In my last columns, I have provided some key suggestions on how to bring your business back to life again. I stated that, “When done correctly, online marketing provides more opportunities to extend the word of mouth that’s already so important to your business."

As you know, business is built on relationships. Online marketing also allows you to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones.

We find that people are talking up their favorite businesses directly; they’re consuming and sharing content they find useful or entertaining from those businesses; and they’re asking connections for recommendations. Your business has an opportunity to be part of more of these conversations.

The more you can do to keep your business top of mind and make it easy for others to talk about you, the more you increase the chances of people recommending or seeking you out when they need what you offer. Beyond being part of the conversation, you must understand what people might find when they go looking for your business by name, or by something your business offers.

So there is one thing that is vital. Content is what people search for, consume, and share online. If you produce relevant content on a consistent basis that aligns with what your audience is searching for, you’ll have more people finding you and sharing your content. You’ll also make more connections for your business and reach more people, who will also share your content.

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This content helps search engines like Google find your business and can result in free traffic to your website. Yes, there are some technical aspects to consider for search engine optimization or SEO. But at its core, it’s about delivering relevant and meaningful content to the people you’re trying to reach.

A good tool is a blog. It has functionality that makes it easy to add content, or posts, to your website on a regular basis. Whereas your website contains information about products and services, a blog gives you the ability to demonstrate your expertise by answering more specific questions for prospects and customers.

Search engines love fresh blog content. You get the most benefit when your blog is connected directly to your website and not off on some other platform. Choose a publishing frequency that works best for your business. That could be once a week or once a month. You can then use this content on your social and email channels to lead people back to your website

My next suggestion is how to amplify your efforts. Once you have the foundational elements in place, you can and should use paid advertising to amplify your efforts. The online landscape has changed over the years. Where it used to be enough to just be there to reach your potential customers, algorithms on most social channels limit the access you have to your audience. Algorithms also impact where your business ranks in search results. In many cases, you’ll have to pay to reach people.

Now, that’s not bad. You just want to do it in a smart way. Here are some tips:

  • Ads on Facebook and Instagram are powerful because not only are there lots of people on the platforms, you can also target your ads specifically to increase their effectiveness.
  • Target your ads based on location, demographics, interests, behaviors and connections. You can even create a lookalike audience to target people similar to those already on your email contact list.
  • You don’t have to have all the expertise yourself. For example, Constant Contact walks you through the process of creating ads, making it easy to find customers on Facebook and Instagram, drive website traffic, and grow your contact list. They have simplified the process for creating an ad and bidding on keywords so that you can quickly start promoting your organization to the people who are actively looking for what your business offers.
  • To get started. I suggest that you set aside a budget of $100 to experiment with paid advertising. For example, you could use Google Ads. People use Google every day to search for specific goods, services, programs, and organizational information. You can pay to have Google Ads display your text ads at the top of the search results based on specific keywords. These ads are pay-per-click (PPC), which means you pay only when people click on your ad. These could be used to drive traffic to top performing pages on your website and/or to get new signups for your email list.

As you learn what does and doesn’t work, you can invest more money in the ads that are working to bring you more business.

Dean Swanson is a volunteer Certified SCORE Mentor and former SCORE chapter chairman, district director and regional vice president for the North West Region.