I used to work in tech support. I helped people set up their websites and fill them with content.
Often clients would come to me for months pretty much every day for some little tweaks on their sites. They would give me access to servers and admin panels so I saw exactly how their new online business was doing.
More often than not, they weren’t doing that well. They launched websites, wrote some content from the top of their heads and shared it on their personal social media accounts.
Understandably, this approach to marketing didn’t work. I visited websites of the memorable clients a few months after the last chat with support and often by that time they were already abandoned.
Over the years, I’ve seen plenty of businesses launching their online presences and trying to put together a working marketing workflow. And each time I see how overwhelmed people are when they start thinking of all the things they need to do marketing-wise to get their business on the radar of the potential consumer.
No surprise, since there’s really a ton of things to do, no matter how small your business is at the start.
At the same time, I’m certain, that a business owner who doesn’t have money to hire a marketing person straight away, can do most or all of the things I list in this post on their own. Because no one knows you and your business better than you do. So you just need a proper checklist to follow.
That’s why I’ve decided to put together a list of the most important things you’ll need to learn and do in order to start promoting your business online. And to begin with, here are the things you should have before you get into strictly marketing tasks.
- A domain name that’s catchy and short, but isn’t associated with any other business yet. If you don’t have that, you can use Rand Fishkin’s advice.
- A website that runs on an easy-to-use engine (WordPress) and a reliable hosting (research best option for your country, but watch out for sponsored articles).
- A well-designed (or a very simple) website and design attributes like a logo, color scheme, and branding elements for promo materials.
- Competitor research: what they’re doing, which channels work for them, which don’t.
- Properly set up Google Analytics and Google Webmasters Tools.
Once you have these things done, you might think that you’re ready to share the first version of your homepage with the world. But you’re not. At this point, you just have the very basic and technical foundation. Next come the research and the creative work.
Content generation (one-time and ongoing)
There’s no arguing that content you put on your website should be genuine rather than openly promotional. Each text and page should serve some specific goal and answer a need of your visitors. And here are the content-related tasks you’ll need to take care of before and after the launch:
Before you write and publish content on your website, I strongly recommend using a tool like Ahrefs or SemRush to find the specific keywords you will be trying to rank for. Here’s a keyword research guide by my former boss, Tim Soulo, on how to do that within Ahrefs.
The rule of thumb is creating content that covers larger topics in more details. This way you tend to rank for more long-tail keywords that you might not even know about. This strategy replaced keyword stuffing and concentrating each page on a single specific keyword.
Copywriting for your website
Writing about yourself is hard. Luckily, many of the topics and pages you’ll need to cover will be dictated by what your competitors are doing and by keyword research.
While generating content, keep in mind that each of the pages on your site should bring value to your readers, not just copy the competition or please the search engines.
creating Static and dynamic pages
First, take care of the core pages like Home, Products/Services, About us, Our team, Contact us. The most important ones here are Homepage (don’t call it that on your site) and Products/Services landings as they most probably will be the most highly converting ones.
It’s also important to show that your website is alive and frequently updated. For that, you should have a decent blog. But don’t put pressure on yourself thinking that you have to write sophisticated posts that need to immediately get thousands of shares. That just won’t happen. Instead, just write about what you know in the style that feels natural.
You can create in-depth how-to content for your product or describe how your services help your customers, share success and failure stories, write about news, updates, etc. But keep keyword research in mind. So when you find a keyword with high traffic potential and low competition, devote some time to writing a detailed article on the topic.
Well-written, optimized copy on the website backed by some link building is a surefire recipe to start ranking.
Which brings me to…
Other than doing keyword research prior to and while creating content, there’s plenty of SEO activities to take care of. There’s pretty much no limit to how much time and resources you can pour into SEO. But if you’re running a one-man operation, you only have so much time.
Not to drop the ball in any other marketing spheres, you’ll probably need to concentrate on the basic SEO best practices like:
- If you already have a website, perform an SEO audit, to see what you have and how you can improve.
- Cover topics you write about in much detail.
- Write descriptive meta titles and meta descriptions for improved click-through rates from search.
- Spend some time on common sense on-page optimization. Things like meaningful anchor texts, informative headings and logical structure through HTML tags haven’t hurt anyone.
- Make sure that the pages are properly interlinked and easy to find from Home.
- Before launching, ask your friends to test your website’s usability. The things that you find obvious due to close work on the website are often confusing to new users. And user behavior now influences rankings as well.
- As you go, keep an eye on the basic technical SEO aspects. In a nutshell, your website should work smoothly on all the devices, search engine robots should be able to index all the important pages, and content on these pages shouldn’t be duplicated. Of course, there’s more to it, so by all means, do read on about it. But keep technical SEO within limits that make sense for you in terms of time investment.
An SEO aspect worth concentrating on separately is link building.
For as long as SEO exists, specialists are arguing over how much links influence rankings. And even though Google and other search engines are becoming creepily smart in analyzing and understanding content, links still tend to appear among the most influential factors.
Link building for a website owner means very few activities:
- Publishing original content that people would want to link to.
- Finding relevant websites/influencers in your niche and getting an organic link to your content from them.
If we’re talking about white-hat techniques (so not buying links) the most effective strategies would be to:
- Look for posts that mention competitors or your niche. Find an email of the admin/author and try to get linked to from existing content.
- Write guest posts for websites relevant to your niche. But don’t pitch press releases about your product. Just get in touch and suggest several topics you could write about. And really write a decent text. Most adequate website owners won’t say no to getting quality content for free.
- Get on the radar of influencers in your niche and tell them what you do. If you have a product, consider giving it to them to check out and see its quality. If you’re offering a service, you can do something small for them if you feel that it might be worth it. Engage with them on social media and comment on their posts. This way, when they write about something related to your niche, they’ll think of you and give you a shoutout.
