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Small Business Marketing 101: Getting Started

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Small Business Marketing 101: Getting Started

Earning new customers is vital to the growth of any small business, and leveraging marketing strategies is the most effective way to accomplish that goal.

However, small business owners often have to wear multiple hats to keep their business running.

This can result in their marketing strategy falling to the wayside as they focus on the daily operations of running their business.

Thankfully, developing a small business marketing strategy doesn’t require a background or career in marketing.

Plus, it can be both straightforward and affordable.

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This guide to small business marketing will break down how to create a sustainable, scalable marketing strategy that helps your small business earn new customers and grow revenue for years to come.

What Is Small Business Marketing?

Small business marketing is the process of getting your products or services in front of the eyes of more potential customers.

It consists of various online and offline strategies, but the end goal is to grow your small business revenue and expand market share.

Challenges Of Marketing Small Businesses

Small businesses face unique challenges with marketing that larger or enterprise brands just don’t have to deal with.

This is particularly true if there is no dedicated marketing expert on your small business’s team.

Lack Of Resources

Small businesses can’t always hire an in-house marketer or devote the time necessary to strategic marketing.

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Marketing effectively and on budget requires time, technology, iteration, and close attention to campaign performance.

Smaller Budgets

Most likely, your small business has a strict budget that you allocate for your marketing.

Because digital marketing can be costly, it’s not uncommon for small business owners to blow their budgets.

Or, they may not allocate their digital marketing budget to the most profitable channels.

Competition From Larger Brands

Not only is your small business competing against other local or small businesses, but you’re also likely competing against larger brands that have stronger name recognition and an authoritative digital presence.

Larger brands can easily steal clicks on advertisements because of their brand recognition.

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And with organic SEO, Google often prefers to rank websites with more authority and a trusted reputation.

Adapting To Trends and Technologies

The digital marketing landscape is competitive!

It can be challenging for a small business to adapt to the changing landscape of search algorithms, rising cost-per-clicks, and more.

Despite these challenges, it is possible for small businesses to successfully market their products or services with a significant return on investment.

Getting Started With Small Business Marketing

Before you start spending money to market your small business, you need to set yourself up for success.

The following steps are must-dos before you launch your first marketing campaign.

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1. Know Your Audience

It’s important to understand your target audience before you start paying money to reach them.

Crafting audience personas can help you determine who your small business is trying to reach.

Also, where you can best reach them and how your product or service meets their needs or solves their problems.

Audience personas can include:

  • Demographics.
  • Geographic location.
  • Interests.
  • Budget.
  • Pain points.
  • Motivations.
  • And more!

Taking the time to create multiple audience personas sets the foundation for your marketing strategy.

It will help you choose the right messaging and channels to reach your ideal customers or clients.

2. Refine Your Messaging

Once you know who your audience is, what they need, and how your products or services solve their problem, you can do the work of crafting refined, impactful messaging.

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Your messaging may involve educating customers, showing value, displaying authority or expertise, differentiating from competitors, and more.

Depending on the number or scope of your products and service offerings, you may have to craft several messages to reach your various audience personas more effectively.

3. Determine Your Budget

The reality is that marketing can get expensive if you don’t take the time to prioritize and strategize.

Some marketing channels are pricier than others.

So it’s important to determine what you are willing and not willing to spend before launching any campaigns.

Image created by author, March 2022

4. Setup Your Analytics

Before you get started on any digital marketing channel, you need to be able to measure its impact and effectiveness.

You can utilize all sorts of analytics tools, but if you’re just getting started, begin with these two analytics platforms.

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As your small business marketing strategy grows, you may want to invest in an email marketing platform or a customer relationship management platform.

But for now, the two free platforms above can get you started.

Best Marketing Channels For Small Business

The biggest part of your marketing strategy will be determining which channels make the most sense for your small business and the customers you’re trying to reach.

Some channels will be more expensive than others.

Some will produce results more quickly.

Overall, there are pros and cons to every marketing channel, and no channel is guaranteed to produce revenue for your small business.

