Guide to Digital Marketing Basics – Small business information, insight and resources | Thu, 15 Nov 2018 17:41:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Scholars Claim These are the Best Times of Day for Social Media Posts Thu, 18 Oct 2018 17:19:02 +0000

A social media manager tasked with posting ten stories in a day with a budget to promote four of those stories can schedule the sequence of social media posts in over seven trillion ways. Which of those seven trillion options should they choose to post?


Recently, three graduate business school academics (Vamsi K. Kanuri of Notre Dame, and Shrihari Sridhar and Yixing Chen of Texas A&M) tackled a vexing problem for those who market their companies with social media posts (and tweets, we guess): “What are the best times to post?” (Really, we don’t make up these research projects. We even read it in the Harvard Business Review.)

It’s an important issue, according to the professors, as U.S. companies are expected to spend more than $37 billion dollars annually on social media by 2020 — representing 24 percent of the economy’s total digital advertising spend. And a lot of these dollars will be spent by small businesses.

Rather than posting randomly, there is a better way to spend that advertising budget, say the professors. Their research on circadian rhythms suggests that content platforms like CNN, ESPN, National Geographic, etc. can enhance their profit payoffs by at least eight percent by:

  • Posting content following the biological responses of their audience’s sleep-wake cycles
  • Targeting content types to when the audience is most naturally receptive to it

Working Memory

According to their research, the professors’ posting recommendations are tied into what is called, “Human Working Memory.”  This type of memory is highest when we wake up in the morning, lowest in mid-afternoon, and moderate in the evening. “Higher availability of working memory makes individuals alert and feel the need to seek information. This means that consumers’ desire to engage with content will likely be highest in the morning, lowest in the afternoon, and moderate in the evening,” they write.

Here are some of the recommendations they culled from their interviews:

  • All else equal, posting content in the morning results in higher engagement.
  • Boosting posts (paying to promote posts) is most effective when the target audience is experiencing low working memory.
  • Assuming the majority of the audience start their day in the morning, it is ideal to post content conveying high-arousal emotion (i.e., angry or worried) in the morning and “deep think” content in the afternoon.
  • A firm does not need an additional boosting budget to increase gross profits. Simply rearranging the posts to match content preferences of the target audience can do the trick.
  • Increasing boosting budget does not necessarily increase gross profits. There is a tipping point where additional spending results in only marginal increases in gross profits.

Harvard Business Review | A Study Shows the Best Times of Day to Post to Social Media


]]> The #1 Small Business Lesson From the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Data Breach | 2018 Mon, 26 Mar 2018 18:10:24 +0000

While there are many lessons a small business should take away from the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data breach, one stands out above all others: Never fall into the trap of thinking that a Facebook account or page can be your company’s home online. Your home online should be a website that has a domain name that you select, register and treat like it’s one of the most important assets your company has.

As we’ve noted many times, a Facebook page should be thought of as an account you have on a service that is owned and operated by someone other than you. It’s like a Twitter account or, to use a metaphor from olden days, an ad in the Yellow Pages. Also, as we’ve noted, you shouldn’t even consider a Facebook account as a means to reach your own customers unless you want to purchase promotional ads each time you post something you’d like your customers to see.

Facebook is not a ‘home’ for your business

Because it is so easy to set up and manage a business Facebook page, many small businesses are lulled into believing what Facebook says on the page above: that Facebook is a home for your business.

While a Facebook page is a good thing for most local and consumer-oriented businesses to have and use, Facebook is home to only one business: Facebook.

It is a means to market your business to a fraction of the people who have “liked” your page or you have purchased advertising to reach. Only a fraction of your customers will ever see an update you add to Facebook. However, all of your customers who come to your account page will see ads for other businesses embedded in your feed.

Again, we are not suggesting that you join any movement to #DeleteFacebook. Far from it. We have a page and we’re not taking it down.

All we are saying is this: Your company’s home online should be a website with a domain name of your very own. It should be the place you post things first. It’s the online place you should care for most.





