It’s no secret that over the years since the internet came into existence, the demise of offline marketing was almost inevitable.
20+ years ago, various directories that contained just about as many pages as the bible reigned supreme as the one and only go-to for any business looking to market their products or services to customers.
We remember the years when you would hear a loud thud in the front porch to see that a directory had been left, all fresh, shiny and new, ready to serve a household or business for the next 12 months. With businesses spending thousands of pounds a year on advertising and making just as much back, it almost seemed unthinkable that anything else would supersede this method of advertising.
Fast forward 15 years and this once household staple has all but vanished and the internet has now firmly cemented its position as the main – and only – resource world-wide for anyone looking for business services, products, advice, news and just about anything and everything else in-between.
So, what’s the reason for this blog?
Well, as a web design and online marketing company (sometimes referred to as a ‘digital media’ and ‘digital marketing’ company) we still encounter some business owners who are in the dark and a bit disillusioned about the internet as a whole; especially when it comes to understanding how a website can really benefit the online presence of a business and what online marketing can do to transform visibility, enquiries and sales too.
For example, most of us might be familiar with using Facebook and Instagram for personal use, to keep in touch with friends and family, or to keep tabs on our favourite TV personalities and celebrities, but when it comes down to using social media for business, it’s a very different approach.
Another online marketing tool – Search Engine Optimisation (or ‘SEO’ for short) is also beneficial to helping businesses generate visibility and enquiries/sales on Google but is often misunderstood as well.
Some of the many questions we get asked on a regular basis include;
“Why would a website benefit my business?”
“How and why would SEO help me?”
“Who would find my website online?”
“How can social media really help me?”
And many, many other related questions too.
We have written this blog to help all business owners understand how a well-designed website and a good online marketing strategy can really help improve business visibility and help reach a much wider audience to improve enquiries and sales for probably a lot less expenditure than you may think. This knowledge will help business owners to succeed online.
So, let’s get started with the humble website
When we think back to the 90’s, many of us consider it to be around about 11-12 years ago (I know I do!) but it was a decade that cemented so much into history. Opal Fruits got changed to Starburst (why?!), Geri rocked out in her famous (or infamous) Union Jack dress, we debated whether or not there really was enough room for Jack to get onto the raft and save his own life in Titanic, and we all learnt the awful dance moves to Tragedy (I didn’t) but this was all really eclipsed by an event of the technological kind that occurred back at the start of the era, and that event was the birth of the Internet.
The humble website made its first debut on August 6, 1991 and although it comprised only of text and web links, it was a miracle to behold – it set the precedence of what was to become and herein dawned the era of the internet as we know it today.
But, back then, many business owners knew that a majority of their work came from offline advertising, such as directories, magazines and newspapers; so why on earth would they have wanted to spend a considerable amount of money to purchase a ‘domain name” (the ‘www.’ bit) and go to great expense of having a website built, then spend a fortune on hosting the website (hosting puts the website on the internet so people can view it) and then spend yet even more money on an e-mail address?!
Fortunately, since then, the cost of all these things has come down considerably when purchasing a domain name and email address nowadays compared to back in the 90’s, however even with the internet playing such a huge part in people’s lives, and with it being quite cost effective to get online, some business owners still struggle to grasp the need to have a website or any form of online marketing.
Its no great surprise that it tends to be businesses that have existed for many years and have built their reputation in the good old-fashioned way through word-of-mouth, and whilst this still continues to be one of the best ways to generate new enquiries; a website can provide you with an even greater opportunity to reach a much bigger, wider audience and demographic, allowing you to target your services and products beyond the local area you operate within.
Not only that, a website also allows you to detail your services and showcase all of your previously completed projects (if you are a trade business, such as a decorator, landscape gardener or builder for example), as well as build trust and confidence with your customers by showing them reviews, all the trade associations and accreditation’s you’re affiliated with too. This will all help encourage your website visitors to act and send in an enquiry.
For e-commerce businesses, you can present your product ranges in all their glory and sell to your customers 24/7/365 – something that can’t be achieved with just owning a physical shop.
If you offer services such as legal, accountancy, lifestyle services or anything else, it is all about the detail in your offering – including the best of what you can offer to your customers on your website through well written website text, great imagery, showing off any accreditation’s you have worked hard to earn and all the reviews from your happy customers will help turn website visitors into customers.
For business owners, there is nothing quite as satisfying than opening your emails at the start of your working day to see new enquiries coming in – all of this without you needing to do anything – your website done all the work for you!
