Digital marketing has always played an important role in the success of a business, but never more so than during the last 12 months. As a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, obligatory lockdowns have been imposed sporadically throughout the past year and forced many brick and mortar businesses to close, leaving them with the internet as their only viable option to continue trading.
Whilst some businesses have thrived in the pandemic, the majority of sectors have been hit hard - especially small businesses who have seen their finances stretched far beyond their means. Cuts have had to be made and spending has been halted for most businesses, and whilst this has saved many from going under, there is one thing that’s always been worth spending money on and that should remain a top priority: hiring a marketing agency.
Pre-pandemic, approximately 41% of small and local businesses said they depended on social media to boost their revenue, and 92% of business owners recognised a website as the most effective form of digital marketing [Fundera]. Despite these overwhelming statistics, one in 10 small businesses don’t invest in any form of marketing at all, and many of those who did have since terminated their contracts amidst the financial insecurity the pandemic has brought.
In this article we’re going to look at why marketing agencies are essential for your business, especially during a lockdown.
A Shift in Shopping Habits
For the last few years, consumers have been turning more and more to the internet to scout out local businesses and to buy things. Reviews are becoming increasingly important when it comes to buying decisions, and for many, supporting small businesses means more to them than the convenience of shopping at larger chain stores which, in turn, pushes them to search the internet for independent shops.
Pair this with the fact the High Street has long been in decline and with the COVID-19 crisis doing nothing but amplifying those pressures, it was inevitable that the online sales sector was going to see exponential growth, and it did. In fact, it is thought British consumers spent just shy of £100 billion online in 2020 [Statista]. If your retail business has been struggling and you’ve been wondering if there’s a market for your company anymore, there likely is, it’s just that rather than coming to your premises (which is banned through lockdown anyway), your customers can instead be found online. This shift means if you want to maximise your business growth, you need to keep up to date with your customer’s shopping habits, and a good digital marketing strategy will help you do just that.
Competition for customers on the High Street is hard, but competition online is harder. It is thought that there are over 24 million e-commerce websites worldwide, with more being added every day. If you’re going to take advantage of the increasing influx of online shoppers, your site needs to rank highly– preferably on the first page of Google. To do this requires search engine optimisation, otherwise known as SEO. It’s a relatively technical role which involves things like:
- Link building (bolsters your website’s credibility)
- Content writing (increases the trust score of your website)
- Keyword targeting (increases the relevancy of your website on Google)
You might be wondering what this has to do with online shopping habits, but it’s essential because online shopping habits dictate that as little as 6% of all website clicks come from the second page of Google [Moz]. This means you need to be on the first page and therefore you need a rigid SEO strategy; especially if your main business income now relies on the internet as a result of repeated lockdowns.
Making the Most of SEO
Regardless of your business sector and the type of customers you had, there are a number of broad factors that influence general SEO, such as:
- Google core updates
- Plagiarism on your website
- User experience
- Website performance
Understanding the technical jargon of Google core updates can be tricky, but a general rule of thumb is that they favour those who keep on top of their websites. Here at i3MEDIA we routinely:
- Check for plagiarised content and amend as necessary
- Update new content to keep the website relevant
- Study keywords and track changes in position
- Monitor the trust flow
- Update the technical performance of our client’s websites
In doing so, we are able to ensure all of clients rank on Google and get rewarded during each core update. This means the vast majority of our clients appear on page one of Google which, in turn, increases the likelihood of online shoppers clicking on their websites and generating sales.
SEO is a full time job which is why it’s best to employ a digital marketing agency. Not only do agencies have specialists who focus solely on different areas of SEO in order to maximise results, but they are also able to react faster if something goes wrong (rankings go down, adverts get pulled or algorithm updates negatively impact the website).
When the first lockdown was announced, our clients were in a strong position because they were already ranking highly on search engines and generating a healthy amount of traffic to their websites. This meant they didn’t have to worry about the online side of things and were able to keep a healthy income from e-commerce sales to tide them over whilst they sorted other lockdown issues such as furlough.
Since then, Google has released its December 2020 core update which affected rankings across the board, but our team knew this was due to happen and were able to react quickly to ensure potential revenue and visibility losses for our clients were minimised.
Social Media Influence
Digital marketing is about more than building a website and having it rank. The power of social media and its effect on buying habits is growing rapidly, and that means even if you’re not big into social, it’s a potential goldmine when it comes to adverts. This has never been truer than during a lockdown when people are spending a lot more time on social media platforms.
In the same way getting a website to rank is important, having a solid social media presence is also a full time job. Creating a steady schedule, setting realistic budgets and posting adverts that are targeted and lead-converting is essential. In addition, consolidating website content by sharing it on your social media platforms will benefit your website and help it to rank better, making it all the more important to have fresh, new content linked to a social media account.
In order to link a social media shop to a website you need to install a Pixel on your website. For your adverts to work, you need to conduct in-depth market research, continuously come up with new and engaging content and track their progress. As a small business owner with plenty to think about during lockdown, making the most of social media is another task in a long line of things that you could do without the stress of.
Our social team are on hand to take care of all the aspects of social media, including setting up profiles, linking websites, creating content, publishing adverts and tracking progress. They work closely with our SEO team to ensure social media platforms reflect the website, and like our SEO team, they’re available to you whenever you need them.
Building a Website
In the same way you invest a lot of time and money into making your brick and mortar business premises look good and work well for your clientele, your website should be the same. When it comes to building a physical shop or office, you’d hire professionals, and making a website is no different.
In order for your website to rank, it needs to be rendered for both mobile and desktop use, be key word rich (but not stuffed), be responsive and look good. If you invest heavily in SEO and social media campaigns but your actual website doesn’t look good or function well, customers may be turned off and you will be penalised by search engines.
Our web team are specialists in building websites that reflect your brand’s identity whilst ticking all the boxes for user experience, clever design and technical substance, and they will work with other departments to bolster your digital marketing campaign.
Approximately 48% of consumers say they’re looking to increase the amount they shop online – even after the pandemic has concluded [Interparcel]. This means getting the look and functionality of your biggest asset – your website – right is vital, and hiring professionals is the best way to ensure you can make the most of changing shopping habits, social media campaigns and guaranteeing that you don’t get penalised by changing search engine algorithms.
If nothing else, hiring a digital marketing agency will help alleviate some of the pressures associated with repeated lockdowns.
If you need a complete digital marketing package, or help with SEO, social media or web design as separate services, get in touch with us. Our digital marketing strategy recently helped us generate £40,000 of sales from a £3,700 investment from one of our small business clients, and we can do the same for you.