Google is Giving Users More Control to Mute Those Ads That Follow You Around | 2018 Fri, 26 Jan 2018 17:20:44 +0000

If not managed with care by an advertiser, one of the most effective (yet at times, creepiest) forms of online marketing are the ads that follow you wherever you go on the web. Those types of ads belong to a category of data-driven marketing called lots of things (that we can repeat):  Behavioral marketing, behavioral-targeting, retargeting and remarketing. Google, the dominant provider of this type of advertising, has a kinder-gentler name for them: “reminder ads.” In the past, we’ve provided information on Google’s Mute This Ad feature that provides users a way to turn off such tracking ads – yet in a limited way for specific types of ads. Late yesterday (1.25.2018), Google announced it is adding more features to Mute This Ad that “give you more control to mute the (reminder) ads you see on Google, on websites, and in apps,” according to Jon Krafcik, Google group product manager of data privacy and transparency. “Once users tell Google they don’t like an ad, Google will stop displaying it on all the devices that user is logged into,” he said.

MTA flow - US.png

“Today, we’re rolling out the ability to mute the reminder ads in apps and on websites that partner with us to show ads. We plan to expand this tool to control ads on YouTube, Search, and Gmail in the coming months.”

Jon Krafcik
Google Group Product Manager of Data Privacy and Transparency

1 | Mute this Ad will now recognize feedback on any device where you are signed in to your Google Account, based on your account settings.

2 | Mute This Ad will roll out the new features to apps and websites that partner with Google to show ads.

3 | Mute This App will expand to YouTube, Search and Gmail in the coming months.

4 | Users will be able to view a list of the websites that are delivering remarketing ads to them, and thus tracking them, and opt-out from having ads from those websites delivered to them going forward.

5 | Be forewarned: Those who use the tool are muting the advertiser from retargeting them with Google ads, not just the one ad they’re sick of seeing.

6 | It only impacts Google ads, not those from other remarketing services an advertiser might be using.

Google Searching for Why More Small Businesses Don’t Adopt Digital Tools | 2018 Wed, 24 Jan 2018 19:13:42 +0000

As we’ve shared often, millions of small businesses have adopted digital tools for all facets of their business, from logistics to marketing to managing money. Despite that, there are still millions of small businesses who seem steadfast in their belief that digital tools are irrelevant to their business. Building on research it commissioned from Deloitte last year, Google recently added more analysis to better understand the barriers small businesses face in adopting digital tools, or that are “digitally advanced,” as Deloitte describes such businesses.  Digitally advanced refers to a business’ use of certain digital tools that help companies build stronger, more profitable relationships with customers.

  • A video replay of a Google live stream about the new research can be found at the bottom of this page.
  • The Deloitte research report can be found here.

Deloitte’s research findings highlights

Rural-based small businesses are less likely to be using advanced digital tools than their non-rural counterparts

While they face many similar challenges to non-rural small businesses, U.S. small businesses in rural areas were twice as likely to report having an inadequate Internet connection.

Digital tools adoption growing fastest among women-owned small businesses

Deloitte’s research found that women-led businesses are more likely to be using digital tools than all small businesses. However, there is room for growth.

55% | The percentage of women-owned small businesses that are using advanced digital tools.

The smallest businesses are less likely to be using advanced digital tools

12% | Percentage of small businesses with less than 10 employees that are digitally advanced.
39% | Percentage of small businesses with 100-250 employees that are digitally advanced.

Barriers that small businesses say are preventing them from fully using digital tools

Those who don’t use digital tools gave these reasons.

40% | Said digital isn’t relevant for their business
38% | Said digital is not effective
34% | Said they are concerned about privacy and security.
30% | Said they don’t have enough experience with digital tools
29% | Said they have no time to learn about digital tools
28% | Said that digital tools are too expensive.

“Many small business owners tell us they want to be doing more with digital, but they often don’t know where to start or have enough time to decide which tools to use,” says Google’s Soo Young Kim.  “To introduce busy small business owners to digital tools that can help them grow, we designed Google’s Get Your Business Online training program as a way to get started and better understand the value these tools can offer.”

Video provided by Google


What Digital Marketing Platform Is Most Important to a Small Business? Mon, 14 Aug 2017 13:55:33 +0000

Let’s face it. There are only so many hours in a day for a small business owner to (in addition to running their business) keep up with all of the online marketing options available. The best advice we can give is this: If you can’t do it all, pick the channels that your customers consider most important. For instance, if you are a local retailer, then Facebook may work best for you. If you are a business-to-business marketer, a social media platform specific to your industry may work best. Or, if you are a services-oriented consultant, LinkedIn may be your best bet.

Your Website

Your website is the most important digital marketing tool in your toolbox. A good website is a must. All other tools should point back to your website, and it should be included in every marketing activity you undertake. Your website is like a brochure in which a potential or current customer can find out anything they need to learn about you and your products or services.

