Five baby steps towards reaching the right people online…
It’s accepted wisdom nowadays that any company needs an online presence to succeed. However, the nature of this presence and the level of investment required to maintain it are hotly disputed.
Happily, there are a few areas where judicious expenditure and effective content can always yield positive results…
1. Don’t reinvent the wheel
If you are an established business, getting online for the first time, make sure you tell your existing customers about your new online endeavors.
Then start spreading the world about your business in the ways that are most similar to the real world. Get your business listed on sites like Yelp – the 21st century answer to the Yellow Pages – and get the location of your company to show up on Google Maps using Google My Business.
2. Build a social media presence
It’s so easy to search for people and companies on Facebook that some people now regard using Google as old-fashioned. A Facebook presence and a Twitter account are essential for any company to succeed in the digital world, particularly as the latter is stealthily replacing conventional communication channels. Once upon a time, irate customers had to plough through automated phone menus to speak to ‘Bob’ from Timbuktu – now they can tweet their displeasure in 140 characters (or less). Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells may criticise you further on Twitter if your response lacks speed or commitment, but they may also praise you to the watching world if you resolve their complaints efficiently.
As for the social media also-rans, Google+ has only really taken off in America thus far although it’s free and certainly won’t do any harm. LinkedIn pages for key staff members also suggest your organisation is well-established and professional.
3. Ignore the SEO evangelists
Corporate inboxes are regularly assailed by unsolicited promises to get that company’s website onto the first page of Google. Not only is this utter rubbish, it also wrongly assumes that search engine optimisation is the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to ranking results. Other important factors include the volume of traffic to your website, links from other sites (particularly academic ones), the quality of your written content, and the safety of your site.
4. Search engine marketing
To make the search engines love you, consider targeted advertising. Google Adwords and Bing Ads enable you to advertise when certain keywords are searched for – those ‘sponsored links’ that appear beside search results. Google and Microsoft make a huge show of displaying your click-through rates, so you can see which terms generated what response. They’ll even recommend you drop underperforming keywords, and you can set a daily budget limit on how much you’re willing to spend.
5.Keep your website simple
Tempting though it is to invest in an all-singing-all-dancing website, it’s better to be crisp and concise. Less is more. Keep graphics small and low-resolution to minimise download speeds, while ensuring the editorial content is professionally written and free from errors.
6. Advertise with caution
Old habits die hard, and it’s easy to throw last year’s print advertising budget at websites to see what sticks. Avoid generic bundles of advertising spread across numerous websites, since these often target the wrong audiences and deliver dismally low response rates. Bear in mind an innate condition of the brain called banner-blindness, which prevents web users from seeing advertising banners easily.
Only advertise on websites relevant to your business, and keep the ad spend modest. Finally, always ask new customers where they heard about you, to determine which channels of online marketing are yielding results – and which ones aren’t.
For more detailed insider info on getting noticed online, follow our regular Tutorial series, which starts on this blog next week…
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