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SEO and digital marketing for small business: A quick start guide

Author: Jamar Ramos

An image of author Jamar Ramos, with various search-related graphics, including a calendar, a line graph, the Google G logo, and a globe

This post was last updated on May 18, 2023.


Creating an effective, repeatable SEO and digital marketing strategy can be a challenge for small or medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Limited bandwidth and personnel, budget restraints, and even analysis paralysis can contribute to the inertia that’s holding your business back.


Fortunately, many aspects of marketing your online business are about process. Once you set up your workflows, building awareness, driving clicks and leads, and winning over new customers can be quite gratifying. At that point, gradually iterating on your processes and trying out new channels and tactics can actually be fun.


To get your business to that point, let’s discuss how you can build a set of repeatable digital marketing strategies as an SMB. We’ll start with setting lead-generation goals, but here’s the table of contents if you’d like to skip to the most relevant guidance for your particular situation:



How do you set lead generation goals?


Simply put, break down organizational silos so that you’re marketing and selling to the right audience. This, in turn, helps to ensure that you’re opening up your business to the largest pool of potential leads.


Just as marketers can use data from paid media campaigns to inform some of their on-page optimizations, data from one of your internal departments can inform decisions made by a different department.


While this may be easier for some businesses than others, fundamentally, all you need to do is break down those silos and ensure internal departments are talking to each other and sharing critical data.


Communication is particularly imperative in two departments: your marketing department and your sales department.


Align sales and marketing

An infographic that says “Align your sales and marketing teams on: Lead scoring—define what a marketing-qualified lead is and what a sales-qualified lead is to place individual leads in your funnel. Service level agreements—this sets the partnership up for success because all parties know what is promised and what should be delivered. Key performance indicators—This helps ensure both teams are moving towards higher prospect-to-close numbers.

Sales and marketing need to align on marketing strategy to ensure your business grows and scales appropriately—after all, you wouldn’t want your marketing team to target audiences that your sales team is unfamiliar with.


One solution is to enable these two teams to create and implement lead generation guidelines to alleviate some handover headaches. Some of the things they need to align on include:


  • Lead scoring — Both teams need to define what a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) is, what a sales-qualified lead (SQL) is, and even what an opportunity to get a customer into your customer journey looks like. This can help you decide where to place individual leads in your buying funnel. In addition, this can help the marketing team understand when an MQL becomes an SQL and pass it to the sales team for contract development.

  • Service-level agreements (SLAs) — Both teams must agree on the SLAs offered to potential clients. Having these in place helps the teams put together the best package for a lead. This sets the partnership up for success because all parties know what is promised and what should be delivered.

  • Key performance indicators (KPIs) — To ensure both teams are iterating toward higher prospect-to-close numbers, monitoring KPIs is essential. You’ll want to keep track of the following: 01. Number of incoming leads 02. Number of converted leads 03. Lifetime converted lead value By tracking the above, you can monitor your outreach numbers, how many leads turn into paying customers, and how much those customers are worth over time.


Once you have the marketing and sales teams aligned on goals, it’s time to set your SEO, organic, and paid marketing strategies.


SEO and organic marketing strategies for sustainable business growth


While there are a number of organic (“free”) marketing channels that can help small businesses, we’re starting with your website because having a website and updating it is essential to bringing organic leads to your business, making it the one channel you must use. The others we’ll discuss are great to have, but you can pick and choose which to add to your plan depending on how relevant each strategy is for your particular type of business. The goal of these additional strategies (as outlined below) is to drive potential customers back to your website, where they can actually transact with you.


Optimize your website for search engines

You want potential customers to easily find information about your products/services on Google and purchase them. Your website’s job is to convert people based on your marketing strategies. So, you want your website to shine when new visitors show up thanks to your SEO and marketing strategies.


You need to optimize your website for search engines to ensure ease of use as well as discoverability on Google—fortunately, what’s good for users is also generally good for search engines. The first step in optimizing your website is ensuring each page has a goal.


Align each webpage to a goal

Each page on your website should convey one message clearly and concisely. For example, product pages should focus on your product's unique benefits and features. Your contact page should give visitors information on how to get in contact with your company through email, phone, and social media.


When pages talk about multiple subjects, they confuse visitors and search engines. This can result in lower rankings, lower visibility, and lower sales. Instead, pages should have a single goal and work toward achieving that goal.

If you find that your pages are not meeting those goals, audit them by answering the following questions:


  • What is the goal of this page? E.g., brand awareness, conversion, etc.

  • How well is the page achieving that goal?

  • Does the content on the page help it achieve that goal?

  • Does the content on the page help the visitor achieve their goal? I.e., does it address why they came to this page?

