Welcome to the world of internet business (whether you like it or not). Today’s consumer spends twice as much time online as they did just a decade a go (Ofcom). From large companies to small and mid-size local businesses, the same rule applies, “If you want to grow, you have to be online." For many business owners, taking their business online seems overwhelming. There are so many options to choose from it can seem almost impossible to decide which way to go. In this post my goal is to demystify the online marketing world and share with you some great resources to help your business reach it’s full potential.
The internet is nothing new. It’s been open to the public since 1991. Since then we’ve seen our world change all around us. From the 90s .COM growth and eventual burst, to now a life that is connected 24/7, the internet is woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. While many of us are active on the internet personally, many businesses have little or no internet exposure. The consumer has more control over the buying process than ever before and the businesses that have a great online presence are the ones that are winning the business.
The internet at it’s core is all about creating a connection. It’s about one person connecting with another person or community. When you approach online business from this perspective it may seem a little more familiar. I like to compare it to the “good ole days” when you got to know the people you were doing business with. You could go down to the local store, grab a soda and talk with the business owner. Now, instead of going down the street, you can have a conversation online. The businesses that create meaningful connections are the ones that are growing and making an impact in their industry. The goal of taking your business online is about sharing your message, brand and services on a platform your prospective clients are already using. So let’s move on to how to get your business online.
The central point of connection for your business is your website. This is where you get to share who you are, what you do and how you can provide solutions to your prospects' pain points. Getting started or even upgrading your current website doesn’t have to confusing. By simply understanding a few terms, you’ll have a better idea of what is going on.
Domain: Your domain is the “address” where your website can be found. This must be registered with a domain provider like GoDaddy or Network Solutions. Choosing a domain should not be taken lightly. For most businesses the best place to start is looking for “yourbusinessname.com”. Having a .com is not as important as is used to be, but I do recommend you try to secure a prominent TLD (Top Level Domain). Prominent TLD domains are com, info, net,and org. These are more recognizable by the public which makes it easier for them to remember and connect with. Finally, try to buy all of the domain extensions just so you can be sure you control your online brand. This means you’ll want to own the .com, .info, .net and .org.
Hosting: Once you have a domain, you’ll need to “rent” some space online. This is essentially what hosting is. When purchasing hosting you are renting space on a server where you will house all of the files that run your website. Many domain registrars also provide hosting, which makes it very convenient for the business owner. When choosing a host, be sure that they are reputable, have secure severs and that they are running on the latest technology. Having a website that loads fast is important and a good host is a big part of the equation.
CMS (Content Management System):A CMS is a web tool/application that enables you to manage your website and site content from an internal user interface or dashboard. This makes it way easier for you to update your site's content and help you stay relevant to your users. There are a number of platforms to choose from, but I recommend using Wordpress or Hubspot.
Wordpress is free and since it’s and open-source platform there are always new features, plugins and tools being added to it. Wordpress is by far the most popular CMS on the internet today and is used by sites like Sony Music, MTV News, Best Buy, Time Inc and more.
Hubspot CMS is an add-on to their powerful all in one marketing platform. Not only do you get a great customizable CMS that links to all of your online marketing efforts, you also get fast, secure and reliable hosting as well.
Responsive Design: No matter what platform you use, make sure that whoever builds your site uses a responsive design. Responsive design in a nutshell means that your site will resize itself to fit the device that is being used to view it. For example, if you are on a computer the site will fix your screen. Then if you switch to view the site on your smart phone, you’ll get the same site, just reorganized to fit your phone's screen. This means no more “mobile only” site and you can deliver all of your great info to your users no matter what device they are on.
For more information about getting your site up and running, we found a great resource called http://firstsiteguide.com/. The entire site is devoted to helping you and your business get started on the web!
As I stated above, the internet is about connections, and the emergence of Social Media is a great example of that. A Pew Research poll found that 76 percent of US adults are active on social media. But it’s not just individuals who have seen the power of connection through social media, 88% percent of US businesses are now using social media as well. Here is a brief overview of a few social media platforms you should be using for your business.
Twitter: Twitter is a fast paced micro blog. It’s a great way to update your community in real time. Using a tool like, Social Quant, you can grow your reach.
