Starting anything is a time of excitement and nervousness, sometimes raw energy and positive thoughts, and even just craziness. In business, this excitement can have some serious issues that need addressed.
Let’s face it, when it comes to digital marketing and building the digital part of your brand, things can be overwhelming. That feeling of things being everywhere and too many of them can come on fast.
A business in New Castle, or Butler, or Hermitage might feel small compared to larger brands from Pittsburgh, Youngstown and Cleveland.
Why should you feel that way?
Here’s the punchline – they are only in a bigger market. Those businesses still have the same worrying questions that you do about beginning digital brand building.
Where do I start?
What is the right choice for this marketing service or this other one?
What should I do?
Look, these questions are natural. If you’ve asked yourself something similar, you aren’t alone.
In this article, we are going to look at how a small-town business or large market organization can create and grow a digital footprint this year.
Are you a New Castle roofer looking for a few more clients each month? Are you a sole-proprietorship in Neshannock looking for a few clients each month to do bathroom renewals and renos? Are you an insurance agent in Cranberry looking for clients outside of those overused lead lists that your parent company keeps giving you?
Then this article is DEFINITELY for you!
Now, a little heads up – this is a longer article. I wanted to give you almost everything that you would need to know about a digital brand and building your business’s digital side. I haven’t included every little bit and piece though. Otherwise, this would be called ‘a book’ not just ‘an article’ if you know what I mean.
I can say confidently that you will leave this article having a clearer direction and better answers than you did before. Your business will be a little more ahead of where it was, and as an owner, you will definitely be further along in your knowledge.
Ready to get started?
Start with a solid digital foundation
Everything starts with a solid foundation. Building the digital side of your New Castle business means the same thing as any major, global conglomerate – it is more of a necessity as time goes on.
Small-town digital marketing might feel overwhelming. You are technically in the same customer pool as the biggest band in the country and the area. However, if you get these first two things right, you’ll be leaps and bounds beyond the biggest brands you might feel are competition.
You’ll understand the truthfulness in this statement in a few minutes!
The two foundational pieces are your website and your Google Business Profile (or Google My Business listing). With these two sources, you can grow a brand, increase leads and gain more revenue.
In fact, with only these two things, you may not even want or need anything more. These two items are that incredible fundamental to your digital brand.
So, let’s get into it with a discussion about your website. We will look at how to get things structured correctly from the get-go, as well as structural elements, requirements and more.
What do you need for a proper business website and web hosting?
So here’s my big red flag of a request: Please do not go with a cheap website service.
Being a small-town business owner means making affordable decisions, not cheap ones.
Don’t pay a monthly fee for a marketing service because it’s cheap. Don’t choose a service that owns your website, the content you make and your domain name.
If you don’t think that is you, look at your website for a moment.
Did the marketing service pay for the domain for you? Do you have the ability to go in and alter where it points (new web hosting server)? Is the domain name registered to you, or the marketing service?
Now, look at your marketing offer.
Does it state that you are licensing the website from them? Is there a paragraph about content on your website (wording like ‘while you control it, it is owned by our servers’)?
If any of the above is you, likely, you are in trouble. Technically, and legally, you don’t own your website and domain.
Instead, you need to ‘own what you own’. Your brand should be owned by you from the ground up. Your website, your domain name, your content, your branding… everything.
One easy way to start doing this is to go to NameCheap. They offer affordable domain name registration and very affordable web hosting. For less than $50 for the first year, you can own your domain name plus a year of web hosting – putting you in FULL CONTROL.
For the actual design, I use a combination of WordPress (free) and a WordPress template that has been customized. This will give a truly affordable solution for your New Castle business, while giving you something more customized than a ‘just use it’ template. You don’t need to know design, you just have to add the pages you want to add.
Speaking of adding pages, we should talk a little about the default, standard and recommended page structure for your website.
This one is easy.
You must have the following pages:
- Home page
- Services page
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Terms of Services
That is it!
Warning: Some brands take these specific pages and turn the whole website into a single page design. While I can say that this method of website design can work, it is not recommended for a local business website. Avoid this if this is the first attempt at building your brand digitally.
Beyond the above list of standard pages, I recommend going a bit further.
Under SERVICES, you should have all of your services with individual pages for each of those services. Not only will this give the visitor a deeper ability to discover more of what your brand does, but it also gives strength in your Local SEO efforts (we’ll look at this later).
As well, you really need to utilize your blog. Now, a blog in the earliest days of the internet, was a simple textual update that a business or a person would create. Today, blogs are really used for one thing – content marketing. These articles are not called blogs anymore, but posts or articles.
