10 digital marketing tips for small businesses

Posted on 07/08/2018 by Team Hallam

Not sure where to start to improve your website or social media? Here are 10 quick and effective ways that you can jump start your digital marketing.

As a local or small business owner, taking advantage of digital marketing is key to success. The barriers of entry into the marketplace are minimised when compared to traditional forms of marketing. Learn how you can take advantage of the digital space with these top tips.

Here is a list of 10 digital marketing tips for small businesses:

1. Research Competitors and Differentiate Yourself
2. Get Your Website Basics Right
3. Improve Google My Business Listing and Customer Reviews
4. Create Interesting Blog Content
5. Consider Google Ads for Your Small Business
6. Create Professional Visual Content
7. Improve Your Local SEO
8. Develop Email Marketing
9. Focus on a Primary Social Media Channel
10. Partner with Local Influencers

1. Research competitors and differentiate yourself

Competitor research is important because as a local business, you’ll want to be able to offer additional value in the market. Google Search is a great place to start. You can see how your competitors are positioning themselves within their ads. In this example, the below shows Google Search Ads results for local Nottingham plumbers. Terms such as “No Call Out Charge”, “Fully Qualified Plumbers” and “1Hr Response” are great selling points.

Local Plumbers Ads

Now, you must be thinking, how could I differentiate myself from all the other plumbers who more or less provide a similar service?  Entrepreneur.com says: “If you have no differentiator (and many startups don’t), invent one”.

Here are some methods of differentiation you could use as per MarketResearch.com:

  • Product – most notable but easily duplicated and could be short-lived
  • Service – training, installation, speed, ease of doing business etc
  • Distribution – suppliers, manufacturers, distributors or retailers you work with
  • Relationship – employees and customer service could be an effective means to differentiate. Perhaps add a review service such as a Trustpilot rating
  • Image/Reputation – this can be established through your current customers who can later become your advocates
  • Price – again, this can easily be duplicated. However, depending on your product, customers may choose to pay more if there is an added value in doing business with you

2. Get your website basics right

Online users are becoming increasingly demanding in terms of the experience they expect from a website. They want a fast loading website as a minimum requirement. As a local business, you may not have the budget of the bigger, national or international firms, but you can at the very least get the basics right. Jon Martin, our Technical Director at Hallam, recently discussed how to balance fast web page load speeds with rich content.

page load times
Source: Neil Patel: How to Score a Perfect 100% on Google PageSpeed Insights

From the above stats, you can see how much of an effect a slow website can have on your chances of converting new users into customers. Page speed or page load time is becoming ever more important as we shift to a more mobile-first world with slower 3G internet connections. Google PageSpeed Insights shows you how you can reduce the loading time of your website.

You can test your website’s mobile speed with Google’s free tool and see how you could decrease bounce rates.

3. Improve Google My Business listing and customer reviews

Your online reputation as a small business owner could be the deciding factor when a prospective customer is searching for your product/service. Luckily, with Google My Business, you have a level of control when it comes to managing how people perceive your business. My colleague, Stan Dunthorne, has created the easy guide to optimising your Google My Business listing.

Some of the common mistakes to avoid include:

  • Duplicate listings
  • Setting up unnecessary new listings after a change of address
  • Business name misuse e.g. adding unnecessary promotional messages

Customer reviews aren’t anything new, but you would be surprised as to how often this is overlooked. 30% of people said reviews were key when judging local businesses so I would ensure this as a top priority as part of your digital marketing strategy.

Hallm GMB Listing


4. Create interesting blog content

If you’re in a very competitive industry – and most local businesses are – you would need to think about a content strategy that will drive results. Working with smaller businesses, it’s often the case that it’s highly unlikely to rank on the first page of Google for a broad term related to their product/service.

For example, “Plumbing Nottingham” would be near impossible if you’re just entering the market.

Firstly, this would require a large budget and resources that wouldn’t make achieving this affordable. Secondly, ranking for a broad term may not eventually lead to more customers. This is where your blog content plays an important role.

Write the perfect blog post with this blogging guide from Rebecca Bull.

Tips include:

  • Putting the audience first
  • Making sure it’s SEO friendly
  • Correct tone of voice
  • Showing readers they can trust you

The below screenshot is an example of how we increased organic traffic for a local business in Nottingham through researching blog content that they could produce in-house.

