If you’re like most small business owners, reaching new customers is an ever-present challenge. You want to grow, but finding that broader audience can take time, especially when you’re working with a limited budget.

That’s where online marketing for small business comes in. With the right tools, you can reach almost anyone, and with a good strategy, you can reach your target audience.

The power of online marketing for small businesses

Almost 94% of the U.S. population is online, and that number is growing. By 2028, it will be an close to 98%. Whatever you sell, your potential customers are out there on social media sites, checking their email, and Googling your industry.

Small business internet marketing connects you with those audiences. It sets up channels for people to discover your business and to get to know you, all without significant expenses on your part.

It’s something you don’t want to miss out on. Here are the top digital marketing tips for small businesses to get you started.

Key strategies for successful online marketing

Getting started with online marketing for small business can seem like a lot. The good news is that it consists of multiple smaller, more approachable strategies that any business owner can implement in their business model. Here are some of the most important ones.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

According to a 2022 consumer survey, people find new brands via search engines versus any other channel or medium. A Google search is even more popular than asking a friend for a recommendation. 

The higher you rank on a search results page (SERP), the more clicks you’ll get. Digital marketers call this the click-through rate, or CTR — essentially, how many web searchers click on your link after seeing it on a SERP. As you’ll see in the chart below, you get more traffic as you climb the page:

The click-through rate (CTR) drops off dramatically after the first Google result. Even small moves up the page will make a difference to your traffic. Image source: Backlinko, “Here’s What We Learned About Organic Click-Through Rate.”

According to Backlinko, moving up one position in search engine ranking increases your CTR by more than 32%. You make that happen by optimizing your site for search engines — or doing  SEO, as digital marketers say.

SEO improves your website’s design, structure, and content to impress search engine algorithms. If search engines like Google see your site as a relevant and high-quality match for a search term, they’ll put your business higher on the SERP.

To improve your SEO, start by working on one of the following key elements:

  • Keyword optimization: Make sure your content includes the words and phrases you want that page to rank for on the SERP. 
  • Organization: Each page should have a clear title, and pages with multiple sections should have headers to organize them.
  • Mobile-friendliness: Your content should be accessible and responsive on mobile devices. 
  • Variety: Provide both text-based and visual content.
  • Functionality: Pages should load quickly, and all links should work.

Make sure to connect your website to your Constant Contact account so you can track your SEO success. SEO often takes time to show results, so be patient!

Content marketing

Like SEO, content marketing is an essential element of online marketing for small business. It engages audiences who might not already know about your business — people at the top of the sales funnel, to use a popular marketing term. 

Content builds relationships by offering valuable information without pushing a sale. While ads go straight for the pitch, content eases people into the relationship by helping them and providing a good user experience before asking them to buy.

How to craft high-quality content

Google identifies quality content as “helpful, reliable, [and] people-first.” That means the content does all of the following:

  • Provides original information or analysis
  • Offers a comprehensive view of the topic
  • Adds value to any content it draws from
  • Organizes data into sections with descriptive headings
  • Aims to be error-free and well-written
  • Includes the input of subject matter experts

For best results, use this checklist on every project in your content strategy.

Social media marketing

Social media is an essential component of online marketing for small businesses. More than 80% of the U.S. population have accounts on at least one platform, and the average user visits 6.7 different social platforms per month.

Social media marketing gives you two effective ways to reach those audiences. One is to create an account on your chosen social media channel and post for free. Marketers call this organic social to distinguish it from paid advertising.

The second is paid social media advertising, which lets you promote your business to broader audiences. You create an ad and specify the user groups you want to target. For example, if you have a child care center in Cleveland, you might tell Facebook to show your ad to parents of children ages 0 to 5 in that area. 

Whether you choose organic social or paid advertising, you can follow the same social media marketing tips for small businesses. For example:

  • Create a content calendar. Decide in advance what you want to post and where so you don’t repeat yourself or miss a topic.
  • Interact with your followers. Social media is a place to build relationships with your audience. Encourage people to comment and respond to what they say.
  • Use analytics to guide your strategy. Major channels such as Instagram and Facebook give you metrics to guide your posts’ success. Monitor and analyze them so you can do more of what works.
  • Dedicate time to social media management. Block off time every week to develop content, respond to comments, and check results.

The last thing to consider before you start is how often to post on social media. Consistency is vital, so don’t spread yourself too thin. Start with one social media channel and establish a regular schedule. Then, expand when you can.

Email marketing

When it comes to keeping in touch with existing audiences, you can’t beat email marketing for small businesses. It lets you create personalized content for different segments of your audience so each person feels a genuine connection with your business.

With tools such as Constant Contact, it’s easy to divide your audience into groups based on their needs and preferences. From there, you can develop customized campaigns that feel personal to every recipient.

Relevant, personalized emails keep your business top-of-mind with your audiences and reinforce your business as an industry expert. They’re also an effective channel for publicizing promotions and sales, sharing company news, and increasing demand for your products.

