3 Small Business Marketing Strategies to Gain Visibility Online

Written by: Chenell Basilio

Digital marketing is a real challenge for many local businesses. There are many moving pieces, both online and offline, and digital marketing seems to change weekly, if not daily. You can quickly become overwhelmed as a small business owner trying to do this yourself.

Why not implement just a few of them at first, and go from there? You can spend hours, days, months on every tactic you hear about, trying to learn about them, implement them properly and hope they work. And while this list below is not touted as the only marketing tactics you’ll ever need to do online, they can help get you off to a great start.

#1: Building Your Local Business Citations

Claiming your local listings is one of the most important, yet often overlooked ways to getting your company ranking in Google for your industry-related keywords. It is a very tedious process, but one that is extremely valuable to the online visibility of your company – especially if you’re doing business with your local community.

Citations are a listing of your business name, address, and phone number (also called your “NAP”) online. This could be anywhere from a yellow pages listing, to a FourSquare location, to a mention on your local Chamber of Commerce website.

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Building your local business citations is also the first recommendation I have for local businesses trying to do their own SEO (search engine optimization).

While it would be great to have a place to send your potential customers to learn more about you, a website is not required. You won’t show up in the main text results, but without a website you can absolutely still show up in the “Local Pack.” The Local Pack is essentially the top businesses in the area of the person searching who relate to whatever the person searched.

For example, if someone searches for “philly real estate agent” the first few results in Google are what is called the “Local Pack.” Pictured below:

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Citations also allow you to show up on various map applications and mapping websites, such as Google Maps, Waze, etc.

Getting Started with Local Citations

To get started building citations, visit moz.com/local/search to see how you rank so far. This tool helps you see if you’re listed on the top sites, if you have duplicate listings, and how many you are missing from. You can click on the icon of each one and add your business if you’re not listed.

small business marketing with local citations

Some of these websites require payment to be added, while some are free. You’ll need to decide if it’s worthwhile to pay to have your business included in each one.

Remember, if you have an inaccurate listing somewhere, adding your business again will only add to the confusion.

Some people think SEO Is fleeting, and unimportant because it’s always changing. While it is constantly being changed, building citations can have a more meaningful impact than just helping your rankings on Google.

These citations are parts of websites that have their own audiences and people searching them. They can be an extra referral for traffic to your website. So even if SEO disappeared tomorrow (which is very unlikely), you’ll be reaping the benefits of this process in other ways.

#2: Branded Google Ads Campaigns for Local Businesses

You’ve worked hard to get your organic listings in Google up to par – you’ve cleaned up your local citations, got some great backlinks from local organizations, and wrote some epic blog posts/articles to provide value to your potential customers. You’ve spent all that time getting to the first page in Google, and yet when people search directly for your business, this is what they see:

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Okay, so why is this happening?! It’s your brand, why are your competitors showing up where you should be? These my friend, are AdWords ads. Your competitors are paying for either your brand name or terms in your industry and this search happens to qualify as one they show up on.

What can you do about it? The best action you can take with something like this is to get in the game! Buy some ads in Google AdWords and make sure you’re showing up for your own brand name.

Why Spend Money On Ads When People Search for My Brand?

At this point in time, Google tries to limit the ads it shows when people search for specific brands, but it’s not perfect. Especially with local businesses who don’t have a big enough brand they may still end up showing ads.

Many business owners have two reasons they don’t bid on their own brand:

  1. They think people are looking for them specifically, so why not just let the organic listing take them where they need to go? Essentially, “why would I pay for someone who is coming to me anyway?”
  2. It costs money and doesn’t seem worth it.

I would really argue against both of these ways of thinking and bid on your brand name in Google. Why?

  1. If you don’t bid on your brand, someone else will – And with this search, they may not be directly bidding on your name, but using broad or phrase match, their ads still show up when someone searches for your company.Case in point right here. I searched for “roto rooter” and got two competitor ads showing up above the Roto Rooter website.
    competitors bidding on brand keywords 1This is the main reason to create branded AdWords campaigns and you can really stop here. But I’ll give you a few more:
  2. It adds a sense of authority. When someone sees you show up first in Google, even if it’s with an ad, you can build your brand authority. Your business is legitimate and you are serious about what you have to offer, enough to put money behind your message.Now, if you show up for both organic and paid (as I imagine you would for branded terms), that can cause a big increase in the number of clicks you receive on both results. Paid search ads can increase your clicks as much as 50%.
  3. You will have a higher click through rate (CTR) with these ads. If you’re going to buy non-branded ads for industry keywords in the future (“plumbing philadelphia”, or “real estate agent philadelphia”), this is especially important. Starting your ad account with good click thru rates will show Google you have something good to offer people, and future campaigns you run will generally perform better.
  4. These campaigns can be extremely cost-effective because you have that high click-thru rate, and Google recognizes you are the brand, which means you are “relevant” to the searcher. Relevancy and CTR go hand-in-hand when it comes to getting on Google’s good side. If your ads are relevant to the keywords being searched and you have a high click thru rate, your costs will go down.

