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How to Market Your Small Business (7 Easy Steps)

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How to Market Your Small Business (7 Easy Steps)

Do you want to start marketing your business but don’t know where to begin?

You’re not alone.

Small businesses make up over 90% of all businesses in the U.S., U.K., and Europe.

So if you’re struggling to get noticed or generate inquiries or sales from potential customers, this guide will show you how to market your small business effectively step by step.

Step 1. Start with a product-market fit

Marketing begins with the products or services you sell and who they’re for. Here are the key steps:

  1. Specify what problem your product or service solves for your target customers
  2. List the top features your product or service will include
  3. Turn those features into benefits
  4. Create a one-page document or landing page outlining your product/service to get initial feedback from a small group of customers

If you want to dive deeper, read our detailed guide to creating product-market fit.

Now, let’s take a look at a few product-fit examples from different industries.

Services

This construction company has three clearly defined services: installing siding, installing windows and doors, and interior remodeling on residential properties.

Service page example #1

Each service page explains the service benefits and process and contains case studies, customer reviews, and a call to action (to get in touch).

Products (e-commerce)

Companies that don’t sell services sell products such as clothing, printed products, vehicle accessories, etc.

For example, this company sells products to enable van owners to customize the top, sides, and internal sections of their work van.

Product page example #1

Software (or software as a service)

This company recently launched an app for creating email designs using predesigned email layouts and components.

It has summarized the features of the products, along with examples and directions for getting started, on its landing page.

Saas page example #1

Step 2. Create profitable prices

The next step to marketing your business is to consider and decide what to charge customers for your products or services so you make a profit.

For example, if you sell physical products, your pricing strategy may be to mark up the product’s manufacturing, shipping, and delivery costs to make a profit.

Ahrefs, a software product, is priced at $99, $199, $399, and $999 per month and is based on data costs, customer data usage, and the value it provides.

As an example of pricing services, a user experience (UX) design firm may charge more than a web design firm because its clients perceive greater value in UX design.

And finally, consider what competitors charge and what customers are willing to pay.

Action: In our template, write down the products, services, and prices you want to market.

Step 3. Set a monthly goal

The next step to marketing your business is to have a clear goal so that you can structure your marketing efforts.

The three main marketing goals are to get new customers, sell to existing ones, and keep customers using and paying for your products or services.

  1. Get new customers (Acquisition)
  2. Sell to your current customers (Upsell) 
  3. Keep existing customers (Retention)

1. Get new customers – Acquisition

If you’re starting in business or don’t sell to the same customers repeatedly, you’ll want to focus on getting new paying customers. That’s easier said than done, of course.

Getting new customers consists of four key steps as your customers go through your marketing funnel: You attract your target audience, show them your product as a solution to their problem, make them consider it, and give them a reason to buy.

The marketing funnel

Write down the number of new customers or the revenue you need each month.

2. Sell to your existing customers – Upsell

For more established businesses with a customer base, the goal may be to sell to their existing customers in addition to getting new ones.

For example, I pay Flywheel to host websites for clients. When I log in to my account, it promotes other services or add-ons to its existing customers.

Customer upsell example

List out any products or services you can provide for your current customers besides your main product or service.

3. Keep existing customers – Retention

Thirdly, if you have lots of customers, you’ll need to keep them happy or they’ll stop paying you. 

Many companies are so focused on getting new customers that they often forget current ones, i.e., love them and leave them.

Let’s say you have 1,000 customers paying you $50 a month; that’s $50,000 revenue a month.

But if you’re losing 5% of customers a month; that’s

  • 50 lost customers every month.
  • $2,500 lost revenue every month.

To learn more, here’s our guide to increasing your retention (in other words, decreasing customer churn).

Action: In our template, add your goal—or goals if you have more than one priority.

Step 4. Choose places to sell your products or services

Think about all the places where you can sell your products or services.

For example, SaaS businesses, such as Ahrefs, usually sell subscriptions on their websites only.

Whereas a fashion brand like Universal Works sells via its website, social channels, own stores, and partners online and off. 

Here are some of the main online and offline places to sell.

Online

  • Your website
  • Integrate your products on social media channels
  • Marketplaces
  • Partners

Offline

  • Physical stores
  • Telephone
  • In person

Action: Using our template, in the “Place” column, choose the places where customers can buy your products or services. 

Step 5. Promote your products or services

Here are some of the most common marketing channels you can use to promote your products.

1. Website

Your website is the home of your company, products, and services. Website traffic usually results from how well you promote your brand and products. In today’s world, pretty much everyone needs a website.

This fashion brand promotes up to 60% off current products on its homepage to make way for the next season’s products.

E-commerce homepage example

This web designer is getting over 80% of her 5,400 visits to her website from direct traffic, no doubt a direct result of her TikTok followers and video views.

