This contribution is from Jen Woglom Ohs of Boomerang Websites. The article outlines tips for online success specifically geared towards small businesses. There are resources listed here at Small Business Resources cafe to accomplish much of what Jen recommends. For example .... professional website design and website hosting.
I hear every excuse from small businesses as to why they aren’t online. Many find the process too daunting or too expensive to even try. And unfortunately, many of those that are online aren’t utilizing all the tools available to find any real benefits. The truth is, having an online presence is no longer expensive, time-consuming or too difficult for you and your business to do. It does, however, require a little planning and foresight. So, to help get you going, we’ve put together 9 tips to help ensure your success online.
9. Get a professional design.
Template sites are a quick and easy way to get online and announce to the world that you’re an amateur. If you want to be taken seriously by colleagues, clients and potential customers, you need to take your brand seriously. This includes your website. A professional, original design will not only set you apart from the competition but will also convey a persona of professionalism to everyone that visits.
8. Get a real email address.
Even more so than a template site, an email address from yahoo.com or comcast.net does not make a good first impression. We like to call businesses without a real email address the “hobby businesses.” The impression is that they are secondary income for some guy who’s bored at his current job but doesn’t believe in himself enough to make the jump. Essentially, you look like you don’t even take your own business seriously, so why should anyone else?
7. Invest in good hosting
Reliable hosting is essential. If your website is constantly going down it will hurt your business. Not just because you miss out on those that would have been visiting, but mainly because it kills your search engine ranking. If the big search engines (google, yahoo and msn) see that your site experiences outages regularly, they will purposefully push you down in rankings because they see you as unreliable to send visitors to. That means fewer visitors even when it’s up.
6. Keep content up-to-date.
Keeping online content up-to-date is essential for a number of reasons. One, people are more interested in new information rather than the same old stuff you always have up. Two, updating online content helps your search engine ranking. Three, it’s so easy you have no excuse not to. No re-printing, no added expenses, just get online and keep visitors and readers abreast of what’s going on. In the end, they feel included and you keep them interested.
5. Invest in online advertising
It’s the most inexpensive media out there these days and over 80% of the population is using it. The main question is how. As with most things, knowing what’s available to you is half the battle. The easiest solutions to get going quickly are, in our opinion, pay-per-click advertising and email marketing. For more information check out our Adwords info sheet and our Email Marketing info sheet.
4. Keep in contact online.
There are many ways to stay top of mind online. From email marketing to blogs to podcasts and streaming video. Take what you do best, find a way to get it online and share it with the world. Oh, and keep in mind that free information is a wonderful way to keep their attention.
3. Track and optimize.
Stay on top of what’s working by tracking and measuring everything you do online. You can track everything from who is visiting your site to how they interact with it and even how your online campaigns are doing. Use the information to talk more about what people are interested in on your website, on your blog or in your marketing and advertising campaigns.
2. Keep the user/reader in mind.
This goes for ease of use as well as copywriting when creating a website. Making information easy to find on your site is key but also keep in mind how you’re presenting the information. Are there graphics or illustrations to help drive the point home? Do you bury your strong selling points deep in the 3rd paragraph on the 4th page? Think KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. Just like with offline marketing materials and advertisements, your website and online ads should spell out to users why they should use you and it should be easy to use. Sure origami is fun, but don’t expect anyone to fold your site into a crane to reach your message.
1. Focus your messaging
Everything you do online should have a reason behind it. Each reason should have an objective attached to it. Thus, everything online should be focused on that objective. If your site has no objective purpose, it will do nothing for you. On the other hand, if your site’s objective is to get visitors to call and your messaging focuses on that, the calls will start to come in. Bottom line, think of what you want to accomplish and then decide how to best do it. Most things in life actually work best this way.