Learn more from the Guide to Website Basics.

Your Blog

If your website is a brochure, then your blog is like a daily news show. It is where people go to learn the latest information about your company.

Learn more from the Guide to Starting a Blog.


Like the weather, we can hate and complain about email, but there’s not much we can do about it. Email marketing is an admission to the reality that there is only one universal communications channel that every user of the web has: email. Mastering email marketing is a challenge, but if done correctly, it offers lots of rewards. And that address list you have is like gold, so be sure to treat it that way.


Your Facebook page is not your website. Your website is more important. Don’t be one of those people who think that digital marketing is covered if you have a Facebook page.


If you have a visually driven product like produce, flowers, fashion, retail, or a restaurant, then Instagram is for you. Post to Instagram and simultaneously post to Facebook (Instagram is owned by Facebook).


LinkedIn has been around longer than any other social media platforms on this list. However, the “social” part came after a period of time when LinkedIn was more like a Rolodex for keeping up with your professional friends. Today, it’s a must-use tool for researching people. Sales professionals in consulting and services fields should go ahead and spring for the paid premium version. Should you post articles? Again, that’s up to your industry and profession.


Think of Twitter as a blog that allows you to only write a couple of sentences, a link and an image. You must promote your Twitter account and learn to use #hashtags and other means to get you customers to sign up. Use your Twitter feed to share exclusive news or instant sales.


Unless your customers are heavy-duty Snapchat users, it should not be your priority. If your customers are heavy-duty Snapchat users, there’s a good chance you are already tuned-in.

Yelp, Google My Business, and other directory and review sites

For some of you (restaurants, retail, etc.) Google and Yelp could rival your website in importance. Keep it up to date.

Learn more in the Guide to
Managing a Listing on Google Search and Maps

Digital advertising

Again, this depends on the specific situation and audience you have. Chances are, if you’re a local business, you should try out Facebook and Google advertising options. If there are advertising opportunities in your industry, try those also.

Dean Mitchell/istock

How to Register a Domain Name (Web Address) for Your Small Business Mon, 27 Mar 2017 10:00:29 +0000

Google. Walmart. The White House. Your business. What do they all have in common? At some point (perhaps right now) someone created and registered their domain names–the ubiquitous web addresses that end with .com, or dozens of other .somethings. Whether it’s Walmart or your business, anyone who wants a domain name follows very similar steps to claim their corner of the internet. Today, selecting and registering a domain name is a rite of passage for every new business, product launch or major project needing it unique online name. If you’re new to the world of websites—that is, creating and operating one—you may be wondering how you even go about registering a domain name. You may not even know what a domain name is, which is why we’re here to help.

Step 1: Choose a domain name

A domain name is simply the Web address of your company’s site. For example, ours is Rex Hammock, the founder of, registered it 22 years ago in May of 1995. Back then, you didn’t have to be terribly creative to come up with a domain name. Now, you are. You’re going to want to take some time with this step and really consider what you want to use. Your domain name should be unique and represent both you and your brand. It will probably require you think up a two-word domain name, possibly one with you location included.

What about one of those new Domain Name extensions like .anything?


It’s also important to consider the extension you choose—the .com, .net, .biz, and what now seems like an endless number of “generic top-level domains” (like .company, .cheap, .construction), country names, trademarks and lots more. The companies who paid dearly to obtain the rights to those extensions bet that people like you would purchase your domain name using their extension.

Should you?

We suggest sticking with .com, as that’s clearly the “1-800 number” of extensions. Sure, you could get the domain you want at .cool, but customers are likely to type in .com first, meaning they’ll be heading to a site that isn’t yours. Meaning, you might lose business. Not what you want.

That said, if you are in the construction business and your company’s name is ACME Construction, getting to go with your would make sense. You can “redirect” any number of domain names to one website, so there’s no reason not to have both names.

See if your domain is available

search-760Before you start imagining the waves of customers swarming to your site, check to see if it’s available. You can do this by using a “whois” service. There are countless whois services–go to any of the domain registrar’s listed in the link you’ll find in Step 2. For demonstration purposes, we’ll point to Godaddy’s whois service.

Step 2: Choose a domain registrar

A domain registrar is a company like GoDaddy that allows you to purchase a domain name. There are many, many of these companies all over the world. Here is a list of accredited registrars from all over the world. Depending on what you want and if the extension has not been registered by someone else, a web address may cost you just a few dollars per year (.com). With some of the more recent and specialized generic top-domains can cost over $100 per year or even more. To purchase a domain name that belongs to someone else is .

