10 Digital Marketing Challenges Every Small Business Faces

10 Digital Marketing Challenges Every Small Business Faces: How to Overcome Them and Thrive!

Digital Marketing is vital to the survival of any business, but with smaller budgets, so many plates to spin and the need to compete with the bigwigs, it can feel like a losing battle for many small businesses. With the added trauma of the ongoing cost of living crisis, things are getting tougher.

I’ve been working with small businesses for nearly two decades; devising and implementing comprehensive – yet manageable – digital marketing strategies. And, although some of the issues around technology have changed there is one fundamental issue that is the same as it was 20 years ago. A lack of resources and budget!

That’s why I wanted to take a look at some of top 10 digital marketing challenges every small business faces and show you how to overcome them. More importantly, we’ll explore how working with a freelancer can really help to rectify some of these digital marketing nightmares whilst returning a few bangs for your bucks!

Overcome these digital marketing challenges and start winning. Let’s get stuck in.

Top 10 Digital Marketing Challenges For Small Businesses

1. Limited Budget

Problem: Small businesses typically operate with limited or constrained budgets. The subject of money is a hot topic for most and therefore makes it challenging to invest in robust digital marketing campaigns or commit to long-term contracts. Additionally, if you’re not sure what you need help with or the specific areas that need attention, finding a professional or the money can feel like an impossible task.

Solution: Don’t let your budget hold you back. A ‘limited budget’ only feels limited if you’re trying to do too many things at once. While you might not have thousands to spend on campaigns there are literally hundreds of marketing tasks that can greatly enhance your visibility and profitability without breaking the bank.

So let’s take a look at what you should be focusing on.

Find Your Key Goals and Objective

One of the best things you can do with a limited budget is to focus on one key objective.
Achieving this goal or objective should become the main focus of all of your resources and efforts. So, decide what your focus is going to be for the next 6 months, and brief your internal marketing team or outsource your marketing.

One way to find your main short-term objective is to ask yourself?

1. What’s currently working well?

Identify periods, products and campaigns that have been successful and aim to replicate or scale them.

2. What essential things do you need?

What key assets are you lacking? A business website, Facebook page?

3. How’s your traffic?

Google Analytics or Search Console is a great way of evaluating your site’s performance. If you’re not getting the traffic or conversions you need then there could be something wrong.

4. How’s your website health?

Your own site holds all the answers to any potential problems. A free website health check can uncover any issues with your site and a host of opportunities for growth.

One of the ways I work with small businesses to maximise their marketing spend is to identify what’s worked well. I do this to assess whether it can be replicated. For example, an ecommerce store owner may notice an influx of sales at a particular time of year, or see sales increase when good reviews are received. It would therefore be a good idea to focus solely on developing a marketing plan for increasing the number of positive reviews, or getting comms, discount codes and a small campaign set up to promote your products during your busy seasonal period.

This is a really helpful guide if you’re after ideas on how to set and measure marketing objectives.


2. Lack of Expertise

Problem: A lack of expertise is probably the number one factor that drives clients to Yabber Marketing. While many have an appreciation of what needs to be done they often lack expertise and knowledge to carry out tasks themselves. If they also lack the budget to recruit someone full-time, business owners can fall into a trap of losing time, spreading themselves too thinly and end up missing valuable opportunities.

Solution: The only solution to this problem is to outsource to an expert. But wait! Before you shut down the idea completely, listen to why this makes so much sense.

Let’s say you’re considering setting up your website yourself. You know plenty of people that have done it so how hard can it be, right? Granted it’s not rocket science but now let’s imagine that you’ve got to develop a website once you get home from working all day, putting the kids to bed, walking the dog and overseeing payroll. What could be a long drawn out process for you is a relatively simple task for someone who specialises in bespoke web design.

Key advantages of freelance web designers:

  • Web designers are quicker
  • They can develop highly converting web copy that will inform, build brand loyalty and help customers spend money on your site
  • They may have some knowledge of SEO best practices which means your site will stand a good chance of showing on search engine results and being seen by your target audience.
  • You can rest assured that the back-end setup will be done correctly
  • Two heads is better than one: working collaboratively can help you see new opportunities or direction to take.


