Online Marketing: How It Can Help Local Businesses In Toronto Rank Higher On Google And Drive More Leads, Conversions and Sales

What is online marketing?

Combining search engine marketing (SEM)–which includes search engine optimization (SEO), local SEO,  and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising–with social media and email marketing, online marketing is a dynamic strategy that, if implemented properly, will provide an exceptional return on investment (ROI).

There are now more than 89,000 businesses in Toronto. A business must market itself to stay relevant, but today traditional marketing (print, radio, television, etc.) is expensive, particularly for small businesses. These marketing channels no longer reach the wide audience they once did. The top television providers in Canada lost 7 times more subscribers in 2015 than in the previous year due to cord cutting, and newspaper circulation fell in 2014. Furthermore, traditional advertising is limited because it is difficult to measure its performance in regard to ROI.

Traditional, outbound marketing has a long reach, meaning that the advertising message reaches a broad spectrum of consumers. However, because the audience is so wide, many of these consumers are not likely to engage with the product or service. This can lead to a wasted advertising spend.

Online Marketing–which can also be referred to as Internet Marketing–is an effective alternative. It is both cost-effective and efficient in communicating the advertising message to the target audience directly. Business owners in Toronto will benefit from integrating an internet marketing strategy into their overall marketing communications plan.

Search Engine Marketing.

SEM leverages SEO, local SEO and paid search advertising (PSA) to help a business receive a high rank on the search engine rankings pages (SERPs). This is significant because the top 3 links on the SERPs receive 60% of the clicks. Rank is determined by a number of different criteria, but can be improved considerably with a dynamic SEO and PSA strategy, including a fully optimized website.

Search Engine Optimization.

SEO is the process of optimizing a website to provide a search engine with the information it needs to locate the site when it is relevant to a consumer’s search query. This is often referred to as an “organic search”, meaning that the results are found naturally–earned by efficient SEO–rather than being advertisements.

Much of this is executed through targeted keywords built into the content on the site itself. For example, if the consumer searches “vintage record stores in Toronto”, the website is more likely to receive a high rank on the SERPs if those keywords appear in the copy on the page. When building content, it is useful to write with keywords in mind.

How does one select effective and relevant keywords? Consider trying to reverse-engineer the keywords from a consumer’s point of view. If a consumer was trying to find specific products, services, or information, what would they likely type into Google?

Keywords can always be updated or replaced. Monitor which keywords are consistently driving website traffic and which are underperforming. Those that are not producing the desired results can be reworked or omitted. Google Analytics is a free tool that can assist with this exercise–as well as providing a host of other useful analytic information. Once a website is registered with the service, the Analytics platform will begin tracking and analyzing keyword success rate, which will help to alleviate the guesswork.

SEO isn’t entirely about keywords, however. A wealth of other factors contribute to a high ranking on the SERPs. These can include:

Local SEO.

Local search engine optimization is similar to SEO, but is augmented to help users find local businesses. A business can leverage a local SEO program to improve its visibility to local consumers.

Learn more about local seo by speaking with a digital marketing specialist HERE.

For local businesses in Toronto, attracting customers into the brick-and-mortar location is essential. For the consumer, finding results in the area is the goal of 50% of all mobile searches, 61% of which translate into conversions (purchases, subscriptions, etc.). Moreover, 59% of consumers Google local businesses on a monthly basis.  These statistics demonstrate the benefits that a local SEO strategy can provide for a business.

There are a variety of factors that impact SERPs ranking when leveraging a local SEO program. Optimizing the website with locally targeted keywords and content will help Google understand where the business is located. The search engine will then provide a link, as well as a map, directions, and business hours to consumers that are performing a local search. Websites also need to be fully functional for mobile browsing as 88% of consumers use smartphones for local search. Google updated its algorithms in April of 2015, and now, running a website that is not mobile-friendly will negatively impact SERPs ranking on mobile searches.

A business can index its information on local citation sites like Yelp or Yellow Pages. Citation platforms such as these help Google to verify business information like name, address and phone number. Increasing citations across the internet will improve SERPs rank. Additionally, many citation sites invite consumers to review a business. Positive reviews will improve Google visibility even further.

Businesses can also leverage the Google My Business platform. GMB is a free tool that allows a company to list its information, which will then be displayed in a Google search, on Google+, and on Google Maps. The advantage of a listing on Maps is that the results page will display the location of the business to the user.

Implementing a local SEO strategy is an essential measure for a brick-and-mortar business to grow its client-base, and to establish itself as part of the community.