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However, the below channels are often ideal for small businesses because of their effectiveness, longevity, and affordability.

Content Marketing

It’s best to look at content marketing as the foundation of your marketing efforts.

Without great content, any additional channels listed here cease to be effective.

Content includes your homepage, landing pages, product pages, blogs, social media posts, advertisements, or anything else your potential customers might engage with before purchasing.

It’s important that your content is high-quality, relevant, and meets the needs of your target audience.

Investing in good content will give you permanent assets that you can utilize across marketing channels and will help build your brand recognition, expertise, and authority.

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SEO

Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your small business website to appear in organic search results.

Most internet users turn to a search engine first to find new products and services.

If your small business website shows up for the keywords that those users rely on, it can mean more potential customers clicking through to your website.

That means more people browsing your products, scheduling a consultation, or making appointments.

SEO, however, is multidisciplinary.

Here are the aspects of SEO that are most important for small businesses to prioritize.

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On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is the process of optimizing individual web pages to rank higher for relevant keywords.

Each web page on your small business website has the opportunity to rank in search engine results.

The primary steps involve:

  • Keyword research: Finding relevant keywords you want your web pages to rank for.
  • SEO copywriting: Writing in-depth, high-quality content that explores the topic in depth. You can use content optimization software to help improve the quality signals on your pages and improve their ranking potential.
  • Meta tag optimization: Including the target keyword in your page title, meta description, image alt text, and ensuring other key meta tags are optimized for search engine crawlers.
  • Internal and external linking: Including internal links to other relevant pages on your website and linking out to relevant, authoritative sources.

On-page SEO can be implemented easily in your CMS.

Or you can outsource the work to an SEO provider or digital marketing agency.

Although time-intensive, on-page SEO is one of the easiest ways to start earning impressions and clicks from organic search.

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Local SEO

If your small business has a brick-and-mortar location or serves a specific geographic region, local SEO strategies can help your website appear in the Google Map Pack and location-based searches.

Example of Google Map Pack results Screenshot from search for [clothing stores near me] March 2022

To get started with local SEO, do the following:

  • Set up your Google Business Profile: This will provide Google and users key information about your small business, including location, phone number, store hours, and more.
  • Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP): These key details about your small business should be clear, accurate, and consistent throughout your website’s content. If your small business has multiple locations, it’s important to create different landing pages for each location featuring their unique NAP information.
  • Get listed in online directories: Google wants to see consistent information about your small business wherever it’s listed on the internet. Using a local citation builder service can help you start building off-site signals. It is an affordable way (under $100) to help Google crawlers better understand your location and the markets you serve.
  • Add the local business schema: Local Business structured data tells Google about your business hours, departments, reviews, and more. Adding schema markup will require the assistance of a web developer, but it can be very impactful.

Site Speed Optimization

The performance of your small business website matters to your ability to rank in search engine results.

screenshot of PageSpeed Insights reportScreenshot taken by author, March 2022

Google doesn’t want to show slow or underperforming pages to users.

So your website needs to meet the following standards:

  • Core Web Vitals: These metrics are the primary way that Google measures the performance of websites. They include Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift.
  • Mobile useability: The mobile version of your small business website needs to be responsive, fast-loading, and high performing.
  • Security: Your website needs to be safe and secure for users. Security is primarily measured through HTTPS protocols.

Pros And Cons Of SEO

The benefit of SEO is that it is arguably the most affordable way to increase your small business’s online presence.

Also, earning top spots in search engine results can send site traffic to your website for years.

That is, as long as you do the work of updating the content and maintaining its quality and technical performance.

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However, SEO does take time.

It may be a few months before you see results and start earning traffic to your website.

But that traffic is essentially free and has a wonderful way of improving marketing KPIs, like customer-acquisition costs, in the long term.

Online Reputation Management

Like SEO, online reputation management (ORM) should be an essential part of any small business’s digital marketing toolkit for its affordability and impact.

ORM is the process of building and monitoring your reputation on popular review sites, and it is, essentially, free.

Online reviews are actually a key marketing tool for your small business.

