It can't be clearer than this - EVERY NEW BUSINESS SHOULD BE ON THE WEB!
If you aren't, your competitors certainly will be, as will your potential customers.
The real challenge though is to make sure that they see you when they are looking. With so many sites and social media accounts already competing for their attention, this is not going to be an easy task, but one that you need not fear.
We have listed some of the most important factors that you will need to consider when it comes to thinking about your website, SEO (search engine optimisation), digital marketing, and social media.
Make the web work for you
Whether your business is small or large, you need to consider investing in your own website. The internet is one of the quickest methods of communication — and if you’re not using it, how will you compete with those that are?
More and more people want to research businesses and buy products on-line and then buy in the traditional, offline way. If you’re serious about promoting your business, then a good website is your virtual shop window, enticing potential customers, instilling confidence in you and the goods and services you offer. So if you cut corners and don’t have a website, you could be doing your business more harm than good!
Your website may be as simple as letting people know your phone number and opening hours - a digital business card or as complex as a fully automated booking system or a searchable database of your products.
Open 24 hours
Your website is open for business 24 hours. Let your website work for you, giving your customers what they want when they want it. It’s busy increasing brand awareness and increasing sales while you sleep! If you’re not online, you can bet your competition is. If you don’t have a website, or your customers find your website difficult to use, they won’t hesitate to click on to your competitor’s site!
Cost effective advertising
A lineage advert in the local paper can cost upwards of £30 per week — imagine how much a colour advert with text and images would cost! And it would only run for a day or a week at the most. Your website is an online advertisement, it’s permanent but can be updated regularly, and can be so much more cost-effective if used properly.
Fast, easy, cheap communication
Why print & post out brochures when your customers can download them? You can offer instant information and faster communication via your website and email - much cheaper and faster than fax or post.
A good website allows you to provide better customer service and value-added extras that put you above your competitors. You can offer articles, information, forums, newsletters - all of these things add to your customers’ perceived value of your products or services and build better relationships.
It also gives you the chance to advertise your business, promote your services, attract new customers and relay information — why would you want to limit your potential?
Do I need to spend money on a site if a friend or relative offers to help?
Can they really design a site that will put you above your competitors? Will they be around to support the site if errors appear? It can seem like a saving but it could have serious consequences to your business.
A website should be useful and add value to your business, give the right impression and make potential customers want to contact you. The content should always be current and as your business grows your website grows with it.
You need your site to be easily found by potential customers, simple to use and navigate and clear in content and contact information.
If you’re serious about making the right impression employ the professionals. Self-made sites won’t fill your customers with confidence about your approach to business.
For business you need a robust, secure and professional site. Creating a detailed brief which lists your preferences and objectives will help at this stage.
How do you know if it’s working?
Review monthly statistics showing detailed information ranging from how many people visited your site, the most popular pages to the best referrals. Prioritise content based on the most popular pages and see which promotion increased visitors so you can repeat the best and review the rest.
Don’t have your website as an extra that nobody mentions. Use it on everything that a potential customer might see, be it on your letterhead, order form, business card or local advert. Make sure you check emails that come from your website; a response the same working day is expected.
A domain name is the name of your website or your website address. It's the place where users will find you on the Internet and it's unique to you or your business. Each domain name is made up of two parts. For example, our own domain name is syob.net, the first part is the name we chose ‘syob' (the intials of 'Start Your Own Business' and the second part is the extension '.net’.
Before domain names, web addresses were made up of a long string of numbers.
How to choose a domain
Make it memorable & simple to type
Keep it short & straight to the point
Describe your business or the services you offer
Think about your target audience, if it’s a local market, consider adding your town name
Don’t add symbols or punctuation
Choose an appropriate extension
Web hosts are companies that rent out their services to host (give ‘webspace’ to) websites on the internet. Once the hosting company hosts your website, users can access it by typing in your web address (domain name) in their web browser. When they do this, their computer connects to the server your website is hosted on and shows it on their screen.
This means encouraging search engines, like Google to move you up the search engine results page rankings. The practice is commonly known as Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
Your website content is crawled by search engine robots, or crawlers, to collate the data and index it in search engine archives. Then, when a relevant search term is used, Google will return your site as a result. The ranking determines how relevant your site is to a user’s search term.
Up to 97% of people don’t bother scrolling to page 2 of search engines, so effective SEO is essential if you want to generate more business from online searches.
SEO is not a ‘quick fix’.
The search engines are constantly updating their algorithm and looking for the best match for any given search term.
Do not believe all of the claims of SEO ‘experts who will offer to get you to the top of the rankings quickly.
It is estimated that Google’s algorithm has about 200 ranking factors.
Which can you do something about?
What is digital marketing & why do it?
Digital marketing is the marketing of products & services on the internet. It covers many different activities, which include search engine optimisation (SEO), pay per click advertising (or ‘sponsored links’ such as Google Adwords), email marketing, blogging & social media.
Digital marketing ensures your website is found in online searches, across a wide variety of search media and it increases the traffic to your website. However, one of the most important things about online marketing is that it generates pre-qualified traffic.
People have already made the decision to search for your products or services before they arrive at your website, since they are already actively searching on keywords relating to your products and services. A highly visible website will enhance your company image online and raise the profile of your organisation, and last but not least, all of your online marketing activities will generate leads, enquiries and sales.
Here is an overview of the major online marketing activities that you can consider.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO can improve the chances of your website being found in an online search on sites such as Google & Bing, for keywords relevant to the products and services that you sell. It’s a long term strategy for your website, ensuring your web pages are `optimised’ for success in the search engines. The optimisation process looks at several factors which include keyword research, the design & structure of a website, internal & external links and meta tags. It takes time for a website to rank in the search engines and they are now very fussy about only giving sites high rankings if they deserve it! Gaining high rankings is not easy and search is becoming more and more competitive.
Pay per click advertising (PPC)
PPC is a great way to kick start your online marketing activities, particularly if you want quick results from the search engines and can’t wait the months it can take to gain high rankings. Businesses pay for text ads to appear alongside search results on sites such as Google and every time someone clicks on one of them, a fee is paid. How much you pay depends on how competitive the keywords are that you sponsor.
Email is a great way of keeping in touch with your customers and prospects, and much, much cheaper than sending out printed newsletters. Emails can be used in all sorts of ways — to give tips and useful information, special offers & promotions and to keep your customers loyal to you. Make sure you build your list in-house rather than buy in lists as most people view emails they haven’t subscribed to as spam. A well-crafted email, sent on a regular basis ensures your prospects don’t forget about you and makes it easier to cross sell and up sell products & services.
A blog (or web log) is a website or a page on your site that is updated regularly with news and articles, a bit like an online diary but much more than that. Blogs are a very popular way for businesses and organisations to add regular content to their website and also interact with visitors to their website as people can actually comment on the blog posts’. Comments can be moderated so you don’t have to worry about unsuitable comments being put up.
There are plenty of reasons to start a blog:
Search engine friendly — posts can be indexed and be found in searches quickly (a few days).
Allow organisations to interact with their audience.
A very easy way of keeping a website up to date — posts can be put up quickly and easily without needing any technical expertise.
Visitors can subscribe to blog posts by email or by a ‘feed’.
Responsibility of the blog can be split between a few members of staff, so one person doesn’t have the worry of keeping it up to date themselves.
Gives you the opportunity to put your view on something, particularly if your organisation is in the news — good for PR
Some blog platforms are free — so low cost to experiment with.
Like SEO, will raise your profile online ands allows your organisation to have a ‘voice’.
Social media is the social interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. In simple English, it is lots of different sites that allow you to spread the word online.