Google also increased the number of ads at the top of the screen last year and now show 4 ads above the organic results, so it’s more important than ever to be bidding on your brand name. These 4 ads are even pushing the organic listings below the fold on some devices, especially for local. On mobile, users would have to scroll down three full screens to get to the organic listings that come up after the “Local Pack.”

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On a desktop device (I have a MacBook Pro), this is what comes up in Google Chrome:

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So not only are your competitors bidding on your brand name, but if you don’t buy ads, you’re not even showing up above the fold.

When you implement your branded AdWords campaigns, make sure you’re taking up more space in the search results by utilizing Sitelink Extensions. These are essentially links to other pages on your website that allow people to go deeper into your pages without clicking more times. Good uses of these would be pricing page, relevant product pages, about page, contact page, etc.

If you have the marketing budget, I would absolutely build out non-branded campaigns too because those people might not know you but they are searching for what you offer. Make sure you’re doing your research ahead of time and building out strong campaigns – it’s easy to waste money on AdWords if you don’t know what you’re doing.

#3: Using Facebook Ads to Get in Front of Your Ideal Customers

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Facebook Ads are the new Google AdWords of the early 2000s, when keywords were extremely cost-effective and most searchers weren’t used to seeing ads so the click thru rates were higher.

While Facebook ads have been around for a few years, they’re still not being utilized by many brands, meaning you are able to come in as the “little guy” and target your customers for a very reasonable cost.

With Facebook ads, you have an extreme amount of data to use, allowing you to get surgical with your targeting. Some of the most important and valuable ways you can target people on Facebook are:

  • Demographics – age, gender
  • Location – Radius around a zip code, specific cities, etc.
  • Interests – Allow you to target people who like the Phillies and are homeowners
  • Remarketing/Custom Audiences – people who visited your website, engaged with your Facebook page, are on your email list, or even watched some of your videos.

Using Facebook ads, you can target women ages 25-45, who live in the zip code 19107, like the Phillies, are married, own a home, and have visited your website in the last 30 days.


Yes, it can seem creepy, but it’s also extremely powerful for small business owners.

The “Newspaper” Advertising of 2017

In the past, you could buy a local newspaper ad, knowing that your target customer was possibly reading it, but you were also paying to be in front of all those other people who were never going to buy from you.

What if you only had to spend enough to show up in front of your target audience?

With Facebook ads, you can get so specific with your targeting that you’re ONLY showing ads to people who will buy from you.

How’s that for not wasting marketing dollars?

You can have an extremely successful campaign spending $5-$10 a day and be able to bring in leads and prospects. The beauty of Facebook ads is that you can take the same targeting and deploy it on Instagram and show ads there are well. So if you’re a restaurant, real estate agent, photographer, or business owner with a very visual message, you can put out extremely beautiful ads and still only show them to those people who are most likely to need your product or service.

Now, there are very different ways you’ll want to advertise to people on Facebook vs Instagram because they are there for different reasons, but the concept is the same.

Local vs National Marketing Challenges

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As a local business owner, you have very different challenges than a national business does. Not only do you have to worry about foot traffic to your store and getting people in the door, but if you don’t have a digital footprint, your sales will be impacted pretty dramatically.

Taking advantage of local and paid search by building your citations and using branded AdWords campaigns, will allow you to be seen when people are searching for your service. While using Facebook ads will make sure you are staying top of mind and in front of your ideal customers.

Using these 3 tactics, your business will be able to build a strong online presence and hopefully build new streams of incoming customers.

What order to implement these 3 strategies in depends heavily on your business, industry, and current customer base, if you have one.

Looking for help understanding what you should be focusing on first? I’m happy to jump on a free call with you to help you work through this.

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