market, have different competitors. Knowing your competitors and what they are doing helps you build a better understanding on who to target and with what messages. Understanding your market helps you promote your business and rise above the competition.
What is targeting
Targeting is to promote your business by aiming your marketing messages at a particular group of people (those who are more likely to care, rather than everyone).
Why is targeting important?
Targeting is important because it helps you use your resources more efficiently and gives you a much greater chance to improve sales.
While everyone is a potential client, you don’t have enough resources to target the entire world. The better you target, the more effective you will be at promoting your business.
Target market vs Target audience
The target market is the segment of the market that your business works in. The target audience is small subsection of people within that market that your promotional campaigns aim at.
What is positioning?
Positioning is how others see you relative to other choices within the market.
Client’s always have choice and they will want to go with their best choice, given their budget and needs.
To help them choose, they position a company in their heads as being better or worse, cheaper or more expensive, more trustworthy, better featured relative to their other choices (i.e. your competition).
Positioning can be influenced through branding, marketing and messaging statements.
Why is positioning important?
Clients don’t easily understand the difference between one business and another. They don’t have the time to study the differences in great detail – although they will put a substantial effort into it.
If they can’t easily tell the difference you will find you are competing on price and little more.
The more differentiated you are from your competition the easier it is for a client to see your value and make the right choice.
Differentiation is the process of changing how people perceive your product or service relative to their other choices.
You can do this by highlighting your reputation, service, prices, features, branding and so on.
It affects your position with a market and having a better position in the market means more business.
To be able to differentiate your business in an intelligent way – you have to understand the market since not everyone doing the same thing as you is your natural competition.
You also have to understand what your clients find important and highlight those qualities in your business – play to your strengths.
Segmentation is how the market is divided up. It help you understand who to target, how to position yourself, who are your real competition.
How you segment the market is based on your understanding of a client views the market, as well as your understanding of the industry.
Understanding how to group different companies within your industry together and see their similarities and how they in turn they service different groups of clients can help your develop your product or service to be similar or contrasting.
It can help you highlight the right bits of your product and service (differentiation) so that people see where you stand within in the market (your positioning).
Knowing all this will help you target the right people with the right message.
Understanding your target audience
Understanding what people want and how they behave will give you the confidence to create the right digital marketing and SEO strategies to target them.
Unpredictability of people
People’s behavior is complex. Their underlying motivations are out of reach.
They don’t behave the way you think they might, nor do they behave in the same way to each other.
You need a diverse set of approaches and you need to experiment that you can test and see what doesn’t work, what works okay and what works well.
Consumer behavior vs business behavior
Consumer behavior is rooted in emotion. Consumers appear to act less rationally until you look at the underlying emotional desires they are trying to fulfil.
They want to make the right choice for themselves but they also want to make the choice quickly and, if possible, they want to enjoy the sales process.
In other words, the way to enjoy the buying experience as well as the thing they are buying.
Businesses are goal driven. They will do more due diligence to make sure that the service or product on offer is right for their business as the repercussions are greater.
However, the people within a business also have emotional drivers such as their reputation being on the line.
Bottom line: people have emotional needs that need to be met regardless of whether it’s a B2B or a B2C situation
People want knowledge
People have a basic need to improve themselves through knowledge. They like to make informed decisions – for consumers, the quicker the better!
For people in the workforce, particularly when their job is to help choose the right product or service – they will spend time researching in detail.
They want to know how to do things, they want to know the advantages, benefits and features. They want to be informed.
Content writing and optimization that proves you’re an expert in your field is a great way to get your business in front of people.
Personas are fictional, anecdotal characters that help everyone understand the different types of people we are targeting
These can be used in many ways, for market segmentation studies, for target audience studies, for content marketing studies.
Marketing Strategies, goals and plans
Online promotion is better if it’s a continuous activity.
As you keep doing it, your approach to Digital Marketing and SEO will evolve.