Social media presence
Business owners are too busy to spend time on social media. But it’s still important to keep an active SM presence. One of the easiest ways to go is setting up social media automation with a tool like HootSuite or Buffer.
In a nutshell, you spend several hours once every 1-2 weeks and schedule all the posts that will be published during this time from your accounts. You can still log in to check user engagement and talk to commenters, but you’re freed from the obligation to spend time on publishing something every day.
Starting a business, you probably already know in which social media the majority of your users is hanging out, so concentrate on it. Syndicate content from it to all the other ones.
In order to increase reach and gain momentum, you might want to boost your top posts through ads but always start small. As a rule, native ad platforms on social media are very user-friendly, so there shouldn’t be any problems there. We’ll go a bit deeper into ads later in the guide.
As to types of content to publish on social media, I’d recommend considering the following:
- Sharing news relevant to your niche, which you personally found interesting. Even better if you can add some insightful comments.
- Links to your blog posts with custom excerpts.
- Links to landings of your products/services with custom descriptions and CTAs for each SM.
- Commenting/replying to threads/posts in niche communities.
- Other formats that your competitors successfully exploit.
One more thing.
In addition to conventional social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin, I recommend looking into promoting your business on platforms like Quora and Reddit. These two will work best for international businesses and English-speaking markets. So if you’re targeting other languages, look for forums and online discussion boards in your language to repurpose your content there.
In case you run a small business and there are few email subscriptions coming your way, you probably feel okay without some fancy automation. But it’s better to set up a communication tool like MailChimp on early stages to save yourself trouble when you grow. Here’s a guide from MailChimp team on starting out with email marketing.
They go into a ton of details, but in the beginning, you’ll need to:
- Set up a custom automatic greeting email for new subscribers.
- Possibly create an email chain that sends people 5-10 onboarding emails about you and your product/service (probably not more often than once a week.)
- If you have enough content and updates, consider starting a newsletter once you feel the number of subscribers is worth the effort.
Now, I’m more fond of organic growth and content marketing, so I wouldn’t feel right giving you advice on the things I don’t do well myself. But for many businesses paid promotion through channels like AdWords is a life-saver. And even with content marketing – it can do miracles (if done right).
Take it away, Alex:
The world of PPC is quite catchy these days. There are a lot of platforms and each has its own unique targeting options. They change rapidly, and it needs a bit of practice to understand some things, which can be challenging for a beginner. But fear not, there are ways to learn and not waste everything to the last penny doing so. Just follow these simple and straightforward tips:
- Before launching paid adverts, make sure you’ve set up tags for Analytics & other platforms correctly. Without tracking, you won’t be able to tell whether your clicks are worth something or not. I recommend using Google Tag Manager. With the help of this tool, you’ll be able to install any tracking code without breaking the source code of your website.
- Link your Adwords account with Analytics. You may wonder why you need Analytics if you can set up conversions in the Adwords interface. Data is my answer. You won’t be able to tell why there are no conversions in Adwords (if there are none) without such data as Bounce Rate or Pages per Session from Analytics. Moreover, it will gain you insights about your audience, like their countries, age, gender, devices, etc.
- Create remarketing audiences either in Adwords (Bing, Facebook,…) or Analytics. I prefer the last one. It’s more precise and allows to import created audiences in Adwords. Why should you bother with this? Well, after you try Adwords for some time, you might wanna try remarketing as well. But when you decide, you will have already created audiences that are ready to target.
- Choose keyword match type very carefully (especially if it is broad or broad match modifier you thinking of) & think of negative keywords that are irrelevant for your business. It might save you a few hundred dollars, if not thousands.
- Create as many ad extensions as are relevant for you. The more extensions you have, the more visible and complete will be your ad.
There are other advertising platforms that might be useful for you: Bing Ads, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. There’s no common opinion which one you should use. It’s hard to tell which one will be more profitable and cost-effective for you. This choice is yours to make and depends on your business. But here are trusted resources to make that choice easier:
Checklist of all the things you’ll need to do marketing-wise in a new business
We’ve covered quite a few topics today. In future, I’ll be digging into them separately to help anyone in need with more specific questions.
This post’s goal was to provide a business owner with a list of the most important things they’ll need to do in terms of marketing to stay sane and get results.
Here’s a short recap:
- Competitor research
- Design for your website and promo materials
- Set up Google Analytics and Search Console
- Keyword research
- Keyword-based copywriting for static pages
- On-page optimization
- Blog launch
- Blog post writing
- Link building activities
- Influencer research
- Social media launch
- Social media activities
- Influencer marketing
- Blog content generation
- Tracking rankings
- Email marketing
- Quora and Reddit engagement
- Ad campaigns
- Keep it going and gradually remove the activities that don’t work for you, do more of those that do work and try out new things when you have a chance.
Minimalistic list of tools you’ll need to do all of the above:
- Hunter IO/FindThat.email
- BuzzSumo (optional)
- BuzzStream (optional)
- Google Analytics
- Search Console
- Google Tag Manager
- HootSuite(or alternative)
- Intercom/Helpcrunch (or alternative)
I don’t think I’m in a position to teach anyone marketing. I’m very much still learning myself. But I did see one too many businesses who suffer from not understanding what they need to do in terms of marketing and where to begin.
So I decided to do what I can to help them.
Even though kickstarting marketing for your business is hard, many people have already done it and achieved great results. You just need to learn and adjust fast, test new things and try to keep your cool.
As is, I feel like this post would have helped many of the business owners I’ve encountered in the past. But I’ll be updating it as new things come to mind. Let me know if you think there are any crucial elements I’ve missed and if we agree, I’ll be sure to add them 🙂