TikTok videos

2. SEO and content marketing

SEO (search engine optimization) is the practice of growing a website’s traffic from organic search results. If your target audience looks up information related to your products online, you should likely make SEO one of your marketing priorities. That’s the case for most businesses.

To market your business to search visitors, you need to do keyword research and create content and links. Here’s a high-level overview of what that involves:

  1. Enter a keyword related to your product or service into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer to discover the questions people ask about your business and the keywords they use when searching online
  2. Create a content plan containing the keywords you’re going to target
  3. Use our content outline template to make writing and publishing content in your content plan easier
  4. Use these 15 tactics to get website backlinks, increasing your website rankings and traffic

For local business owners, head to the local SEO guide to learn more. E-commerce owners also need to apply specific e-commerce SEO techniques that are different from general best practices.

3. Email

There are two steps to marketing your business with email. First, you need to get subscribers onto your email list, and then you need to convert them into customers by sending emails.

Getting email subscribers

To get email subscribers, you can include a newsletter or content upgrade sign-up form using any number of email marketing solutions.

For example, this company has a newsletter subscription form at the foot of every page.

Newsletter subscription form example

I offer an incentive or content upgrade on some of my webpages in exchange for the reader’s email address.

Email content upgrade example

Convert customers by emailing them

Once you’ve built up a list of opted-in subscribers, then you can begin marketing to them.

In this case study, an e-commerce retailer earns 25% of its revenue by sending welcome, cart abandonment, win-back, and big spender email campaigns to its subscribers and customers.

Here’s an email marketing campaign where the company lists four services that can help subscribers; then it includes links to its sales or booking page.

Email to subscribers example

4. Paid search

Paid search or PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is where companies pay a fee each time someone clicks their adverts in the search results.

Paid search is an excellent option if you have marketing money to spend and you’re looking for immediate website traffic that can drive leads or sales.

For example, this report shows a company has derived over 46% of its revenue from paid search this year.

Google Analytics revenue per channel

Head over to our PPC marketing guide if you’re looking to start using paid search ads.

This fashion retailer is advertising with Facebook Ads.

Facebook Ads example

And it is also advertising with Google Ads.

Google Ads example

However, there are other types of advertising, including social media, print, direct mail, outdoor, and podcast advertising.

5. Partners, sponsorships, and affiliates

Many businesses use partners or affiliates to reach and promote their products and services to potential customers.

For example, you can sponsor the newsletters of people in your industry with over 10,000 email subscribers with ConvertKit’s new sponsorship network. Or you can follow our guide on finding and paying influencers to endorse your products or services.

ConvertKit sponsor network

If you sell products, Shopify has introduced a program called Shopify Collabs that enables creators to partner with your company, create content about your products, and earn commissions when their audience purchases.

Shopify Collabs

6. In-app marketing

In-app marketing is a type of marketing where adverts or messages appear within software and mobile apps.

Every time you log in to Ahrefs, we promote the latest features to existing customers.

Ahrefs dashboard notifications

You can use a solution like Beamer to add in-app notifications to your website or application. 

7. In-store marketing

In-store marketing is the practice of promoting products and services at retail stores. This can include advertising on store shelves, signage, displays, point-of-sale materials, etc.

This skateboarding retailer uses its shop window to promote a winter sale to people walking past the shop on the high street.

Promotion sign on a large shop window

Action: In our template, add how you’re going to promote your products or services.

Step 6. Measure and review

In step #3, you set some goals. Now you want to see whether your marketing activities met these objectives.

Here are a few examples of goals and how to measure them.

Goal: Sell products

If you are selling products using Shopify, you can see where your visitors came from, the products people looked at, best-selling products, average order value, and the conversion rate from the Analytics reports.

In this example, 26 sales primarily came from search and direct traffic; to grow sales, perhaps the business owners can consider PPC advertising next month.

Shopify Analytics dashboard

Goal: Get customers with Google Ads

If you’re using Google Ads to get new customers, you should focus on your cost per conversion: the cost of someone buying your product or the cost per new inquiry.

Google Ads cost per conversion

You do this by setting up conversion tracking at the start of the campaign.

Set up conversion tracking with Google Ads

Goal: Sell to existing customers with email marketing

If you use email to market to existing customers, use Google Analytics to track visitors to your site and their activities, such as purchases or leads.

Look under Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels, and you will see the number of visitors, transactions, revenue, or leads that came from email.

Ask your web developer or designer to set this tracking up for you.

Google Analytics channel conversions

Step 7. Repeat what works

At the end of each month, review your marketing results and efforts, learn from any mistakes you’ve made, and repeat whatever worked for you in the past.

Final thoughts

For those looking to grow their business, this marketing guide will help you get started on the right foot.

It showed you how to market your company (starting with your products), set prices, set goals, find where to target customers, and promote your products or services. There is also a template to keep you on track.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.



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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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