The world of online marketing can seem a little daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to be. With these four basic steps, you’ll have everything you need to get your first campaign underway.

Step 1: Set some goals

It’s really important to get your objectives down in writing, so you’ll always have a clear idea what success looks like—and be able to see how far you’ve come in the future.

As a rule of thumb, most online marketing campaigns set out to achieve one or more of these three key goals:
  • Getting more people to a website or store
  • Increasing sales, enquiries or subscribers
  • Raising brand awareness and creating a buzz

Step 2: Create your online presence

If you’re going to market yourself online, you’ll need some kind of web presence. One option is to build your own website, or get a developer to create one for you. A lot of new businesses start out with a Facebook and Google+ page, or just a simple directory listing—which are all free and really easy to make.

It’s also worth registering with Google My Business, which is a free service that displays your details on Google whenever people search for your company.

Whichever route you choose, don’t put anything in place until you’ve decided what your page or website needs to achieve. Is it to generate more enquiries? Or newsletter subscribers? Or store footfall? Cementing that goal in your mind will really help when it comes to planning how your page or site looks. For example, if you want more sales calls, make sure your phone number is impossible for people to miss. It sounds obvious, but one of the most common mistakes is bombarding visitors with tons of information, and trying to say too much at once.

Step 3: Get your name out there

There are probably tons of customers out there ready to use a business like yours—but you’re unlikely to find them all overnight. A great way to jumpstart things is by running ads on Google. That way, whenever people search for the products or services you offer, your ad could appear in the results with a link to your website or page. You can also set a maximum daily budget (just a few pounds is fine), and you only pay when someone actually clicks your ad.

AdWords Express is popular with a lot of startups because your ad goes live on Google in minutes, so you can stay focused on running your business.

Step 4: Calculate a budget

One of the big advantages to online marketing is you can make an impact even if you have a limited budget. Free tools like Google+, Facebook and Twitter help get your name out there, start conversations with potential customers, and share news and success stories.

That said, even if you have just a bit of marketing spend to play with, paid solutions like AdWords Express can definitely help achieve those longer-term objectives.

For example, with a daily budget of around £5 to £10, your ads can start appearing in people’s search results—whether they’re based locally in your town, or the other side of the world. And if you set a £6 daily budget, Google will even help you set up your first campaign at no additional cost, so you’re off to the best possible at start.

Learn how to build your search engine marketing (SEM) strategy by signing up to our free 'Be noticed with search ads' lessons.