I’m amazed me that I am still being asked why businesses need to do online marketing. According to Name Intelligence, there are over 100 billion websites currently operating on the web; Internetworldstats.com ranks Australia among the top internet users in the world with 71.9 percent of the population having access to the net.
Numbers aside, people turn to the internet to find information and websites play an important role. For a business, it is key to selling products and services, generating leads, and providing information about how one’s wares can make a customer’s life easier, richer, brighter, safer, and happier while making a tidy sum for yourself.
If your website does not serve any of these purposes you have two choices: redefine your objectives or cut your losses and spend your marketing budget elsewhere. But if the prospect of losing out to online-savvy competitors or missing sales opportunities seems unpalatable, it makes business sense to treat your website like the sales and marketing investment that it is. Naturally, your finely crafted website should contribute to your short-term and long-term business goals.
The real question, therefore, is how do you ensure your website delivers value to your business?
Have a Marketing Goal
Ideally, in the case of an e-commerce business you want customers to transact securely with a credit card. In the services industry, an information site where visitors sign up to download whitepapers, case studies, research reports or news articles that help to establish business credibility, may be more appropriate. And some businesses use a site to showcase work portfolios through image galleries, videos, music or other interactive media. Whatever it may be, it is important that you have a clear goal because it gives you a clear direction on the design of your site.
Know your audience
Understand your target market—who are they, what information do they want, are they web savvy, are they security conscious, and how do they search on the internet? If you have an international audience, consider registering global domain names (.com, .net, .org) or country-specific domains (.hk, co.uk, co.nz, .asia, .br) in addition to a com.au domain. This strategy is useful in creating a local online presence in your trading regions and protecting your business from competitors and unethical operators who may trade on your good name.
The more you know about your customers, the better equipped you will be at creating a site that not only attracts new business but also helps to enhance customer relationships, which in turn helps make more sales.
Search Engine Optimisation
There are two main ways to drive web traffic through search engines like Google and Yahoo: by appearing on results for relevant keywords (known as search engine optimisation or SEO) or through a sponsored search engine ad (known as pay-per-click or PPC).
The former involves using techniques that help your website rank as high as possible on organic search engine results. This is a long-term online marketing strategy that gives your business continued exposure on, and visitor numbers from, search engines. Every business should aim for a top 20 ranking as studies show that most people don’t go any further than the top 20 listed sites.
The latter lets you pay for an ad on the sponsored links area of a search engine (located on the right hand side of search results) under certain keywords or phrases. A cost is incurred only when a prospect enters your website from one of your search engine ads. Pay-per-click campaigns can deliver an immediate hit making it an ideal solution for websites that are waiting for SEO efforts to take effect.
Both strategies work well in concert but require specialist skill and knowledge of search engines. As such, they are best left to a professional.
Online Content Management
Opt for a website that has a content management system, allowing you to update web content anytime, without needing to consult a web developer on an hourly rate—or nagging a niece or nephew.
Make sure you monitor and measure website traffic. A good web host should provide you with detailed traffic statistics that shows how your website and online marketing activities are performing. Information such as daily unique visitors, popular pages, exit pages and site referrals are powerful information you can use to further improve the performance of your website. Credible web hosting providers should have this hosting function readily available to you.
-Robelen Bajar is marketing manager at Melbourne IT, which helps small businesses start, grow, and manage their businesses online. Visit www.melbourneit.com.au