Guide to Online Marketing for Small Business Owners

Most business owners don’t need to know much about online marketing. They can hire people to worry about that for them while they handle the high level macro parts of running their company.

Most business owners don’t need to know much about online marketing. They can hire people to worry about that for them while they handle the high level macro parts of running their company.

Small business owners don’t have that luxury. You’re probably wearing multiple hats, if not all the hats, and doing most of the work yourself. You don’t have the time, energy, or the budget to put towards marketing your business. You might not even have the first clue on where to start, but that’s okay! There are some great ways to grow your small business with online marketing.

This article is meant to serve as an introduction for small business owners like yourself that want to learn about the basics of online marketing. Bear in mind that this is not an exhaustive guide or a deep dive into any one of these particular facets of digital marketing. It’s a broad overview to give you a better understanding of what they do and what your goals should be with them.

With that said, let’s dive right in!

Search Engine Optimization

There are 5.6 BILLION searches on Google every day. That’s 63,000 searches every second, and if you aren’t ranking highly for keywords related to your industry, you’re missing out on a ton of organic traffic.

Search engine optimization, also known as SEO, is a type of digital marketing with the goal of increasing the inbound traffic to your website by ranking highly in organic search results for relevant keywords.

There’s a lot that goes into SEO so that definition may feel a bit vague so let’s flesh it out a little more. The whole goal of Google’s search engine is to serve up the best possible result for a searcher’s query. When someone searches for “best hiking boots”, Google wants to show that person the one page out of the billions on the entire internet with the best hiking boots. Naturally, that’s a monumental task so they do that by analyzing dozens, possibly hundreds, of different ranking factors in their search algorithm.

SEO is, essentially, optimizing your website to send those positive ranking signals from your domain to Google so when a someone searches for something related to your business, you’ll be the one at the top. The beauty of search engine optimization is that when the work is done, you’ll passively generate more inbound traffic that you don’t have to manage. It’s quite literally “set it and forget it” marketing.

Ranking in these top positions is incredibly important because people don’t look past page 1. (Seriously. When was the last time you went past page 1?) The search result click data backs this up. The top 5 search results get 66% of clicks on desktop and 61% of the clicks on mobile with each position below that getting less and less click share.

Goals for Your SEO Efforts

  • Rank for a variety of keywords, not just 1 or 2
  • Focus on long tail keywords (4+ words instead of 1 – 3)
  • Have numerous pages that rank highly, not just 1 or 2
  • Make steady progress climbing the search engine rankings
  • ONLY perform white hat SEO tactics
  • Target informational as well as transactional pages

Investing in SEO for your small business should be one of your top priorities. Doing it correctly can generate an enormous amount of inbound traffic, boost your brand awareness, and generate passive revenue that can be re-invested in your company or used in other digital marketing campaigns.

However, be sure to do your research. Businesses some mistakes with SEO that end up sabotaging their efforts. Don’t fall victim to these avoidable pitfalls.

Pay Per Click

PPC is one of the more straightforward types of online marketing. However, it can be a double edged sword. It can be a huge benefit to your business and generate a ton of new leads / sales, or it can be an absolute drain on your marketing budget.

Pay per click marketing is a way to funnel highly targeted traffic to specific landing pages on your website to achieve a variety of goals. You could be trying to build an email list, amplify the reach of a piece of content, or simply be trying to generate more sales.

Regardless of what your goal is, carving out some of your marketing budget for a PPC campaign or two is great way to get an on-demand influx of traffic to your website.

Popular PPC Platforms

  • Google AdWords
  • Facebook Ads
  • Twitter Ads
  • Bing Ads

Main Drawback of PPC

Pay per click is not a “set it and forget it” type of marketing. You need to pay very close attention to what your campaigns are doing because, for better or worse, they will do exactly what you tell them to do.

If you set a daily budget of $20 on Facebook Ads instead of a total budget of $20, you’ll be spending $20 a day on ads. If you have an ad running in Google AdWords that has a < 1% conversion rate, AdWords will keep buying clicks and showing that ad until you make another one or you turn it off. If you send the traffic to a broken page, they will send traffic to a broken page.

You have to be on top of your PPC campaigns. You can end up wasting hundreds if not thousands of dollars on poor performing campaigns.

If you’re thinking about doing PPC and you’ve never managed an account before, please do your research. Find a beginner’s guide to whatever platform you’re hoping to advertise on and learn the basics. Your wallet will thank you.

Think of PPC like chess. The rules are very simple, anyone can play it, but there is an incredibly high skill ceiling.

Goals for Your PPC Efforts

  • Minimize wasted ad spend
  • Maintain a high conversion rate
  • Keep your cost per conversion within acceptable levels
  • Communicate with your sales team about lead quality
  • Have complete tracking from click to sale
  • Know your return on investment (ROI)

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Social Media Marketing

Social media is tougher to nail down because it can be so many things to so many businesses. It’s essentially the Swiss Army knife of the online marketing world. One company can use it strictly for PR / reputation management where another can run their whole business off it.