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Although you cannot fully control what others choose to say about your small business, you should do what you can to influence reviews and leverage them.

screenshot of yelp profilesScreenshot from Yelp, March 2022

It’s estimated that 94% of consumers have read an online review in the last year.

If your small business does not have profiles on the popular review sites in your industry, or you don’t have reviews of your products, users may choose another service provider or retailer.

Thankfully, getting a proactive online reputation management strategy together is pretty simple.

Get Your Profiles Set Up

Look for the review sites that your potential customers are actively using and are popular in your industry.

Examples include Yelp, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, and BBB (Better Business Bureau).

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Then make sure your profiles are set up and adequately describe your offering.

These profile pages are also likely to rank for your branded search results, so do your best to add high-value keywords in your profile sections.

Add A Product Review App Or Plugin

If your small business is ecommerce, add a product review plugin or app to your CMS so you can start earning and showcasing reviews on your website.

Here is a list of WordPress product review plugins, and a popular Shopify product review app.

Ask Your Customers To Leave A Review

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To start getting online reviews, simply ask!

If you know a customer had a positive experience or really liked your product, sometimes all it takes is asking them to leave a review.

Incentivize Reviews

If you’re struggling to acquire customer reviews, incentivizing reviews with discounts or promotions on repeat visits or purchases can help you get reviews faster.

It also encourages your customers to return to your products or services for a second time.

Always Respond To Negative Reviews

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The biggest part of ORM is managing negative reviews that you are bound to receive.

By responding to your negative reviews, you have the opportunity to repair any negative impact.

Also, you show other potential customers browsing reviews that your small business does what it can to make things right.

Pros And Cons Of ORM

ORM is a free marketing strategy and can have a huge impact on driving customers further down the conversion funnel.

However, online reputation management can work against you if your products or services are low-quality.

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It’s important to ensure that your small business provides the absolute best to potential customers before you pursue any online reputation management strategy.

Pay-Per-Click

Pay-per-click advertising is the process of advertising on another publisher’s website and paying a fee whenever a user clicks on your ad.

Unlike other advertising, you only pay if the user actually clicks over to your website, guaranteeing site traffic for your ad spend.

PPC – Search Engines and Display Networks

PPC is most commonly associated with top search engines like Google and Bing.

When a user enters a search term, Google and Bing serve ads at the top of their search engine results pages.

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Small businesses can bid on relevant keywords to get their advertisement to show up at the top of the SERPs.

Screenshot of search engine adsScreenshot from search for [carpet cleaning services], March 2022

Google and Microsoft also have their own display networks.

In terms of widening the reach of your small business, the Google Display Network sites reach over 90% of internet users worldwide.

Example of a display network ad on a publisher siteScreenshot from The New York Times, March 2022

Successful PPC campaigns, though, are all about execution.

If you have no experience managing or optimizing PPC campaigns, it’s best to work with a paid media manager or agency with expertise in your industry.

PPC – Social Media Advertising

Social Media platforms like Facebook and Instagram empower your small business to do what other platforms like Google Ads can’t – allow you to target your audience by demographics and interests – because these platforms have so much information about their users.

These ads will appear alongside organic posts on social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

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As a career digital marketer myself, I often get served ads related to digital marketing.

Example of ad in the Facebook NewsfeedScreenshot taken by author, March 2022

Because social media ads also require a creative (rather than simply text-based search engine ads), it allows your small business to showcase your creativity and brand image even more.

Other features of social media advertising include:

  • Tracking pixels: Adding the Facebook pixel to your small business website allows you to find previous visitors to your website on the Facebook and Instagram platforms.
  • Interest targeting: Because social media users often self-select their interests through likes and engagements, interest-based targeting can be effective for reaching new visitors.
  • Lookalike audiences: Once you earn some business and have an even better idea of who your audience is, you can create lookalike audiences based on those data points. This can help you widen your reach to other users similar to your previous customers.

Pros And Cons Of PPC

The most positive benefit of PPC is that it can start driving traffic to your small business website immediately.

But CPCs are rising every year and platforms like Google Ads and Facebook are more saturated.

