Digital marketing has many facets and as a small business, knowing which tactics to focus on can be tricky. Smaller businesses often work with limited budgets and simply don’t have the spending power to commit to every aspect of digital marketing.

In this post, we are going to talk through some of the bests digital marketing tactics for small businesses and talk about the potential return on investment (ROI) from each of those tactics.

At Digital Hothouse, ROI is the most important metric to us when we work with our clients. How much return will you get for investing in a particular tactic? At the top level, we look at the ROI our clients get from organic traffic versus the amount they spend on our services each month, however, we don’t stop there.

Our primary focus is search engine optimisation (SEO), however, within the field of SEO, there are also many different tactics we can deploy to help improve the keyword rankings for our clients. Common tactics include:

  • Technical improvements (including page speed, core web vitals and schema markup)
  • Content (creating blog content and other content marketing pieces)
  • Link outreach
  • Conversion rate optimisation
  • User experience
  • Local search

These are just some of the overarching tactics we deploy monthly and for each tactic, we look at the potential ROI before we commit to carrying out that work.

We have clients on different budgets, and we work with small businesses as well as some of New Zealand’s biggest brands. We know that we need to make every dollar they spend with us go as far as we can and that’s why it’s important for us to understand the potential ROI of each and every tactic we deploy and how effective this tactic will be in driving sales and revenue for our clients.

Why small businesses should invest in digital marketing

Before we get into the best digital marketing tactics for small businesses to invest in, let’s first take a look at some of the reasons why small businesses should invest in digital marketing at all.

The simple answer is that more and more people are now searching for businesses online. Mobile smartphones have made it essential for all businesses to have some sort of presence online, otherwise, you risk never being found.

You could have the best product in the world, however, if no one knows about it, you will never sell that many. The build it and they will come approach no longer works, even if you have a game-changing product or service.

Digital marketing has also allowed smaller businesses to compete with big, international brands. In the past, these brands would have a huge advantage as they would have the budget for TV, radio and newspaper advertising – something most small businesses could only dream of.

Today, however, digital marketing platforms allow small businesses the opportunity to compete with these brands without having to make the same sort of investments. Sure, you are never going to be able to compete with them in Google Ads for certain keywords as you don’t have the budget, however, you can create content that can rank for terms they are targeting organically or appear in the local map pack results for high-value keywords if you focus on local SEO tactics.

You can also talk directly to your customers (and theirs) through your social media platforms that give you a direct line of communication with your prospective customers.

Digital marketing provides a gateway to a huge potential audience – you just need to work out which tactics are going to deliver the best ROI for your business and get to work.

5 digital marketing tactics for small businesses

With so many tactics to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to digital marketing. Through our many years of experience working with smaller businesses, these are five of the tactics we have found to deliver the best ROI (although it should be noted that the success of these tactics will depend on the nature of your business as well as the industry you are based in).

1.      Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

As an SEO agency, this one is a no brainer for us and it is a no brainer for all small businesses. SEO is a tactic that can keep on delivering results year after year once you have got the basic right and that’s what makes it so appealing to small businesses.

Whilst we would always recommend working with an agency, certainly to ensure you are getting the basics right, SEO is a tactic that can be carried out by small businesses on little to no budget (other than time investment).

There are many facets to SEO, some of which we have listed above, however, the crucial things to get right are the technical elements and content. You need to make sure your website is technically sound. It needs to be optimised for mobile, load quickly and deliver a great user experience. We have written lots of posts on technical SEO and these should help to get the foundations right on which to build.

From there, content takes over. Whilst content marketing is s separate tactic that we talk about below, it is such a crucial aspect of SEO that it’s important to mention here as well. From your landing page copy to your page titles and meta descriptions, content is crucial when it comes to ranking well.

Great content comes from great keyword research. You need to understand the keywords your audience are searching for and optimise your content accordingly. You also need to be strategic in deciding which keywords to optimise. Whilst it might be tempting to optimise for the keywords with the highest volume, these often have the highest competition, making it harder for smaller businesses to rank.

Instead, focus on the long-tail keywords. The phrases with 4+ keywords in them. Whilst the volumes will be lower, so will the competition and crucially, the intent is often much higher.

2.      Content Marketing

I have come to hate the saying “content is king”, however, there is still a lot of truth behind it. The internet is saturated with content; however, it is not saturated with quality content and that is significant.

Content is crucial when it comes to ranking well for the keywords you are targeting. Whilst you might have a good product or service, without good content and supporting content, it is very difficult to rank well for the related keywords.