In the future, your blog will be part of a larger content marketing strategy, SEO strategy and more.
Now let’s talk about Google Business Profiles
There really is no better tool for you to use to build your New Castle business than Google Business Profiles (previously Google My Business). Your GBP allows you to have this customized card and map designation in Google itself. In many ways, your GBP is an advertisement for your company that, when done correctly, outshines your competition.
1 – claiming your GBP
To start, you can visit the Google Business page.
As well, you can go to Google Maps (https://google.com/maps). Look for the location of your business, left click on the location, then right click and select “Add Your Business”.
Next you’ll select your verification process. Depending on the type of business and the industry, your verification process will vary.
As well, Google will ask for some additional information concerning you and your business.
2 – setting up & optimizing your profile
When you first log back into your GBP account, you will notice some information has already been set up.
Now, here is where some people make a major mistake.
The mistake? They don’t fill out everything. They don’t add enough information and data.
So, make sure to fill out everything in your GBP. Fill out your most basic information, but take time to fill out your profile completely. This includes images, descriptions, hours of operation and more.
3 – using your GBP for updates and offers
Beyond optimizing your GBP profile, the next big concern is in adding the correct style of updates and offers for your brand.
Remember, Google is the owner of this profile along with your business. It uses your content to provide information to people running searches to find businesses like yours. So, build your content in a way mentioning the areas and regions that you serve.
Offers work in a very similar way. Build your content mentioning the regions and areas you serve. This increases your regional signals, and your search results strength.
4 – anything else you should know?
Now we should talk about a few things you really need to know about Google Business Profiles and the content you add to them.
First, and foremost, remember to fully fill out your profile. I can’t stress this tip enough. This mistake alone could drop you down in search rankings compared to your competition.
Next, know that not all content you produce for your updates is the same. Use regional signals like the names of cities and locations in the area. As well, use the correlation between regional signals and your services to fully boost your search engine strength.
This means if you are offering, we’ll say ‘digital marketing in New Castle’, talk about New Castle, Lawrence County, Neshannock, Ellwood City and Bessemer. Talk about digital marketing, website design, SEO, Local SEO, social media marketing and email marketing. While giving information about these subjects and these areas, drop in your offer.
Next, remember that there are rules for your posts and images you add to your updates and offers. You cannot put contact information directly into your updates and have them accepted. You can, however, have your business contact phone number as your primary CTA for your update or offer.
Finally, use a strategy for your updates and offers. The most basic strategy is to target a specific city with a specific service. Talk about these, how they’ve helped people in that area, how you do it in that area and similar pieces. During this, add in your offer for that particular service and speak to those particular people in that city or region.
Like I said, this is the most basic strategy. However, you can incorporate this into your larger strategy for your website content, social media and paid advertising campaigns.
Optimization (the really fantastically hard work)
So, your foundation is in place for the digital side of your brand. When it comes to New Castle marketing, this is usually enough to begin to see results.
However, to really get the benefits of long-term digital marketing for your business, you need a bit more.
In this step, we move onto some of the more difficult work. Specifically, we will focus on SEO (search engine optimization), social media content and management, as well as content creation for all of your channels.
Just a note of caution here…
For many business owners, this is also the time that you start actively looking for digital marketing pros, whether that means a digital marketing consultant, a freelancer or a digital marketing agency. The reason why is specifically because this step takes a great deal of time, energy and skill. You can seriously screw up your brand’s digital identity and reputation without handling things correctly.
If you need some help making that decision on what kind of digital marketing professional that you business needs, download our free guide: How to choose the best digital marketing professional for your brand.
Ready to get into things?
SEO, content and writing
SEO (search engine optimization) is a tactic of digital marketing that uses search engines like Google and Bing. You basically structure and optimize your website under that search engine’s rules and guidance to gain the most traction from them in their search results.
Previously, SEO meant keywords, keywords, keywords. Today, keywords are still relevant. However, now, we look at topical relevance for SEO content, link building velocity and regional signals and strengths for ranking.
SEO has also offered us not just textual ranking, but image ranking as well. Even with YouTube, we can make use of video strengths for ranking.
But it all still does start with writing. SEO copywriting is a strong skill to have and grow.
One of the most asked questions I get is “can I just use AI and ChatGPT for SEO?”.
Well, yes, but not in the way you are thinking necessarily. With AI (OpenAI, ChatGPT, Bard, etc), you can receive keyword and topical research, ideas for articles, article outlines and more. I wouldn’t let AI write everything – you will eventually get penalized for this as AI-finding software grows.