At its core, social media marketing is about building an audience around your brand and engaging with them as a means to provide them with value which in turn builds brand loyalty.

Build an Audience

There are 1.5 billion daily users on Facebook, 600 million on Instagram, and 126 million over on Twitter. No matter what your business does, there’s an audience waiting to be tapped into.

If you’re on Facbeook, you can join Facebook groups that are related to your product or service. You can even create your own Facebook group and invite people to join it. On Instagram and Twitter, you can follow hashtags and directly participate in conversations which can net your company page more followers.

The bigger your audience, the larger your potential reach will be on these platforms.

Manage your online reputation

Your reputation is everything, especially when you’re just getting started. A single bad review can absolutely destroy your business rating on Yelp, Google, Facebook, or any other review website. And it can cause other people to think twice before doing business with your company.

When you’re active on these platforms, you’re able to go on the offensive and take control of the narrative. If someone gives you a bad review, meet it head on and see what you can do to fix the problem. Most of the time you’ll be able to defuse the situation and get the person to update their review to a better rating.

But even if it doesn’t work out that way, it’ll show other potential customers that you care about your reputation and you’ll actually try to fix their problem if they have one.

Provide value to your audience

Providing value can be many different things, but one thing is isn’t is always pushing your company or your products in your followers’ faces. They know you’re a business. They know you have to make money, but if every single one of your posts boils down to “BUY MY STUUUUUUUFFFFF!!!”, you’re going to hear crickets.

Answer questions. Give recommendations. Be a positive voice. Show some passion. Be a human being, not a brand. Help people with their problems. Follow your followers and comment on their posts. And do all of this without the sole intent of pushing your product. Provide value and the rest will take care of itself.

Goals for Your Social Media Efforts

  • Engagement around your content / updates
  • Steady and organic follower growth
  • Building an active community around your brand
  • Amplifying the reach of content on your website
  • Have a direct line of communication with your customers
  • Be proactive in managing your online reputation

Local Marketing

Local businesses live and die on the amount of foot traffic they get, whether its inside the store or from window shoppers. And the best way to boost foot traffic is to kick off some local marketing initiatives.

Google has spent a lot of time and effort over the last 5 years differentiating local marketing from SEO. The two are still very similar, but very different at the same time.

The goal for both is the same, show up when a customer searches for the thing you do. However, the difference is that Google gives local businesses precedence in the search results when they determine that said search is looking for that thing right now. Those local search results come in the form of the local pack (see below) as well as in the organic search results below them.

google local pack for hamburgers

Local Packs

Using the above example, this local pack is the first thing that shows up when you Google hamburgers near my office. Because my query was “hamburgers” and not “hamburger recipes” or “what’s in hamburger meat?” Google is able to infer that I’m looking to stuff my face with a hamburger right now so they’re showing me where I can get one nearby.

Now, these aren’t the only three places near me that I can get a hamburger, but they are the best optimized listings. This is important and we’ll go deeper into this in a later article. (Stay tuned.)

“How do I show up in the local pack?” you ask. It’s actually quite simple. All you have to do is a Google My Business account and follow the instructions to set up a business listing. Once you fill out the listing, Google will verify it by sending you a postcard with a unique code. Pop that code in and your My Business Listing is verified!

Local Search Results

The local search results are in the same place as the regular organic search results, but like we said earlier, Google will give precedence to local businesses so they rank higher than a generic website.

So, let’s say that I’m in Austin and I’m looking for a bike shop. I’ll probably search for something like “bike shop Austin”. Rather than just showing me a website that is perfectly optimized for “bike shop”, Google will show me websites for bike shops that are actually in Austin. (See below.)

bike shop austin search results

This is why putting your physical location on your website is so important. You’re telling Google exactly where you are so that way they can serve your website up when searchers are looking for your product.

Also, don’t forget that local marketing isn’t just for brick and mortar B2C shops either. Many businesses feel more comfortable knowing that the company they’re paying to do a thing for them is local. We’ve actually won multiple contracts specifically because we were a short drive away.


Running a small business is tough enough without having to worry about marketing it too. However, learning more about these online marketing tactics and leveraging what you learn is a great, and easy, to grow your small business.

Best Ways to Market Your Small Business

  • Search engine optimization
  • Pay per click
  • Social media
  • Local marketing

These aren’t the only types of marketing you can do for your small business, but these are the most effective. If you have any questions about marketing your small business, feel free to leave them in the comments section below or submit them on our contact page.

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Kenny Empey

Kenny is a digital marketing specialist with over 10 years of online marketing experience, and Founder of Rank Boss Digital Marketing Agency. With 1M+ leads and countless dollars generated through his targeted strategies, he'll help unlock new traffic and revenue streams that take your business to the next level.

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