Step 3: Register the name

Once you’ve found the domain name and extension you want, it’s time to go through the process of registering it and paying for it. The sites will most likely ask you if you’d also like to pay for other services beyond the Domain name. They will go through offer-after-offer of services ranging from hosting your email to keeping secret the fact that you’ve registered the domain name.

Here’s some advice that’s so important, we’ll put it in ALL CAPs:


Wait until you create your website to decide who will handle all the other services you are going to use that involve your domain name (like email, for example).

Step 4: Payment

At checkout, you’ll be given several options (one year, two years, three years, five years or, even, ten years.) Technically, this is payment for hosting the domain name at the service you are using so at any time, you can switch the domain to another service. There are some horror stories of companies, even big ones, letting their registration lapse. That said, the length of your registration is completely a personal thing. If the domain is going to be for a short-term promotion, then don’t pay for ten years. If the domain is your company name, don’t register it for only one.

Step 5: Ladies and Gentlemen, Start your Engines!

Next, you need to get with a web designer or web developer.


What Percentage of Small Businesses Have Websites? | 2017 Sat, 18 Mar 2017 14:29:48 +0000

Over the years, we’ve noted various surveys that were attempting to discover what percentage of small businesses have websites. As the various surveys use different definitions of small business, it is impossible to pinpoint a precise percentage. However, one thing all of the tracking surveys agree on: A greater percentage of small businesses have websites this year than last year. So, if this recent survey by Clutch, a Washington, DC- based business-to-business research firm, doesn’t agree with other surveys, that’s okay. That’s because all of them point to a near future when it will be unheard of for a small business not to have a home on the web.

Key findings

71% | Percentage of small businesses that have a website
79% | Percentage of small businesses with websites who say it is mobile-friendly (responsive design)
92% | Percentage of small businesses without websites that say they will have a website by the end of 2018

Small businesses with websites (by region)

58% | Midwest
72% | South
73% | Northeast
77% | West

Reasons why businesses don’t have websites

While most small business owners have concluded that a website is a requirement they can’t deny (probably the same curve that led small businesses to all acquire a telephone a century ago), nearly one-third are still site-less. Here are the reasons they give for not having one.

31% | Use a social media business profile instead
25% | Lack of technical skills
23% | Not necessary in their type of business
22% | Lack of resources (time or money) to invest in a website

Resources small businesses use for website creation and management

The slight majority of small businesses with a website have an employee who is responsible for maintaining the website. They may not be fully trained as a developer, however.

51% | An employee
40% | Freelancer or consultant
38% | Do it yourself (DIY) website builder software
31% | Design or development agency
9% | User experience/user interface agency

Small business website priorities | 2017

Top priorities small business owners have for their websites during 2017.

23% | Publish higher quality content
20% | Improve optimization for mobile
19% | Have a more user-friendly design
17% | Improve search engine optimization
12% | Improve security

Source | 2017 Clutch Small Business Survey


How Small Business is Using Online Marketing | February 2017 Wed, 08 Feb 2017 17:41:08 +0000

The majority of small business owners now use online marketing channels like websites and social media to grow their company’s reputation and their revenue, according to a report released yesterday (February 7, 2017) by the web services company Despite their embrace of online marketing channels, not all small companies have harnessed the full potential of their online presence.

| An overview of the good and bad of small business use of online marketing

54% | Small business owners who say they’re confident their online presence is doing what it’s supposed to do
42% | Small business owners who say they don’t use both a robust website and social media channel
12% | Say the main purpose of their website is for e-commerce
26% | Say they have only a single-page website
43% | Say they have no plans to change or improve their online presence in 2017

| Who is handling the building and maintenance of small business websites

68% | Handle it in-house or on their own
22% | Outsource it to an agency
9% | Seek help from friends and family

| How small businesses are using social media to market their companies

88% | Are already embracing social media to support their businesses
54% | Plan to invest in social media in 2017
23% | Only use personal social media accounts to market their business

In the research, Facebook ranked as the ‘most effective’ four times more than any other social media channel. Twitter was the next most effective platform, ranking ahead of channels like Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+ and Snapchat.