All in all, a website should be considered an absolute necessity for any business. Websites don’t need to be expensive, with the option to either self-build (for those who want to have a go themselves) or to talk to a web design agency who can build your website for you. Either way, the above demonstrates just a few of many reasons why a website is the main, and most important tool for businesses wanting to grow and attract more customers.
A bit of a self-plug here, but if you do want to talk to us about revamping an existing website or perhaps having a new website built, why not take a look at our portfolio to get some inspiration, or find out more about our web design service and get in touch with us to discuss your needs. We offer our web design services to businesses of all sizes from start-ups to more established businesses and can work with just about all budgets too!
Next, we look at Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO for short)
After your website has been built, the next step is to ensure you get found on Google when people are searching for your services or products. To this day, so many business owners aren’t entirely sure what they need to do to get found online, why they even need to market their website at all, and what Search Engine Optimisation even means – and does?!
Sadly, whilst there is a lot of information regarding SEO online (in fact loads of information), much of it doesn’t really translate into sensical information for business owners, and this leaves many people completely disillusioned with what they should and shouldn’t be doing with their website to get it found on Google – in essence, people know that they need to get their website found somehow on Google, but simply don’t know how to achieve this. If you are thinking to yourself ‘yes, this is exactly the problem I have been facing’ then you really aren’t alone.
The problem is compounded by various technical SEO related terms being thrown into the mix when reading information about SEO online, and it all ends up in one huge technical mess of misunderstandings, disillusion and frustration and this leads to the importance of Google (and SEO) being bypassed altogether. Because of that outcome, many business owners don’t realise that they are doing themselves a huge injustice by not entertaining SEO at all, as it really is so, so necessary to any business wanting to grow.
In short, once a website has been built and is online in all its wonderful glory for everyone to see, there are tasks that need to be undertaken each month to make the website as ‘Google-friendly’ as possible – without undertaking these tasks, competitor websites that are also being actively marketed online through SEO will always be more visible than your website.
Now, without getting too complicated or technical, Google determines the search results that are shown to you after you have entered search terms, keywords or phrases based on many different factors to ensure that you only see relevant and accurate results (websites) on Search Engine Results Pages (or ‘SERPs’ for short).
For example, if you were searching for a gardener local to you; in this example we will use ‘Bromley’ as the area; you would probably type in keywords in along the lines of ‘Gardener in Bromley’ into the Google search box.
If Google then presented you with search results for gardening businesses based in Scotland these results would obviously be useless to you, therefore the considerations that Google gives to the results that are shown are predominately based on showing only the very best websites that contain fit-for-purpose, accurate and relevant information based on the search criteria you entered and in most instances location also, dependent on the business type – and all this is determined by how well the website is optimised to an area (or areas) and this is achieved by SEO.
Imagine (for example) there is a list of 100 tasks and tick-boxes next to each task – what we do is ‘tick’ all of these boxes throughout each of the months your campaign strategy runs – the more boxes we tick, the greater the chances are that your website will display in Search Engine Results Pages when your target audience(s) type in keywords, phrases or search terms that directly relate to your business type, product or service.
All of this means that you gradually but progressively show higher-up on Google Search Results Pages, and what this means for your business is a much wider visibility online and more website visitors, enquiries and sales. Make sense?
Another plug here, but we can explain SEO in much more detail and help you to improve your visibility online through SEO. Why not talk to us for a no-obligation chat about how we can help your business? Just like web design, we work with all budgets and will explain what SEO comprises of – again in non-technical, easy-to-understand terms … Promise!
SEO is just one way to market online, but lets also consider Social Media too
Perhaps considered even less is Social Media but is such a huge entity online. A powerful, yet often misunderstood online resource that allows you to tap into a huge audience in a less-formal, more casual manner offers a lucrative way to generate new custom, but many business owners see no importance in Social Media, or simply avoid it due to lack of understanding and miss out on the vast potential it can offer to their businesses.
All too often we get asked why Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social media platform would be of any benefit to a business but there are so many reasons to consider a social media campaign. Below we explain just some of the many benefits it can bring to your business.
Not least of all, millions and millions of people are connected to social media all the time. This year (2019) there are a whopping 3.2 billion people using social media on a daily basis, and in the UK alone, nearly 45 million people are connected to social media! With stats like these, it is hard to ignore just how beneficial social media can be to just about any business.
Most businesses should consider using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as the ‘core’ three platforms of choice, but also consider using other platforms if appropriate (as an example; Pinterest is great for craft-type businesses and YouTube is great for video content). Whilst each platform presents a different way to engage with those that find and follow/like you, there is one common factor between all 3, and that is they can help to connect your business far and wide across each social network.