However, for getting the barebones done, marketers around the world are using AI more and more each day. Business owners, likewise, will eventually follow suit.
Social media platforms
Social media marketing is a tactic of digital marketing that really lends itself to business owners getting ‘hands in dirt’. And by that, I mean you can get elbow deep in making your own posts and content without too many repercussions.
What is the “best” social media platform for a New Castle business? Where should you begin making content and growing a following locally?
The answers are ‘wherever you start’ and ‘wherever you’ll keep going’. Seriously, many business owners will make a few posts on social media platforms and not see results and then ditch them all. You have to start, and then continue, and then go even further.
Depending on your industry, region and product or service, a digital marketing pro can make a rather educated guess as to where to start. After weeks and months of data being gained, refinements can be made, pivots can be taken and finally, growth will be seen.
For many New Castle digital marketing, starting with Facebook Business is a common choice. From there, moving onto YouTube and Instagram makes sense. Then, onto TikTok, Twitter and other social media is ideal. It is hard to stick with something when it doesn’t feel like it’s working.
By putting in those hours, days and weeks, whether you have increased revenue from the beginning or not, it all yields data in the end. And that can drive better and more detailed decision making in the future.
Once again, this is a great reason for working with a professional. Those decisions can be made fast with experience behind them. As well, testing, the process of content creation and more will be out of your hands. Meaning you get to focus on your business and the new leads that your digital marketing professional is bringing in.
Video, images and content
Content creation is the ONLY way you will gain more and more results from your digital brand. We could talk about networking and referrals all day, but our primary goal is on building your digital brand in this article, right?
Let’s start this with a talk about video creation and video marketing. No, this won’t be a course on video production, business video editing and deployment. This will instead be a ‘right this second’ talk with some examples.
First, take out your cell phone.
Now go to your camera. Find a brightly lit (natural light if possible) space.
Hit record and start talking about one of these things. Then, move onto another subject, and another.
- Your business history
- Why do you do what you do
- Your personal history getting to this point with the brand (knowledge, experience, schooling, etc)
- Daily actions and business being done
- How we (your business) want to affect the region we serve
You now have videos for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok and more.
Images work the same way. Seriously, images and videos are so related that they have the same last name in many states (kissing cousins?).
Take out your phone and start taking pictures of the work you do, the employees that you work with, happy customers you have, the business as a whole, everything.
Once again, you now have content for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more.
That’s it for video and images.
Just keep at it.
Keep making more and more content about ‘YOU’. People want to see information about your business. They want to peek behind the curtain and see everything. They want to see how you do what you do. More importantly, they want to see you.
Validation, in terms of this article, means using public marketing channels to say ‘this company is a great one!’.
Namely, we are going to talk about using local SEO as a tactic AND a strategy.
Local SEO uses traditional SEO tactics and methods. But it adds regional signals to further your results. So, whenever we talk about or you hear “Local SEO”, what you are hearing is actually regional strength with search engines.
Local SEO tactics are meant to validate your business. You’re validating your business as real, it is a business in this region, it is a business in this region in this industry, and so on.
Here’s how I do it…
Free links from local citations
Local citations are free links to your business on directory websites. Yelp, Yahoo! Local, Manta – these are only a few of the various local citation websites.
In these local citations, you ‘claim’ your business listing. After you do, you optimize your listing. You will add your description, address, email, phone, links and images. You can also add in other information, links and media.
The biggest tip I can give concerning local citations is to write out all of your business information to keep it uniform and identical across all listings. Having one or two deviations from your standard information can be enough to hurt your rankings.
Focus your articles on your website to regional specificity
To spark regional signals in Google and Bing you only have to do one simple thing in your website articles – write about the regions you serve!
While it is simple, and it makes complete sense, many times this idea gets skipped.
When you produce pages and pieces, make sure you’re highlighting a particular service you offer, tout your brand being the solver of those issues and talk about those regions you serve. Mixing these, in a strategic way, can boost your results for those regions with those services.
For instance, let me walk you through an example of what I would use.
Let’s say that you were looking to raise the amount of work from Hermitage as a digital marketing agency. We’ll use a service like Local SEO.
What do we talk about?
Specifically, I will talk about “Local SEO in Hermitage”, “Hermitage SEO” and “search engine optimization in Sharon”.
Why is Sharon included? Because the two cities and areas are close enough to trigger for the other.
