If you’re new to marketing your business online, knowing exactly where to start can be challenging. Or, perhaps you’ve successfully tried one or two tactics, like launching your website and starting a company Facebook page, but you’re ready to take on new online marketing activities to promote your business.

Whether you’re brand-new to online marketing or ready to expand into new areas, here are 10 online marketing basics that you should know and put into practice.

1. Understand Your Brand
Before your company name appears in any kind of online marketing (or in traditional advertising, for that matter), you should have a solid knowledge of your company’s brand.

It can help to think of your business as having its own personality and defining exactly what that personality is — conservative and educational, edgy and to-the-point, warm and whimsical, etc. For example, the brand personality of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles can be described as rugged and masculine. It’s very different from the Chanel fashion brand, which is chic and feminine. Each has its own messaging, tone, imagery, color palette, and logo. Taken collectively, these brand elements form a cohesive look and feel that’s expressed consistently across all online activities and advertising. While your own brand might not be as big as these two, it’s still important to know what your brand is, how it sounds, and what it looks like before you use it online.

2. Know Your Audience
Do you know who your target audience is, and what their concerns, problems, and values are? Do you know the types of sites they visit to get information about your products and services? Can you articulate how your products or services help your customers? For example, if you’re a daycare operator, your target audience might be made up of mostly women ages 25 through 45; they value safety, affordability, and educational activities for their children. They also get advice from friends on social media sites, read parenting sites, and check out reviews when researching a daycare facility. Having this collective information about your audience can then help you to build online marketing campaigns that address their concerns and resonate with their values.

3. Create a Consumer-Friendly Website
A professional-looking website is the cornerstone of any online marketing activity. Your website should have the following essentials: an easy-to-find phone number on the top of every web page, clean design, and content that entices your visitors. Your site should also include clear calls to action and alternate ways for visitors to contact you, such as an email address or Web form.  Many business websites often fall short in one or more of these areas on their websites. To see real before-and-after website makeovers from real ReachLocal clients, download the ebook, “Try This, Not That: 10 Website Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.”

4. Build Your Website’s Relevance
To help more consumers find your business when they search, you need to publish fresh, relevant content that your prospects will find and love. For instance, including a blog on your site and consistently publishing relevant content on it can help you build your authority within your industry, and your audience will appreciate the information you’re providing them. Plus, when your content is posted on other sites, like social media, and then shared, you are building more authority for your website.

5. Use Email Marketing
Email marketing offers a great return on investment because your leads and customers have expressed interest in receiving email communications from you and are probably closer to making a purchase. You can use an email-marketing vendor like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or Marketo to stay in touch with your contacts with content like coupons, announcements, helpful hints, and more. No matter which provider you use, it’s important to gather email addresses from your leads and customers and ensure that that list is current. Also, it’s important to remember that U.S. federal trade laws say you must refrain from sending emails to any contacts who choose to opt-out from your email campaigns.

6. Be Active on Social Media
Social media is a vital way for business owners to connect with their potential customers and current ones, too. However, it’s more important that you’re on the right social media sites for your industry and audience rather than being on nearly every social media platform that’s available. So once again, it’s very important to know who your audience is.

And for social media purposes, you should research where your audience is “hanging out” online. For instance, if you’re a clothing retail shop and your customers are mainly women ages 25 through 47, then Pinterest might be a great social media platform for you. Why? Because Pinterest skews heavily to women and is a popular way to showcase products visually. No matter what your industry is, there’s an ideal audience you can engage with online. Research which platforms your target market is most likely to use so you can launch your own company page on those sites.

7. Advertise on Search Engines
Getting your business name and information in front of consumers who are searching for relevant products and services on the Web or via their mobile is vitally important to any successful online marketing program. Since 76% of purchases start on a search engine, it’s important that you are visible to people searching there. You can do this two ways – with search engine optimization (SEO) and search advertising. Search engine advertising is the fastest way to start appearing online and provides a lot of control over what messages you present to your audience by segmenting your ads and testing various text ads to see which work best to reach your target consumers.

8. Claim Your Business Listings Online
Claiming and optimizing your business listings on online directories such as Google Places, Yahoo! Local, Yelp, and CitySearch can be an effective way to attract local customers to your business. Many of these are tied to listings like Google Maps and Apple Maps, increasing your chances of being discovered online. If you’ve already listed your business on these online directories, make sure your information is current and correct.

9. Appear on Mobile
Mobile continues to gain popularity among consumers as a research and shopping tool. In fact, 76% of consumers recently surveyed use their smartphone to access information about a local store they want to visit. This means your website needs to be optimized for mobile in addition to desktop viewing.

What are on-the-go consumers looking for on your mobile website? For starters, your address, phone number, hours of operation, and maps or driving directions. By creating a mobile-friendly website with key features like a map and click-to-call functionality, you’re increasing your chances of being contacted by consumers who are looking for businesses while on the go.

10. Measure Your Return on Investment
Do you know which online marketing tactics are driving the most leads and customers to your business? For example, how many customers open your emails, find your company from a paid search ad, or call you after visiting your website?

One of the biggest problems businesses have after starting their online marketing initiatives is figuring out which tactics are effective in attracting leads to their businesses. And information is important, as it will help you to determine where you should continue to spend your marketing dollars and, perhaps, where to stop spending your money. But there are tactics you can use to help you break down the data and measure your online marketing results, such as using call tracking or custom URLs.

With all of these options, it’s important to remember that establishing a great online marketing strategy and bringing it to life does not happen over night. But as you learn these tactics and implement each one over time, you can make online marketing work for your business.

What are your marketing plans for 2014? Do you have any favorite online marketing tactics? Let us know with a comment!