Online Advertising for Small Business Owners

Online advertising is more important than ever and should be part of your overall marketing plan. If you don’t have an online presence, you’ll miss out on identifying new customers and engaging with your current customers. Here’s an outline of ideas and strategies to execute a strong and effective strategy.

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What exactly is marketing?

Before you nail down an online advertising approach for your business, understand the difference between online marketing and online advertising.

Advertising is just one component of a comprehensive marketing plan. Public relations efforts, media planning, pricing, distribution, sales strategy, customer service, competitive research, and engaging with your community are all parts of comprehensive marketing plans.

Online advertising includes these strategies where appropriate like using social media, content creation, and SEO.

Why You Should Consider Online Advertising

Online marketing and advertising are advantageous because:

  • You can reach a much larger audience online . Before the internet, you might have only been able to reach consumers in your geographic area. With the internet, even a tiny local business can theoretically reach anyone, anywhere. This potentially limitless audience holds vast power for your marketing strategy.
  • It’s super convenient . Digital marketing is often available right at your fingertips. This means that if your marketing budget doesn’t let you hire an online advertising professional, you can pick up much of the slack. Google My Business listings, pay-per-click ad campaigns, and promoted social media content are all entirely possible within your budget and on your own terms. Sometimes, they’re even free.
  • It’s cost-effective . Of course, free online advertising is the ultimate bang for your buck. But even paid online advertising is incredibly cost-effective. Consider SEO, which often involves making relatively simple changes to your blog posts, webpages, and social media pages. These changes require far fewer resources than having a sales team pursue new customers through cold calls -- 61% less costly than cold calling, to be exact.

Before you get started

Conduct a competitive analysis to assess your industry and business landscape. Look at similar businesses online to assess their strategy. Make note of what seems to work (ad copy, images, CTA, etc.) and where they fall short.

Paid online advertising programs

Pay per click (PPC)

PPC (also known as cost per click or “CPC”) are ads that are paid when someone actually clicks on the link. You don’t pay if your ads are unseen or if an ad is seen but no action is taken. PPC ads can include text and images. The price that you pay per click is determined by marketplace keyword value.

CPA and Revshare

Less common forms of online advertising include CPA (cost per acquisition) and Revshare models. This model of online advertising is a pay per lead is generated. Revshare is when you receive an allotment of the profits from your referral.

Retargeting

Retargeting (also known as remarketing) can be an effective strategy if you have good website traffic - at least 5,000 visitors a month. Retargeting works by utilizing “cookies”, data stored by the Web browser that remembers users who visited your advertisement or webpage. Showing relevant, targeted ads to users that have shown an interest in your brand, increases brand awareness and conversions.

Best practices for paid advertising include copy with a strong CTA and vibrant images that correspond with your offerings.

Google Ads

As cost-effective online advertising for small businesses goes, Google Ads is near the top of the list for most industries. With Google Ads, you can pause your ads or adjust your budget at any time. Google will also show you the level of results you can expect to achieve based on your spending. Few online advertising methods are similarly transparent about the spending-to-results relationship.

Microsoft Advertising

Microsoft Advertising is basically Google Ads but for Bing. You can easily import Google Ads campaigns into Microsoft Advertising, and the two platforms have roughly the same suite of location-based, flexible-budget tools. The two are well worth pairing together: Although Google is the industry leader, customers still use Bing to look for services like yours.

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Free online advertising programs

Online business listings

One of the simplest yet most important steps you can take to ensure your business is getting the recognition it deserves is to keep track of your listings in online directories, like Google®, Yelp®, BBB®, Angie’s List®, and more.

A great place to start is Google My Business. Registering your company with up-to-date information will help it rank higher when potential customers search for related terms. Having a company profile can also allow you to collect reviews of your business that can help you build your online reputation.

Social Media

To grow a following, embrace social media. The networks you’ll want to focus on will depend on your business type and target audience. Select a few platforms that you’d like to zero in on and invest the time needed to craft meaningful, engaging content. Here are some of the most popular ones to consider.

Twitter®

Public relations, talent management, and other client service agencies can really leverage platforms like Twitter to interact with customers in real time. Because tweets are quick and instant, providing customer support will help you build trust. Getting creative and taking advantage of how fast information spreads can lead to more recognition for your company.

Instagram®

Instagram can be a perfect fit for businesses in the fashion and retail industries to show off the products and services they offer in a visually appealing feed. If you’re ready to join, make sure to create a business profile so you can add contact details, tag products, and have access to insights and analytics. Because an image or video is required for every post, it can help to plan your content in advance so you can publish consistently and keep your followers engaged.

