DM 101

Digital Marketing 101 — Online Advertising Basics for Local Businesses

Updated August 2023!

Whether you’ve been doing your own digital marketing for years… working with an agency or partner to do it… or if you’re just getting started, it never hurts to have a quick refresher on the basics of marketing your small business online.

Our free guide, Small Business Digital Marketing 101, will walk you through everything you need to know about how to get your name out there… get found… and get more leads for your business. From a simple glossary to tips on search marketing, display advertising, social marketing and your website, this short guide is a great place to start — or to confirm that you’re already doing what you should!

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Small Business Digital Marketing 101


For a lot of small business owners, getting started with digital marketing can feel like taking a high dive into the unknown, especially if you don’t spend a lot of your time online yourself. But relax. Nobody starts out as a pro, nobody has all the answers before they even begin and, even better, getting going is probably easier and quicker than you might think.

In this guide, we’re going to take you through the steps you need to get started. All the players will be familiar to you – Google, Facebook, your website and even websites that don’t belong to you – and by the end, you’ll have the information you need to make the right decisions when it comes to growing your business.

Let’s get started — class is in session! Welcome to small business digital marketing 101!


Sometimes marketing jargon can be so dense and impenetrable even seasoned professionals are left scratching their heads!

Since we’ve all been puzzled by some marketing lingo we’ve come across, here’s a glossary of 18 common marketing terms and their definitions written in plain English. Let’s dive right in!


  • A/B Testing – Sometimes, you’ll see this called “split testing” or “bucket testing,” but it’s always referring to the same thing. It’s when you take two versions of something and run/publish them at the same time so you can see which one performs better.


  • B2B (Business-to-Business) – An adjective used to describe companies or marketing that focuses on selling to other businesses instead of to individual consumers.
  • B2C (Business-to-Consumer) – An adjective used to describe companies or marketing that deals with selling products or services to the general public.
  • Brand Awareness – It’s a measure of how familiar your target audience is with your brand/business and how well they recognize it. It lets you predict how likely it is someone has heard of your business before and/or if they remember it or not.
  • Bounce Rate – The percentage of people who land on a page of your website and then leave without clicking on anything else or navigating to any other pages on your site. A high bounce rate is bad because it means no one is staying on your site long enough to read your content or convert.


  • Call-to-Action (CTA) – This is text, a button, or an image that encourages the reader to take a desired action; examples include: “Call Now” or “Make an Appointment.”
  • Churn Rate – For businesses that ask their customers to pay monthly or yearly, it’s the percentage of your customers who cancel or don’t renew their subscriptions during a given time period. Ideally, you would want a LOW churn rate.
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR) – Though it may seem like we’re talking in circles, it’s the rate at which something was clicked. Or put another way, it’s the percentage of people who saw your link/button/ad and then actually clicked on it.
  • Conversion – When someone interacting with your business completes an action you want them to complete, this is called a conversion. Though the term is usually used to refer to an online purchase of some kind, it can refer to any action that a business may find desirable; such as signing up to email marketing, calling in to your business, or filling out an appointment request.


  • Engagement – Engagement is a catch-all phrase used to describe any sort of interaction with your content. The general consensus is that the more a customer engages with your content, the more interested they become in your product or services.


  • KPI (Key Performance Indicator) – This is a data point that helps to measure the success of your efforts. KPIs can measure financial data, can relate to the number of clients or orders, or basically any metric that might be beneficial or essential to keep an eye on.


  • Lead – A person who shows interest in your business’ products or services, which makes the person a potential customer.


  • Retargeting – A tactic used with online advertising where your ads are served to people who have already visited your website
  • ROI (Return on Investment) – This refers to the (usually monetary) return that you get from a given endeavor. It’s a term that shows up in many fields, but in marketing, it usually refers to the incoming sales revenue achieved from a given campaign or product.


  • Schema – Code that you can put on your website to help search engines understand the different pieces of information on your site and return more informative results for people searching
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization) — This is a process that website owners undertake to increase the visibility of their site in search engine results. The aim is to rank near the top of the results page when someone searches for a relevant phrase, potentially resulting in more website visits from interested parties.


  • USP (Unique Selling Proposition) – This refers to the particular characteristics that make your company unique and sets you apart from your competitors.


  • Voice Search –The technology that allows users to speak to a virtual assistant like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Home, and then have them search for and provide a result for the information requested.

As you move through the guide, come back and reference this glossary whenever you come across a word or concept that’s got you stumped.