Small Business Organic Traffic Example

5. Consider Google Ads for your small business

Previously known as Google AdWords, Google Ads is evolving.

However, the principles remain the same and the fundamentals are covered in this helpful small business PPC guide from Google.

There are eight stages to follow:

  1. Set your goals
  2. Do your research
  3. Define your budget
  4. Set your structure
  5. Choose your keywords
  6. Be relevant
  7. Use strong messaging
  8. Look at the whole picture

New Google Keyword Planner

One of the key stages when creating your Google Ads Search campaigns is selecting appropriate keywords. Google Keyword Planner has been updated on the new interface to help with this.

New Google Keyword Planner
Example showing the first stages of keyword research for a local plumber campaign

New features include:

  • Volume trends  – spot seasonality trends
  • Breakdown by platform (device)  – desktop/tablet/mobile traffic splits
  • Improved forecasting tools

6. Create professional visual content

Content is still king and content marketing is an industry in its own right. Your content will form an important part of your digital strategy.

Video is an area that is growing at an incredible rate, and these statistics from HubSpot show why:

  • 97% of marketers say video has helped increase user understanding of their product or service
  • 76% say it helped them increase sales
  • 81% of people have been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video

Also, an important stat which shows how important video is today is the fact that over 1.9 billion users are logging into Google-owned YouTube each month.

Big brands understand the power of video marketing and constantly create big-budget video campaigns as per the below examples from the likes of Beats by Dre, Apple, Nintendo and Domino’s.

YouTube UK Ads Leaderboard June 2018
YouTube UK Ads Leaderboard June 2018

You might not have the big budgets, but you can always partner up with a talented local video agency/freelancer to get your own video campaign started.

7. Improve your local SEO

Local SEO is important if you are primarily a local business. We have previously looked at local SEO for restaurants and Google My Business is a major part of that.

Link building as always is equally important.

You can build local links from the following:

  • Newspaper sites
  • Bloggers
  • Awards/festival sites
  • Sponsorship sites

8. Develop email marketing

Another digital strategy fundamental for your small business is email marketing.

There is a really comprehensive email marketing guide from Simply Business which ensures you cover all the essential email marketing questions. Some of which are:

  • Do you know the legal side of email marketing?
  • Have you chosen a provider?
  • Do you know what your competitors are doing?
  • Do you know how to craft an effective email?

The guide also includes checklists, provider comparisons and split testing guidance.

If you are struggling with this area or need to solidify your knowledge, you can also complete a free email marketing certification course from HubSpot.

Email Marketing Course Hubspot
Email Marketing Course from HubSpot

9. Focus on a primary social media channel

Social media marketing strategies are continuously changing along with constant platform updates.

Often small business owners ask, which platform should I focus on?

The answer is simple…

Focus on the social media platform most relevant to your business and where your customers are most active.

  • If the nature of your product/service offering is B2B then LinkedIn and/or Twitter are natural choices.
  • For B2C businesses, Facebook and/or Instagram might be better choices.

Whatever you decide, have a primary social media channel that you’ll focus on growing. As a small business owner, you probably won’t have the required resource to manage more than one channel effectively.


Artificial intelligence is a major trend for 2019. In fact, by the end of 2019 adoption is expected to increase and for chatbots to become ‘the norm’ for online retailers.

Chatbots are now at the forefront of innovation for small businesses. As a business owner it’s never been easier to create your own bot. Facebook offer a convenient means to create one with limited coding ability.

According to G2Crowd, there are currently more than 300,000 Facebook chatbots live today, making it the preferred and most common platform for chatbot use. Furthermore, a joint study by Drift, Salesforce, and SurveyMonkey found 69 percent of consumers actually prefer using chatbots for quick communication.

10. Partner with local influencers

My colleague Elle works with local influencers to create share-worthy content for our clients. In one of her recent posts, she tackled the question of “Should Your Brand Work With Instagram Influencers?

This is definitely an area of digital marketing that is growing, and perhaps your business should consider it too.

statistics on influencer marketing
Source: Cleveroad

Now, influencer marketing isn’t just for the fashion industry.

For example, you could be within the food industry and have an influencer outreach strategy to help raise awareness of your brand by approaching local food bloggers.

In conclusion, these tips should help your small business if you use the above digital strategies effectively.

If you have any questions about any of these, contact the Hallam team.

If you need help with your Digital Marketing Strategy don't hesitate to contact us.

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