A lot of our SEO work revolves around content, and we try to take a pillar and cluster approach to a lot of the work we do.

This involves creating a strong landing page (sometimes and product or services page), that covers a particular topic or targets a particular keyword. From there, we build a lot of supporting pages that all cover topics that are strongly related to the main pillar page. These pages then all link back to our main landing (pillar) page, indicating to Google that we are an authority on the topic and helping visitors to find out as much or as little as they want about that topic.

Content is such an important factor in enabling you to rank for more keywords and other than the time investment, the cost of creating content is fairly low. It should be noted, however, that your content needs to be high quality. It needs to be engaging and it needs to add value to your customers.

Content for the sake of content can do more harm than good, so if you don’t have anyone with copywriting skills in your business, you should consider outsourcing as this will add value and show a positive ROI.

3.      Social Media Marketing

The growth of social media over the past decade has spawned a whole new industry and for small businesses, social media has opened up a huge potential audience.

One of the biggest problems faced by small businesses is knowing which platforms to pursue. With so many options, we see lots of businesses trying to be active on them all and this is simply not viable, especially for small businesses.

Sure, if you have a dedicated social media team with 24/7 management across all platforms, go for it, however, the chances are, you have one person responsible for managing your social media and looking after five or six platforms is simply not feasible.

Instead, you need to identify which of the platforms your audience is using and focus your efforts on one or two of those platforms.

That way, you can dedicate all your focus to managing those one or two platforms really well instead of struggling and doing a poor job across all five or six.

Social media advertising is also a great way for smaller businesses to reach more people. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram, through their algorithms, have made it harder for businesses to be seen organically in people’s feeds.

Therefore, businesses have had to turn to social media advertising to expand their reach. Social media advertising can be extremely cost-effective depending on the type of campaigns you run. One thing we would say, however, is to make sure you have clear objectives for each of your campaigns. This means you can more accurately assign an ROI to any advertising spend, as you will have a clear idea of what you were trying to achieve.

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4.      Local SEO

For small businesses, local SEO is a must.

Google My Business (GMB) is a free platform that allows you to create a business profile that is displayed in the search results when people search for your business online.

More crucially, however, your GMB profile can be displayed in the map pack results that are shown when people search for keywords relating to your business.

For example, if someone searches “digital agency”, this is a term we would want to appear for and whilst we might not rank in first position in the organic results, we can appear at the top of the map listings, and these typically appear above the organic results:

Digital Agency GMB

It is important to have a comprehensive GMB profile and provide as much information as possible – the more you provide, the more likely it is that you will appear in the map listing like the one shown above.

Your GMB listing is also an opportunity for people to leave reviews about your business, ask questions, find directions and get in touch. For some local businesses, they might not even have a website, but if they have a GMB profile, they can still appear in the local search results and drive people to their store or get phone calls.

As well as completing a GMB profile, you should also try and get your business listed in as many directories as you can – certainly those that are relevant. Yelp, the Yellow Pages, Yahoo! Local, Apple Maps and more are all places you should list your business, ensuring consistency in the way you display your business name, phone number and address across all directories.

On top of that, make sure you are active in your local community. Whilst these are digital marketing tactics, it is important that you have a strong local presence, so see if you can get involved with sponsoring a local event or team and get more people talking about your business.

5.      Email Marketing

Email marketing is a digital marketing tactic that has been around for a long time, however, for small businesses, it is still an extremely valuable tactic.

If you want to succeed at email marketing, however, it is important to take a strategic approach. People’s inboxes are bombarded every day with tens, hundreds and sometimes thousands of emails, so it’s important to stand out from the crowd.

You need to create emails that are informative and engaging, combined with action-based triggers that encourage the reader to do more with the information you have given them.

Sometimes your email may be entertaining and that’s a good strategy too. Entertainment adds value to your customers when done in the right way and as part of an overall mix of content in your email marketing strategy.

Your email marketing needs to be well thought out and planned to succeed. You need a clear strategy of what you want to achieve and a clear strategy in terms of the content you are going to push out to people on your distribution list.

Once you have this strategy, however, a lot of the work of email marketing can be automated and this can become a very cost-effective digital marketing tactic that delivers very strong ROI.


Our experience working with small businesses has taught us that these are some of the most valuable tactics when it comes to delivering ROI. Whether you work with an agency or carry out the work in-house, these five tactics can all deliver a positive return on your investment – both time and money – and are the five tactics we would advise you to focus on as a small business.

If you are a small business looking for help, don’t hesitate to drop us a line and we would be happy to have a chat and talk about the best digital marketing tactics for your small business.

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