If you’re not careful or don’t take the time to optimize your PPC campaigns, you can max out your budget very quickly.

Email Marketing

Once you build up your list of leads, contacts, subscribers, or past customers, email marketing is a great way to connect with your audience and keep your small business at the top of their minds.

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Email marketing has the potential for a major return on investment.

It allows you to drive sales of new products and services, create customer loyalty programs, and consistently promote your many content assets.

Some of the most popular email marketing platforms include:

Here are a few email marketing tips for small businesses:

Keep It Balanced

Make sure your emails are balanced between promotional and resource-driven.

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Email marketing provides a great outlet for promoting thought leadership, ebooks, or other free resources related to your industry or products.

Segment Your Audiences

Blasting the same email to your entire customer database will be less effective than segmenting your audiences to one-time customers, frequent customers, or leads and crafting personalized, targeted messaging.

Optimize For Mobile

Many of your customers likely read their emails on their mobile devices.

A marketing email that is not responsive or has layout issues is more likely to be ignored or worse, lead to an unsubscribe.

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Offline Channels

There are a variety of offline channels available to small businesses as well.

Although they have a much narrower reach than digital marketing channels, they can effectively gain new customers and improve brand recognition for your small business.

Some effective offline channels include:

  • Direct Mail.
  • Events and Conferences.
  • Print Advertising.
  • Community Engagement.
  • Press releases.
  • Networking.
  • And more!

4 Strategic Tips For Effective Small Business Marketing

Each of the marketing strategies listed in this guide is its own unique discipline.

The more informed and strategic your approach, the more effective it will be.

However, your small business likely can’t become an expert overnight.

So, in general, here are some of the most important strategic choices to keep in mind.

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1. Balance Your Paid Channels With Organic SEO

The reality is that paid media only drives traffic to your website during your campaigns.

Once your credit card or budget dries up, so does all the site traffic.

Balancing paid channels with organic SEO is one of the most strategic decisions your small business can make.

SEO drives clicks for free and, when done well, to perpetuity.

2. Leverage Retargeting On PPC Platforms

Platforms like Google Ads and Facebook give small business advertisers the option to retarget audiences that have already visited their website but left without making a purchase.

If your small business does the work of driving traffic from organic SEO, you can leverage retargeting even further to improve your total return-on-ad-spend,

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3. Target Long-Tail Keywords Through Blog Content

Adding a blog to your small business website can be a game-changer in improving the total number of keywords that your website ranks for.

It’s one of the more affordable ways to expand the reach of your small business. If you don’t have a writer in-house, plenty of freelance content marketers can help get your blog started.

Long-tail keywords are often less competitive.

So make sure your craft blogs target those long-tail questions users ask about your small business products or offerings.

4. Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

The reality is that your initial marketing campaigns may not be profitable.

But as long as your analytics are set up, you can iterate on your campaigns and improve results.

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Don’t take the “set it and let it” approach.

Pay attention. Make data-driven changes.

And invest in the channels with the best conversion rates that drive revenue at a cost-per-acquisition that is sustainable for your small business.

Conclusion

Developing a small business marketing strategy can have a huge return on investment for your business.

These include growing your revenue, earning loyal customers, being able to hire new employees, opening second locations, and more.

Make marketing a priority for your small business, and you will not be disappointed.

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Reddit Post Ranks On Google In 5 Minutes

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Google apparently ranks Reddit posts within minutes

Google’s Danny Sullivan disputed the assertions made in a Reddit discussion that Google is showing a preference for Reddit in the search results. But a Redditor’s example proves that it’s possible for a Reddit post to rank in the top ten of the search results within minutes and to actually improve rankings to position #2 a week later.

Discussion About Google Showing Preference To Reddit

A Redditor (gronetwork) complained that Google is sending so many visitors to Reddit that the server is struggling with the load and shared an example that proved that it can only take minutes for a Reddit post to rank in the top ten.

That post was part of a 79 post Reddit thread where many in the r/SEO subreddit were complaining about Google allegedly giving too much preference to Reddit over legit sites.

