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Online marketing is essential to your business because 80% of the population accesses the web via a smartphone. If you don’t already have an online marketing strategy, it’s high time you get one. Here are 4 MUST HAVES for your plan.

1. Website

It’s important for your business to have a website otherwise you’re not likely to be found. This is your business’ first impression to potential customers/clients so it needs to be professional and accurately represent your brand. Your website needs to contain current, relevant information and it should be updated regularly.

Don’t be afraid to use images on your website; just be sure not to go overboard with them. Images help break up the text and draw the attention of your visitors. These images should be related to the content of your website. For instance, if you have a pet sitting business, you should include images of pets, people walking or playing with their pets, and so on. Be sure to include alt tags on all of your images to help improve your SEO.

Social sharing buttons and a call-to-action should also be included in your website. These should be placed carefully so that they’re not missed. The rule of thumb for social sharing buttons is to place them in the header of the website. This will ensure that they’re clearly visible on every page and your visitors know exactly where the find them. Your call-to-action should be placed above the fold, meaning before visitors have to scroll down on the homepage. This is where you can collect email addresses in exchange for a free report, white paper, newsletter, and so on.

2. Blog

Many people tend to overlook blogging thinking it’s not essential to their business and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Blogging is a great way for you to connect with your customers/clients on a different level and it’s important that you take advantage of that. Your customers/clients want to engage with you, ask questions and understand what’s going on with your business. Your blog allows them to do just that.

Be sure to post fresh content at least once a week. If your website is on WordPress, you can schedule posts, but be sure they’re relevant. Again, don’t be afraid to use images on each of your posts. People like images. It’s important to choose a relevant keyword for each post so that you can make sure the SEO is correct. If you’re on WordPress, Yoast makes an amazing plugin for SEO.

You also need to make sure that you have social share buttons on each blog post. I use and love Filament, formerly Flare, for social sharing. It’s a great plugin that allows your visitors to share your blog content across all social media platforms.

3. Social Media

Social media is an integral part of your online marketing strategy. Although Facebook has tanked for fan pages, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ are booming. Even Instagram is getting into the business of business accounts. You can still create a Facebook fan page for your business although I don’t know why you would, so you can post regular updates.

It’s important to create a content calendar so that you know what you’re going to post each day. I created my content calendar in Excel (I also created a blog schedule) and it was super easy. You don’t want to fly by the seat of your pants here.

LinkedIn also has a great publishing feature now, which is where I put many of my blog posts. Do that! Your content gets in front of a lot of new folks and you can grow your followers by publishing relevant content. You’ll be surprised at how fast your followers grow on LinkedIn.

One of the most important things about social media is engagement. If a comment is made, reply to it! Don’t leave your fans/followers hanging out to dry. If they took the time to comment, share or retweet, you should at least thank them for doing so.

4. Email Marketing

Many people have mixed feelings about email marketing so they don’t do it anymore. Well, I think it’s a great way to get your content out there. Building your list can take time but it’s important to build it organically. In other words, don’t buy lists! Including a call-to-action on your website is a great way to build your email list, and you can also ask your LinkedIn contacts to subscribe.

There are a lot of email marketing solutions available; some free and some paid. I use MailChimp and it has a free version up to a certain number of subscribers/emails sent. Whichever email marketing solution you choose, be sure to design your template carefully. It represents your business and should look similar to your other marketing materials to ensure brand consistency and recognition.

You should email your list on a regular basis and be consistent. If you intend to have a weekly newsletter, be sure to send it out on the same day and time each week. Don’t copy and paste your blog post into your newsletter and think it’s good enough because it’s far from it. Your newsletter must include valuable content otherwise you’re going to see people unsubscribing instead of subscribing.

Make sure that your subject line is eye-catching to ensure that your newsletter is opened. I received a newsletter once, a few years ago, and the subject line read “I’m NAKED…”. Talk about piquing someone’s interest! I was almost terrified to open it because I wasn’t sure if it was legitimate or not until I saw the sender. I got a nice chuckle out of it and it served its purpose.

In today’s digital age, you don’t want to be left behind because you don’t have an online marketing strategy. Get started!

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