There is no way to avoid it. Your online presence now defines you. It has become the essential extension of a business or personal brand.
A recent survey by Yodle found that 52% of all small business owners do not have a website.That is a scary and shocking statistic. This means that they are putting their business at an immediate disadvantage.
In 2014 there is no reason to not have your brand online no matter how small your business is!
There are only two alternatives
To get your brand on the web there are really only two options. Do it yourself, or pay someone to do it for you
The DIY route means that you can now have website or blog with a few simple steps for as low as $3.95 per month with a free domain and WordPress template! If you don’t have the time, the inclination or don’t have the ability to do it yourself then you can get one done for you for a few hundred dollars. Sites like Elance and Freelancer provide the low cost means to design and build a website or blog.
If you don’t want to stretch to that huge expense then you have some “free” options. You could have a Tumblr or Blogger account which are free and can be set up in a matter of minutes.
There is no excuse except either laziness, a big procrastination gene or just plain ignorance.
How do you appear when “Googled”
Business credibility is damaged if you do not appear when a search for your business is performed online. 10 years ago it was maybe an option but today it is mandatory and essential to have your name appear in a domain name.
What appears when you are “Googled”?
If all that comes up is your Twitter profile then you don’t look serious. If you have a Linkedin profile then at least you are making an effort. If you have a Facebook page then you are relevant. Have a Google+ page… then you are almost a trendsetter. On Pinterest and Instagram then you are super cool!
The other aspect of small business that the survey revealed was that online advertising was only used by 12% of small business. In an era of easy self serve digital marketing with targeted Facebook sponsored boosted posts it shows that many small businesses are struggling to reinvent themselves in a digital world.
So what are the essentials?
So if you don’t have a blog or website or need to improve your online brand, here are some essentials you need to consider optimizing, improving or just plain do!
1. Create a compelling “About us” page
This page is one of the most visited page on your website. Often it ranks as the second most visited page on a website or blog after the homepage. At a glance your homepage should make it easy for people to know what you’re about when they land.
When they visit the “about us” page it should provide the in depth reasons why people should read your articles, view your content or buy from you. If you are an authority in your field then it should highlight the awards you have won, the clients you work with and third party verification.
Easy to scan online social proof provides that important validated credibility.
2. Be “memorable”
Being memorable online is an art and a science. It means that you have to consider a brand name, design and a distinct “voice” that cuts through the clutter and noise. Again you can do it yourself or get professional help.
Alexandra Watkins of “Eat My Words” (who I have worked with) can help with that creative “cut through” with a memorable name.
Standing out can be enhanced with a web design that doesn’t scream “me too”. Being memorable also means creating a brand voice that comes through in your writing style. This is sometimes called your “writing voice”
3. Designed for the social web
Making your content move with minimal friction is now an essential tactic on this social web. Obvious sharing buttons that allow people to share while reading your content is now a core design essential.
Sometimes designers will want to get funky and minimize their visibility or ease of use. That is a fight you need to win. Function over form is the mantra here!
4. Optimized for subscribing
The demise of the “free” social network lunch where getting organic visibility and reach on Facebook has diminished to single percentage figures has highlighted what has always been essential. Building your “own” large email list.
It means you need to have a high conversion rate from website visitors and traffic to “subscribers”. This means doing the following:
- Turning your homepage into a massive subscribe form
- Using non-annoying popovers
- Create a strong incentive to subscribe with a free offer (eg ebook) in return for that important name and email address
5. Content centric that adds amazing value
Content that is easy to read, view and consume is vital. But it also needs to add value to your website visitors lives and business. This means it has to be well structured filled with stories and statistics and solve problems.
Cliches and fluffy acronyms sound nice on the surface but they often lack depth and meaningful takeaways. It means that your website should include content such as
- Regular blog posts
6. Visible credibility
Visible and quick takeaway credibility is important on the web where you are one only one click away from oblivion. This means that the website should display in a heart beat your credibility.
- Books you have written
- Publications you have appeared or have been quoted in
- Awards you have won
- Social proof that displays how many people are sharing your content and following you on social networks
- The customers you have worked for
7. Optimized for search engines
Many websites have an awesome design but they aren’t built for “Googling’. It means that the key words and phrases that potential customers use to find your goods and services are missing or are buried so deep in the website code that search engine crawlers can’t index your site.
So make sure that before you design and develop your website or blog that the top 20 to 50 phrases you want to rank for are included.
8. Products and services to sell
Bloggers and website owners need to have products and services to sell. Otherwise, what is the point of creating great content and driving traffic to you site. Making sure you have these visible and easy to find in your homepage tabs is key.
9. Landing pages that convert
How many advertisements on Google or Facebook have you seen that just take people to a homepage. The problem with that is that they make it hard for people to subscribe, register or buy.
Home pages are typically not designed to convert traffic to subscribers.
If you are promoting a product then you need to have a landing page that converts. You will also need to test and keep testing your conversion rates to optimize that page.
10. Built for mobile
The uptake of mobile, apps and tablets has surprised many organisations small and large. There is a mad scramble to design blogs, websites and apps that make it easy for potential customers to view, use and buy on a mobile device.
In some industry sectors up to 50% of traffic is now coming from smart phones and tablets.
What about you?
On this fast moving web we all have much work to do. The pace of change doesn’t seem to be slowing but accelerating.
So what do you need to work on today?
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