You don’t need any experience to get started with email marketing. All you need is a list of contacts, an engaging message template, and something to say. As with social media, analytics will help you improve your messages over time.

Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, also known as search marketing, is a cost-efficient way for small businesses to advertise. Instead of paying a large lump sum upfront as you would for TV or billboard advertising, you pay a small amount every time someone clicks on your ad.

Let’s focus on Google, where most search advertising happens. Google displays ads at the top of a SERP so users see those results before the organic listings. 

When advertising on Google, you choose the keywords you want to bid on. If someone searches using those keywords, Google compares your ad with others bidding on the same terms. Relevant ads with high-quality landing pages have the best chance of “winning” the bid and appearing on the SERP.

Keyword selection is also crucial when you’re doing PPC for small business. Relevant keywords help you get more clicks and improve your conversion rates.

Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is one of the most overlooked strategies in digital marketing for small businesses. It’s easy to think of them as too expensive or out of reach, but there are influencers out there for any size business.

Micro-influencers — those with between 1,000 and 100,000 followers — are often the best fit for small businesses. They reach enough people to be worth the effort, but not so many that your message will get lost in the noise.

Micro-influencers tend to have niche followings, which is excellent for smaller businesses. They’ll promote your brand to people who already trust them. Plus, if you choose the right influencer, their following will closely match what you offer.

How to build relationships with influencers

The right match is critical to a successful influencer strategy. If you’re on social media, look for posts that promote products or services. Someone you follow might be an influencer without you even knowing! Here’s one example:

Ronnie Wood Pug is a micro-influencer for dog products. Not all his posts are promotional, but a savvy follower will notice that he accepts brand partnerships. Influencers like Ronnie exist in all industries, though most have two legs! Image source: Instagram, @Ronniewoodpug

If you find an influencer that could be a good match, reach out. Ask how they do brand partnerships. Some expect payment, while others do product or service exchanges. 

Online listings

Online listings are an essential part of local marketing for small businesses. People use them to search for a nearby business or browse customer reviews for a place they’ve heard about.

One popular example is Google Business Profile, which integrates into SERPs. If you Google something related to a local business, such as “coffee shops near me,” the first results you’ll see will be listings like these:

These three results are business listings for San Diego coffee shops. Clicking on any result will show you the store’s complete profile, which includes information such as opening hours and site photos. Source: Google search, “Coffee shops in San Diego, CA.”

Google is the best place to start building a profile. According to BrightLocal, 87% of consumers go there to check out local businesses. Once that’s complete, you can move on to other popular sites, such as Yelp or Yellowpages.com. 

Finally, set aside time for online listing management. That includes keeping your information up-to-date and responding to reviews. BrightLocal also pointed out that 88% of consumers are likelier to choose a business if they respond to all reviews.

Budget-friendly tips for small businesses

Internet marketing for a local business can feel expensive. When that’s the case, consider these budget-friendly ways to do online marketing for small business.

Partner with other businesses

Chances are, you’re not the only local business that wants to market on a budget. An exciting solution is finding a non-competing but related company and launching a joint campaign.

For example, a roofing company might create an arrangement with a general contractor or gutter cleaning company. A hair salon might partner with a wedding planner or dress shop. 

Once you have your partnership, discuss how you want to promote each other. You might set up a referral arrangement, mention each other in your email newsletters, or link to each other in blog posts. 

Host events and workshops

Running a workshop, seminar, or other special event lets you offer value and build face-to-face relationships at a low cost.

If you have a brick-and-mortar presence, on-site events are the perfect way to meet your community and get people in the door. If not, online events serve the same purpose and offer a wide reach.

Think about topics that interest your target audience. Consider how you could teach that topic in a way that generates interest in your services without being overly promotional. 

Offer discounts and promotions

Combining promotions with no- or low-cost digital marketing, such as organic social and SEO, is a fantastic way to get more from your online business marketing. The key is to offer discounts related to your goals so the business you earn will far outweigh any minor cuts to your profit margins.

For example, if your goal is to attract new business, create a coupon code for 10% off first-time orders. Or, if you’re trying to grow your audience, send the code when people sign up to receive messages. You can promote the code online, including your website and social media accounts. 

Get started on boosting your online presence

By now, you’ve heard about 10 different ways to do online marketing for small business. You’ve learned about SEO, social media, content marketing, and more. You’ve even collected some strategies for keeping your budget under control. 

Now comes the exciting part: getting it off the ground. 

First, ensure you have the five online marketing tools you need to run campaigns. That includes a website, primary social account, up-to-date listings, and a way to send email. 

Next, get your guide to online marketing essentials. This guide offers a more detailed description of the elements you’ve learned about, plus actionable tips to help you get started.

You don’t have to do it all at once! Start with one strategy — perhaps a blog to boost your SEO or your first PPC campaign. Launch it and see how it performs, then tweak it to see if you can do even better. 

Before long, you’ll be ready to move on to the next type of small business online marketing.