Setting SMARTer Goals

Strategy really just means thinking about why you’re doing something before you do it. So, your digital marketing journey starts with deciding what you want to do, how you’re going to do it, what you expect to happen, and when and how you’ll measure your success.

A common way to come up with this strategy is to use the “SMART” framework:

Specific,” “Measurable,” “Attainable,” “Relevant,” and “Time-bound.”

Each SMART goal you create should have these five characteristics to ensure the goal can be reached and will benefit your business. Let’s take a deeper dive into each characteristic so you’re prepared when it’s time for you to create your own SMART goals:

  1. Use specific wording — SMART goals are “specific” in that there’s a hard and fast destination you’re trying to reach. “Do better” isn’t a SMART goal because it isn’t specific. Instead, ask yourself: What are you getting better at? How much better do you want to get?
  2. Include measurable goals — SMART goals should be “measurable” in that you can track and quantify the goal’s progress. “Increase the number of leads coming in” by itself, isn’t a SMART goal because you can’t measure the increase. Instead, ask yourself: How much of an increase should you strive for?
  3. Aim for realistically attainable goals — An “attainable” SMART goal considers your business’s ability to achieve it. Yes. You should always aim to improve. But reaching for completely unattainable goals may knock you o track and make it harder to track progress. Rather than saying, “We want to make 10,000% of what we made in last year,” consider something more attainable, like, “We want to increase leads coming in by 20% this year.”
  4. Pick relevant goals that relate to your business — SMART goals that are “relevant” relate to your overall business goals and account for current trends in your industry. For instance, will printing more flyers lead to more leads? And is it actually possible for you to significantly boost your website’s traffic given your current search advertising spend? If you’re aware of these factors, you’ll be more likely to set goals that benefit your unique business.
  5. Make goals time-bound by including timeframe and deadline information — A “time-bound” SMART goal keeps you on schedule. Having no timeframe or really broad span of time noted in your goal will make it hard for you to see if you’re on track. Rather than saying. “This year, we want to increase leads” say, “In quarter one, we will focus on increasing lead volume by 1% each month leading to a 3-5% increase by the end of the quarter.” 

Laying the Foundation

Just like you have to learn to walk before you can run, when it comes to your digital marketing, you need to have a solid foundation in order to set your self up for future success. For most businesses, that foundation will be made up of your website and your online reputation.

When potential customers start their search for your product or service, they are most likely going to come across one of these foundational aspects. And how you are seen online is too important to leave to chance. It’s like letting nature decide what your office or storefront looks like. You need to gain control of how your business presents itself online as soon as possible.


Your website is your chance to show o exactly what your brand is all about and connect with your customers on your home turf. Here’s where you want your customers to go for information, helpful content, and to buy your products or services.

Getting started


When it comes to your website, content is king.

  • Your content needs to be clear and purposeful. You wouldn’t fill your shop window from floor to ceiling with random items, so try to resist the temptation to do the same on your website. The most effective websites usually have the simplest and easiest to understand content.
  • Ensure your calls to action — contact options, newsletter signups, buy buttons for products — are emphasized through attractive, logical, easily-seen design.


User Experience

The experience your visitors have on your site will influence their decision to buy from you.

  • Focus on making it easy for site visitors to find what they’re looking for. If you’re a restaurant, make it easy to find your menu. If you’re a plumber, make it clear that you offer 24/7 emergency service. Don’t make visitors search for what they want.
  • Constantly thinking about the user experience when you’re putting your site together means you can help visitors find which product is right for them and help them decide yours is the business they want to buy from.
  • More people are ditching desktop computers to get online via phone or tablet, so ensure your website can automatically resize for smaller screens and works well with tapping, swiping, and one-handed operation.

Online Reputation

Your business only gets one shot to make a dynamite first impression. However, with your website rarely being the first thing a potential customer sees, you need to be in control of what your customers (and potential new customers) find about you online — and the reputation that creates for your business.

Generally, there are two things that create the first impression a prospect gets of your business – your business information that appears in search results like Google, listings and directories – and your customer ratings and reviews that appear on your site, Facebook page, and around the Web. If your information is wrong, if your reviews are bad or nonexistent, that makes for a terrible first impression and will end up losing you business.


Getting Started

Your Online Business Listings

Where the essential information about your business lives online.