85% | Report encountering challenges when using social media to market their business

The challenges include:

15% | Concern of reputational risks
14% | Are overwhelmed with the upkeep, including the need to constantly develop interesting content
13% | Lack an understanding of how social media may help their business
10% | Knowledge how to set up social media channels and integrate them with their business websites


How to Hire a Developer to Help You Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly | 2017 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 19:15:53 +0000

We have stressed the importance of responsive design and how it makes your website easily used by those accessing it on a mobile device. If you use a commercial platform like WordPress, you should be able to update your site by using a new template (or, likely, it has already taken place in a template upgrade).  However, if you need the help of a web developer to update your site, Google has compiled the following guidelines and suggestions for how to hire a developer to help build your mobile-friendly (responsive) website.

1. Ask to see your developer’s references and portfolio of mobile websites.

Ask if your developer has experience with responsive web design (RWD). If you have a desktop-only site, inquire whether your developer has transitioned a desktop site to a responsive site. Check out other sites they have built. Talk to their references and prior customers to see how they feel about your developer. You can use tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to look at a developer’s portfolio. PageSpeed Insights highlights factors that hinder a page’s speed or hurt a page’s usability.

Web Fundamentals passes the PageSpeed Insights mobile test for both speed and user experience.

2. Make sure your developer understands your mobile customer.

Tell the developer about your business and provide him/her with the most common tasks you want optimized on the mobile site. Make sure that they develop a site that supports the functionality that mobile customers need.

3. Ask your developer to make a commitment to speed.

Don’t make customers wait too long for your pages to load in their browser. Ask if your developer is aware of PageSpeed Insights (the tool above) and if they’re familiar with techniques to help pages load faster. Your contract can include pages “rendering” as fast as your competitors according to WebPagetest. Or, if that’s too difficult, perhaps get their commitment to a PageSpeed Insights result with a green checkmark which doesn’t have any issues marked “Should Fix”. (If pages don’t receive a green checkmark, it’s up to you and your developer to weigh the costs and benefits of correcting the issue.) More information on mobile page speed can be found in Google’s video, “Quick fixes in mobile website performance“.

4. Have your developer install web analytics.

Install web analytics such as Google Analytics, so that you can collect aggregate information about your site’s performance.

5. Make sure your contract includes improving your mobile site after the initial launch

You’ll likely collect feedback from customers and data from web analytics that you’ll want to incorporate to make your site even better. You may want to consider Google AdWords’ list of recommended mobile and multiscreen vendors. For more information about mobile website implementation, see our docs on Mobile SEO.

]]> Google Will Start Penalizing Your Website on Mobile if You Don’t Stop Doing This | 2016 Thu, 25 Aug 2016 18:05:49 +0000

Apologies up front: This post may sound a little geeky, but it’s something everyone with a business website should prepare for.

First the news, then the explanation

Google has announced that on January 10, 2017, it will make changes to its mobile search algorithm that will penalize websites that contain certain types of interstitial messages or ads. It’s important to note that Google is NOT banning ALL interstitials, as we’ll explain below. But first a question some of you may have:

What’s an interstitial?

It’s anything that pops up in front of the content you went to the website to see. On, before January 10, 2017, we had (or have, depending upon when you’re reading this)  two such interstitials: one, a newsletter signup and the other (which we get to keep) is to help users add a bookmark for this site to your home screen.

Why is Google going to penalize some interstitials on mobile websites?

As we have explained on several occasions, Google’s golden goose is the speed and accuracy it delivers users to the knowledge they seek when searching. As the majority of Google search users have shifted to mobile searches rather than desktop or laptop searches, Google is focusing more and more on the speed and accuracy of mobile search results

Two years ago, Google started rewarding sites that followed its guidelines for being mobile-friendly. Today, they have determined that 85% of all pages in the mobile search results are mobile-friendly.

However, while the underlying content is present on the page and can be indexed by Google, the content may be visually obscured by an un-indexed interstitial. “This can frustrate users because they are unable to easily access the content that they were expecting when they tapped on the search result,” according to Doantam Phan, a Google product manager.

Here are the kinds of interstitials Google has determined are bad


Here are the kinds of interstitials Google has determined are good

Not all interstitials are evil says Google. Here are some examples of techniques that, used responsibly, would not be affected by the new signal:

  • Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
  • Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.


How much will a website be penalized if it doesn’t remove the bad interstitials

According to Phan, the change “is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”

Bonus: How mobile friendly is your small business website?

Google provides a mobile-friendly test here. For a guide to mobile friendliness from Google, look here.