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How to ensure your business can be found online

Content provided by MWEB - South Africa’s leading Internet Service Provider (ISP)

business-online.jpgSo you've registered a domain, got your website up and running and believe you've established your business online. Like many businesses you might think your online marketing work is finished, but there are a few more steps needed to make sure that people actually find your site and interact with you online. This is a journey not a destination.

Noto Modungwa, Commercial Manager for eCommerce (http://snurl.com/4aehn) and Web Strategy at MWEB Business says there are a number of different tools available to do this but business owners are often unsure where to begin.

"Two of the most common tools used to market a business online are search engine marketing and email marketing. They are not difficult to do, but some explanation will help business owners understand the concepts and how best to utilise these tools," he says.

Search engine marketing

Ever wondered how companies get to be at the top of the first page when you do a search on Google? It's not by accident says Modungwa. "Search engine marketing allows you to grab the attention of searchers when they are already looking for something you offer.

If someone has searched for "plumbers", then marketing to them about your plumbing business on the search results page means that your marketing is more likely to find relevance with that audience when they actually need the information.”

There are two aspects to search engine marketing – paid search results (which appear as sponsored links) and organic search results, (which are free and a result of search engine optimisation). For paid or sponsored links, companies "bid" on a keyword, and pay the search engine (e.g. Google) every time there is a click on the sponsored link. By constantly managing the optimised bidding value, companies can make sure their link is featured high enough on the list as opposed to other competing businesses.

"However, to make sure that potential customers feel like they landed on the right page when they click through to your website, you also need to ensure that the page ties up with the advertising message of the sponsored link they clicked on – which is not necessarily your home page," says Modungwa.

"If they are looking for "basins", then you need to have a link which takes them to your products page which features basins, rather than your plumbing company's home page, where they still need to click on a second or third link to find your product selection."

For search engine optimisation (SEO), you don't have to pay anyone as the search engine determines if your site is more or less relevant based on an algorithm which includes the incidence of the key word searched.

Search engines constantly index the entire content of the web, and "relevance" is determined by criteria such as the number of times a key word appears; where it appears (on the title bar of a page or in the URL gives it a higher relevance weighting); and whether it appears in the site map or meta keywords (the embedded "summary" of a webpage).

While there are many differing opinions about how SEO works best, Modungwa believes it starts with the information on your site. "Content is king, and this is where copywriting for the web becomes very important, as it is a slightly different art and requires specialist knowledge.

It's also useful to embed cross-links to other pages on your website when you're compiling your site, as it helps with optimisation. Perfection is achieved through practice and continuous review, however if you do not have the time or the knack for it, online marketing experts can offer valuable advice and assistance with optimising your website to increase its prominence in search results," he says.

Email marketing

Once your customers or potential customers have found your website, the next trick is to get them to transact with you, or recommend other potential customers. According to Modungwa, the most important aspect of online "direct" marketing is that you need to have permission to market to customers and send information to them. "The easiest way to check this is to ask existing customers if you can send them information.

Once you have collected a database of those you have permission from, you could send regular emails about company news, special offers and new products, with the aim of securing repeat business. Refer-a-friend campaigns are a short step away, and will help generate new customers and leads.

"Tools such as MWEB Business's Bulk Internet Messaging (http://snurl.com/5gj5a) are useful for communicating on email with customers. Bulk Internet Messaging can help maintain your database by managing any bounced addresses, report on how many users opened the email, and analyse how many clicked on the links within it."

Rather than sending bulk emails from your inbox which also uses up bandwidth quickly, Bulk Internet Messaging from MWEB enables you to get emails through to multiple email addresses without your domain being blocked by firewalls or blacklisted as a spam generator.

Modungwa adds that to ensure your email is not deleted even before being opened, choose a catchy or interesting subject line, and make sure your "from" field includes your company name or department, and not "noreply@". A good practice, which will soon be written into law, is the need to offer an "unsubscribe" option on your website and email communication. This enables customers to opt out of receiving your updates if they no longer want them.

"Embracing online marketing is relatively easy. It really encompasses attracting customers to your website, getting them to interact once they're there, and then keep them coming back. For more information, I can recommend a great online marketing textbook, available free from Quirk eMarketing at (http://snurl.com/5gj28)."

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