At first you may have a very simple plan such as “fix up website, put in keywords” but after a while, it will get more sophisticated as you discover what tactics work for you and as you get to understand your competition, your strengths, weaknesses.
At some stage, your plan will become nuanced enough to be called a strategy.
What is a strategy?
A strategy, you could say, is a very cunning plan. One that takes into account as many aspects as possible. From competition, to goals, to capabilities, to market trends, to creativity, to resources.
Your strategy could be quite simple to follow – like a to-do list but it’s the amount of research and thought that has gone into, that allows it to be executed with certainty.
Strategies are important because it’s quite easy to fail without one. If you have a strong strategy, then you are more likely to put in the necessary time and resources to get long term results.
Your strategy may have some of the following details:
Short term goals could be to increase sales by 20% or more leads of a particular type or to increase visitors to the website.
Long term goals could be to dominate a particular market or too build up a brand. If you’re going to define goals they should be quite specific and not overly unrealistic.
To promote your business effectively, it’s good to have short term and long term goals as they give a focus to your efforts and give you a sense of direction.
Goals can be a hindrance to ultimate success if they’re followed too dogmatically. Along the way to your goals, you may find more success elsewhere and one should be open to a change in direction.
If not a goal, then a vision that you can share with your marketing team.
How much you should spend on your marketing will depend on where you are in your journey and how quickly you want to get to your destination.
The larger your business, the more you should be prepared to invest to promote your business.
No matter the size of your business, marketing is a time intensive activity. There is so much to do and so spending more does give better results but only up to a certain point.
Every so often, you should look back at you digital marketing activities and try to understand what worked and what didn’t to promote your business better in the future.
You should review how your competitors fared in the same time frame and try to ascertain what they did well.
Avoid direct comparisons because it’s hard to see inside a business. What matters is how your business is doing, how your marketing efforts are working and what to focus on next.
Using modern tools such as SEMRush, screaming frog and GTMetrix, you can get a deep understanding of the digital landscape.
Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Spend time to understand your clients, your markets and competition. Study the competition, their websites, their campaigns. Compare their effort to your efforts. Reevaluate you strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities and threats.
By looking at the data from your research, you will see patterns and you will be able to make intelligent observation as to what works, how much effort took and why it works.
From there, it will be easier to devise an actionable plan:
Plans of attacks
Plans ought to cover:
Improving your weaknesses, playing to your strengths, working on new opportunities and insuring against threats.
Your marketing plan ought to have a main set of techniques, some general and basic techniques. It should be a list that prioritizes certain things over other.
It should cover a range of digital marketing and SEO techniques, some easy, some that are challenging as well as branding, content and website improvements.
Above all, it should be realistic, actionable and take into account that you’re different from your competitors.
Digital marketing and SEO techniques
There is an infinite amount of things you can do to promote your business. Here is a big list so that you get a flavor of what can be done.
When it comes to digital marketing techniques, it’s important to apply them with finesse and in relation to your goals, target market, positioning and so on.
Understand Push Marketing and Pull Marketing Concepts
Another broad way of understanding promotion is the concept of push and pull marketing.
Push marketing is placing your brand in front of people (usually a targeted group) who have not shown any sign of interested in your service.
Some of these people may need you now or at a later date, but at least they are aware that you exist.
This form of marketing is good if need a short sales boost or if you’re introducing a new product or service to a market.
Throw out any preconceived idea such as “advertising doesn’t work because I never click on ads”. Clearly advertising works for a lot of businesses – you just need to work out if it’s suitable to yours.
Push marketing can be expensive since you are competing with other businesses who will try to outbid you to get their message in front of the same people that you are targeting.
Nevertheless, online ads are still affordable and give good returns (if set up correctly and if suitable)
Pull marketing is placing your content in front of people that are already actively seeking a product or service that you may provide.
For example: people who are researching “How to…” on a search engine,
You need to consider both strategies. They can work and complement each other.
Pull marketing may seem more suited to businesses, but you can miss out on wider opportunities without use push marketing tactics.
