How to get serious with online marketing in 2016

Small Business Marketing Tips for 2016

2015 was a big year for online marketing

A lot happened this year in the world of online marketing. Between Google’s more-bark-than-bite “Mobilegeddon” update and all the monkeying around they did with Google+, small business owners had a lot to deal with on the organic search front.

Add to that the big changes that have rippled across social media giants like Twitter and Facebook and the always changing trends in what are considered “best practices” online, and it’s easy to understand why so many of our clients tell us they feel overwhelmed when it comes to online marketing.

But never fear! If you want to really start making an impact with your online marketing in 2016, it doesn’t have to be complicated. We’ve collected some ideas that are great for small business owners and aren’t too complex to pull off on your own.

  1. Focus on Content

The name of the game with online marketing is to bring more people to your site. Whether you’re focusing on organic search referrals, social sharing, or pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, producing great content is the key.

But what kind of content? Well, that’s up to you.

  • Blogging:

Blogging is a perennial favorite, and for good reason. It’s easily shareable, easy to consume, and can be tailored easily to your audience and your field of expertise. Best of all, blog posts are easy to produce – anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can write a blog.

i read your blog

If you want a loyal audience who will share your website with their friends, a blog is one of the best ways to get it.

We’ve published advice before on ways to brainstorm ideas for your blog, but writing it is only half the battle. Check out this huge article by Rand Fishkin from Moz called 21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic.

“When strategizing about who you're writing for, consider that audience's ability to help spread the word. Some readers will naturally be more or less active in evangelizing the work you do, but particular communities, topics, writing styles and content types regularly play better than others on the web.”

Focusing in on the people most likely to share and spread your content is really important because that’s what makes blogging such an effective way to promote your site. That focus on your target demographic is critical for other types of content you might produce too.

  • Videos:
HubSpot video stats

This image is part of an infographic from HubSpot. Click here to see the whole thing.

According to the stats, video production and video sharing rates have both shot way up this year, and they’re projected to continue to grow throughout 2016. Twitter just recently added embedded videos (and according to Buffer, almost nobody is taking advantage of these yet).

Videos are slightly more complex to make, but they’re extremely effective marketing tools for certain types of businesses. For example, if you are a contractor or handyman and you can film short instructional videos aimed at the DIY crowd, you may find yourself dealing with more traffic than you know what to do with.

Matt Aunger has a great article up at Buffer about how to get started with producing high quality video content.

“Every minute of the day, YouTube users alone upload 72 hours of new video content, not to mention uploads to Facebook, Vimeo, Daily Motion or Wistia.

With all that noise, making your video stand out, increasing engagement and finding ways to add value is a mammoth task; which makes doing it right even sweeter.”

  • Podcasts:

According to the experts, we are in the middle of the Golden Age of Podcasts. In the last year or two, podcasts have gone from a niche entertainment medium to totally mainstream. Basically everyone is listening to podcasts now, and 2016 could be the best time ever to launch one.

If you have the time and resources to put into it, podcasting can be a great way to attract a loyal following. Here’s what Entrepreneur.com has to say about the potential of podcasts:

“Audio content is extremely personal. People get to know our style, values, and personalities by listening to the podcast, which shortens the sales process.”

Podcasts are a way to get right into your customers ears and tell them what’s important to you and your company. They take a lot of work to do well, but if you can afford the time and effort, the rewards can be huge!

  1. Dig into social media

We’ve written before about how beneficial social media can be to any small business. We’ve mostly focused on the big players in the social game: Facebook and Twitter. Establishing a presence on these platforms is essential for any business that wants to market themselves online. If you haven’t already, there’s no time like the present, and 2016 can be your year to really get a hang of hashtags.

However, Facebook and Twitter aren’t the only players in the game! There are always new social media platforms that are gaining popularity. 2015 saw the widespread adoption of Snapchat as brands finally started embracing this social tool that young people had already been using non-stop for years.

Snapchat logo

Seems like everyone under 25 knows this little Snapchat ghost

Danny Sullivan at Marketing Land wrote a great guide to getting started with Snapchat. If you can get the hang of it, Snapchat can be a great way to reach out to new audiences of potential customers. Snapchat isn’t going to be a perfect match for every business, but it also isn’t the only other social network around.

Instagram and Pinterest are both huge among young people and millennials (the oldest of whom are now entering their mid-30s), and there are likely new emerging apps and social networks that you and I are both too old to know about. But when you hear of one, don’t be afraid to dive in. The rewards of being engaged in social media are potentially huge, and the risks are minimal.

  1. Start taking SEO and link building seriously

The web is becoming more and more competitive every year. Millions upon millions of new websites go live every year, and every one of them is competing for top placement in search results. Every day, we hear from small business owners who are frustrated with how their websites have been performing.

i have no idea what i'm doing

If you feel like this, you may want to pay someone else to handle your SEO.

Simply having a website isn’t enough anymore. You need to do the work to build your site’s credibility (or pay someone else to do that work for you) so that Google and other search engines will be more likely to give searchers a link to your site instead of the website of one of your competitors.

Here’s a post from SEMrush on a few simple things you can do to improve your website’s SEO. These can be a big help if your website has never been optimized, but good SEO is an ongoing practice that needs continual attention.

Just to get an idea of what’s involved, check out one of LinkNow Media’s SEO services, Traffic Jam. This is an annual schedule that consists of creating highly optimized content, building thousands of external links, citation management, and careful analysis of performance data.

If you’re a small business owner managing your own website’s SEO, you’re not going to have time to do all of these things, but you do need to keep SEO as one of your top priorities when it comes to your online marketing. There’s always more work you can do to help your site rank better, and if you can’t budget time or money for it, don’t be surprised if your website doesn’t attract much business for you in 2016.

There’s no time like the present

When it comes to online marketing, it’s never too late to get started. And if you want 2016 to be the year your business booms online, you can make it happen. There are a wide variety of resources available online to help small business owners with everything from blogging ideas to lists of who to follow on social media.

Do you have any questions about online marketing, or do you have any tips for other small business owners? Leave a comment, or join the conversation with us on Twitter.

Lauchlin MacDonald

Author: Lauchlin MacDonald

About Lauchlin MacDonald

Lauchlin is part of the content and marketing team at LinkNow Media. He has nearly a decade of experience in copywriting and editing, and spends way too much time on the Internet. He can be reached at lmacdonald@linknowmedia.com and @Lauchlin on Twitter.