Starting a small business can be quite the task. That’s why we here at Website Consultants have decided to write a top 10 checklist for your Internet marketing efforts. As part of any solid marketing plan today, Internet marketing should definitely be in it, if not a large part of it. With over 252,908,000 people using the Internet in North America alone, you would have to have a very good reason to not to take advantage of that kind of exposure. Whether you are a local mom and pop store or if you have just started the beginnings of a national chain, this checklist can help you make sure that you don’t fall short on your Internet presence. So, without further interruption, here is your small business checklist for Internet Marketing.
1.) Buy a domain name.
Rudimentary I know, but if you don’t already have one then you need to start a self hosted site. Try not to use sub-domain or parasite hosted sites like yoursite.blogspot.com or yoursite.wordpress.com. You want something like, “www.yoursite.com”. Also, if you decide to go with your brand name, try to make sure you buy the .com, .net and .org versions. Some tips to help you get a domain:
- Try to find a domain with your products keywords if possible. For example, an ice cream shop would be something like JanesIceCream.com. “Johns Blue Widgets” would want to get something like, www.bluewidgets.com. Direct match domains can play a role in positioning, especially on Yahoo and Bing.
- Keep brand domains short when possible, for example, instead of saying, “Rockys Water Slide Town” just go with “waterslidetown.com” or “rockyswaterslide.com”.
2.) Purchase Hosting. This is one of the decisions you can make before or after buying a domain name. Some places, like Bluehost, will even give you a free domain when you purchase a hosting package. Hosting is going to depend 100% on your needs, if you are a mom and pop shop just getting up and running, then you probably only need a very basic shared hosting package.
- Buy shared hosting at first. If you have a local business you may never need to get your own dedicated server, so start off with shared hosting. Ideally you want to find something under 7 bucks a month, with unlimited options. Some of my personal favorites are Bluehost, Hostgator and Hostmonster.
- If you already have a large customer base and plan on selling a lot of products on the Internet, you may want to invest in a dedicated server.
3.) Design the site. Now that you have hosting and a domain, it’s time to actually build the site. There are a couple ways you can do this; a) Hire a professional web design company b.) purchase a template or c.) Do it yourself. I would suggest you only do it yourself if you have experience designing sites or you just can’t swing a budget for site design. Some tips for your sites design:
- Use a content management system. There are plenty of free ones like WordPress, Dupral or Joomla!
- Keep important information above the fold, get your sales pitch or point across quick.
- Make sure the design is built to sell and has no serious usability issues.
- Include contact information (contact form, email address, phone numbers, address) and make it easy to locate.
4.) Optimize your site.
You can find a wealth of information on how to optimize your site right here at WebsiteConsultants.org. There are also some free guides tailored to beginners over at SEOmoz. Feel free to pick a couple up and get a grib with basic SEO. For now we will stick to the basics of on page optimization. If you choose to hire a professional then please contact a Website Consultant today. Some tips for optimizing your site:
- Make use of your title tags. Try to keep important keywords towards the front. Example- instead of having the title of your site be “Jims Ice Cream Shop” to make it some like, “Ice Cream – Frozen Yogurts, Desserts – Naples, FL”
- Don’t be spammy. Just because you sell ice cream doesn’t mean you have to say the word, “ice cream” 800 times on each page. It isn’t 1996 anymore. Just keep to writing good content on the site and the engines will know what phrases/keywords you are relevant for (i.e. if you talk about cold, flavors, cones, sprinkles, etc search engines will know that page is related to ice cream.)
In this industry we like to say that, “citation is the new link” when it comes to local search. The more your businesses physical address is listed uniformly across the web the higher the chances of you coming up in local category queries (i.e. pizza place Fort Myers Florida). Some tips for listing your address:
- Make sure you have the correct address, you can even save time by submitting your local info to Universal Business Listing and they will take care of submitting it to over 100 different outlets.
- Submit with a logo. Use your local exposure to help build your brand.
6.) Create and enegage through social media. One of the fastest ways to start building traffic to your new website is through social media. Places like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace can cover a large base of new customers.
- Lean on niche websites for brand awareness (i.e. an ice cream shop would want to get involved in ice cream recipe forums, ice cream lover sites, etc).
- Stay active and engage happy and not so happy customers. Everytime someone comments about how their ice cream (to stay with the same example) was delicious is another opportunity for you to reenforce your image. Everytime someone has a complaint is a chance to spin it into a good thing (i.e. someone complains and you ask what they didn’t like about it, how you can fix it, etc…
- Hold contests and give stuff away. Everyone loves free stuff. You may attract customers that you wouldn’t have otherwise just because you had a contest for a free tub of ice cream.
7.) Network. Although very similar to using social media this may be the most important aspect of building exposure. When you are networking with other people remember that your “competition” might actually be a great place to start. Just because you think you offer the same service, does not necessarily mean that its true.
- Speak at conferences about what you are doing.
- Don’t think about selling people when communicating about your business. Take a delicate approach to marketing. People are forced to look at advertisements everywhere they go (TV, newspapers, subways, highways, etc.), and you should not force feed them your product as well. Explain how you help people and allow them to sell themselves.
- Mention other people, and the services they offer. This makes you look slightly more credible, and you will not seem desperate for business (even if you are).
8.) Content. Keep updating your site. Fresh content that talks about what you do, along with how you solve problems that people have in the industry can be great. Google drives around 70% of all traffic to websites. Adding new content that relates to issues that arise can help build a great deal of traffic to your site. Most search queries are unique and most are “long tail” searches. Consider using a platform such as WordPress to make adding new content easy.
9.) Passion, and Common Sense. Don’t make things more challenging than they need to be. Make it fun. In order to be successful online or in any type of business you need to be passionate. People that take a very passive approach to their business will stand no chance against the person that puts everything they have behind it. Remember that hard work now always pays off in the long run, and you are more than likely to run into a certain level of adversity.
10.) Remember the ABT’s- Always Be Testing. Use tools like Google Website Optimizer to run split tests on your site and find the layouts or page designs with the highest conversions. If Rand Fishkin is right, then 2010 will be the year of the conversion rate. Some tips for increasing conversions:
- Hire professional conversion rate experts if you don’t have the time or ability to test on your own
- Make sure your sales funnel is smooth and doesn’t take any uneeded detours. Don’t forget the story of the $300 million dollar button.
Remember, if you have any questions please feel free to post a comment below. If you would like professional help with your internet marketing, then don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free evaluation.