As a small business owner, you’re busy. You’re juggling many different responsibilities, and it can be challenging to focus on the right thing at the right time. It’s no surprise mistakes are made along the way. With nine out of 10 U.S. consumers using the Internet to look for local goods and services and research a potential purchase, one mistake you can’t afford to make is neglecting your online presence.
Here are a few common mistakes that many small businesses make online, and what you can do to help ensure you’re on the right path.
- Using a social media page as your only web address
Only 51 percent of small businesses have a website, yet 80 percent use social media. For many small businesses, social media is key to growing your business, but how do your customers know where to find you? One of the easiest ways to ensure customers find you no matter where you are is to register a domain name and point it to your business’s social media page.
This is called domain forwarding, and it works just like forwarding mail. You create a rule that automatically redirects anyone who visits your domain name to your page on Facebook, LinkedIn, Etsy or whatever social media platform you use as your business’s communications hub. Domain forwarding is quick and easy to set up with your domain name registrar.
A domain name also helps to brand your company by providing a memorable and marketable web address. When you are ready for a website, you don’t have to change the web address that your customers already know and use.
- Using a generic email provider as your company email address
A domain name is so much more than just an address for your website. It can represent every aspect of your business’s online identity, including your communications. To help add credibility, you can use your domain name to set up a custom email address for your business, for example, [email protected] Sixty-five percent of U.S. consumers believe a company-branded email (e.g., [email protected]) is more credible than an email sent from a free email account that is not company-branded ([email protected]).
- Delaying building a website
A website is essential in today’s digital world. Eighty-four percent of U.S. small businesses said their website is critical to their business, according to research from Verisign. And, 97 percent of those SMBs with a website would recommend their small business colleagues have one as well.
Fortunately, it’s never been easier to launch a website. With many free website builders available today, such as Wix.com and Weebly, business owners have easy, low cost options to get their site online. Created for the non-technical user, these tools provide easy-to-use templates. Some features include shopping carts, online forms, blogs, social sharing links, video and audio players, search engine optimization, mobile device optimization, website reporting, customer support and more, all at no cost or as part of a package.
The key is to start small. Create a few pages and expand from there. Your website can scale with your business as it grows.
- Building a website and not promoting it
Your business website is the central hub of your online presence, but no one will see it if you’re not promoting it. Here are ways you can drive traffic to your site and find customers:
- Social media marketing: Advertise your business on social media and drive customers to your website for more information
- Email marketing: Use your company-branded email and send customers information about special news and sales. Include a link to your website where customers can learn more
- Search engine marketing (SEM): Also known as paid search, SEM allows you to promote your business website on the paid advertising section of search results pages
One of the best ways to engage with customers on your website is to create high-quality content that they’ll find interesting and valuable. Consumers are looking for helpful and trustworthy information online, so stick to what you know and keep it simple. Starting a blog on your website is a quick and economical way to begin creating content. For each blog post, focus on a single topic and write two to three paragraphs. The shorter length will be easy for your customers to read and more manageable for you to produce. Adding compelling content to your website on a regular basis can also improve its ranking on search engines. Even more reason to focus on content!
With so many marketing options, small businesses today can seek advice from registrars that offer marketing services or check out TipstoGetOnline.com for advice on how to get started.
- Not considering a domain name strategy in your marketing
Remember that a domain name is so much more than just a web or email address, as you can also use it for marketing. In fact, it’s a tactic that big brands successfully use today and one that you can easily implement to propel your brand.
Big companies register more than one web address for many reasons. If your domain name is JaneDoeBakery.com, you can also register a domain name with a specific geographic location, e.g., JaneDoeBakeryinDenver.com or highlight specialties or business areas potential customers are likely to search for, or in which you want to grow, like DenverSpecialtyCustomCakes.com or CupcakesInDenver.com.
In fact, recent research from Verisign revealed that internet search users are almost twice as likely to click on a domain name that includes at least one of the keywords in their search, compared to a domain name that does not include any of the keywords in their search. While there are many variables that go into search rankings, having a portfolio of descriptive, keyword-rich domain names may make the difference in being found online. Verisign’s analysis of the comScore data illustrates that registering keyword-rich domain names may be a smart strategy, giving businesses a leg up when it comes to getting prospective customers to click to their websites.
If you are making any one of these mistakes, don’t worry, they can be easily fixed! Read The First Five Things to Do After Getting Your Business Online to help guide your next steps.
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