There are many online marketing avenues that a local small business could take, but which are essential and stand the best chance of ensuring success? After all, business owners have a limited amount of time to pursue marketing activities, so they need to focus on those that are most productive.

In my view, there are six that qualify. If you put them in play, it’s likely that you will vault your business far above your competitors — many of whom won’t take the time and effort — regarding building a strong online presence.

Here they are, in order of priority:

  1. Have a Mobile-friendly, Search-optimised Website

    Your website is your home base. And while you don’t need a website that has tons of pages, it must include two characteristics: mobile-friendliness and search optimisation.

    Most new content management systems include mobile versions of their design themes, which leaves search engine optimisation.

    Include keywords in page titles, body copy, and meta descriptions that are relevant and critical to your business.

    How do you find keywords that qualify? First, consider your industry, products, and services. What keywords come to mind? Conduct some Google searches and look at those sites that get first-page returns, paying attention to the words they use. Ask others around you what they would use to search for your service.

    It helps to update your site on a regular basis — once per week at least. The Google spider will index your site more often if it finds new content. That’s where a blog can play a significant role. Most new CMS platforms come with a blog component built-in.

    Lastly, make sure people can contact you quickly, which means putting your business address and phone number in conspicuous locations across your website, preferably on every page. Also, include a contact form for those who want to reach you via email. Provide multiple points of contact.

  2. Claim and Verify Your Listings on Local and Industry-related Business Directories

    This step is just as important as having a website because consumers are often more likely to find your business via a directory than your site.

    There are directories to fit just about every industry, so conduct a Google search using “industry name + business directory,” to find those best suited to yours.

    Claim your Google My Business listing, Bing Places for Business listing, and Yahoo Local listing. (Some people still use Yahoo for search, believe it or not.)

  3. Ensure Contact Consistency

    Name, address, and phone number in directory listings. Ensure that the information is consistent across the board. Not only will this help consumers who are trying to find your business location, but it may have a bearing on how search engines rank you.

  4. Use Email, to Build Loyalty

    Include an email subscription form on every page of your site and encourage visitors to sign up. As you build a mailing list, periodically send out promotional announcements and other relevant content. Keep the frequency relevant to your business and your customers, or you run the risk of unsubscribes and deletes.

  5.  Engage in Social Media Wisely

    For many businesses, social media is a waste of time. Rarely does it contribute directly to your bottom line. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it, just do so with an understanding that it serves certain functions — building brand awareness, fostering customer loyalty and advocacy, and assisting in moving prospects along the path to purchase — fairly well, and others not so well, or not at all.

    Engagement in social media carries certain responsibilities. You must:

    • Post content on a daily basis. Where Twitter is concerned, you can post multiple times per day, due to its ephemeral nature.
    • Create content that speaks to your customers’ interests. People don’t care about companies, one marketing expert said, they only care about themselves, so craft content that addresses their needs and interests.
    • Use multiple forms of media. Photos and videos work particularly well. Incorporate them whenever possible.
    • Tailor content to the network. Facebook is a true social network. Twitter isn’t a social network but a news and information network. LinkedIn is for business-to-business communication, so it’s not the place to post pictures of your cat!

These are the most essential marketing activities. You don’t have to do everything at once, however. Start by building a mobile-friendly, search-optimised website, and then proceed through the remaining steps as time and budget allow.