What to consider before investing in your online business

In my years working in online commerce, I have seen many brands and companies rise and evolve through effective use of SEO and e-commerce tools.

Whether a business has used Google AdWords, developed their own blog to build an audience and contribute to a more SEO friendly website, or employed a selection of other paid for and ‘free’ tools, if there’s one secret to using a successful blend of SEO tools, it’s that every business has to find the right fit for their audiences and markets.

With SEO and e-commerce strategies, especially for small businesses, there are no concrete rules, only guidelines and a requirement to constantly monitor tactics, spend, and a readiness to recalibrate as required.

Making online tools work effectively, while keeping costs down, is an art in itself that can take time to master – it’s a constant process that requires ongoing review and maintenance.

As a first step, it’s important to consider which elements of an SEO or e-commerce tool’s operation will cost you in terms of time and money.

Second, which tools will provide you with measurable and easy to understand metrics that you can use to guide future decisions, and which are supported with a service team that can explain and respond to any queries.

Whether you’re running an online advertising campaign with Google AdWords, running Facebook advertising and sponsored stories program, selling or promoting your products through third-party e-commerce sites, always take the time to understand just how the metrics an online tool will demonstrate value.

While many platforms offer a range of numbers as part of their metrics plans, if you’re after traffic and improving SEO, you may as well forget how many Likes, Shares, Retweets or Followers you get – common measures used across social media platforms.

Social media can be great for building communities in the long term but may not deliver spikes in traffic or online sales in the short term. Online communities require time and a commitment to maintaining long-term relationships and, if you’re after online sales, it may not be worth your time.

Seven things to consider when looking at e-commerce and SEO tools:

ROI

Consider what metrics the service offers and whether you can match these to the investment in time and budget you can allocate. At the end of the day, you should be able to easily calculate your cost of acquisition and assess which specific areas of the metrics require attention.

Scalability

Can you quickly reduce or amplify your budget and activity with the service? For example; if you’re running a specific promotion campaign and the offer ‘takes off’ with online customers, do you have the ability to allocate further budget to quickly increase the impact of the promotion?

Response times

How quickly does the online tool or service report results to you? In many cases, you should be able to access data and monitor results in real-time (or close) in order to respond to spikes in web traffic or purchases.

Service

Does the platform or tool come with a service team that can assist quickly should anything happen? Can you get on the phone with your provider and speak with an expert?

Integration

Does the SEO or e-commerce tool or service easily integrate with your website and any other e-commerce tools you’re running?

When ‘free’ web tools and services aren’t free

‘Free’ doesn’t necessarily mean the process won’t be time consuming and (at some stage) require payment for promotions of specific posts, advertisements or when you want to highlight key marketing messages.

A simple way to figure this out is to look at the nature of social media content you require for each specific channel and how these will contribute to driving traffic and online activity around your brand.

Payment model

It’s important you consider just how much investment is required to begin the process of testing online an SEO or e-commerce tool. Some tools and service offer a cost per click (CPC) model of payment, while others will charge when the drive a sale on your site. Figure out how you are willing pay per website visitor, sales lead, acquisition or purchase.

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