How a search engine works
Google cares about presenting its users with quality content. Google has deep insight into each and every website and can rate the quality of the website with incredible accuracy.
You care about making your website visible to more users. To do this you need to optimize for search engines and create quality content.
Google rewards you by ranking you higher in the results pages for particular set of keywords.
It’s the pages that rank, not the website and you can only rank well for a particular keyword phrase, not a whole bunch of them.
Everyone wants to rank, so it’s ultra-competitive. You should not expect to rank for high-worth short keywords like “corporate lawyer”, if others websites have been investing to rank in this term for many years – however, there are other things you can do.
No one knows exactly how Google ranks pages but they do give lots of helpful tips – the main one being – please your users first and Google second.
Some common techniques
Expertise and Trust signs
These are signals that give Google and users a clue that you’re to be trusted and not faking it.
EAT stands for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness” This means the content on you web pages should be helpful and trustworthy and written by an expert. Pages like this rank higher.
YMYL stands for “Your Money or Your Life”. This means that certain subjects that affect your health or wealth are given extra scrutiny by Google and will be extra trustworthy.
Testimonials and Reviews
Testimonials and reviews either on other websites or your own, give users a greater sense of trust. It plays a big part in product website and small business websites where a brand or company is not recognized
The speed in which a page loads is absolutely important to user experience and therefore to Google. The faster the better. Website optimization techniques are used to make a web page load faster.
Metadata is information about the page that’s not visible to the viewer but what you type in to help Google understand the page.
This is an activity of getting website to link to your website. The more websites that link back to your website the better. Links from high ranking website are more valuable and will help you rank higher.
This is the process of creating content that people will find useful and then hear about your company. It’s the reason why there is so much similar content on the web about every imaginable topic.
When someone searches for something on Google, ads appear at the top of the page before the rest of the results. Paying to be seen is the realistic way to be found for new companies.
Facebook ads appear on people’s feed. You can decide which people will see your ads based on their interests.
Google Display Network
These are banner ads that appear on other websites and are targeted specifically at you based on your search history.
Branding is a way to build trust and differentiate yourself. Branding makes people remember you. For larger companies, a brand name means more sales, for a smaller one – just means more trust.
The idea of messaging is you say the same clearly and consistently about your company across the various forms of communication you have with your client. It helps people remember you and position you.
A lot of the SEO work is done on your website. The point is that once the website is made – this is not the end of it – your website is going to have to be improved continuously.
For a smaller company, social signals build trust that the company is active and popular. For larger companies, social media is a tool to communicate with clients.
Local SEO is a type of SEO related to finding clients that are geographically close to a business. Local SEO is an important tactic for small businesses.
Google My Business
It’s Google’s business directory that shows business on a map. It has plenty of information about a business including reviews.
This is a tool that tells you how many people visited your site, how long they stayed and what page they visited. It’s an important measuring tool
Starter techniques for the average business
For most clients with limited funds, here are the things you should be concentrating on to get you going:
- A good and fast website
- Active social media
- Some easy backlinks
Level one techniques for the average business
Here are some techniques that may or may not apply to your situation and type of business. By now, you will have carried out more research and learnt about specific ways to promote your business in your industry.
- A polished and more complete website
- A completed Google My Business account
- Some interesting content over 1800 words long
How to promote different types of businesses online
Whilst there are general techniques to promoting any business, if you delve deeper, you will see all businesses are different and will require a different touch.
Seeing the differences gives a clearer understanding on how and when to use different techniques to your own project.
A dentist will have a website that shows clean facilities, services on offer and location information high up on the page. A friendly branding helps them look professional and reliable.
Dental clinics are quite competitive online. They will spend a fair bit of time improving their social media, google my business, getting reviews, showing they are friendly.
Electricians may page more for Google Ads because they can’t get their website to appear on the home page due to the many listing and directories in this space.
Small electricians don’t invest much time in their websites but larger companies do – and it pays off. Pictures of branded vans, shows they are professional.