Other examples might be New Castle and Neshannock, Butler and Cranberry, or Beaver and Aliquippa. You can trigger better regional signals by adding similar and close regions within.
Using user reviews and feedback
User reviews and user feedback matter as ranking factors in Google and Bing.
Is it better to have quantity or quality in your user reviews?
The answer is YES!
In all seriousness, both quantity AND quality are needed.
Another example incoming…
If I can have 50 user reviews that are all average 4.5+ or 250 reviews that are averaging 3.0 or 2 reviews that are both 5.0, which is ‘best’?
For me, I would take 50 reviews at 4.5+.
Because there is a good quantity, and a really good quality.
To get quality user reviews is also fairly easy. You could ask all of your customers for reviews. Likely, early on, you might want to do this to build the amount of reviews. Fine. Good.
But later on, this will not work. Over time, you will receive 1 or 2 star reviews. Having this number building up will lower your rating average a ton.
However, there is a way to do this more effectively.
Pro Tip: Only ask, in fact really ask, your best customers for a review. Likely they will always be a 5 star review. All you gotta do is ask!
Start using your GBP listing like it’s an advertising tool, without the cost
Google Business Profiles are a direct way to deploy content into Google’s search engine results. In fact, Google’s new AI has been serving Google Business Profiles directly into output during conversations.
With that said, how should you be using GBP to really drive traffic and sales?
The first thing to do is to change your mindset of what Google Business Profiles are. Namely, this isn’t a social media platform nor a blog. Technically, you should be treating your updates and offers as ads, with extended copy and a clear CTA. This means focusing on keywords that people are looking for, the region you are targeting and then your offer (where you are directing people).
The typical CTAs for GBP are calls and website links (landing pages). But there are others you can use to experiment with.
The last piece of this is the attraction piece. For many of these posts, you will be using images. Make sure the images are clear, contrasting and eye-catching. You should also add in some text to the image – include your branding, or logo, a phone number and a 3 or 4 word CTA.
If you don’t have image editing software, you can use something for free if you are doing this yourself at Canva.
Also, one other closing tip – these posts on your GBP eventually go away. In the experiments I’ve run, typically after 60 days these posts disappear from the public view. What does this mean? Usually it means that the highest performing content pieces need republished. This will also give another opportunity to experiment with copywriting changes, image changes and more.
Still with me?
Thus far, we have a great foundation, solid walls and a rather nice building of a digital brand going. You have the foundation, you’re gaining traction using main channels of traffic and you’ve now really solidified your authority locally.
Now is the time for advanced strategies and tactics.
So, strap on your gear, lace up your boots and let’s go to war!
Email marketing in conjunction with lead magnets
So, I’m assuming you’ve heard of email marketing. I mean, if you have email, likely, it’s filled with various offers, business marketing and contacts of various types, right?
Email marketing primarily uses email to retarget to people who are existing customers. You can send them updates, offers and other information. In the end, email marketing is a long-term tactic for a long-term strategy that leads to more sales.
But what if you could collect emails from people wanting more information about your brand? In fact, what if you could have a mechanism that allows you to trade an email and contact info from a future customer for a freebie? After all, not everyone is the same “I’m ready to buy now!” stage of the buying cycle.
Depending on your LTV numbers, trading a freebie for an interested person’s contact information is worth it, right?
That is what a lead magnet does.
In its simplest form, a lead magnet is a digital product (usually a PDF file) that you give to someone in exchange for their email or other contact details.
Remember, lead magnet = something that attracts new leads, got it?
So, what lead magnets work the best?
For me, the best results I’ve received are short guides, checklists, lists of resources/links and white papers. What works for you will depend on your industry and your audience.
Pro tip: your lead magnets are not just limited to downloadable PDFs. You can offer a link to an unlisted video, an infographic or even a coupon for a purchase.
One other note I should mention, lead magnets paired with email marketing allow you to target specific groups and really segment your leads. You can understand which leads need a particular service, which leads are in a particular region or city and which have a certain income or amount to spend.
Get your lead magnet offer correct to match a service you are selling to a particular group and you will get a lot of quality leads, rather than just a high quantity.
Basic advertising funnels and campaign setup
If you’ve spent any time online, you’ve run into digital paid advertising. Google AdWords, Facebook Ads and other ad platforms are all over the internet.
But, there is more to advertising than simply putting up an offer and an ad.
To get the maximum effect from every advertising dollar you spend, you need a campaign planned with a strategy that matches your offline business goals, along with a proper advertising funnel planned and deployed.