YouTube®

Video is a great way to create educational content in a slightly longer format, especially successful for media and e-learning firms. Uploading to YouTube can give you the freedom to make creative decisions and choose what works best for your business. The combination of education and entertainment is a fail-safe when it comes to interesting content.

LinkedIn®

Reaching professionals through industry-related content can help you make important connections that can grow your small business. LinkedIn is also an excellent way to establish yourself as an expert within your field. Definitely consider creating a LinkedIn profile for your business if you offer professional, tech, or educational client services so you can contribute to the online conversation.

Pinterest®

On this image-focused network, businesses offering a product can benefit by styling it in different ways. The more your pictures are “pinned,” the more users see them. Then, they can follow the link to your site to learn more. Look into creating a business profile on Pinterest if you’re in the retail, fashion, beauty, or food services industries so you can highlight what you do best.

Facebook®

With an established audience on Facebook, you have the opportunity to reach current and potential customers. Given that your content is unique and share-worthy, the Facebook tools can help you track how your posts are performing. Businesses especially in the retail, technology, or entertainment industries might find that Facebook is a great source of getting your message out. Although it’s free to post, you can put a little money behind your content to get it in front of a targeted audience.

Content Marketing

60% of people actively seek out a product or a service after reading about it online, which is what content marketing is all about. Learn how to use this strategy to promote your brand: 7 Solid Reasons to Use Content Marketing for Business Growth.

Email Marketing

Email marketing remains a strong customer outreach tool for small businesses. Launching an email marketing campaign might sound overwhelming but the payoff can lead to increased brand awareness and sales. Best practices include choosing the right platform, making it easy to subscribe…and unsubscribe, crafting effective subject lines and proofreading.

Snapchat

Snapchat remains a highly popular social media platform, with hundreds of millions of people using it daily. As with other social media platforms, creating a business Snapchat account and posting content is free. You can also step up to paid advertising for your products or services from just $5 per day.

TikTok

TikTok is gradually becoming the most ubiquitous social media platform around, and starting a brand TikTok and posting memorable content is free. You’ll also have the option to pay for those unignorable ads that appear when users open the app or scroll through their feeds. Either way, you’ll have access to TikTok’s audience of nearly 700 million users, of which about 92 million are based in the U.S.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is often presented in contrast to PPC: The latter requires an upfront spend, whereas the former is a long-term strategy based on your web presence. As such, you could theoretically implement SEO best practices across your entire web presence without spending any money. That would require mastering these best practices and adopting them everywhere. However, some companies opt to outsource and pay for their SEO.

Should you handle SEO yourself, you’ll be adjusting your web content to contain words, phrases, and structures that elevate your web pages higher in search results. These changes theoretically yield a high search engine page ranking without paying per click, which saves time but costs a pretty penny. That said, many online advertising experts suggest using both, i.e. PPC for short-term needs and SEO for long-term lead generation and content marketing.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is among the newer online advertising methods on this list. Its roots can be traced back to celebrities appearing in TV commercials, but social media has given it a whole new life. Those blue-checkmark accounts with high follower counts or engagement rates can offer your brand a sizable audience that trusts its source. Sponsoring content with these influences is a great way to compellingly reach a built-in audience.

Finding The Best Online Advertising For Your Business

Choosing the best online advertising method for your company depends on a few factors:

  • Your ideal buyer persona . Is your ideal customer part of a demographic that could make them a big TikTok user? If so, consider TikTok ads. If your buyer persona is instead someone who works from home in front of a laptop all day, email marketing might instead be your best way to reach them.
  • Your goals . As explained earlier, PPC is better for yielding a large instant jump in sales than SEO. And conversely, SEO is better if you’re looking to elevate your brand’s appearance in search results – especially searches with transactional intent – in the long run.
  • Your current strategy . If you’re pulling in tons of sales from Instagram ads, put your pedal to the medal on that route. If your retargeting efforts are concurrently going nowhere, reallocate your funds from that budget to your Instagram budget.
  • Your budget . Above all other factors, your budget will limit your online advertising choices. Hiring an advertising firm may be infeasible if your company is new and not yet earning much revenue, but establishing a social media presence costs no money. Plus, if you do wind up getting more money down the line, social media ads are inexpensive and often quite effective.

Additional resources

The SmartBiz Small Business Blog is written for entrepreneurs and offers expert information about credit, lending, and business operations. Here are additional posts that can help you craft effective campaigns:

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Read how one SmartBiz customer grew his business exclusively on Facebook by marketing to mothers with small children: Business Story: Ro Sham Bo Baby.

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Another SmartBiz customer currently has over 51,000 followers and continue to grow organically using popular hashtags: Business Story: The Infinity Strap.

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