Supercharge Your Online Presence: Maximize the Potential of Your Website

Issue: 
May-June 2013

 

In an age where more than 80% of the Canadian population are online (Statistics Canada), a well-managed and target-driven website is an indispensable tool for small businesses. Yet despite this, RBC’s Media Newsroom reports that the, “internet remains unchartered territory [for up to 54%] of Canadian businesses.” 

In response to the findings of this survey, Jim Mulligan (National Director of Retail, RBC Royal Bank) asserts that, “with the majority of consumers choosing to research and shop for products and services online, businesses without a web presence are missing a significant opportunity.” However, for small business owners who have invested their efforts into establishing a website, the big question is, “What now? What does my website need to achieve to actually make a positive impact on my business?” 

It’s a valid question – a question that even the longest-standing website owners should be asking. A website that is non-engaging, uninteresting and not strategically geared towards a targeted group of people is as ineffective as having no website at all. Unfortunately, one of the most common misconceptions amongst small businesses, of all kinds, is that running a successful website requires a substantial monetary investment and a significant amount of web-savvy. These are however, not prerequisites – free Content Management Systems (CMS), strategies like SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and innovations like PPC (pay-per-click) marketing have proven this otherwise. What is required however, is an aptitude for learning and the world’s most precious commodity – time. 

Target Your Online Content; Communicate with the People Who Really Count
According to Forbes magazine, one of the biggest mistakes small business website owners make, is “putting urgency over understanding their target market.” Often, business owners overlook their target markets, and try unsuccessfully to appeal to everyone as opposed to the group of people who form their customer base. It’s like shooting an arrow while wearing a blindfold and hoping that through sheer luck and perhaps some informed forecasting, the mark will be hit. Not to mention the fact Google and other search engines may miss your website in the search results. Without targeted content, keyword searches for specific products may not result with your website’s listing. 

The more effective solution is quite simple. For example, if you are a small supplier in the aboricultural industry providing a range of gear, research may tell you that your market includes predominantly males, aged 30 and over with extensive industry knowledge and perhaps an aboricultural or forestry degree. Filling your site with content about why tree care is important will not be as effective as an article that compares two of the latest brands of rigging rope with reviews from well-known industry figures. Before deciding whether or not to include content, put yourself in the shoes of your target market and ask, “Is this topic useful to my target market – will it improve their decision-making process as consumers, will it get them thinking about something they may not have known before, will it make them want to know more, will they search for this in Google?” If you answer, “no” to any part of this question, that particular piece of content will probably do nothing more than dilute the message you want to get across. Changing the way you decide on which content to use will allow you to attract paying customers.

Include a Call-to-Action in All Web Content
Build an article base and upload your content in line with special arborist events, conferences, service specials and current affairs. Once you’ve done this, add a call-to-action into every piece of content to initiate some form of interaction between the consumer and your small business. Lines like, “call or email us now using our ‘Contact Us’ form (embedded link) for speedy service,” or “click here (embedded link) for a review on this product,” are essential components within every piece of content on a small business website. According to Andy Wu (Business Development Manager at Numero Uno Web Solutions – a leading Canadian web solutions firm), “without a call-to-action, content marketing is just ineffective copy.” Asking a customer to sign up for your newsletter is yet another way to engage those visitors, or to follow you on Twitter.

Customer Reviews – A Simple Way to Boost Referrals
Whether in the case of a product or service provider, it’s a time old understanding that word-of-mouth referral is by far the most effective marketing tool any small business can have. This same effectiveness can be harnessed online through incorporating customer reviews into a website. With the unprecedented boom in social media, consumers no longer rely only on people directly in their social circle. The frame of reference for consumers today has expanded dramatically – an online review from a stranger is often just as reliable and worthy of trust as a review from a friend or family member. 

In a recent study by The Nielsen Company involving 25,000 consumers, 90% of consumers remarked that they are more inclined to trust recommendations from people they know over other marketing mediums like television and magazine adverts. A further 70% noted that they trust consumer opinions posted online. Considering that these two communication strategies take precedence over advertising methods like radio broadcasts, online video ads and even newspaper advertisements, small business owners simply cannot afford not to exploit the opportunity to include reviews on their websites, or open their Facebook pages to comments. 

Fortunately, all it takes is a polite email, a brief service review form or a simple follow-up phone call to garner the opinions of your consumers and ask permission to use them on your website. Incorporating an automated, rotating sidebar with a list of different customer reviews onto a website’s homepage is a good way to ensure that visitors engage with the opinions of previous clients within seconds of accessing the site. 

Find Out What Your Competitors are Doing Online
Apart from understanding the demographic profile of a target market and gearing all operational aspects accordingly, it is also imperative for small business website owners to know their competition. Your online competition is comprised of those small businesses offering the same products or services at competitive prices who also utilise a website to promote and advertise their offerings. Apart from investigating whether your known competitors have websites, there are a number of online tools engineered solely for this purpose. Some of these free analytics tools include:

Spyfu.com
Information like how much a competitor spends on PPC (pay-per-click) advertisements to create website traffic, their daily organic traffic value as well as which keywords their customers are using to access their website, are made available at the click of a button. This information is made available by simply entering the domain, url or relevant keyword pertaining to the site into the search bar and pressing enter. It is currently one of the most popular analytics tools, requires very little web-savvy or sign-up, and access to this basic knowledge is absolutely free.

Similarweb.com
Without the hassle of mandatory sign-up or paying fees for basic information, this website provides a comprehensive report on any url or domain that is entered into its search bar. Its user-friendly interface is not only easy to understand but also provides tabular and graphical information for small business owners who may prefer the practicality of these formats as opposed to purely statistical data. The overview provided includes a line graph illustrating weekly traffic rates over a six month period, the average amount of time consumers are spending on a site, how much traffic has been generated by means of referrals, as well as other market indicators.   

With the wealth of knowledge available on the internet, small business owners need not be inhibited by stringent budgetary constraints and the lack of technological know-how. Oftentimes, it is an investment of time and strategic thinking that proves most valuable – which is precisely what it takes to build a website that performs to its maximum potential in converting sales, advertising and promoting a business, and in serving as an indispensable tool in the hands of owners who take care to maintain it.  

*Disclaimer: The article’s author and associated companies have no professional affiliations with any of the companies mentioned in this article. All details are correct at the time of going to print.

 

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