  • Is there any content missing that would help the page achieve that goal? I.e., information or even navigation.

  • Is this page duplicative of another page?

  • Does this page need to exist?


Answering the questions above can help you discover effective ways to optimize your site for search queries, get started with keyword research, and update your web pages.


Prioritize internal linking

Similar to how maps guide us toward our destination, your website’s internal linking guides visitors toward their destination—if implemented correctly, that is.


Internal linking is more than your top navigation, footer, and breadcrumbs. Proper internal linking utilizes landing page content to link to deeper, relevant pages that answer visitors’ questions. In addition, carefully placed call-to-action buttons can move visitors to your transactional pages via internal links.


Websites need proper internal linking because it’s difficult to predict how visitors will move from page to page once they reach your site. We can add guardrails to assist their journey, but sometimes they’ll choose pages independently.


A screenshot of internal linking settings in Wix.
Choose internal links that support SEO by adding user value.

In SEO, internal linking also helps search engines efficiently crawl more of your website. If there are few ways to find a particular page, chances are a search engine bot may miss that page, meaning it won’t be shown as a result in search engines.


Add transaction buttons to your pages

You’ve optimized your website content, aligned each page to a specific goal, ensured your pages are indexable, and updated your internal linking. But, is it easy for your potential customers to get in touch with you or purchase your products or services?


Make sure that, at any given time, your customers are only a single button click from transacting with your business. As mentioned earlier, you cannot guarantee when customers will buy from you or what page will spur their transaction. What you can control, however, are the number of opportunities they have to buy from you.


One of the simplest ways to facilitate easy transactions is to add a CTA in your header and make your header sticky (always in view, even if the user scrolls down). That way, the CTA follows the website visitor and gives them quick access to a transaction button to easily purchase your products/services when they're ready to shop.


A screenshot of Crystal Carter’s article “homepage SEO strategies to achieve business goals” viewed on mobile, with an arrow pointing to the “sign up” CTA in the header.
The Wix SEO Learning Hub is an example of a site that uses a persistent header with a CTA.

Remember, conversions can be more than a website visitor buying your products/services. They can also refer to an email newsletter signup (as is the case in the example above), someone contacting you for a sales call, making a reservation, etc. For a deeper dive into pairing your objectives with the right CTA, read Lazarina Stoy’s guide on how to choose the right CTA for your business goals to maximize your website’s transaction opportunities.


Consider adding a blog

A screenshot of the 11th avenue hostel blog homepage
Add a blog to increase opportunities for SEO and audience engagement.

A blog provides space for long-form content to educate visitors about your business, your products/services, your employees, and your industry-specific thought leadership. A blog isn’t necessary for every business, but you should consider it part of your multi-channel marketing strategy due to the SEO value, longevity, and reusability of blog content.


You can repurpose blog content in many ways:


  • Email newsletters — Send links to your email subscribers filled with pertinent information, including new blog posts.

  • Organic social media posts — One of the best ways to promote your blog posts is through your social media channels. You can create shortened links to track how many people click on them and what channels they’re coming from. Sharing blog posts on social media may bring in new customers that might never have interacted with your business otherwise.

  • Paid social media — Many social media platforms allow you to boost the reach of your organic posts. This is a fantastic way to get conversion-centric content in front of new social media audiences.

  • Video content — You can convert your text blogs into videos (which may help your content appeal to more people) and add those videos to the existing page. The text becomes the transcript. You can also upload those videos to a dedicated YouTube account. This is especially excellent content marketing if you create how-to blogs about your products/services.


A screenshot of a social post sharing a blog from the 11th avenue hostel blog.
Distributing your blog on other channels supports your SEO activity.

While SEO content creation and marketing is an excellent addition to your multi-channel efforts, it isn’t easy. You’ll need someone who can consistently research topics, write, edit, and publish blog posts. You don’t need an aggressive publishing cadence: one or two blog posts a month to start are sufficient to build a healthy corpus of knowledge.


Check out Crystal Carter's great guide if you want to learn how to source ideas for user-first content and start writing your own customer-centric blog posts.


Consider social media marketing

Social media can help you reach a new audience daily by posting your content, sharing others’ content, and replying to your followers and other accounts. You can build a community of brand ambassadors who amplify your message, content, and story.


The first step in building your community is picking which platform(s) to use. Each platform has its advantages and drawbacks. Let’s take a look at a few of your options.


Twitter — This platform is excellent for sharing content and building a community. Most businesses use Twitter to share other accounts’ content, respond to their followers, and handle customer service requests. Pepper in posts about your business sparingly. You want to add value to your follower’s timelines—spamming them with promotional posts about your business may drive them to unfollow your brand.


