As the pandemic drags on and pushes a huge amount of homebound eyeballs to digital platforms, operators are looking at the expansive and confusing topic of digital marketing with a fresh set of eyes.
It’s easy to get lost in the minutia of it all, the arcane topics of one-to-one marketing, business CRMs and what really matters for search engine optimization, but with some potential downtime but also fewer investment dollars for a lot of operators, a simple audit is a good starting point before getting too deep in the weeds.
NetBlaze founder and CEO Steve Clayton has a deep background in digital marketing at massive firms. He said in all his years pouring over keywords, conversions and clicks, he founded his latest company to help small businesses tackle the really impactful stuff—the proverbial 20 percent that makes 80 percent of the business impact. He said one key part of that is just taking a close look at what the digital footprint is and that’s a good place to start for operators trying to take advantage of this weird time to work on their business.
"I think there’s an increased interest in digital marketing and the thought that, ‘I need to nail my marketing because I have less capacity.’ And I think people have some down time. Of course, you have businesses that are really struggling to stay in business," said Clayton. "Overall, I think people are realizing that it will be more competitive and they have to squeeze any blood from the stone and really make people aware of their businesses."
Some of the lowest hanging fruit is just making sure the Google My Business page is accurate as that's more important than ever as consumers try to navigate in this COVID-19 era.
"The key for me is the Google My Business page. On there is a wealth of information and I’m amazed how few businesses pay attention to that," said Clayton. "For COVID, it’s really important that owners say, ‘I’m here, I’m open and here are the correct hours.’ Google has made some changes to allow for more flexibility during COVID to list dine-in hours, curbside, takeout hours. I would encourage owners to look at that and make sure it's accurate. You can also add your services, you can list dine-in, patio, curbside, but accuracy is key."
He said one thing consumers are really looking for is business basics like those hours and service channels, but also how the location is handling the pandemic.
"You can also treat your Google page as a blog, you can add a post to a page. I’d add a post regarding COVID and I’d update it regularly so it never appears to be more than a week old. It’s just a summary, it can repeat all these other things, here's what we’re doing and here’s how it changed," said Clayton. "The other thing I’d do on this page, there are options there where you can write, ‘If you want to support local business (which we are) here is how you do so, here are gift cards or merchandise.’"
He said for local search, that’s a very impactful and quick thing to do and because the Google algorithms have gotten so much more sophisticated. There’s no barrier of complex keyword research; getting just the right verbiage on there is a matter of putting in a the small amount of time.
"On one hand, I’m surprised and amazed that small business owners still don’t understand this. I mean, 25 percent of small businesses don’t have a website, so to get them to participate in the Google page is another thing. I get it, they’re busy, they’re worried about making the best pizza," said Clayton. "But it’s the equivalent of the Yellow Pages—it would be like starting a business 30 years ago and not going in the Yellow Pages."
He said there’s more to a full audit, like testing website speed, keeping tabs on review sites and responding to them. He said that’s stuff the software he launched at the onset of COVID-19 can help with and monitor, but everyone should use some of this mandated slow period to tackle the basics.