Paid search advertising.

PSA is an online marketing strategy that implements a PPC advertising model wherein a business will buy ads that appear on a Google results page. When searching on Google, a user will often see links at the top of the SERPs, with a small yellow “ad” icon. Aside from the icon, they are identical to an organic search result–title, URL, and a short description. These appear because the owners of those businesses sponsored the ads with Google AdWords.

The advantage of this model is that it provides businesses with an opportunity to appear higher on the results page, which correlates to a stronger likelihood of consumers clicking the link. Unlike traditional advertising however, pay-per-click guarantees ROI as the business is only charged for the ad when it drives traffic to the site.

There are internet users that have trained themselves to not even notice these ads and look straight to the organic results. Though these users are not likely to click the ad, it costs the business nothing for the ad to appear. However, one study showed that 60% of 18-24 year olds hadn’t seen ads on Google’s SERPs, meaning that many people simply regard these PPC ads as natural, organic links.

How Google AdWords works.

When implementing an AdWords strategy, an advertiser will select the keywords he or she would like to rank for, and will have to make a CPC bid for each. They will need to consider where on the SERPs it is that they want to rank before bidding against competitors. Daily maximums may be set at any time. The advantage of this, particularly for businesses with small advertising budgets, is that ad spending can be kept manageable. PSA is an effective marketing strategy because its targeting is very accurate and therefore, very low risk. AdWords can target consumers based on demographics, interests, location, language, devices used, and other targeting factors.

For every dollar spent on Google AdWords, advertisers make an average of two dollars in ROI.

Social Media Marketing.

In 2016, Facebook reached 1.55 billion active users. It is projected that there will be 2.44 billion social media users by 2018. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest are amongst the most popular social media platforms.

Marketing on social media presents a number of benefits to a business. These include increasing brand awareness, improving customer loyalty, collecting consumer research and insights, decreasing advertising costs, and growing conversion rates.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ allow users to publish and share content with all of the other users in their community. If a business creates content that engages users and convinces them to share it, this can generate an exponential number of impressions, increasing brand awareness very quickly.

Loyalty and trust are essential to keep consumers returning to a business, as well as recommending it to others. A presence on social media allows a business to develop a conversation with its customers. A Facebook fan page, or a Twitter account can provide a business with the opportunity to interact with its customers in real time. If a consumer has experienced a problem with a product or service, they are able to inform the business. Not only does this provide the company with information about problems with their products or services, it also gives them the opportunity to make it right in the eyes of the customer. The company can take responsibility, and solve the problem. Accountability breeds trust.

Mining social media channels for consumer data and insights provides many opportunities for marketers. A business can monitor social media–a process known as social listening–for discussions about their products or services. If there is consistent dissatisfaction with a specific aspect of the product or service, the business can then infer–based on hard data–what issues need to be recognized and resolved. Furthermore, because many social media users share their interests and personal information on their profiles, mining social media can supply a business with extremely accurate demographic, psychographic and targeting information.

Marketing on social media is beneficial because it provides a broad reach, while drastically reducing advertising costs. Facebook pages and Twitter feeds function as a customer relationship management (CRM) platform at no cost to a business. Advertising on social media channels is cost-effective because, unlike traditional advertising, if a campaign is not providing a desirable ROI, it can be altered, suspended or canceled without incurring extra costs.

Social Media Marketing can also increase conversion rates in a variety of ways. Most e-commerce websites require a user to create an account. Many of these sites require registration very early in the engagement process. Consumers find this time consuming and intrusive, and may decide to navigate away from the site. Inviting consumers to sign in through their social media accounts requires only one click. Furthermore, allowing customers to review products or services on social media will help to convert other users. 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Email Marketing.

This marketing strategy involves emailing current or potential customers with offers or information. However, unlike sending physical brochures or ads in the mail, email marketing costs nothing to produce and nothing to ship. Additionally, an e-blast can be targeted to different segments of the consumer base, and can be personalized so that it does not read as spam. It is essential for any business that integrates email marketing into their overall strategy to always offer an opt-out option to consumers. Failing to do so can leave the customer feeling spammed.

Online marketing is a dynamic advertising strategy that can produce a highly impactful and cost-effective ROI for local businesses in Toronto.

Leveraging an online marketing strategy that implements all, or a combination of the above platforms is an effective approach to growing a local business in Toronto. Whether the intention is to cultivate clientele, increase sales, or improve brand recognition and loyalty, implementing an online marketing strategy will generate growth for a business in 2016.