1. Make your website amazing
Well, this is the obvious one. I have seen so many websites that lack in useful content, and simply put, they look awful. Most people search online for your product or service. Twenty years ago, before the Internet became the marketplace it is now, you wouldn’t have let the storefront of your business look like a dump. The website is your storefront. So treat it that way.
There are two important elements to having a great looking yet the functional and informational website.
Content rich website: If you are using a flash base website, you need to rethink your design. Flash website may look neat but they have two major issues. Some of them have a slow loading time. Your audience doesn’t have the patience to watch the load bar reach 100%. They will click away before if gets there. Another issue is that search engines do not read flash websites very well. They read HTML content. They need to see text in HTML format to understand it clearly. Images and fancy designs have very little value to them. That doesn’t mean to skip them, but make sure you have a website that has all the essential elements and not just a pretty design. Flash websites will be hidden from search engines. What’s the point of having a nice looking site if no one can find it? And keep your website informative. Put yourself in the shoes of your visitors. What questions will they have? What order will they want the information to be presented to them? Make sure they are satisfied when they get to your site.
Attractive website: Yes, web design can be expensive, but it is an essential expense that your business has to have. It is best to hire a company that can design a website that is great looking and yet friendly to search engines. My good friends at Pure Imagination create very customized, content-rich websites. There are thousands of companies and individuals that can help you here as well.
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Another option to help get you by when you start is using WordPress. It is by design easy to optimize for search engines and it is easily editable by you. If money is a concern and you have the time, you can choose a WordPress site. Just make sure to have a domain and hosting package so you don’t use the free WordPress site. You need to have a domain that doesn’t have WordPress in it. WordPress will put their name in the domain if you choose their service but it’s free. Domain and hosting are cheap. Go, daddy, network solution, and HostGator are just a few you can use.
As far as the design of your WordPress, Elegant Theme is a great site that offers different looks for your WordPress that makes it really stand out. And it’s so affordable.
2. Create a great marketing web video
Now you have a great looking website with great text and images that tell your customers what they need to know to make a decision. But today, that’s not enough to stand apart from all the other websites that do that too. You need something more. You need to grab their attention as fast as you can and relay your message in just a few short minutes.
A video is a great option. You can use a video to tell customers about you, your product and services or really anything else you think they may find useful. Some of my favorite sites have a video on the main page and it’s the first thing you see. It’s easy to click the play button and if the video starts off great, you’ve got the visitor hooked. You have their attention for 3 to 5 minutes. That can be pages and pages worth of textual information. Pretty much the entire textual content of your site can be relayed in a great 3 to 5-minute video.
Just like a good website, your video has to look good too. The same two elements come into play here. The video has to have great content, so know your message you want your visitor to understand. Also, it has to be attractive too. Cheap looking videos can degrade your fancy website. So a bad video that’s made by say, your cousin, can, in fact, hurt your online storefront. To see a sample of what a marketing video for a small business looks like, check out New Slate Films and view a couple of videos. Like a great website, a great video is another investment that will really separate you from your competition. And with video, you can take it to other places too. It doesn’t just have to live on the site. It could be great for conferences, trade shows, and even local broadcast.
3. Spend time on SEO
Now that you have a great looking website with a great looking video on the home page, you need people to see it, so you need to get the search engines to notice you. This one takes time. You can’t just hire someone and be on the first page of Google the next day. Search engine optimization is a huge business and it is a critical element to any business with a website. If you are not familiar with SEO, there is a great book from one of my favorite SEO providers, SEOmoz. Give it a read. Even if you have a good understanding of SEO, there’s plenty of information here you will find useful.
If you want to get a jump-start on SEO and have the time to do it yourself, try DIY SEO. This is actually how I learned SEO. And in just one month, I have my website on the first page of Google for some of the selected keywords. This will take some time to do. But DIY SEO will give you tasks to complete daily to get a better ranking. You will also learn about link building, page optimization, and social media links just to name a few. They also show you a chart of your ranking which is updated daily. You can put three of your competitors into the chart to see how you stack up week to week. Oh, and they have a free trial and it’s less than $40/month after that. If you don’t have the time, you can pay more and they will do it for you.
I currently use SEOmoz. DIY SEO was a great start but SEOmoz is the standard in SEO and it tracks several sites and hundreds of keywords. DIY SEO is an amazing tool if you’re starting out, but if it gets too limited, SEOmoz will give you what you need to continue building on your SEO.
4. Write and update an informational Blog
While the search engines are finding you and you are doing your SEO to get your rank up, you still need some visitors. You need a blog. If you are using WordPress for your site, you are already half way there. You just need to write great content. If you aren’t, sign up at WordPress or blogger and make a blog and link it on your website. You should have a menu button somewhere on your site that takes the visitors to your blog. What should you write about? Something informational. You are an expert if your line of work. Write about what you know best. I know how to use a camera, so I wrote a blog about how to use that specific camera. I also added a YouTube video to the blog that ended up getting 40,000 views. I had no idea how many people would watch it. If you know the law, write something useful about that. If you are a mechanic, talk about your favorite tool and why it helps you in your line of work. As long as it’s informational, someone will read it. It’s a great way to bring new visitors.