The person who did the test (gronetwork) wrote:

“…The website is already cracking (server down, double posts, comments not showing) because there are too many visitors.

…It only takes few minutes (you can test it) for a post on Reddit to appear in the top ten results of Google with keywords related to the post’s title… (while I have to wait months for an article on my site to be referenced). Do the math, the whole world is going to spam here. The loop is completed.”

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Reddit Post Ranked Within Minutes

Another Redditor asked if they had tested if it takes “a few minutes” to rank in the top ten and gronetwork answered that they had tested it with a post titled, Google SGE Review.

gronetwork posted:

“Yes, I have created for example a post named “Google SGE Review” previously. After less than 5 minutes it was ranked 8th for Google SGE Review (no quotes). Just after Washingtonpost.com, 6 authoritative SEO websites and Google.com’s overview page for SGE (Search Generative Experience). It is ranked third for SGE Review.”

It’s true, not only does that specific post (Google SGE Review) rank in the top 10, the post started out in position 8 and it actually improved ranking, currently listed beneath the number one result for the search query “SGE Review”.

Screenshot Of Reddit Post That Ranked Within Minutes

Anecdotes Versus Anecdotes

Okay, the above is just one anecdote. But it’s a heck of an anecdote because it proves that it’s possible for a Reddit post to rank within minutes and get stuck in the top of the search results over other possibly more authoritative websites.

hankschrader79 shared that Reddit posts outrank Toyota Tacoma forums for a phrase related to mods for that truck.

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Google’s Danny Sullivan responded to that post and the entire discussion to dispute that Reddit is not always prioritized over other forums.

Danny wrote:

“Reddit is not always prioritized over other forums. [super vhs to mac adapter] I did this week, it goes Apple Support Community, MacRumors Forum and further down, there’s Reddit. I also did [kumo cloud not working setup 5ghz] recently (it’s a nightmare) and it was the Netgear community, the SmartThings Community, GreenBuildingAdvisor before Reddit. Related to that was [disable 5g airport] which has Apple Support Community above Reddit. [how to open an 8 track tape] — really, it was the YouTube videos that helped me most, but it’s the Tapeheads community that comes before Reddit.

In your example for [toyota tacoma], I don’t even get Reddit in the top results. I get Toyota, Car & Driver, Wikipedia, Toyota again, three YouTube videos from different creators (not Toyota), Edmunds, a Top Stories unit. No Reddit, which doesn’t really support the notion of always wanting to drive traffic just to Reddit.

If I guess at the more specific query you might have done, maybe [overland mods for toyota tacoma], I get a YouTube video first, then Reddit, then Tacoma World at third — not near the bottom. So yes, Reddit is higher for that query — but it’s not first. It’s also not always first. And sometimes, it’s not even showing at all.”

hankschrader79 conceded that they were generalizing when they wrote that Google always prioritized Reddit. But they also insisted that that didn’t diminish what they said is a fact that Google’s “prioritization” forum content has benefitted Reddit more than actual forums.

Why Is The Reddit Post Ranked So High?

It’s possible that Google “tested” that Reddit post in position 8 within minutes and that user interaction signals indicated to Google’s algorithms that users prefer to see that Reddit post. If that’s the case then it’s not a matter of Google showing preference to Reddit post but rather it’s users that are showing the preference and the algorithm is responding to those preferences.

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Nevertheless, an argument can be made that user preferences for Reddit can be a manifestation of Familiarity Bias. Familiarity Bias is when people show a preference for things that are familiar to them. If a person is familiar with a brand because of all the advertising they were exposed to then they may show a bias for the brand products over unfamiliar brands.

Users who are familiar with Reddit may choose Reddit because they don’t know the other sites in the search results or because they have a bias that Google ranks spammy and optimized websites and feel safer reading Reddit.

Google may be picking up on those user interaction signals that indicate a preference and satisfaction with the Reddit results but those results may simply be biases and not an indication that Reddit is trustworthy and authoritative.

Is Reddit Benefiting From A Self-Reinforcing Feedback Loop?

