Digital Marketing for Small Businesses and Professionals in 2016

February 18, 2016

digital trends 2016

Are you a small business or a self-employed professional? Are you looking for tips, trends, guidance, coaching for digital marketing in 2016? I think you have come to the right place. This article is aimed at individuals with a working-knowledge of digital marketing techniques such as SEO, social, email marketing, analytics etc.

small business digital marketing

I have been running my own small business in the area of web development services since 2009. I’ve seen tremendous changes almost every year. Back in 2009, the buzzword was Web 2.0 – but it sounds so ancient now!

So now we’re in 2016 and here are six of the trends that I think SMBs and professionals should consider and try out this year. Pundits predict that the intimidating techniques which were restricted to large enterprise corporates will finally become small-business friendly.

The two things which every business owner is going to want is (1) to increase overall traffic and (2) to improve conversions. Let’s start with strategies for (1) increasing traffic.

1. Traffic: The return to long-form Content Writing for SEO in 2016

You will notice a certain style and format for this article. Very short paragraphs, visuals interspersed with the text, easy-reading language with not much jargon etc. This style is deliberate and intentional.

There are two main reasons for this. First, with the amount of reading people are now doing on their mobile devices, it has become important to cater to that segment. Second, people tend to scan through webpages rather than read them like a book. The content layout and format should lend itself to that trend.

long form content for SEO

It has also been seen that top ranked web pages on google searches have 2000+ words (think wikipedia!). Gone are the days of 300-400 word blog posts. If you want your content to be discovered on search engines, it is really important to provide unique, relevant and reader-friendly long-form content.

seo top ranked content length

In 2016, we are seeing more and more digital marketing Gurus advocate long form content with compelling headlines and keyword rich content. I personally like to follow Neil Patel who blogs here. He’s got some amazing advice from the the multi-million businesses he has built.

Another interesting approach for building content is the skyscraper technique as advocated by Brian Dean. It’s an inspiring step by step guide on creating hugely successful content pieces.

The coolest thing for a small business is that you don’t need to have a large corporate marketing team to write a good quality 2500+ word article. Many more relevant ecommerce marketing tips here.

Now, once you have established yourself in long-form content writing, you  want to optimize your site for search engine ranking. This bring us to our next point:

2. Traffic: Re-thinking content distribution; back-links via influencers

After you have written and published the content, you would want to get it to reach the maximum number of people.

Google is constantly updating its search algorithm to improve the search results quality. Over the past few years, it has released large updates under the names of Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. The most important change noticed in these updates was that sites which had tried to ‘outsmart’ google by indiscriminate link-building were penalized hard.

Here’s the kind of graphs everyone was sharing:

google penguin seo

As a result, most companies stopped their link building completely. Now in 2016, the experts have started re-emphasizing the importance of back-links to signal to the google crawler on the popularity and importance of your content.

The quality of these links are very important. The way to think about the quality is to think about the domain authority of the linking site.

To help you out in identifying influencers and domain experts, you should try out buzzsumo or These tools are really good at helping identify content influencers.

Once you have a list of people you would like to approach, remember you will probably get a response rate of only 5-10% (assuming your content and email copy are reasonable). So if you’d like to get 5-10 backlinks to your content – you’re going to have to write 100 emails/ messages.

influencer marketing 2016

The effect of influencer links is both direct in terms outreach to more people and indirect through their links sending a strong signal to google. If you get on to page 1 on google for your keyword, you’re bound to get more customers.

For small to medium business owners, this might sound like a huge drain on your bandwidth. But hey! If you get it right, the results will be exponentially high.

3. Traffic: Get an army of affiliate sellers for small businesses in 2016

Affiliate networks sound intimidating and perhaps that’s why so many small business owners don’t realize the potential of this channel. The momentum is building and I see 2016 as a big growth for affiliate channels.

It’s simple really:

affiliate marketing for SMB 2016

For small businesses, cash flow and working capital are always a challenge. The beauty of affiliate network programs is that you pay a commission against actual sales rather than a generic advertising cost which is not linked to sales. You can start with a small budget and run micro-experiments in order to try out the process. Once you’re confident, go out with a bang!

So, compared to paying for clicks on google or on facebook or even paying for display ad impressions, affiliate networks are result oriented.

To become an effective advertiser on an affiliate network, put yourself in the shoes of the affiliate marketer. What would be exciting? What kind of support can I give the affiliates to ensure that the sales are happening?

That’s brings us to the section on improving conversion rates. Affiliate sellers would be happiest working on products where they know they will get conversions (and hence their commission). So time to talk about funnels.

4. Conversions: Landing pages driven funnels for SMBs in 2016

So firstly, what is a conversion funnel?

A conversion funnel can be defined as the step-wise journey a consumer takes while navigating a website before finally making a purchase.

Or, the funnel could be for a mini-conversion goal, like a newsletter sign-up or filling up a contact form.

