How to Grow Your Business Online in 4 Steps
Why You Need to Grow Your Business Online
You may have already noticed that the digital world is all around you. It is on your desktop, your laptop, your tablet and smartphone, your TV, in your car, and coming soon to your toaster. And that means that your potential customers are digital as well. Regardless if you are a professional service provider, operate a small retail store or run your own restaurant potential clients and customers will search for you online long before they pick up the phone or walk through your door. And that is a key reason why you need to grow your business online.
But if you are like many small business owners (SBOs) you may not know how to grow your business online. Even some bigger brands are having a hard time understanding all that is involved. This series of posts walks business owners of all types through the process of growing your business online. Our first post in this series examined some of The Big Problems with Small Business Websites. Part two focused on Digital Marketing for Small Business Owners by expanding your digital footprint. In this article we will show you how you can connect the dots and grow your business online.
Grow Your Business Online in 4 Steps
To grow your business online sounds easy enough. All you need are people visiting your site and reaching out to you, correct? That is it in a nutshell, but cracking the actual nut is a lot more difficult. To make it easier for you to understand we cracked the nut into four major pieces that connect and interact to grow your business online. Let’s take a look at how your website, pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO) and social media fit together to grow your business online.
Step 1 – Your Business Website
This is the critical component. Without an effective business website there is really nothing that you can do to grow your business online. Yet many small business owners don’t understand the importance of having and maintaining a business website. And by neglecting their digital presence many small businesses are missing opportunities for growth. If you fall into that category you are really hurting your business. Here is what you need to do to fix that!
1. Build a Website
If you do not have a functional and effective website you need to get one before you can grow your business online. There are a variety of options available to you depending on your needs and budget. Below are some of our recommended web design and development options. We have used and tested them ourselves. But there are other options available if none of these suit your taste or budget!
One word of caution regarding DIY webdesign. It looks much more simple than it really is. Those pretty images of what your website COULD look like is not what you get when you install the theme or template. For this reason 98% of all DIY websites never launch at all.
A place to start if you only have a limited budget. The options listed below will give you a basic website and even some e-commerce capabilities for a low monthly fee. Keep in mind that extensive customization is generally not an option, and advanced functionality and compatibility with search engine optimization (SEO) or social marketing may be limited.
- SquareSpace – They offer a variety of pre-made templates for all types of businesses that can be customized to a certain degree, all for a low monthly fee.
- Wix – This increasingly popular website builder uses artificial intelligence to help small business owners design and build their own website.
- WordPress – A hosted WordPress site is another option; be sure you don’t confuse it with the non-hosted version. The hosted version does NOT offer unlimited options and needs to be hosted on wordpress.com.
- Shopify – A great option for a basic e-commerce site. They offer a number of pre-made templates and can help with customization as well.
Most website needs can be met by using one of these options. But unless you feel comfortable around browser based editors, or if you want to really customize your site you may need to hire a professional web designer to help you. We can tell you it will save you a lot of time and headaches!
- WordPress – A WordPress site is always a great option. Don’t confuse this with the hosted option described above. This version of WordPress allows for virtually unlimited customization based on free (not really recommended) and premium themes.
- WooCommerce – This third-party plugin adds full e-commerce capabilities to any WordPress site, including the ability for custom order processing, payment gateways and shipping configuration.
- Adobe Business Catalyst – Developed by Adobe Systems this hosted platform combines website, e-commerce functionality and customer retention management (CRM) into one neat package.
High End Budget
If you have a lot of money or need to use up your yearly budget allowance (lucky you!) you can go totally high end and get a custom designed and developed website and e-commerce platform. This approach definitely requires professional help, and is most often well beyond both the needs and budget of small to mid-size businesses.
- Drupal – This fully customizable platform can handle just about any requirement and future functionality. It does present certain challenges for end users and is therefore best suited for companies with an in-house webmaster or IT team.
- Magento – This shopping cart can be configured for just about any intended use and requirements, and it is an ideal complement to a Drupal site.
2. Install Analytics
We think that Google Analytics should come prepackaged with every website; it is that important. Google Analytics comes with a great toolkit to help you identify and find your ideal customer and track their behavior on your website. And that is a key step to growing your business online!
3. Make Your Website Effective
If you do not have an effective website it is much harder to get engagement. That makes it impossible to grow your business onlineEffective websites usually have all of the following characteristics:
- They are easy to use
- They have a consistent user interface (UI)
- The content is focused on SEO
- Analytics are installed
- They are optimized for speed
4. Make Your Website Credible
If you do not have a credible website you will have a much harder time attracting and converting potential clients. In order for your website to appear credible it needs to do the following:
- Have an SSL Certificate
- Look professional
- Use third party references and citations
- Introduce your team
- Make it easy to contact you
- Use only limited ads or promotions
- Be updated frequently
Great! If you have done all of the above you should now have an effective and engaging website. This will make the rest much easier! And if you are not certain if everything is working correctly don’t worry, we can help. Simply use the link below to request a
Free Website and SEO Audit
For a comprehensive, in-depth analysis of your current small business website we can perform a free website and SEO audit. If you have not checked it we will take a look at your small business website to make sure it’s mobile-friendly, current and serving your business like it should. Simply fill out a simple form, and we will email you the results in 10 minutes!
If you are good to go here are the next steps of growing your business online.