It may very well be that Google’s decision to prioritize user generated content may have started a self-reinforcing pattern that draws users in to Reddit through the search results and because the answers seem plausible those users start to prefer Reddit results. When they’re exposed to more Reddit posts their familiarity bias kicks in and they start to show a preference for Reddit. So what could be happening is that the users and Google’s algorithm are creating a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

Is it possible that Google’s decision to show more user generated content has kicked off a cycle where more users are exposed to Reddit which then feeds back into Google’s algorithm which in turn increases Reddit visibility, regardless of lack of expertise and authoritativeness?

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Kues

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WordPress Releases A Performance Plugin For “Near-Instant Load Times”

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WordPress speculative loading plugin

WordPress released an official plugin that adds support for a cutting edge technology called speculative loading that can help boost site performance and improve the user experience for site visitors.

Speculative Loading

Rendering means constructing the entire webpage so that it instantly displays (rendering). When your browser downloads the HTML, images, and other resources and puts it together into a webpage, that’s rendering. Prerendering is putting that webpage together (rendering it) in the background.

What this plugin does is to enable the browser to prerender the entire webpage that a user might navigate to next. The plugin does that by anticipating which webpage the user might navigate to based on where they are hovering.

Chrome lists a preference for only prerendering when there is an at least 80% probability of a user navigating to another webpage. The official Chrome support page for prerendering explains:

“Pages should only be prerendered when there is a high probability the page will be loaded by the user. This is why the Chrome address bar prerendering options only happen when there is such a high probability (greater than 80% of the time).

There is also a caveat in that same developer page that prerendering may not happen based on user settings, memory usage and other scenarios (more details below about how analytics handles prerendering).

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The Speculative Loading API solves a problem that previous solutions could not because in the past they were simply prefetching resources like JavaScript and CSS but not actually prerendering the entire webpage.

The official WordPress announcement explains it like this:

Introducing the Speculation Rules API
The Speculation Rules API is a new web API that solves the above problems. It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation. This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them.”

The official WordPress page about this new functionality describes it:

“The Speculation Rules API is a new web API… It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation.

This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them. Also, with the Speculation Rules API, “prerender” actually means to prerender the entire page, including running JavaScript. This can lead to near-instant load times once the user clicks on the link as the page would have most likely already been loaded in its entirety. However that is only one of the possible configurations.”

The new WordPress plugin adds support for the Speculation Rules API. The Mozilla developer pages, a great resource for HTML technical understanding describes it like this:

“The Speculation Rules API is designed to improve performance for future navigations. It targets document URLs rather than specific resource files, and so makes sense for multi-page applications (MPAs) rather than single-page applications (SPAs).

The Speculation Rules API provides an alternative to the widely-available <link rel=”prefetch”> feature and is designed to supersede the Chrome-only deprecated <link rel=”prerender”> feature. It provides many improvements over these technologies, along with a more expressive, configurable syntax for specifying which documents should be prefetched or prerendered.”

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See also: Are Websites Getting Faster? New Data Reveals Mixed Results

Performance Lab Plugin

The new plugin was developed by the official WordPress performance team which occasionally rolls out new plugins for users to test ahead of possible inclusion into the actual WordPress core. So it’s a good opportunity to be first to try out new performance technologies.

The new WordPress plugin is by default set to prerender “WordPress frontend URLs” which are pages, posts, and archive pages. How it works can be fine-tuned under the settings:

Settings > Reading > Speculative Loading

Browser Compatibility

The Speculative API is supported by Chrome 108 however the specific rules used by the new plugin require Chrome 121 or higher. Chrome 121 was released in early 2024.

Browsers that do not support will simply ignore the plugin and will have no effect on the user experience.

Check out the new Speculative Loading WordPress plugin developed by the official core WordPress performance team.

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How Analytics Handles Prerendering

A WordPress developer commented with a question asking how Analytics would handle prerendering and someone else answered that it’s up to the Analytics provider to detect a prerender and not count it as a page load or site visit.

