Great news! Your business is in a position to advertise and you’re savvy enough to shift a growing percentage of your budget toward digital channels. Up until now, you’ve successfully fended off droves of sales reps pitching SEO, PPC, behavioral targeted display, geo-fencing, reputation management, etc. etc. etc. Now that you’re ready to buy (or run advertising in-house), where do you start?

Before you consider investing hard-earned dollars into any digital platform, you’ll want to make sure your ducks are in a row. Completing the following tasks will make sure you’re ready to get started with digital advertising. The best part? They won’t cost you a dime!

Website Analytics

First, you’ll want to make sure you can view reports on your website traffic. After all, what’s the point of directing people to your website if you have no idea what they do once they get there? The most popular web analytics tool out there (by far) is Google Analytics. It’s free and has vast amounts of resources readily available for training, implementation and usage.

Installing Google Analytics lets you track a slew of information including the number of users who visit your site via each channel - organic search, paid search, display advertising, email, etc. It also allows you to see which pages of your website get more traffic, and how long users hang out on those pages.

There are several pre-made reports ready for you to utilize, but the real power comes with segmenting your data. When using UTM tracking URLs, you can add code to your URLs that will record the source, medium, campaign and ad content of your digital advertising.

Tip: Google Analytics is case-sensitive, so make sure you are consistent with your URLs. Develop a system and stick with it to make comparing campaign performance much easier.

For example: You are running a big sale on widgets and have created a dedicated landing page:

You plan to run digital banner ads on four local media websites promoting the sale. Your URLs could look like this: (difference in bold)

A media company can report how many impressions and clicks your ads received, but the information trail dies there. With Google Analytics, your reporting lives on providing insights like the following:

  • Which media vendor drove the most traffic
  • Who had the longest average visit
  • Who had a better bounce rate (The percentage of users who left the website without taking any action or visiting a second page.)
  • Who drove more new users (People who haven’t visited your site before.)
  • If conversions are set up – which ad had a higher number of conversions

Conversions, you say?

When combining Google Analytics with Google Tag Manager (also free), you can start tracking the really cool stuff on your website – CONVERSIONS! This can be micro conversions such as an email sign-up or adding an item to a cart, or macro conversions such as submitting a lead form, or completing an online purchase.

While introducing Google Tag Manager definitely kicks the complexity up a level or two (or more), the results are well worth the time spent learning about Tags, Triggers and Variables. After all, no pain no gain, right?

Once you have goals/conversions set up in Google Analytics (and are well on your way to becoming a Google Analytics super-star), it opens the door to track other important metrics like cost-per-conversion and return on ad spend (ROAS). These stats will help you gauge how effective your marketing spend is in each channel and helps you make educated decisions on shifting those dollars when necessary.

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Claim Location Listings

The second (less-daunting!) task to complete is claiming any and all business listings that you can find for your business. Check Google My Business (formerly Google Places), Bing Maps, Yelp,, etc. Google My Business is the most important because so many people use Google search and maps.

To claim your listing(s) on Google, simply perform a Google search for your business. On your business’ listing, you’ll see “Own this business?” if it has not already been claimed. Click that link and follow the instructions. You will need to verify by using a code Google provides either via a phone call to the number Google has listed or via a postcard sent to the address listed.

Once claimed, make sure the information shown is correct. This helps ensure that potential customers can both find your location, and know when that location is actually open. Another less obvious benefit to claiming your listing is improving your website’s search engine optimization (SEO).

Once you’ve claimed your listing(s) and input your business hours, go ahead and input your holiday hours for the year. This saves customers from a bad experience when they show up at your store on Thanksgiving, only to find the store closed even though your hours on Google say you’re open.

You’ll now be notified when your location receives a review on that platform as well. This helps you stay on top of replying to the reviews, both good AND bad.

Remember to always keep your replies professional, and make an attempt to solve issues found in any negative review.

Tip: While business listings are technically free for you to claim, it can be very time consuming. ESPECIALLY if your business has several locations. If you have 10+ locations and are fortunate enough to have more budget than time, consider researching vendors such as Yext or Moz Local to assist claiming and controlling your listings.

Establish Your KPIs

You should always have a clear purpose or goal for your business and digital marketing is no exception! Develop a list of key performance indicators (KPIs) prior to starting any advertising venture. After all, would you hop in the car and start driving without knowing where you’re headed? Of course not, at least not without wasting a lot of gas in the process!

One of my favorite platforms discussing KPIs is Avinash Kaushik’s blog, Occam’s Razor. This blog is extraordinarily educational.

Establish your KPIs. Set up your goals. Track your results and make adjustments accordingly. Not by trusting your gut, but by trusting cold, hard statistics.

Mobile Friendly Test

Make sure your website is responsive before spending money on advertising. What is a responsive website? It simply means the website responds to the screen size of the device used and adjusts the layout accordingly. This is more important than ever, because mobile devices make up such a high percentage of internet traffic (and growing!).

If your website is providing a horrible experience on a mobile device (i.e. pinching to zoom), odds are, mobile users will go somewhere else.

Not sure if your site is responsive? Use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test tool. The test is free and will provide a list of ways to improve your site.

Redesigning your website won’t be free, but this test is important.

If it IS time to finally bite the bullet and redesign your site, use a platform that supports Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). These pages are coded for faster load times on mobile devices.

You’ll thank yourself later.
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