  • Whatever you do, make sure you claim your Google Business Profile listing. Google Business Profile allows you to input information about your business that helps customers find you and get to know more about you before making a purchase.
  • On your other listings, make sure that at least your business name, address and phone number (also called NAP) are exactly the same on all of them. Any inconsistencies can seriously hurt your credibility (and your position in search results).

Your Online Reviews

When was the last time you bought something without looking at reviews first?

  • You’ll need a strategy for getting new reviews. The most basic way to generate new reviews is to just ask for them. Consider business cards, brochures, receipts, menus, and flyers as vehicles for communicating both your desire and appreciation for in-person and online feedback.
  • Your first instinct devote most of your time to responding to negative reviews but dedicate any time you can set aside to respond personally to the positive reviews, as well. Many reviewers feel that if they take the time to leave a good review of a business, it’s only common courtesy to receive a “thank you” from the company.

Spreading the Word

Way back in the 20th century, small business advertising usually involved broadcasting your message to large groups of people, hoping to catch the attention of a small percentage of them. Those days are over.

Online advertising is generally more cost-effective and more effective because you’re able to target your advertising budget at a select group of people (your ideal customers), and closely measure how that audience responds to your advertising.

There are a lot of options when it comes to online advertising, but to keep things more manageable, we’re going to be focusing on the “big three,” Search, Display and Social Advertising.

Search Marketing (Pay-Per-Click)

Having a great website helps you organically turn up higher in search results, but you can also leapfrog to the top of a page of results by using paid search ads.

Advertising this way is especially smart and effective because it places your ad in front of an audience when they’re actively searching for a product, service, or information. When a search ad is delivered, the viewer is already hyper-focused on the topic of the search so there’s a much higher likelihood that you’ll be able to convert these leads into actual sales.

Getting Started


The more relevant your keywords are to your business and website, the more cost-effective your campaign will be.

  • Find which keywords your ideal customers would search for. Start with a specific description of the product or services you sell and include your location to help you target the people most likely to buy.

Solid Writing

If your ad copy isn’t good, you’re not going to see the return you hoped for.

  • You have one line to catch their attention and get them to click your link in a sea of similar-looking links. Use clear, easy to understand language and don’t be afraid to use intense words to create a sense of urgency.

Display Advertising

Display advertising can be a great means to get your brand in front of potential buyers when they’re browsing their favorite sites. You buy display ads through ad servers that use data on someone’s recent search and click history to automatically determine the website and user to show a particular ad to.

In a sense, display advertising creates demand — a perfect complement to search advertising, which responds to existing demand.

Getting Started

High-Quality Images

Just because display ads often small, that doesn’t mean you should cut corners with quality.

  • Use high-quality imagery (whether that means photography or illustrations), legible fonts and ensure that any logos you use are especially clear and crisp.


Keeping yourself top-of-mind is key.

  • Just because someone isn’t ready to purchase right now doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. Constantly think about how you can segment out audience sections from one another, and how to tailor your retargeting messages to them.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is a powerful way for businesses of all sizes to reach prospects and customers. Your customers are already interacting with brands through social media, and if you’re not speaking directly to your audience through social platforms like Facebook, you’re missing out!

Perhaps the greatest value of social media advertising is the ability to target your ads to a massive audience of your choosing. It gives businesses the ability to get the message out to the local audience that’s most likely to be interested in their service or product.

Getting Started

Build Organically

Ads are important, but keeping your page fresh with new content will help in the long run.

  • Find which keywords your ideal customers would search for. Start with a specific description of the product or services you sell and include your location to help target the people most likely to buy.

Be Picky

The more places you are, the better, right? Not quite.

  • Rather than try to be on every platform, don’t be afraid to ask your customer what they use (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) and figure out which ones are the best fit for you and your business. 

Ready to Start

You know the lingo. You’ve set your SMART goals. You know where to start. All the pieces are there — now it’s time for you to put them together.

Keep things simple and light-touch when you’re starting out, but don’t be afraid to use a combination of marketing techniques and ideas. It’s useful to think of your marketing activity as an ecosystem – when all your tactics (online or offline) work together, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Class dismissed!


Better results working together

Why work harder when you could market smarter? At Hibu, our goal is to help you achieve your goals, by building you a complete digital marketing “solution” — a custom, interconnected digital marketing campaign that works to maximize your results and deliver what you want.

Tell us what you want to achieve – more visibility, more visitors, more leads… or all three — and we’ll build you a smart, easy digital marketing solution designed to deliver the results you want.

Visit to learn more or talk to us today at 855-727-1889 to take the first step toward smarter digital marketing.