LinkedIn: If you are a B2B business, LinkedIn is a must. This is a great place to connect with others in your industry as well as prospect leads. One piece of info, keep it business-focused and don’t spam users. This is a professionals' site and what you say and do can impact your reputation. You can also create a company page on LinkedIn. Check out this visual guide to creating a LinkedIn Company page.
Google+: While Google’s attempt to dominate the social media world fell short, there is still a benefit to using Google+. The most important reason is that your business page is connected to your maps location. While they are separate services, all Google services are essentially connected to each other.
Pinterest: This social sharing network has grown from a place to “pin” recipes and outfits into a small business marketing machine. Set up a business account and promote your blog and other great content. If you are looking to sell online, you can even sell products on this social network.
Taking the Next Step
The simple truth is having a website and a few social media accounts won’t get your business the traction it needs to grow. Why? Well, there are over 1 billion websites online and more added each day. The ones that get noticed are the ones that put a plan of action together. This is where internet marketing comes in. Creating a website can be confusing on it’s own, but understanding online marketing can be even more daunting. Because of this, a number of website owners have been taken advantage of and that makes this marketer mad. Below we will break down a few of the things that are important to understand when starting with internet marketing.
It Takes Time to Get Traction:
When starting with an online marketing strategy, expect to wait three to six months before you see any real results. Any company that claims results “overnight” are either lying or using tactics that can get your site black listed. The reason it takes time is due to a number of factors such as backlinks, content and trust. These all take time to build, but those who put in the time and work will get results that last. Here are a few common terms used in internet marketing that every business owner should be aware of.
SEO: SEO stands Search Engine Optimization. This is the process of marketing your site to the search engines, like Google, Yahoo and Bing. While originally SEO was about helping you generate “organic traffic,” (none paid traffic from the search engines) SEO has evolved into so much more. Today SEO is a critical part of all areas of your online marketing, from your website and blog to your outreach strategy.
PPC: PPC stands for Pay-Per-Click. Using Google Adwords or any other online ad companies you can purchase advertisement and get charged on a per-click basis. The amount you pay is dependent on your keywords, bid and what the current market is paying for that specific keyword.
SEM: SEM stand for Search Engine Marketing. This term is usually associated with companies or agencies that provide PPC management and optimization services.
SMM: SMM stands for Social Media Marketing. This is the process of marketing your site and content using the social media platforms we talked about above and more.
URL: Your URL is the “address” where your site can be found. This is what your domain is called after you get your website up.
Inbound: Inbound is a method of marketing that is about attracting prospects by educating them on solutions to their pain points. Also known as "permission marketing", Inbound let’s the user decide how much marketing they engage with. The method is broken down into 4 stages; Attract, Convert, Close and Delight. The ultimate goal is not just closing the deal, but giving your new clients such amazing service that they promote you as well. SEO, PPC, Blogging, SMM, Lead Generation are some of the tactics used with Inbound Marketing.
Outbound: Outbound refers to marketing that “interrupts” or puts itself in front of an audience whether they requested it or not. Also know as “Traditional Marketing”, Outbound is about finding ways to get in front of viewers at all cost. TV commercials, mailers, radio ads and billboards are some common Outbound tactics.
Growth Driven Design: Tradional website design services are usually a one-time commitment. You pay for the site, it goes up and you're done… until you need a redesign and the process starts over again. Growth Driven Design is a continual process that focuses on adjusting your site based on real user interaction. This is usually done on a monthly retainer and you end up with a better site that is optimized for your users.
UX: UX stand for User Experience. With everything you do online, it’s essential you take this into account. The end user is the one that is going to take action so designing your site and marketing around them is essential.
CRO: CRO stand for Conversion Rate Optimization. This is the process of increasing the percentage of visitors who come to your site and convert into leads.
Backlinks: Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. Backlinks are the single most important factor when it comes to getting your site ranked. But it’s not just about how many, the types of links and the sites that link to you play a big role. Be wary of any company that tries to sell you bulk backlinks.
Rank: Rank refers to your site's placement in the organic search results. It’s important to note that the top four spots on Google are paid ads. For local results, you may see maps locations just under that. The organic results are none paid listings on the search engines.
Whether you're new to the world of marketing your business online or have been at it a while, I hope this article shed some light on what it all means. There are many ways to approach online marketing for your business and your industry, location and budget all play a role. No matter what you do, the key to effective marketing is authenticity. Don’t be afraid to be who you are. If you have any questions about what I covered above, please comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.
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