Whether you own a business or work in one, there’s a good chance you’re tired of hearing about online marketing. For at least the last five years, the continuous buzz in the business world has been about using the internet for its great marketing potential, including social media. Yet despite how hard this message has been hammered home, the “how” is often left out. Many businesses remain uncertain about what they’re supposed to do to integrate the internet into their marketing channels – you have a website, you have a Facebook page, now what?
It’s important to understand that simply having an online presence will not, on its own, increase sales. A web presence is a simple requirement of existing as a business nowadays, just like business cards and a working phone number are. Similarly, throwing money at a website will not necessarily increase sales, no matter how many hours of consulting you do. There are, however, a series of best practices that can help you take your web presence from merely functional to an active marketing platform.
1. SEO. Search engine optimization means getting the most traffic from Google and Bing. Let’s say you sell vacuums – do people find your site when they search “vacuums”? Or do they find someone else? Are you the third result down, the tenth result, or a dozen pages in?
Everyone wants better SEO, but knowing the basic practices behind it will help you determine which consultants or marketing companies will actually help your numbers and which won’t. You will need research to determine appropriate keywords, you’ll need to make changes on your website itself (“on page” optimization) and you’ll likely need to maintain a company blog that updates regularly.
2. What to expect from social media. A lot of business leaders are cynical about social media right now. That’s because there was big hope (and big promise) of increasing sales by being social, and for many companies that has not panned out. Social media is not a fad however; it’s here to stay. By understanding social media as a tool to build community and brand image – not sales, at least directly – you can focus on getting real value of out of it. In the long term, that will translate to market share.
3. User experience. The number one thing holding back so many websites is poor usability. Visitors to your website should be able to easily get what they want, whether that’s information, a contact number or buying your latest product. In general, you should include a number and email address – not just a contact form – in an obvious place, and you should not put any barriers around completing a purchase (such as “Captcha” codes or requiring a user registration to buy something). If possible though, you should invest in having a professional UI/UX firm review your site and make it as streamlined as possible.
The internet can be an effective part of your marketing channels and strategy but it requires learning about effective online marketing and developing your presence toward that end.
What web strategies have been most successful for you?
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