The reason it is called a funnel is because at every step (or click) there is a drop-off of users. Here’s a visual example of this funnel from kissmetrics. In this example only 3.2% of visitors purchased this product.


So, the experts recommend that for any online marketing campaign, you need to have a dedicated landing page. It increasing the conversion rates by reducing the drop-offs and in the case of paid ads, it reduces the cost per click (higher quality score in Google Adwords).

This is because landing pages focus on a singular Call to Action. There is minimal distraction for the customer. There’s no navigation menu or a hyperlinks to take the customer away. It focuses on achieving that one important conversion metric.

landing page 2016

Yes, here is a short sales-plug for us. If you are building a landing page, you gotta consider a landing page builder. Sunny Landing Pages helps you build pages are that are mobile-responsive, fast-loading and conversion-focused.

You can choose from a range of themes and templates as a starting point and customize from there. The landing pages include lead capture and click-through templates.  It has a bunch of cool interactive features like countdown timers, videos, images, contact foms etc.

Here are some details on Inspiration for landing pages in 2016. Sign up for a free account and let us know what you think?

5. Conversions: Bump up your sales by 20% with remarketing in 2016

You must have noticed how sometimes when you are shopping online for a product or service (like a tablet or a flight ticket) you start seeing display ads for that same product every where you go.

That’s because of remarketing. This visual explains how it works:

remarketing 2016

It’s quite sensible if you think about it. It’s very rare that visitors make a purchase in their first visit. They want to do a little research, compare your product and then make the purchase once they have made up their minds.

Remarketing helps in maintaining the ‘mind-share’ of the prospective customer. It’s a gentle reminder (or sometimes a nuisance) that helps keep the conversation and engagement going even though the visitor left the site.

Who wouldn’t want 5-20% improvement in their sales? For a small business, remarketing could be the difference between profit and loss.

All the big platforms such as Google Adwords, Facebook ads help you in this process. The provide you with a code snippet which you can insert into your website code. You can then set up displays ads to be pushed to your specific customers on their publisher network.

6. Conversions: Email marketing is still the boss for SMBs in 2016.

email marketing tips 2016

Email marketing has always had the highest ROI among inbound digital marketing activities. This will continue to hold true for 2016.

Email experts advocate a 2-1-1 (some say 4-1-1) approach to your emailing. This means that you should send 2 emails with content that is relevant and targeted at your users without any promotion of your own products. After those 2 emails, you can follow up with 1 soft sell email and then follow that with 1 hard sell email. Hence, the name 2-1-1.

Lead engagement is the process of keeping your prospects or target segment customers warm. The art of email selling has become more subtle than just sending company-pamphlet like emails. Marketers need to build a positive brand association with the customer and that comes with a little bit of ‘giving’ before the ‘asking’.

For SMBs and professionals, it is really important to give your emails a personal touch to keep a strong relationship with your stakeholders.

Here are three tips for small businesses for email marketing in 2016

Tip 1: Mobile friendly emails.

Most emails are now being opened on the phone first. That means you gotta make sure your design is reader-friendly on a mobile device. Very often, I try out the email templates and themes on providers like mailchimp to get an idea of what the email would look like on my phone.

email marketing smb 2016

I personally feel A/B testing of emails takes a lot of bandwidth and so I don’t recommend that approach for small businesses this year.

Tip 2: Email autoresponders


The concept of autoresponders is to set up rules for a programmatic delivery of defined email templates and content. e.g. the ‘welcome’ email is the most common autoresponder. But, the problem is that most small businesses stop there.

Put yourself in the customers shoes. How can you educate the customer about the product, the experience or the service you are selling? How can you create a positive reinforcement for your brand? It might be a tutorial, it might be industry content or it might be a simple update going out from time to time.

In order to influence and persuade your customer you will have to think of a chain of emails which highlight benefits of your product, creates an urgency or scarcity for your product and communicates a sense of loss without your product.

There are many tools which help you with setting up your email conversion funnels – make the most of them!

Tip 3: Email + Social integrated

facebook custom audience 2016

You can use the email addresses you collect for your email lists to target those same people on facebook using the custom audience feature. This helps build an integrated strategy and keeps you on top of the customer’s consideration set. It is a form of remarketing and works really well for various product categories.

I would recommend this only if your business has a regular social media presence. It doesn’t help much if you’re not active on facebook. The cool thing is that you can leverage your employee networks (friends of friends). You can read more about Employee Advocacy and how it can easily be leveraged.

So, we come to the end of this article for now. I hope it will help small, medium businesses and self employed professionals across the world get some ideas on how they can adapt their digital marketing techniques in 2016.

If you like what you read, then do sign up for our newsletter. But, more importantly, try out our landing page builder. If you have been relying on a tech team or a designer – this will save you time and money.

Is there anything else you expect in this year that I have missed out? Drop us a comment below.

Tags: 2016 affiliates content marketing conversion funnels digital marketing landing pages seo small business digital marketing

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