Facebook — In addition to posting content on Facebook, you can create a dedicated business page that gives your followers quick access to your operating hours and contact information. You can also add a CTA button for quick transactions directly from your Facebook page and even set up a Facebook Messenger chatbot that interacts with your customer’s specific questions.


Instagram — IG is a great place to post product photos and business-related images. You can share “behind the scenes” pictures, infographics, other visualized data, and videos. If you sell a product that is enhanced with a visual component, IG is your platform.


TikTok — Video, video, video. That’s what TikTok is all about. One way to use the platform is to ask your customer to record videos while using your products. Sharing videos of happy customers is a great way to entice more people to buy your products.


A screenshot of the google search results for “i love chickpea” showing an instagram account for @ilovechickpea as the second result.
Being active on social media can increase your SERP visibility.

Consider email marketing

Email marketing has several benefits for your business. It can help you:

  • Nurture and generate leads by asking website visitors and social media followers to leave their emails in exchange for an incentive (like an exclusive offer, for example).

  • Build brand awareness by keeping your company and your products/services top-of-mind for new leads.

  • Use content marketing to answer questions about your products/services for new leads.


Best of all, like social media, email marketing can help you build a community. Building a community is better than having customers. A community will promote your brand, leave reviews, and suggest your products/services to friends and family. A community, if treated with respect and grown with care, will provide higher lifetime value to your business.


If you’ve been collecting emails through signup forms, you should retarget those potential (or repeat) customers. Send them special offers and coupon codes. Send monthly newsletters containing your latest content to give your blog additional visibility.


While email marketing puts you directly in front of your audience, that can become an issue. If you send too many emails, your subscribers will mark you as spam or unsubscribe from your list. Both are bad for business.


You can avoid oversaturating your community by outlining the types of emails you send and their cadence. For example, you can provide dates for your upcoming deals in a monthly newsletter, send out a reminder for the sale a week in advance, and one once the deal has launched.


Paid marketing strategies for instant exposure and amplification


Now that you’ve thought through your SEO and organic marketing strategies, it’s time to layer on some paid marketing to amplify your content and drive traffic to your site.


While organic marketing typically only requires your time and energy, you need money to launch paid marketing strategies. As an SMB, dipping into your revenue to pay for ads can be intimidating.


Let’s remove the fear with a plan of action.


Establish your monthly budget

The first step is determining how much you’ll spend per month on your campaigns. Start with a comfortable amount—you can always raise it when you start experiencing some success.


Let’s say you have $12,000 budgeted annually for your paid media campaigns (meaning you have $1000 to spend each month). This $1000 dollars, however, may need to cover more than just ads. Unless you run the campaigns yourself, you’ll need some help. Make sure to account for any money you’ll spend on consulting help for your paid campaigns.


A great way to keep track of your ad spend is to create a spreadsheet or document that will monitor your spending habits each month. This will help you stay within the budget limits.


Choose your paid search or paid social channels

Once you’ve established your budget, you’ll need to choose your advertising platforms. With paid search, you run ads on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. With paid social, you run ads on social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc).


You don’t need to use all of them to start. If you have a small budget, you may want to limit the number of platforms you use so your money goes farther as you begin. Whatever you choose, remember to periodically test out other channels to ensure you’re acting on the greatest marketing opportunities.


Create paid landing pages

When you launch your ads, ensure you have individual, noindexed (not discoverable via search results) landing pages for your paid traffic.


A screenshot of the noindex option within Wix’s SEO settings.
Update your robots meta tags to noindex PPC landing pages.

Why? So that you don’t mix your organic search traffic with your paid traffic.


Proper tracking and attribution are essential so that you can gauge the true success of your ads. For example, if you send paid traffic to your organic pages, you’ll have muddied data and little-to-no way to tell if your paid traffic converts.


You also want to ensure your paid landing pages are noindexed so search engines don’t rank them. If your paid ad landing pages are indexable, they might rank ahead (or instead) of your organic pages. This can harm your SEO strategies and muddy your tracking and reporting data.


Success later starts with the basics now


The guidance above just covers the fundamentals of marketing for most SMBs—we haven’t even started scratching the surface of more advanced strategies yet. Before you set your sights higher, review the advice I’ve laid out to ensure that you understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.


A solid foundation of basics will not only take you far (think the 80/20 rule), it’ll increase the efficacy of your advanced strategies later on.


 

Jamar Ramos

Jamar Ramos is a 10-year digital marketing veteran with SEO, content marketing, and social media marketing experience. He enjoys writing, playing volleyball, and fighting back against anyone who claims that Shakespeare isn't the greatest writer to ever put pen to paper.


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