There are many different ways to promote your online business. With a little energy and creativity, you can market your business widely and without a great deal of expense. Using paid ads, social media and listing sites can greatly increase your presence and help drive traffic towards your site. An effective and clear online marketing strategy should take into account all the various ways in which you can engage with your customers online.
STEP ONE – USING ONLINE ADVERTISING
- Consider pay-per-click advertising. One way to very quickly increase your web presence is by using pay-per-click advertising to have your business appear prominently in search engine results. This is probably the quickest way to promote your business, but is also probably the most expensive. You will need to budget carefully and ensure you make the most of any paid ads.
- Pay-per-click ads are sold by auction so they can get very expensive very quickly.
- If you do get one, create a strong landing page for people who click through.
- Ensure you have the systems in place to analyse the amount of traffic and custom you receive through your ad. You need this information to evaluate whether it was worth the investment.
- Join listing sites. Listing sites are essentially online databases which make large numbers of companies easily accessible and searchable.There are a number of major listing sites which are likely to appear higher up in search engine results than your own site. For this reason it’s important to maximise your presence on these heavily frequented sites. Many listing sites are free to join and can direct a lot of traffic your way so you should take advantage of this.
- You may already have been added to listings and review sites by a customer, but by taking charge of your presence you can control how your business is presented.
- See which listings sites are most prominent in your field of business simply by searching online and writing down which ones come high in the results.
- Connect with web affiliates. You can join up with other businesses and develop mutually beneficial relationships. Web affiliates will typically provide links to each other’s stores on their web pages to help direct traffic to your affiliates. This can be particularly effective when the online stores have something in common or sell complementary goods.
- For example if you sell hair care products you could share links with a store that sells skin care products, and recommend each other’s goods.
- Only do this with a company you like and trust who share a similarity with you.
- You can expand these relationships into shared offers and deals if they prove effective and bring in traffic.
- As well as sharing links, affiliates can agree a deal to sell each other’s products on their site.
STEP TWO – OPTIMISING YOUR STORE FOR SEARCH ENGINE
- Understand search engine optimisation (SEO). SEO is a collection of techniques which increase the chances of your site being high up in search results on search engines. Rather than paying for a more prominent position, the practice of SEO can drastically help increase the profile and presence of your online store. It’s free and effective, but it does take a little time to understand the principles of SEO and apply them to your website. Major search engines provide guides to how they work for those wishing to optimise their results.
- SEO is necessary primarily because of the ubiquity of search engines. Think about how you search for something online.
- Ask yourself how often you click through past the first couple of pages of results.
- Find out the popular key words for your area of business. You probably think you already have a decent idea of the key words that bring traffic to your website, but it’s best not to leave any stone unturned when doing SEO. Use online tools to determine which words bring traffic to your store. There are a few different ways to measure key words.
- Key word frequency refers to how often a word appears in the title or description of a website. Be aware though, if you have stuffed your site full of key words it may be judged spam.
- The key word weight is the number of key words in comparison to the total number of words. By having less text on a page, you can achieve a heavier key word weight.
- The positioning of words in relation to each other is known as key word proximity. For example, if you are selling “black socks”, you will outrank someone selling “black cotton socks” if the search term is “black socks”.
- Having your key words high up on a page and prominent in headings and the first paragraph of text gives you a good key word prominence score. Similarly, having the words in titles or links can equal good key word placement.
- Include key words in your web copy. Once you have a clear picture of the best key words for driving traffic to your site, and how to include them in your web copy and site design it’s time to put this into practice. Give your website a thorough audit revising main sections to make sure they are optimised for key words in frequency, weight, position, prominence and placement.
- Remember to do this in a considered and careful way. If you load it down with key words out of context your site may be deemed spam and ignored.
- Put key words in tags, titles, links and high up in copy.
STEP THREE – PROMOTING YOUR STORE WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
- Have a strong social media presence. Social media has become an essential element of marketing strategies for most businesses. For an online business it is even more important given the ability to link directly to products and deals on your site, and communicate with a large number of people quickly and effectively. Start your social media marketing campaign with Facebook and Twitter. Ensure you have a good presence and a clear page with links to your products.
- You will need to post regularly to keep up interest and be generally active following people and events, as well as liking things to make your store more visible.