Step 2 – Increasing Your Digital Footprint with PPC
In Digital Marketing for Small Business Owners we explained why increasing your digital footprint is essential to grow your business online. And one very effective way to increase your digital footprint, and to direct potential customers to your website grow your business online very quickly, is to plan and implement a Google AdWords or Pay-per-Click (PPC) campaign. By installing Google Analytics in Step 1 you are already tracking valuable data regarding your website visitors. You can use this data to plan your PPC strategy as well. Each of your key products or services needs to have specific keywords and an optimized landing page. Your PPC campaign will drive traffic to the specific landing page for each product or service.
AdWords and PPC campaigns should not be considered a long-term SEO strategy, but they do provide some important benefits:
- They drive immediate traffic to your site
- They are entirely controlled by you
- They can readily be modified as you track incoming results
- They can be re-purposed into other campaigns
In order for your PPC campaign to remain effective you will need to track the performance of your campaign and adjust it as needed. Are you getting positive ROI? If not you may need to adjust the keywords, the message, or the amount of money you spend per click. If you are not sure how to do this yourself you should consult with a search marketing professional before you commit additional resources. Or stay tuned as we will cover this topic in more detail in an upcoming post.
Your PPC campaign is only the beginning. In order to gow your business online and achieve long-term inbound marketing results you need to widen your online presence with SEO.
Step 3 – Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important part of your strategy to grow your business online, and it is also one of the most misunderstood. To clarify, there is no quick and easy way to get to the number one spot on Google. Yes, there are people who promise to do just that. Stay well away from them, Black Hat SEO can and will hurt you! White Hat SEO is the opposite. Here is how you can tell the difference between Black Hat and White Hat SEO. By using only Google approved, ethical methods and analysis this approach provides lasting value, but it does take a little longer to implement. But is is the only effective long-term way to grow your business online.
Search engine optimization (SEO) consists of the following key components:
- On-Page SEO – The correct use of H1-H6 title tags, meta tags, links, etc.
- On-Site SEO – Is your site coded to the latest W3C standards?
- Off-Site SEO – Are you listed in online directories? Are you getting backlinks? Are you blogging?
- Local SEO – Are you listed in local directories such as Google Places, Bing, Yahoo, or Yelp?
- Microdata Markup per Schema.org – A more structured approach to telling search engines about your business or service.
In order to grow your business online an effective SEO strategy needs to be professionally developed and implemented. In addition to a search engine expert you may require the services of a copywriter or editor who specializes in SEO optimized content to achieve the best possible results. And once your SEO campaign is running it should be tracked carefully and modified as needed in order to continue to provide you with the best possible results.
Once you have an effective website, are getting traffic, and are measuring the results there is one last thing you need to do to grow your business online. You need to use social media to diversify and widen your client base.
Step 4 – Social Media Integration
By this stage you should be well along with the digital strategy to grow your business online. Now that you have an effective business website and an increasing digital footprint you will want to tell as many people as possible about it. And not only that, but you want all of your friends to tell of their friends, and so on, and so on. This should remind you of the old Revlon commercial! But it is true, your friends and their friends are an important part of spreading your message. On social media likes and followers are only the beginning; what you really want are brand advocates. We’ll get into that in a bit!
Social media can be a lot of fun, but it does require hard work and research to implement. Here are the three steps you need to take to create and build your brand’s social media presence and grow your business online:
1. Set Up Your Profiles
No, you do not need to be everywhere. But you do need to be wherever your intended audience is. Do some research and determine where your audience is most likely to be found and then claim and optimize those profiles. In most cases you should be on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube. Depending on your industry you may benefit from other platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram or Vine as well. Regardless of which profiles you end up using be sure to
- Have a consistent name and brand image to avoid confusion
- Make sure your name, address, and phone number are consistent
- Make sure all your info is complete and up to date
- Use the correct size for cover and profile images
2. Engage Your Community
Once you have claimed and optimized your social profiles you need to start engaging your audience. Remember, social media is like a conversation; if you don’t respond people will stop talking to you. Here are a few things you must do in order to be engaging:
- Remember the 80-20 rule! Social media is not about you, it is about everyone else!
- Post and update content regularly
- Respond to comments, likes, and questions in a timely manner
- Monitor what is being said about you and your business closely
- Write a blog, comment on other blogs, and write guest posts
3. Rinse and Repeat
Keep track of your social media performance to determine what works and what doesn’t. Modify the things that did not bring you the expected or required engagement, and keep doing more of whatever gets people excited about you and your brand. It really is that simple to grow your business online!
Not sure you are doing it correctly? Maybe you started on social media a while ago and gave up? Don’t feel bad; it happens to a lot of people. If you want to get a clear picture of your existing social media presence before you start that part to grow your business online we can help! Just ask for a free social audit through the link below!
Knowing how many “Likes” and “Followers” you have is only the tip of the iceberg in social media. Our experts drill down deep into your social media presence and determine exactly who you are reaching, how they engage with you, and where there is room for improvement. Simply provide us with the links to your existing social media profiles and we will get back to you within 5 business days with a complete analysis and recommendations.
Final Thoughts for Growing Your Business Online
OK, that’s it! And yes, this was a lot of info to digest. But we wanted to give you the complete framework to grow your business online in one post rather than spreading it out over a few weeks. In upcoming posts we will revisit the individual steps outlined above in much more detail.
If you want to find out more about how to grow your business online or if you have any specific questions we want to talk to you. Simply reach out to our highly caffeinated marketing team and we will walk you through the individual steps, explain the benefits of each, and help you implement them so that you can start to grow your business online in no time.
This is part of an ongoing series to help small business owners succeed in the digital arena. Future posts will cover more specific details regarding effective websites, including e-commerce sites, how to create engaging content, the difference between white hat and black hat SEO, and how to succeed at social media. Stay tuned!
Thank you! We appreciate your help to end bad business websites, one pixel at a time!