3. Audience Targeting

Problem: Success boils down to audience targeting but I see so many businesses fail at this! I think a lot of the time small businesses focus on their target market rather than target audiences, and there is a big difference between the two. A business selling recipes for delicious meals may have a target market of ‘people interested in cooking’, but the persona of ‘Sally Simply and Easy cook’ will be looking for something completely different to ‘Mat the Master Chef’.

Identifying your target audiences gives you the opportunity to tailor your advertising and messaging. By doing this you’ll be able to grab attention and make an impact. However, for small businesses understanding your target audience gets trickier if you have limited data or insight about your customers, their preferences and behaviours. But ultimately, I think the biggest issue for most is knowing exactly what to do and how to do it.

Solution: Here are a few ways to identify your target audience within your market.

1. Check out the Competition

What do your competitors do and who do you think they are trying to target? By looking at their site, content and ads you’ll get a good idea of the approach they are taking and who they are trying to reach.

2. Create Personas

For the products/services that appeal to large swaths of customers, build customer personas. Personas are fictional characters that embody your typical customers and allow you to build detailed profiles of the different target audiences within your niche. You can add things like key demographics (location, age, gender) but also include things like pain points, TV shows, music, hobbies and places they hang out. Develop at least 3 to help you visualise and empathise with your target audience.

3. Analyse Google’s Data

Google Analytics offers extensive insights about your website visitors. Tap into it to see which content is resonating, what pages your audience is engaging with and what channels they use.

4. Market Research

This sounds expensive but you can do it fairly cheaply. Utilise surveys and make it available across your social channels and website. These can be kept anonymous so you can get key information about their demographics, pain points and whether they would purchase your products.

5. Analyse your Data

Take a look at your past orders, subscriber list and CRM system to identify any patterns, trends and preferences among your audience. By understanding how your audience interacts with your brand you should be able to target and speak to them more effectively.


4. Competing with the Bigwigs – Competition

Problem: Small businesses often try to compete with larger companies with significantly more resources and more brand recognition. This makes it challenging to stand out in an overcrowded digital marketing place.

Solution: It’s so tempting for small businesses to emulate what larger brands do. But without the resources and budget there is no way you will be able to run multi lingual campaigns, remarketing, publish a weekly podcast, be present on every social media channel and sponsor the local footie team. The good news is, you don’t have to.

If you have a good understanding of your customers, where they hang out and what problems they need solving you should only need to focus on the key channels they use.

Also, this goes back to developing your key objectives and identifying your target audience. If you’re not focused on your customers and one key objective then you run the risk of taking a scattergun approach – sending bullets flying in all directions and hoping that something hits a target. Doing this will drain resources and become harder to determine success.

Focus on Your Business and Your Story

One of the best ways to make yourself stand out is to focus on your business and develop the art of brand storytelling. Your individual story and the reason your business exists is a unique vantage point. Developing your brand story is key to getting attention and buy in from your customers who share the same values and ethos.

Books on shelves and the art of brand storytelling.


5: Keeping Up With Trends and Adapting to Change

Problem: The digital marketing landscape evolves quickly. There are always new platforms, new technologies and changes to policies. Small businesses often struggle to keep up. In the last few years small businesses have had to adapt:

  • The rise in popularity of Tiktok which forced businesses to quickly learn advertising on the platform
  • Google’s core update which focused on rewarding sites with helpful, reliable people-first content.
  • Meta’s iOS Update, which crippled advertisers for a while
  • Adoption of AI: Business scrambled to learn more about it and spent hours trying to work out how it could help them with their business efforts
  • Introduction of GA4 from Universal Analytics
  • GDPR and Cookie policies
  • Twitter became X
  • Threads was launched

Each of these changes brought their own challenges in getting things switched over or set up.

Solution: Pre-empting changes is probably the hardest thing if you don’t have a dedicated in-house marketing team. However, as account owners you should get plenty of warning from the subscriptions and services like Google, Mailchimp etc. I always make time to read these at the end of every week so that I can plan and prepare for any necessary maintenance work.

I subscribe to industry and thought leaders like Neil Patel and search Search Engine Journal to keep my knowledge fresh. Again, I have these going into a folder in box and have a read through these at the end or start of each week.

Establishing a relationship with a freelance marketing consultant can be really beneficial for this sort of thing. I have clients that utilise me for small tasks like setting up Conversion API tracking for their Meta ads, and verifying their domains for their email platforms; to larger projects like writing in-depth blogs to in response to Google Core update or making their site mobile responsive. And since I don’t charge retainers, small businesses benefit from having a reliable person keeping up-to-date with rapidly changing technology, tools and policies across the digital landscape.

