If you’re a small- to medium-sized business and know that you need to do a better job of marketing yourself online or want to audit your current efforts, this is the perfect time of year to do it. Here are 10 online marketing New Year’s resolutions to get you started.

1. Pay attention to online reviews.

Word of mouth is a powerful and influential marketing vehicle. People trust recommendations. The same is true for online reviews, so much in fact that 85% of consumers say they read online reviews and 79% say they trust them as much as getting a personal recommendation from a friend or family member, according to a study by BrightLocal.

Not only do reviews evoke feelings of quality, trust, and dependability, but they carry more weight in the land of search these days — search engines love them. Consistent online reviews can be a powerful marketing tool for any business if managed appropriately.

2. Set up Google Analytics on your website.

Google Analytics is one of the biggest single sources of useful data a business owner can have. It tells you about your traffic, your site’s users, their behaviors, demographics and overall use of your website. It can provide detailed insight into what organic search phrases are sending traffic to your site. Analytics helps validate theories and highlight areas of your site that are pushing people away. The best part of it, it’s FREE. Google Analytics can be used not only to measure your online marketing, but it can help determine if your offline marketing is creating any lifts for your site as well.

3. Build out your Google My Business page.

It’s surprising how many business owners fail to verify and build out their Google My Business page. If you haven’t heard by now, Google rules the world (well, almost), but they definitely have the upper hand when it comes to search and search engine results pages (SERPs). Having a complete Google Business page with photos, up-to-date hours of operation, logos, staff bios, and active reviews will help ensure that users searching for your business or category of business will be able to easily find you.

4. Stop being socially awkward.

There is nothing worse than landing on a social profile that is out of date or hasn’t been updated since 2013. We are all guilty of having several social media profiles, with some barely used. The average Internet user has up to five profiles online.

The same goes for a business that has multiple profiles but barely any activity on them. What’s worse is a business posting just to post or posting items that have no value or relationship to its audience.  Building a social media presence takes a lot of time and patience you need to be constantly present, post frequently, and make big efforts to reach out and engage with other users to build your social network. It’s no different from putting in the time to personally network in the community. Focus on the platform(s) where your audience is and go after that audience well. Test tactics to see what works, but remember it’s better to do one or two well than to do four or five poorly.

5. Update your website frequently.

The only thing worse than an outdated social media page is a website that hasn’t been updated or changed in weeks or months. Your website is your front door. Also, if your site isn’t mobile responsive or mobile friendly, stop reading this and seek help immediately!

Frequent updates should be made to your to your site on a periodic basis including keywords, photos, an updated calendar of events, announcements, etc. The fact is, Google and all of the major search engines like to see frequently updated content. This can be as advanced as SEO tactics or as simple as posting a blog monthly. Blog posts are one of the biggest and most cost effective opportunities to drive new traffic and increase visibility. But before you start a blog just to start a blog, make sure you’re committed to updating it.

6. Budget for the results you want, not for what you expect.

There are as many ways to budget for your digital marketing efforts as there are flavors of Jelly Bellys; what’s more important is whether you are budgeting enough for what you want to achieve. So you ran a Facebook ad, only spent $25 and got lots of clicks and engagement, but did that $25 really give you an ROI? Are you really targeting the right audience and is your CPC, CPM, or overall ROI in line with what you should expect?  

Many businesses think that online advertising is expensive or easy to do, but more than anything it can be wasteful. Find out where your biggest opportunities are and invest and test in those areas. Use Google Analytics to assess where your traffic is coming from, understand what the goal of your website is, and where the opportunity lies for your vertical, and go after it!

7. Create SMART goals for your site.

So now that you’ve settled on the objective of your site, decide if it’s realistic. The only thing worse than not having a goal for your website is having unrealistic goals for your site. Research by HubSpot shows that 72% of business websites receive a failing grade of 59/100 or lower on Website Grader. Much of that failure lies in the goals or lack of goals for the website.

Take everything into perspective. If your goal is to grow your audience by 1000%, what will that do for your business? If you goal is to be No. 1  in search results for certain keywords, how realistic is that? Have you done the proper vetting of research to understand if that’s even possible in your time frame and within your budget? Goals must be specific, measurable, realistic, and timely. They must make sense, and they should be based on and supported by data and opportunity.

8. If you email it, they will come.

Email is one of the most persuasive and effective marketing tactics of modern marketers, and any business that has a strong email database will tell you so. Those who have emails win every time.  Everything you do should link back to collecting emails. They are the modern day mailing address — your modern conduit to your best customers. Build your email list, and the customers will come! There is nothing more valuable than having a strong email list of past, current, and prospective customers. Grow your list, market to your list, review the list, segment the list, market to the list, repeat.

9. Claim your business information.

If you provide goods and services to your local community, then you are a local business. Most users visit a company’s site before deciding to make a trip. According to a Google study, 76% of local mobile searchers visit a store within a day of their search, and 28% of those visits result in a purchase. This makes the information that’s online about your business more important than ever for driving revenue and in-store traffic.

Every business should claim, correct, and verify all of the information about their business that exists, especially with the top site publishers such as Yelp, Google, Bing, and Facebook.  Also, pay special attention to various local directory sites such as your local chamber site and the many Internet Yellow page sites that exist.  Incorrect, duplicate, or inaccurate data about a business can hurt its overall visibility when it comes to local search. Don’t assume all of your business information is accurate, and make sure that you keep all the information updated and as accurate as possible.

10. Research your competition.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”  — Sun Tzu

If there is one disruption everyone can all agree on it’s that the internet has upped the ante on the competitive landscape. To beat the competition you must know the competition better than you know yourself. You must also know what your biggest opportunity is as compared to your closest competitor’s.

Competition online is fierce and involves a greater understanding of your competitors’ online strengths and weaknesses. There are plenty of tools out there to monitor your competition online.  Be sure that you are taking time to review your competitors’ websites, social media accounts, search rankings, and their overall digital presence. A combination of the right tools and extensive research will uncover new ideas and unique opportunities for your business.

These resolutions just scratch the surface of what it takes for a business to compete online and drive traffic, revenue, and profit. At a basic level, if your business or marketing team hasn’t mastered them, it’s time to take a step back and reconsider how to get there.

Contact Stefan Babich at stefan.babich@soapboxteam.com.