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FAQ: A beginner’s guide to online marketing

For many small businesses, digital engagement can mean the difference between success and failure. So what do you need to know to get started in online marketing?

In Australia alone, more than 60 per cent of small businesses cease operating within the first three years of setting up. Many experts put this – at least in part – down to a lack of digital engagement. This view is supported by Deloitte’s Connected Small Businesses 2013 report, which found that Australian businesses with high levels of digital engagement earn twice as much revenue per employee as those with low engagement.

Here's a rundown of what you need to know to improve your digital engagement.


What is online marketing?


Online marketing, also known as digital marketing, is the use of any internet-connected technology – such as search engines, social media and mobile devices – to market your products and services. While it's often hyped as a way to make money without leaving the house, the ABS estimates that around two-thirds of Australian internet users use it to buy goods and services, making it an effective marketing channel for almost any small business.


How about search engine optimisation (SEO)?


You've built a great website. That means customers will flock to it, right? It usually depends on how easily it can be found using search engines. SEO refers to the techniques that can improve the ranking of sites and webpages on search engine result pages (SERPs). While there are shady workarounds, avoid the shortcuts and instead use organic methods that focus on making your website as useful and relevant to visitors as possible.


How does paid digital advertising work?


If you're serious about raking in new customers, you should consider putting a slice of your marketing budget into online ads. You'll see them while browsing search engines, social networks and other popular websites. Just as it costs more to post a full-page colour ad in a magazine than a small ad in the classifieds, the cost of digital advertising is linked to the number of potential buyers who see it. However, there are many tools that allow you to target your ads at specific users based on their search habits, demographics, buying preferences and geographic location.


Why is social media engagement important?


In 2016 there are a staggering 15 million people using Facebook. According to the ABS figures, more than 70 per cent of digitally connected Australians are active social media users. While social media is a great way to increase your online visibility, it's important that you use it in the right way: as a tool for conversing with your customers, rather than as a direct advertising channel. In addition, many businesses are shifting their customer support to social media to answer customer enquiries.


Does content make a difference?


The value of good digital content cannot be overstated. Whether it's your website's welcome page, blog, e-newsletters, infographics, white papers, videos or social posts, content is the best way to communicate the value of your business. Keep in mind that you only have a few seconds to impress a visitor, so your content needs to grab them right away and not let go.

As computers give way to a flood of connected mobile devices, online marketing is set to become the rule rather than the exception. There has never been a better time to stake out a digital presence for your business.