But what exactly does all this mean for a business owner, and how can it help you to generate interest and enquiries? The best way to answer this is to look at each of the 3 social media platforms mentioned above (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and explain how each can be beneficial to you.
Facebook is a great way to socially connect with your customers
Facebook is one of the longest serving social media platforms to date (was launched in 2004!) and has really become the king of all social media.
Not only does Facebook allow you to communicate with your customers enquiring about your products or services using Facebook Messenger, you can also verify your business profile, show pictures and videos of your business, add a business description, opening times, show key services and products, add special offers and so much more.
It is also great for sponsored ad-campaigns too as Facebook allows you to target your campaigns with many different options, goals and criteria, so your ads show only to the exact audience(s) you specify when setting up the ad campaign, targeting includes demographics, behaviour (based on previous purchases and device usage), connections, age groups and interests.
What this means for your business is the potential to generate new customers quite quickly and easily if your ad campaign and social media marketing is setup and managed properly.
If you are a leisure related business, such as a restaurant, bar, club, hotel, tourist attraction or anything similar for example, Facebook should be one of your main marketing tools; and with a well run social media campaign where interesting and engaging daily content is posted to your profile along with an ad-campaign; your business has the potential to generate a lot more enquiries.
Facebook is also great for customer services too – this (and Twitter) tend to attract customers asking questions about your products or services, so you have a great opportunity to communicate in a less formal manner with your customers rather than the traditional route of email or telephone enquiries. Make sure you are always aware of people asking questions or raising queries though – if you are too slow to respond, it can be counter-productive and ruffle your customers feathers.
So, what about Instagram, too?
How can this relatively new, yet extremely powerful social media platform help your business?
Established in 2010, Instagram is all about pictures and videos but also hashtags too which helps your pictures and videos get seen far and wide – more on hashtags below. When it comes down to using Instagram for business, think about your business in a more creative way, because your pictures and videos will tell the story, with the description becoming a secondary element to help describe what’s going on.
Instagram also offer the facility to add a story. A story is a short video or several videos that play in succession and are visible for 24 hours only. On a story, you can show anything you like, from video, photos and you can even add animations, transitional effects of GIFs to add excitement and interest to your story too!
To see an example of a story, simply visit Vaccoda on Instagram and if there is a red/yellow coloured outline around the logo, it means a story has been added. Simply tap on the logo and watch!
Whilst Instagram can be used for just about any type of business, it really lends itself to businesses that are more visual, such as landscaping, flower arranging, cake making, food related businesses, fashion – the list goes on, however if your business is a bit less visual, you can still be creative and think up some great images to post; for example, if you are a professional service such as an accountant, posting visual daily tips and hints on the best ways to keep your accounts in order would also gain attention and interest. The main point to consider here is that Instagram (as well as other social media platforms) are not limited to just certain business types – you just need to be a bit creative! If you struggle with this, we are here to help!
Remember to use hashtags with Instagram though – lots of them (around 15-20) – a hashtag will help to increase the reach of your content, as many Instagram users will search for images and videos based on hashtags. For example, if someone searched for #London, all posts and stories that others have added to Instagram that contains that hashtag in the description will show. It really is a great way to gain visibility and extend the reach of your posts!
Twitter is also worthwhile considering
Twitter is the other social media giant and offers a different but equally as appealing set of reasons to use it for your business.
Twitter is great for engaging within a community and connecting businesses together. The main way to do this is to follow other businesses within your area – the more businesses you follow, the greater sense of belonging and community you’ll feel.
It’s also a great way to keep in touch with other businesses by way of re-tweeting their tweets (basically this means sharing their content) – if you do this frequently, you’ll begin to find that others following you will also retweet your content too.
Whilst all this sounds nice and lovely, how will Twitter actually help your business?
Well, it all comes down to a couple of things really, visibility through following, posting, commenting and sharing the content of others. If you also use hashtags in your posts (just a couple though – not as many as you might use in Instagram) it’ll increase your chances of generating a higher engagement than posts that contain none. Hashtags work in the same way as Instagram.
Remember with Twitter that it is very much based on a social community and recommendations too. If one business/person tweets looking for the services of another, its highly likely you will get ‘mentioned’ in someone else’s reply if you fit the bill for what is being asked for in the original tweet.
It’s also worth remembering that even if you are following other businesses, these are all potential customers that could be looking for your services, so put your best virtual foot forward, and share great content on Twitter (as well as Facebook and Instagram) – make sure that potential customers have no reason to look elsewhere.
We hope that this blog has helped you to understand the benefits of having a great website, a well thought-out search engine optimisation strategy and social media to help further improve your visibility online, but if you still have questions, or are unsure on something, please get in touch with us! We are always happy to help! ?