Anne-Marie Saint-John, Alva, Long Island City, NY >

Digital Marketing Guidance for Small Businesses

Whether you’re just starting out or your business is growing, digital advertising is usually a key form of across all sectors. In this post, we’re offering a nutshell summary of the different types of digital advertising you can do, along with practical guidance to help you determine which is best and how to get started.

It’s important to start with a note about digital advertising costs; you don’t need a big budget to start making traction online. If your small business is new or you’re new to digital advertising, you’ll often find that various vendors (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, or whoever you choose) are offering an incentive of free credit to introduce you to their platform without asking for any payment to get started.

What Forms of Digital Advertising are Best for Small Businesses?

Understandably, choosing the best digital advertising channels for your business can feel a little daunting. However, most companies will allow you to get started with little or no budget. This means you get to see results without having to make any sizeable financial commitment.

Some people try out a single channel, while others try from three to five channels to determine which ones work best for their business.

#1 – Email Marketing

Email campaigns and email marketing in general are an essential form of digital advertising that almost all small businesses should make the most of. The most compelling reason for many is the cost; it’s practically free.

There are lots of software applications you can use that help you create beautiful-looking emails, and which track open rates, clicks, and more. A simple opt-in form on the website will help you obtain email addresses from your visitors, and you might already have a database of customer email addresses you’ve collected over the years to use. If you aren’t using a website yet, you can use your social media pages to collect email addresses.

Here are a few best practice guidelines for email campaigns. The overriding benefits of email marketing are the low cost and the fact that it’s often very quick and easy to get started, which you can do immediately.


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#2 – Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)

PPC has been around for a very long time. These are the advertisements you see at the top of search engine pages next to or above your search results. The biggest hurdle that small businesses need to overcome with PPC is the cost.

Essentially, you need to find keywords related to the services or products you sell; you then bid against other businesses to have your ad appear at the top of any relevant searches. Google can help you with this or you can use other keyword research tools, such as WordStream, to find the best keywords for your business. Although it’s nice to have your website on top of a Google Search Engine Results Page, it can cost a pretty penny if you go after the same keywords as everybody else.

However, there are ways around this. Iinstead of targeting the same keywords that others are using, you can find what’s known as “long-tail keywords,” which are more like phrases, and go after those instead. They usually cost less, and there’s less competition for these spots. For instance, if your business sells office chairs, you might find the keyword “office chairs” costing $30 per click. A long-tail keyword that would cost less could be something like “ergonomic leather office chairs” or even “fabric office chairs Oklahoma.” By extending the keyword, you can expect to pay less and get more targeted results at the same time.

Due to its popularity, Google is the most widely used platform for PPC; it is also the most expensive.

#3 – Content Marketing

Content marketing is the act of using content including videos, images, and the written word (think blogs, articles, press releases, etc.) to drive more traffic to your website, increase customer engagement, and ultimately help you close more business.

There are lots of ways you can use content marketing to benefit your business. Here are just a few ideas to give you a sense of what content marketing is all about.

  1. 1. A business blog
  2. 2. Social media posts
  3. 3. Press releases
  4. 4. Company news
  5. 5. Highlighting customer testimonials or projects you’ve worked on
  6. 6. –Video content for your website or social pages
  7. 7. YouTube videos

If you’d like to start a business blog but aren’t sure how, try the step-by-step guide called How to Start a Blog for your Business. Content marketing is one form of digital advertising that requires little to no knowledge to get started. Over time, it can serve as a great way to get free traffic to your website and help you build a presence for your business online.

#4 – Banner and Display Advertising

This form of digital advertising is old but still very effective. With whom and how you go about finding relevant places for display ads for your business will depend on the types of services or products you offer. In some cases, you might be able to find a low-cost, very niche website that targets the same audience that you do. In that case, you have a pre-built audience of relevant viewers, and your ad should be well received and stand a good chance of converting to a click through, product purchase or other set goal.

For success with banner ads and display advertising, seek out those opportunities that others either do not know about or are ignoring. The best and quickest way to find these places is to consider what types of business may have the same target audience as yours but that offer no competing products.

For instance, if you sell copywriting services, you might look for web developers to partner with. You might pay the web developer to place an add on their site, or they might agree to display it for free in exchange for a referral fee for any traffic or sales the ad generates.

#5 – Social Media

However you feel about social media in your personal life, it is a proven, established way to market your business online. Whether you’re new to social media or looking to grow your following, you may be interested in our article How to Build a Social Media Presence as a Small Business.

All too often, people set up a new social media page for their business, then after not doing anything with it, deem it a waste of time. The truth is that without any investment of time, you cannot expect to get much back. Thanks to technology, there is a range of tools you can use to help you manage to day-to-day tasks. You can also find free scheduling tools that enable you to add all your posts for the week or the month ahead in one go; such tools will publish each post at the exact time and date you choose.

This new hands-free approach to social media marketing for small businesses is just the start. You can use paid advertising services to get your ads in front of a truly granular target audience. Unlike search advertising (also known as PPC advertising, see #2 above), it is still a low-cost form of digital advertising.

There are lots of social media channels to choose from, and it can be tough knowing which is right for your business. Instagram and Pinterest are known for being very image-driven platforms, so if you are in a creative industry or you have lots of nice images or video content available, then either of these could be a good choice.

The key to success is finding the social media channels that your audience prefers. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest are the most notorious, but new channels, such as TikTok, Snapchat, and others, are emerging all the time.

You can take the organic approach and grow your audience slowly over time or opt for paid advertising and boost your audience and followers quickly.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there is no single recipe to success with digital advertising, but as the owner of a small business or new business, it’s imperative you balance the cost of any advertising with the potential rewards. Always use any free ads or credits wisely, remembering that this is your chance to see if a particular channel works well for your business or not. Understanding your audience and tuning in to the right channels is always a major consideration.

With all types of small business marketing, you need to tune in to your audience, be mindful of the money, and follow the tried and true process of “plan, do, review.”

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