Online marketing is no longer optional for most businesses. A majority of shoppers seek out information and reviews online before making a purchase. They expect the businesses they frequent to maintain an online presence, and will probably seek out alternatives if they don’t find what they expect.
With the end of the year fast approaching, let’s take a look at the five online marketing mistakes you must avoid in 2016 if you want your business to thrive.
#1: Not being mobile-friendly
As of 2014, more internet users access their favorite websites using mobile devices than using computers. That means you can’t afford to ignore mobile marketing as a way of getting the word out about your business. Mobile users also spend more time online than people who use computers.
The best way to make your website accessible to mobile users is to go with a mobile-adaptive option. What that means is that your site will automatically adapt so that any user, on any device, gets an easy-to-use version of your site that’s uniquely suited to their phone or tablet. It used to be common for websites to have a separate mobile site, generally indicated by the letter “M” before the site name.
Of course, having a mobile-adaptive site isn’t the only way to cater to mobile users. You may also want to consider collecting mobile numbers to use in marketing. “Text messages are inexpensive to send and tend to have a far higher open rate (close to 99%) than traditional emails.” They can be a great way to engage local customers and get them to visit your business.
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#2: Not claiming your “My business” page
Google My Business has replaced Google Local, and if you haven’t logged in to claim your page, you’re making a big mistake. You can claim your page by logging in to your Google+ account, or by creating one for your business if you don’t have one.
Once you claim your page, you should add a profile picture, a brief description of your business, and a link to your website. It’s also a good idea to include basic information such as a menu, prices, or your hours of operation. Check your address and phone number for accuracy, and use important keywords to reap the SEO benefits.
Not only will claiming your page help local customers find you online, it will also give your local search ranking on Google a boost.
Note: you should also make sure to claim your page on online review sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List.
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#3: Not responding to negative reviews
The subject of online review sites brings us to the third mistake on our list. Sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Google My Business, and others, offer an easy way for consumers to leave reviews of local businesses. Recent studies reveal that a huge percentage of consumers – upwards of 80% -- read online reviews prior to making a purchase.
Everyone loves to get positive reviews, but it’s how you respond to the negative ones that can set your business apart. Every negative review you receive is an opportunity to show customers that you care about them.
To handle negative reviews well, start by claiming your page. Once you have done that, you need to monitor your pages and respond quickly to all reviews, good and bad. If you decide to delegate the responsibility of responding to reviews, make sure you choose someone who can respond to a negative reviews without sounding defensive or angry. Remember that other customers will be able to see your response. This is free marketing designed as customer service, so make the most of it. Be courteous, grateful for the feedback, and make sure to address whatever issues are raised in a timely and respectful manner.
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#4: Not engaging customers or promoting your business on social media
If responding to negative reviews is important, it is equally vital to maintain an active social media presence and engage with your customers there. Despite the overwhelming popularity of social media, a surprising number of companies aren’t using it to their best advantage.
You don’t need to be on every social media site, but picking the right ones is essential. Facebook is still the largest social media site and a great place for businesses who market directly to consumers. For business-to-business marketing, LinkedIn is the gold standard. Businesses who sell aspirational products that lend themselves well to photography would be remiss if they ignored the benefits of setting up a Pinterest account.
It’s a good idea to monitor some of your competitors on social media and see what they are posting. Try sharing a mix of original content and curated content. One easy way to find content is to follow relevant publications and pages and share their posts.
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#5: Not using paid advertising
There are plenty of ways to market your business online for free, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore paid advertising. Online advertising tends to be relatively inexpensive and offers some easy options that allow you to budget an ad that won’t break the bank.
One option to consider is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on search engines like Google and Bing. Both options require you to bid on a selected keyword. On Google AdWords, you can use the Keyword Finder to identify potential keywords. Your ads appear only if you outbid your competitors – the bid is based on a combination of the keyword’s popularity and your website’s authority. Chosen ads appear either at the top of a list of search results or on the right margin of the page.
Social media advertising is another excellent and affordable choice. Facebook offers options to attract new visitors to your Facebook page or website. In addition, you can boost an individual post so it displays to your followers and their friends, or to target demographics you select. Facebook allows you to set a daily budget as low as one dollar, and emails you regular updates that make it easy to track your results. You can also use customer psychographics – things like interests, hobbies, political affiliations, and more – to target your ads. Other social media sites such as Twitter and Pinterest offer similar options.
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2016 promises to bring new marketing challenges for all businesses, but if you avoid the five mistakes listed here you’ll be ahead of the pack.