Fortunately both Google Analytics and Google Publisher Tags (GPT) both are able to handle prerenders. The Chrome developers support page has a note about how analytics handles prerendering:

“Google Analytics handles prerender by delaying until activation by default as of September 2023, and Google Publisher Tag (GPT) made a similar change to delay triggering advertisements until activation as of November 2023.”

Possible Conflict With Ad Blocker Extensions

There are a couple things to be aware of about this plugin, aside from the fact that it’s an experimental feature that requires Chrome 121 or higher.

A comment by a WordPress plugin developer that this feature may not work with browsers that are using the uBlock Origin ad blocking browser extension.

Download the plugin:
Speculative Loading Plugin by the WordPress Performance Team

Read the announcement at WordPress
Speculative Loading in WordPress

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See also: WordPress, Wix & Squarespace Show Best CWV Rate Of Improvement

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Whether you are new to paid media or reevaluating your efforts, it’s critical to review your performance and best practices for your overall PPC marketing program, accounts, and campaigns.

Revisiting your paid media plan is an opportunity to ensure your strategy aligns with your current goals.

Reviewing best practices for pay-per-click is also a great way to keep up with trends and improve performance with newly released ad technologies.

As you review, you’ll find new strategies and features to incorporate into your paid search program, too.

Here are 10 PPC best practices to help you adjust and plan for the months ahead.

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1. Goals

When planning, it is best practice to define goals for the overall marketing program, ad platforms, and at the campaign level.

Defining primary and secondary goals guides the entire PPC program. For example, your primary conversion may be to generate leads from your ads.

You’ll also want to look at secondary goals, such as brand awareness that is higher in the sales funnel and can drive interest to ultimately get the sales lead-in.

2. Budget Review & Optimization

Some advertisers get stuck in a rut and forget to review and reevaluate the distribution of their paid media budgets.

To best utilize budgets, consider the following:

  • Reconcile your planned vs. spend for each account or campaign on a regular basis. Depending on the budget size, monthly, quarterly, or semiannually will work as long as you can hit budget numbers.
  • Determine if there are any campaigns that should be eliminated at this time to free up the budget for other campaigns.
  • Is there additional traffic available to capture and grow results for successful campaigns? The ad platforms often include a tool that will provide an estimated daily budget with clicks and costs. This is just an estimate to show more click potential if you are interested.
  • If other paid media channels perform mediocrely, does it make sense to shift those budgets to another?
  • For the overall paid search and paid social budget, can your company invest more in the positive campaign results?

3. Consider New Ad Platforms

If you can shift or increase your budgets, why not test out a new ad platform? Knowing your audience and where they spend time online will help inform your decision when choosing ad platforms.

Go beyond your comfort zone in Google, Microsoft, and Meta Ads.

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Here are a few other advertising platforms to consider testing:

  • LinkedIn: Most appropriate for professional and business targeting. LinkedIn audiences can also be reached through Microsoft Ads.
  • TikTok: Younger Gen Z audience (16 to 24), video.
  • Pinterest: Products, services, and consumer goods with a female-focused target.
  • Snapchat: Younger demographic (13 to 35), video ads, app installs, filters, lenses.

Need more detailed information and even more ideas? Read more about the 5 Best Google Ads Alternatives.

4. Top Topics in Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

Recently, trends in search and social ad platforms have presented opportunities to connect with prospects more precisely, creatively, and effectively.

Don’t overlook newer targeting and campaign types you may not have tried yet.

  • Video: Incorporating video into your PPC accounts takes some planning for the goals, ad creative, targeting, and ad types. There is a lot of opportunity here as you can simply include video in responsive display ads or get in-depth in YouTube targeting.
  • Performance Max: This automated campaign type serves across all of Google’s ad inventory. Microsoft Ads recently released PMAX so you can plan for consistency in campaign types across platforms. Do you want to allocate budget to PMax campaigns? Learn more about how PMax compares to search.
  • Automation: While AI can’t replace human strategy and creativity, it can help manage your campaigns more easily. During planning, identify which elements you want to automate, such as automatically created assets and/or how to successfully guide the AI in the Performance Max campaigns.

