Since search engines such as Google are the norm for people to find products, services and businesses, an effective website presence is vital to your company’s success, no matter what you sell or who you’re selling to. For Internet Marketing, here are some highlights to keep in mind.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
1. The three required components to have a functional website:
a. Domain Name
b. Web Hosting
2. Marketing your website online with SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
3. Marketing your website offline
Your domain name (i.e. https://domains.google/learn/#/) is the first of three necessary components to a website presence. It’s the least expensive piece, averaging about $10-$15 per year to register and renew. However, it’s one of the most vital and important Internet marketing components.
Spend some time selecting your domain name. There are some excellent articles for this activity. Just Google the string: “how to select a domain name.” Here are some suggestions: Keep it short and simple if possible, but remember that most 3-8 character domains are taken by now. However, you should avoid a 50+ character domain name. A general rule of thumb is that it should be easy to type, easy to hear, easy to read and easy to remember. One common site to look up the domain name availability and/or information is Whois at http://whois.domaintools.com.
Don’t use hyphens unless there is a hyphen in the company name. In which case, get both the hyphenated and non-hyphenated versions.
Avoid using numerals/numbers when possible. Again, get both versions if you need to use a number (ex. 1stchoice.com and firstchoice.com, or 2doorsdowngrille.com and twodoorsdowngrille.com).
Get a .com extension if possible. If you’re a non-profit organization, then a .org extension will work. Avoid lesser known extensions if at all possible, such as .biz, .info, .name, etc.
Insist that YOU own your domain name, not the web developer or company providing the service for you. Some times a web designer or web development company will put the domain name in their name for control purposes. Make sure your name and contact email address are associated with the Administrative Contact for your domain name.
The second component you’ll need is a web hosting service, which is a monthly service (can be paid annually in some cases) that provides a virtual “home” for your website files and data. This service normally includes your company’s email messages. Hosting service allows your website to be accessible to the world via the Internet, keeping it online as often as possible. You want a company that is reliable with little or no downtime. You’ll also want to be sure they’re secure and provide regular backups of your data.
Hosting service is misunderstood by many, and taken for granted until there’s an issue. Unlike domain names where the cost is relatively fixed and low, hosting costs can vary from as little as $5 per month, to $500 per month, depending on the scope and complexity of the setup. Investigate the company for a pattern of issues or complaints obtaining references and testimonials.
It is generally advisable to avoid free hosting.
The final component is the website itself, which is really a collection of files, often numbering in the hundreds or thousands, that make up how your website looks and functions when people visit it. The way the website is developed and coded also determines how the search engines, like Google and Yahoo!, interpret and index it. There are standards for coding now, which should always be applied, so make sure the company or individual you have build your website is using the latest coding methods and standards.
WordPress websites are becoming very popular and with all the plug-ins available, it is very easy to set up and maintain. If you are technically challenged, you can have someone set up the website using WordPress and then maintain the site yourself without having to additional fees for maintenance. Again, you do not want to use the free web hosting that WordPress offers and it is best to use a paid theme with good feedback from customers. WordPress themes can be personalized by a developer to meet your individual needs.
Like most marketing, always apply the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid, no offense!) principle with your website when possible. Glitz and glamour no longer work like they used to on the web. It gets in the way, slows people down, and often times may not even work at all. With billions of websites online now, and this being the Age of Information, consumers want to find what they’re looking for as quickly and easily as possible.
Flash technology is cool and common but be cautious because Flash may not function on Apple iPads, iPhones and other Apple devices. It’s best not to use it all. Some very simple Flash elements such as embedded video are okay, but an entire Flash website should be avoided.
Your branding and logo should be front and center on your website to match the rest of your marketing material, keeping everything consistent.
Be aware that search engines can not read images. Go to your Internet browser and temporarily turnoff the graphics when reviewing competitors web sites to view what the search engines are seeing.
Here are some general guidelines for your website:
- Use your logo and branding (colors, etc) consistently
- Provide clear, easy navigation
- Develop good content for your targeted audience
- Illustrate company history found typically in an “About Us” page
- Show all of your Services and Products
- Use testimonials from customers and users
- Anticipate questions with an effective FAQ page
- Provide contact (NAP Name Address Phone and email address) on each page footer consistently. A customer information form is great information.
- Consider the use of social media and necessary integration with your website
- Evaluate the use of a company blog
- Evaluate the use of video
- No dark background
- No Flash
- Don’t copy content that’s not original
- Don’t use frames
- Don’t allow pop-up windows
- No background music
- No broken/dead links
- No intro page
- No scrolling marquees
- No excessive linking
- No ads
Making your website more effective:
In many cases, especially for local businesses, it may not be effective to sell directly online. You’re competing with online companies predominately on pricing. You also need to invest a substantial amount of time and money to run a successful e-commerce website. On the other hand your website could be a content-rich marketing vehicle that provides traffic of interested potential customers.
There are two main marketing methods of increasing traffic to your website online: Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEM is essentially online advertising, where your company placement is a result of paid search results. You can budget your advertising investment each month for a sponsored listing. SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engine results by way of the “natural” (called organic) or unpaid search results.
SEM, or Search Engine Marketing, includes pay-per-click ads or other online advertisements like display or interstitial ads. It’s simply paid advertising, which is usually less effective than organic SEO and costs more on an ongoing basis. Although SEM typically encompasses SEO as part of it, the pay-per-click advertising is usually a large part of that classification.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization is a natural process obtaining web visibility because of good content as judged by search engines indexing of certain keywords (subjects). The search engine algorithms are complex and continually changing but the major factor is the recognition of content judges by back links for other quality websites. A necessary technical requirement is that your web site meets acceptable standard code.
If your company has a Facebook page, you can also take advantage of Facebook ads and promoted posts to advertise your website. There are effective ways and ineffective ways to utilize a Facebook page, so be sure to consult a professional in this area.
Here are some ways to help improve your site and resulting search placement:
- Submit your business and website address to online directories, both general and niche
- Use keywords heavily throughout your website in both content and headings
- Optimize “landing pages” for each group of keywords (limit three to group)
- Update your website frequently, which is when a built-in blog comes in handy
- Submit press releases online with full website address in them
- Submit articles to http://www.ezinearticles.com
- Describe images with ALT text, so search engines know what they are
- Use good page titles with keywords
- Establish back links from quality web sites
- Monitor your keyword stats via analytics software for missing opportunities
- Make sure text that’s hyperlinked uses relevant keywords instead of “Click Here”
- Utilize social media to drive traffic back to your website, while making your website more linkable
- Optimize your site for the Local Search Engines starting with Google My Business and registration with major directories and Citation Sites. See https://greaterknoxville.score.org/resource/local-internet-marketing.
Marketing Your Website Offline
To help drive traffic to your website you should always print, publish and promote your website URL address. Additionally always include the QR code so mobile phones can scan permitting immediate access to your site.
- Business cards
- Print ads (newspaper, magazine, etc.)
- Radio ads
- TV ads
- Direct mail
- Front door and store signage
- Promotional items such as pens, notepads, etc.
- Vehicle wraps, magnets or decals
- Voicemail messages
- Press releases and articles
- Gift cards and coupons
- Bags and boxes
- Online directories and other websites
- Email marketing
Source: Walter Williams, SCORE Mentor May 2019