Paying freelancers for specific tasks also ensures that you’re sticking to your main objectives and keeping within budget!


6. Measurement and Analytics

Problem: Without proper tracking and analytics tools, you’ll find it difficult to assess the effectiveness of their digital marketing efforts and optimise their campaigns for better results. A lack of time, training and know-how can hinder the ability to utilise available tools like Analytics, or Search Console.

Solution: It’s paramount to be able to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns. Without this information it will be impossible to understand what works, how things can be improved, and what needs changing for the future.

When doing any marketing outreach or campaigns you need to set clear goals and determine how you’re going to measure it. This could be through the advertising platform, Google Analytics or via your website. I tend to evaluate all three for paid campaigns as some platforms often give biased readings.

If your objective is to increase traffic to your site with a content strategy you can measure the number of visitors, on page behaviour, dwell time and any actions taken with analytics.

I even continue to garner a good amount of data from using the older tried and tested methods. Including a ‘where they heard about us’ field on web forms to get an overview of successful channels. Just make sure the data correlates to the platform you’re using.

Remember you’ll want to measure the success of all your marketing activities, including:
  • Paid campaigns
  • Email Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • SEO Effectiveness

For small teams and growing business, use tools like Kissmetrics, Funnel and Hubspot.


7. Content Creation

Problem: If you’ve ever researched ways to get more eyes on your business, you’ll know that producing high authority, regular content remains one of the most talked about tactics. But unless you have a full-time team, producing engaging content consistently can be a significant challenge.

Solution: The primary goal of content marketing is to attract, win and retain customers. By creating high-value content your aim is to instil trust and foster relationships with your target audience. Content marketing allows you to show off key attributes and promote yourself. Thankfully, designing a content strategy is not impossible for small businesses you just need to plan, create and schedule content regularly. Here are some ways to develop your content strategy.

How to Build a content strategy - 7 elements to audit and explore. download for free at Yabber Marketing


How to Come Up with Content Ideas

Research Competitors

Look at the themes and types of content your competitors are creating and compare it to your own. This will give you an idea of the gaps that exist and give you an indication of what appeals to your target audience. For each blog use a tool like Detailed SEO Extension to dissect a particular blog. Your task is to cover the same sections and enhance it, making it more relevant, up-to-date and helpful to your audience.

Know Your Audience

If you’ve done some work on defining your audience and building audience personas you’ll have some idea about their pain points, what problems need solving and how to appeal to them. Your audience will thank you for building content that addresses their needs or inspires them.


Building content to target search terms can be a great way to fill your content plan. Use a tools like Ubbersuggest or Answer the Public to create a list of search term and devise content around targeting them. Just remember to create content that is authoritative, factual and helpful. You don’t want to be making content for the sake of it.

How to Produce Content

Producing content is time-consuming, but if you know your niche, products and audience it’s a lot easier than you think. Don’t forget that you’re the one in the know. If you’re writing what you know about then you should be able to construct a blog pretty quickly. When I tackle writing content I begin with a structure of everything I’m going to cover. I go through each section and just write… I don’t get hung up about spellings, links or sense checking. At this point you just want to get your thoughts and ideas down.

Once the structure is there I write an introduction to talk about what i’m going to cover. I then refine each section adding helpful external links and elaborating where necessary. Finally, I always get two or three people to read and correct before publishing. For more information about generating ideas, the types of content to produce, great tips and free tools check out our blog on unlocking the power of content marketing.

Outsource It

Freelance content creators can churn out content quickly so they‘re a valuable investment. To keep costs down you can build your own plan and devise very detailed briefs about what you want to cover in your blog. A good freelancer will do all the research and content creation and be able to produce something quickly.

If you’re devising content to attract more web visitors then be sure to use a freelancer with SEO knowledge. They will create blogs that are optimised for your target search terms, research relevant keywords and ensure that it complies with Google. My final word of warning is use AI like Chat GPT wisely. Never use content created entirely by AI. Google recently made quite significant changes to its algorithm in a bid to reduce the amount of outdated, unhelpful and poor quality articles ranking highly. Produce articles produced entirely by AI and I doubt you’ll see the top spot of Google again! You’ve been warned.