While exploring new features, check out some hidden PPC features you probably don’t know about.

5. Revisit Keywords

The role of keywords has evolved over the past several years with match types being less precise and loosening up to consider searcher intent.

For example, [exact match] keywords previously would literally match with the exact keyword search query. Now, ads can be triggered by search queries with the same meaning or intent.

A great planning exercise is to lay out keyword groups and evaluate if they are still accurately representing your brand and product/service.

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Review search term queries triggering ads to discover trends and behavior you may not have considered. It’s possible this has impacted performance and conversions over time.

Critical to your strategy:

  • Review the current keyword rules and determine if this may impact your account in terms of close variants or shifts in traffic volume.
  • Brush up on how keywords work in each platform because the differences really matter!
  • Review search term reports more frequently for irrelevant keywords that may pop up from match type changes. Incorporate these into match type changes or negative keywords lists as appropriate.

6. Revisit Your Audiences

Review the audiences you selected in the past, especially given so many campaign types that are intent-driven.

Automated features that expand your audience could be helpful, but keep an eye out for performance metrics and behavior on-site post-click.

Remember, an audience is simply a list of users who are grouped together by interests or behavior online.

Therefore, there are unlimited ways to mix and match those audiences and target per the sales funnel.

Here are a few opportunities to explore and test:

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  • LinkedIn user targeting: Besides LinkedIn, this can be found exclusively in Microsoft Ads.
  • Detailed Demographics: Marital status, parental status, home ownership, education, household income.
  • In-market and custom intent: Searches and online behavior signaling buying cues.
  • Remarketing: Advertisers website visitors, interactions with ads, and video/ YouTube.

Note: This varies per the campaign type and seems to be updated frequently, so make this a regular check-point in your campaign management for all platforms.

7. Organize Data Sources

You will likely be running campaigns on different platforms with combinations of search, display, video, etc.

Looking back at your goals, what is the important data, and which platforms will you use to review and report? Can you get the majority of data in one analytics platform to compare and share?

Millions of companies use Google Analytics, which is a good option for centralized viewing of advertising performance, website behavior, and conversions.

8. Reevaluate How You Report

Have you been using the same performance report for years?

It’s time to reevaluate your essential PPC key metrics and replace or add that data to your reports.

There are two great resources to kick off this exercise:

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Your objectives in reevaluating the reporting are:

  • Are we still using this data? Is it still relevant?
  • Is the data we are viewing actionable?
  • What new metrics should we consider adding we haven’t thought about?
  • How often do we need to see this data?
  • Do the stakeholders receiving the report understand what they are looking at (aka data visualization)?

Adding new data should be purposeful, actionable, and helpful in making decisions for the marketing plan. It’s also helpful to decide what type of data is good to see as “deep dives” as needed.

9. Consider Using Scripts

The current ad platforms have plenty of AI recommendations and automated rules, and there is no shortage of third-party tools that can help with optimizations.

Scripts is another method for advertisers with large accounts or some scripting skills to automate report generation and repetitive tasks in their Google Ads accounts.

Navigating the world of scripts can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is a post here on Search Engine Journal that provides use cases and resources to get started with scripts.

Luckily, you don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science — there are plenty of resources online with free or templated scripts.

10. Seek Collaboration

Another effective planning tactic is to seek out friendly resources and second opinions.

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Much of the skill and science of PPC management is unique to the individual or agency, so there is no shortage of ideas to share between you.

You can visit the Paid Search Association, a resource for paid ad managers worldwide, to make new connections and find industry events.

Preparing For Paid Media Success

Strategies should be based on clear and measurable business goals. Then, you can evaluate the current status of your campaigns based on those new targets.

Your paid media strategy should also be built with an eye for both past performance and future opportunities. Look backward and reevaluate your existing assumptions and systems while investigating new platforms, topics, audiences, and technologies.

Also, stay current with trends and keep learning. Check out ebooks, social media experts, and industry publications for resources and motivational tips.

More resources: 

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Featured Image: Vanatchanan/Shutterstock

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