Now, if you are writing a blog on your site, it won’t just automatically bring visitors. You need to submit your blog to other sites. I write my blog on my WordPress site. Then I submit it to blogroll and WordPress. It also has RSS feed to several other blog sites. Here is the list of blog sites you can submit your blog too and attract visitors. These are RSS feeds so it will always update when you make a new blog post.
Blogdigger, Chordata, Crayon Educational-feeds, Feeding, Feedage, Feed Burner, Feedcat, Free RSS and Link Directory
5. Install Analytics
It is essential to know who is visiting your website and what they are doing on there. SEOmoz actually has a nice feature for doing this, but the basics for doing website analytics is well covered in Google Analytics. This keeps track of your visitors. It also shows you how long they spend on each page, where they came from, and what device they were using when they came to your page. It really is a great tool and it’s free. All you have to do is put a code on your site and Google does the rest. Make sure to use the settings to hide results from your personal IP address. That way you don’t count as a visitor every time you go to your own site. Make sure to check your analytics every day and optimize your website based on what you have learned by your visitor’s behaviors.
6. PPC (pay-per-click)
While SEO and blogs are improving your number of visitors, you still need to drive more traffic to your site. It’s time to spend those advertising dollars. If you have created a great website with great content and great video, this part should really convert visitors into customers. Do not start doing this until you are ready with your website and all the elements are in place. Make sure you get feedback about your site, your video, and your content from anyone you can. It doesn’t make sense to advertise with PPC if the visitors will just click away because of a bad experience. There are 3 different PPC’s that have had success in my experience.
Google PPC: This is a must have. If you do one PPC campaign, this should be it. Google pay per click allows you to create an ad, point it to a page on your site, place a limit on how much you want to spend each day and how much you want to spend on each click. So when your ad shows up and someone clicks on it, you will be charged based on what you have set up. Let me warn you, this can get expensive, but if you are in a good shape with your website, you should convert enough visitors to more than cover your cost.
Depending on the keywords you are competing for, you can spend from $.50 per click to $20 per click and even higher. You have to figure out what each visitor is worth to you. Go to YouTube and watch videos on how to figure this out. Then you can make smart decisions on what keywords to bid on and how much you should spend each day to get the most results.
Facebook Ad: Another option for PPC is Facebook ads. Again, you will be charged for clicks and you can set your daily budget here. But it is less effective than Google PPC. It is, however, cheaper and I know some people have had great results. On Facebook, you can target people by age, interests, and even relationship status. That’s something you can’t do with Google.
LinkedIn Ad: The PPC at LinkedIn is pretty interesting. You can target people by job titles. For example, the people that will hire my company usually work in the marketing department. So I can target job titles like ‘marketing director’. In my experience, this has the least click through rate compared to Google and Facebook, but it is a different method.
7. Utilize a landing page and opt-in a form:
Once you setup your ad, you have to tell the ad where to take the visitors. This is where most people make a mistake. Most ads take you to the home page of the website. But the homepage has a lot of information that may leave the visitor lost. A better option would be to create a page specifically designed for your ad. This is called a landing page. I use Unbounce. They are a landing page software company. It creates beautiful landing pages in minutes. You can also test several versions of a landing page to see which one your visitors interact with the best. I use video landing pages. The same video that is on the website is on the landing page. I don’t want to clutter the page with a lot of text, so video landing pages are a great solution.
Opt-in forms are also essential on the landing page. Most of your visitors may not buy from you now, but they may want to later. By creating a landing page with an opt-in form, you can capture their information and follow up. Otherwise, that visitor may never hear from you again and the money you spent on their click is wasted. Again, bounce landing pages are great for this as they have several lead capture forms. Here is the example of the landing page I’m currently using. I also have an eBook so people may be more inclined to give their email in exchange for the book so I can provide them more information about the product.
8. Don’t forget Social Media
Your blog, your SEO efforts, and your PPC should begin to generate visitors and your website should do most of the work to convert them into clients with the help of great content and compelling video. But there are more ways to get visitors and leads. Social media has exploded in the last few years and it is a great opportunity for businesses. Make sure you have a strong presence on Facebook, twitter, Google+, Instagram and LinkedIn. You can even link a lot of these sites together, so you just have to post to one and it will appear on the rest. You can share your blog here as well. Giveaways are a great way to expand your fan and follower base. Start with friends and family and grow from there. If you have the time, go beyond the basic social media sites. There are hundreds of them out there. If you don’t have the time, make sure you have a strong presence on Facebook and link that to your twitter account.
And that’s 8 must haves for successful online business marketing. Obviously, this is just a basic start for online success. Email marketing, CRM and project management systems will be things you will need down the road just to name a few. But for now, make sure you are solid on these 8 must haves and success will soon follow.