8. Technical issues

Problem: With so much reliance on digital technology it’s not uncommon for small businesses to encounter technical challenges. Over the years I’ve seen business owners struggle with website issues like:

  • Loss of website or functionality and not knowing how to take or retrieve a backup of websites
  • Not knowing how to update the php version of their site or needing to add new email address
  • Tech issues relating to website optimisation: Many people come unstuck with technical SEO. Making your site quicker, responsive and SEO friendly can all be challenging for non-technical teams.
  • External platforms: I’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of the people trying to verify their domains. People using external platforms are required to add SPF and DMARC records to their domains as a result of changes to Google and Yahoo email authentication requirements.

Without on hand technical expertise it can be difficult for small businesses to allocate resources and find technical experts that can help with small issues.

How Freelancers Can Help With Technical Issues

Freelancers are your go-to lifeline, especially for small one-off jobs. At Yabber Marketing I’ve completed lots of technical jobs and consulted on technical issues. This keeps businesses technically sound, compliant, and up-to-date. While it’s tempting to do jobs yourself (I do agree that you should familiarise yourself with all the ins and outs), having an ongoing relationship with a freelancer is paramount for when things go wrong.

Most freelancers, like myself, won’t charge retainers for this type of work. I’d personally just bill for the time spent. We may even do it for free if it opens the door to further work.


9. Building Brand Awareness

Problem: Building and maintaining brand awareness in a competitive digital landscape can be tough for small businesses, especially those entering new markets or industries. But it’s not impossible.

Solution: Building brand awareness can be achieved by doing all of the things above, namely setting achievable objectives, knowing who you’re targeting, constantly creating content and ensuring your digital presence is robust.

You may also want to set aside a small budget for some awareness campaigns, either on Google Ads or Meta Marketing.


10. Adapting to Algorithm Changes

Problem: Adapting to algorithm changes requires an in-house team that are embedded within their digital speciality. If you’re not equipped with such technical expertise then you may find that you have to be more responsive to changes to platforms like Google and social media instead of pre-empting it. This can feel like fire-fighting, be resource heavy and affect the visibility and reach of small businesses’ digital marketing efforts.

Solution: The good news is that if your website’s SEO is healthy and you adhere to Google’s best practices, then changes made to Google’s algorithm shouldn’t impact you hugely. Largely speaking, changes to algorithms – like the March 2024 update – are made to downgrade spammy, unhelpful sites in favour of honest, trustworthy and quality content.


Finding the Right Person to Outsource to

Follow these tips to finding the right person to outsource your work to.

  1. Be very clear on what it is you want to achieve
  2. Write a detailed a clear brief on the key outcomes and timeframes
  3. Ask around: Ask people about their experiences. If a person or agency has been recommended then they should be your first port of call.
  4. LinkedIn is a great way to find experts in their field. Search for specialists or write a post asking for recommendations.
    Search online: Look at what Google has to offer and visit a few sites. Play close attention to social proof (reviews) and look through their client portfolios.
  5. Trust your gut! When outsourcing work there is always an element of instinct. If you get a bad vibe during your initial meeting or don’t like their music taste then walk away. You have to trust in the person you’re working with because the best results will come from the ability to work together. I recently landed a new client on the basis that I ‘sounded nice’! Although the client had some reservations about me not knowing her industry she felt that I was more knowledgeable and going to be ‘easier to work with’ than the other freelancers.

Overcome Your Digital Marketing Challenges

All businesses (large and small) will face digital marketing challenges. The nature of digital means it’s constantly evolving making it hard to keep up. However, one of the most important things businesses can do is set small, achievable objectives, keep up to date with trends and respond accordingly.

Whether you’ve decided to outsource some tasks or tackle these digital marketing challenges head on, I hope you’ve now got a greater insight into what’s required. Use this guide to help you write detailed briefs and remember to shop around for freelancers. Most are willing to help even with the smallest tasks and you’ll be thankful to have the extra resource on your team. If you fancy a chat and virtual coffee about any of the 10 digital marketing challenges above, please reach out.

Follow Us

Free Website Health

Share the love

Work With Us

Get Ready to Achieve More Online.

Take the first step to better online visibility and start generating those essentials leads for your business.


Free SEO Audit

Take the first step to improved website health and improved visibility.