Content on the website doesn’t offer much differentiation, so they will spend more time on keyword optimization and tactics so that they appear in different local searches since they can travel to different areas.
They will have more of an aggressive sales plan – with telephone numbers, call to actions and forms.
A law firm
The law industry is changing. It gets more and more competitive, as there are lots of lawyers, lots of firms and jobs being outsourced. Lawyers need to discover new digital tactics and define themselves in new ways to remain relevant.
Law firms are sometimes regional but can cover larger regions. There are many types of lawyers.
As well as having a slick website that lets people know what areas of law they cover (family, criminal, corporate) Law firms have to differentiate themselves further within their category through branding.
Law firms produce lots of content that can be found via searches, leading new clients to them.
Spending money on advertising used to be popular but with the cost of online advertising increasing due to competition – it’s priced out a lot of the smaller players.
A machinery manufacturer and distributor
Manufacturers and distributors need to have a lot of information on their products as people will search for them by brand, usage, application, shape, material.
Optimizing each product page takes plenty of time, so there is always maintenance and SEO work to be done.
The sales cycle is longer, a manufacturer will try to keep themselves memorable through good branding.
A local supplier of IT services
Every business needs IT services. However, there are different suppliers catering to businesses of different sizes. The larger the client, the more professional and pricey the supplier.
IT suppliers need to position themselves and target the right type of clients; otherwise, they will be wasting their time with clients that are too small or too large.
Positioning is done through branding, through social media messaging and continuous improvements to the website to show in detail the expertise and customer service on offer.
Larger customers will be more interested in service and small customers will be more interested in price.
An online pet shop
Selling online through your own website has the advantage of branding and SEO.
Branding through the website and social media is important since consumer purchases are heavily influenced by emotional decisions.
Price is important but people would rather pay a little more for something they trust, will be delivered on time, with no complaints. This is why working on your trust signs, such as user reviews can drastically improve sales.
On the SEO front, product descriptions and page structure improvements can be a continuous job.
Keyword research and Google Ads will play an important part in marketing to consumers.
Who do you get to help you with promoting your business online
Digital Marketing agency
There are many types of digital agencies, some are creative, some are consumer oriented, some target large companies, some target certain industries, like real estate.
If you’re an established business within an established market – you can be fairly aggressive in your marketing activities.
Digital marketing agencies can help you hone in on your market with strong advertising campaigns, keywords and analytics and growth targets. Specially when you are busy with other aspects of your business, hiring a digital marketing agency is a must to promote your business and build your online presence well.
SEO agencies concentrate on boosting your ranking in Search Engines and advertising on search engines to bring in leads.
SEO agencies and digital marketing agencies often offer the same services but in theory, digital agencies offer a wider range of services.
Unless you’re working with a top agency that works with top brands, the work that they do is very much hands-off. Give them the brief and they’ll come back with the results.
The advantage is that the results work, the disadvantage is it can expensive and short-lived since they are working at full-force using very specific techniques. This might not be a very cost-effective way to promote your business online.
This is needed because results don’t happen unless you make a concerted effort.
After they have done their work, you may be none the wiser as to why it worked and how to continue from there.
Quite often the initial results are positive but then results drop as the agency’s focus moves on to newer clients, leaving the staff on the ground to go through the motions without much direction from the top.
Due to the cost, it’s unrealistic, to be able to use these agencies for extended periods of time unless you’re a large brand.
Starfish Digital Marketing and SEO services
Starfish offers both digital marketing and SEO services. What’s more we offer branding, creativity, website improvements and maintenance – all of these necessary to promote your business online.
We work with SMEs that prefer to participate and learn, rather than completely outsource.
Our work is transparent and we act like an extension to the company we work with.
The relationship is more collaborative and flexible – which allows our clients to learn what works for them and what gives them quality, sustainable results.
We guide our clients more closely, for longer periods of time in a slower, more affordable pace. Our focus is on the long-term gain, not the short-term boosts. If you want a reliable partner to promote your business online, feel free to contact us.