- Post links to new products and special offers frequently and engage with your customers.
- Run contests or sweepstakes. Running promotions and contests through social media can help you to build up your register of contacts, and create a buzz about your business. It’s important to have a clearly defined objective and audience for your contest, you need to know what you will get from it. You could have a sweepstakes for for those who join a mailing list, offering something for free. In turn you get contact details which you can use for targeted marketing.
- Before you undertake a contest you need to be fully clued up on all the relevant rules and regulations. The specific terms “contest”, “sweepstakes” and “lottery” have clear definitions which you need to abide by.
- A contest must have a winner chosen on merit, a sweepstakes winner chosen at random, and for a lottery you must buy a ticket and pay to play.
- Use paid ads on social media. On the major social networks you can also buy advertising space to promote your business. This can be cheaper and quicker than more traditional modes of advertising. As with any online ad you need to ensure it is concise and attractive as well as bringing the customer to a good landing page on your store. Be sure you read up on all the specific rules for advertising on before you begin.
- Promoted tweets can increase your company’s exposure, but it’s important to present these well and include relevant hashtags. As with other online ads, make sure the link you include goes to a landing page with featured products clearly visible.
- Expand your social media presence. As well as Facebook and Twitter, there are an increasingly large number of social media outlets that have a huge number of users. Develop a presence on video and photograph-based social media to highlight your products and engage with your customers.
- If you share a picture of a great new product on Instagram you can get it seen by a lot more people than who would otherwise happen across it.
- As always it’s crucial that you structure your social media well and it is all connected together across the various platforms. Have an integrated social media strategy.
- Have clear links from all the different sites to your actual store where customers can buy the goods you have highlighted on social media.
- Be creative and open-minded about how you present yourself, but ensure there is a common approach that reflects your company and your brand.
- Use the social media icons and buttons on emails and postings to provide plenty of links and make it easy for people to reach your store.
- Write a blog. Having a prominent and well-maintained blog can be a very good way to position yourself as a major player and public voice in your area of business. Not only that, but it is a way to promote your business without paying for advertising. Don’t overdo it on the plugs, but be sure to include a relevant link back to your store in each post. Remember, to get people to read the blog it needs to well-written, informative and interesting.
- Promote your blog through social networks, and consider it an important part of your social media marketing strategy.
- As well as writing your own blog, take time to connect with other bloggers. Having links between blogs will only increase the potential traffic to your site and raise your profile.
- Try to write guest blogs on other forums to reach out to more people, and invite others to do the same on yours.
STEP FOUR – CONNECTING WITH CUSTOMERS
- Maintain a register of customers. Whenever a customer makes an order you will collect their email address so it’s important to keep a good and safe register of your customers’ contact details. In addition to this, you should make it possible for potential customers to easily register with your website using their email address even if they don’t buy anything this time.
- A register of users is a very useful resource for marketing and surveying your customer base and should be treated as such.
- You need to guarantee that your customers’ personal and financial details submitted through your website are kept secure.
- Send a regular email newsletter. A regular email to all your registered customers can be a very effective way to promote specific products or time-limited special offers. It’s important to exercise careful judgement when sending out unsolicited communications to your customers, as nothing will turn people off as much as spam.
- You should tightly control your email newsletters, and only send out messages when you have something important to promote.
- Too frequent emails will be annoying, but too few will mean that they might forget about your store.
- Ensure that the email is well-crafted and matches the visual theme of your website and branding.
- Be active in relevant online discussions. Increase your presence and brand-awareness by getting involved in online discussion groups around relevant topics to your store. For example, if you sell specialist teas you can contribute to forums for tea lovers and enthusiasts. But be sure to tread lightly when you do this. Don’t engage in any hard selling or explicit advertising as it will not go down well.
- Keep your online store’s URL in your signature, but don’t over-promote your business.
- Don’t just think of it advertising, but connecting with potential customers. It could give you ideas for new product lines or avenues to explore.
- Follow your feedback. Keep a close eye on any feedback you receive on review websites as well as in direct contact with customers. It’s important to know what people are saying and what the perception of your company is. If appropriate, respond politely to feedback and try to resolve any issue quickly and amicably. With social media it’s possible for a minor problem to quickly escalate and gain you unwanted publicity.
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