What makes an advertising campaign a correct advertising campaign? What does a proper advertising funnel look like?
We will discuss the basics of each of these. In the next section of this article, we’ll look at lead generation (which is what we are slowly moving into).
An advertising campaign is a focused plan of action for a business’s advertising of a particular offer. This campaign has a goal, designated channel, budget and other specifics. An advertising campaign has a strategy to it, as well as multiple tactics used to meet the goals of the campaign.
The bottom line here is to remember that a campaign seems more complex (and it is), but it will have a greater impact on your revenue when it starts to work.
An advertising funnel is a clear map of how the advertising is being served to your targets, and what is being served. Along your customers’ path down the funnel, different ad copy, different offers and different language will be used to move them further along.
A funnel has three parts.
In the first part, top of the funnel, you are trying to generate knowledge and visibility of the brand and offer. This step is about sight and being seen. If a sale happens then GREAT! But that isn’t necessarily the goal at this stage – we need their eyes and awareness first.
In the second part, middle of the funnel, you are speaking to the ‘aware’ public. Meaning, these are targets who know of your brand, and possibly your offer, but you are still walking them along. They have expressed some interest by downloading a lead magnet or taking part in a free offer, but haven’t really purchased anything of substance as of yet.
In the final part, bottom of the funnel, we are speaking to people ready to buy. These are targets who know about your brand, like the offer and are about to purchase. This advertising specifically deals with concentrated content and copywriting for your offers, and leading those targets into becoming customers or repeat customers.
How do you set up a full advertising campaign?
That answer might be a little bigger than his post. However, I can say that most campaigns boil down to the following…
- Goals outlined
- Targets defined
- Offer creation (and refinement)
- Technical ad channel setup
- Campaign administration
- Testing (A/B, etc)
- Review and pivot, as needed
Introduction to lead generation and customer acquisition
Lead generation is slowly the topic that we are moving towards.
Lead generation is a both online and offline marketing discipline. Digitally, we use paid advertising, landing pages, lead magnets, copywriting and funnels to move unaware people into happy and repeat customers over time.
Customer acquisition is the result of a quality lead generation campaign.
And if you are wondering, advertising campaigns and lead magnets are part of lead generation campaigns. But lead generation campaigns are not part of advertising campaigns. I can have multiple advertising campaigns in a lead generation campaign. Sometimes, there may not be even one advertising campaign.
The above really depends on what your lead generation campaign goals are.
Are you looking to add X amount of non-paying leads into a funnel each month?
Are you looking to create new leads that are immediate buyers at an amount of X per month over the next X months?
Goals will define the plan. The plan will work with the strategy. And the offers will all be housed under this umbrella.
Here’s a question I usually get asked after I start talking about lead generation campaigns…
How long does it take for a lead generation campaign, specifically one that ends in increased revenue, to truly work? Meaning, how long until the campaign is cash-positive? How long can they work before they reach bad results?
It depends. For the most part, a smaller organization can see results fast with paid advertising. But with so many changes to platforms and buying habits, and with my own experience added into this answer, you can expect simple campaigns to be cash-positive in 3 to 6 months. Complex campaigns might take 6 months to 12 months to even years to be working at their most optimized levels.
Here’s the good news…
Once you have a working lead generation funnel and campaign running, it can stay this way forever. You can branch it off and alter it for other offers, test for better optimization or turn it on/off as needed.
With everything we’ve discussed in this article, lead generation is the crown that you wear when your digital brand is fully constructed and humming. You will have elements of lead generation that you will use along the way, but complete campaigns and well-built lead generation funnels will only happen after the other pieces of your digital brand are in place, live and working.
Lead generation allows you to have an automated method of finding new leads. You can then bring them into other funnels of your sales process.
Lead generation is the goal, because it helps to really facilitate the growth of the brand over time. It works with everything in your business.
What have we learned?
Today, we looked at a lot of information. We looked at how a brand can go from zero digital footprint to a fully aware, recognized and profitable digital brand.
We talked about the fundamental digital marketing tactics and disciplines like SEO, social media, email marketing and copywriting. We looked at building the right website that you actually own.
As well, we looked at advanced topics like digital paid advertising campaigns, local seo strategies and lead generation funnels.
And, I know, I know… this is a bit overwhelming.
We’ve talked about a lot of things that are complex, a lot of work and takes a lot of skill.
If you’ve read this and feel like you have more questions than answers, you can always claim a free initial consultation for your brand with Blews Media LLC. Visit this link to schedule a free consultation when you’re ready or give me a call at (724)510-7201 today.