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Use your Website to Boost your Business

Accessibility, usability and aesthetics can turn a good website into a great one, generating excellent returns for your business.

Monique Verduyn

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Website monitoring service Pingdom recently released some fascinating statistics on the Internet in 2011. By the end of last year, there were 555 million websites, 300 million of which were added in 2011. Of the 2,1 billion Internet users across the globe, 118,6 million are in Africa.

As a result, there’s an increasing focus on generating traffic in the online marketing world. The fight is on for clicks, and businesses are spending thousands of hours pushing their websites to the top of search pages.

Quantifying success

But what makes a website great instead of just good?  A great website is one that produces a sale, not necessarily directly on the site itself, but perhaps through the user contacting the owner of the website in order to do business.  Even the smallest businesses should have a web presence, even if it’s just a few pages in the design, to create the perception of business stability and experience in the field and to portray a professional image to its potential customers.

“People are visually orientated,” says Leigh-Ann O’Hagan, owner of website design company LIT Creations. “They don’t like to read too much content. Rather, they prefer seeing visual content pertaining to the products and services being offered.

A good website will guide a user from the home page to the pertinent information in the easiest, most visually appealing way. Sites that provide too much information, or endless links to pages which only have one or two lines of text, confuse users and create irritation, resulting in a user leaving the site before any conversion to sales.”

What does a website cost?

Great websites do not have to cost a lot to create and maintain. The technology industry is continuously reducing its pricing to accommodate the growing user base.

“In the past, business owners had to secure the services of graphic designers and software developers to create a website if they didn’t have the design or html coding skills themselves,” says Carolyn Holgate, GM, MWEB Connect.

“Website template services make it quick and easy to set up and maintain a website, and add databases and e-commerce functionality. Template services also give you more features and flexibility than a blogging platform. A number of Internet service providers offer website template services free as part of their hosting offerings, so ask around.”

To avoid making expensive mistakes, spend time planning your website project, says Athena Turner, marketing and communications manager of web hosting company Hetzner. “The more complex the website, the more extensive the planning process needs to be,” she says. “Planning will ensure that most of the potential errors are discussed and avoided. Set realistic expectations of what the website is going to achieve for you. Clearly define its purpose from the outset.”

It’s important to be specific from the outset of the project when briefing your web designer. “Recognise the skill involved in developing a site. If it were as easy as formatting a word document you would have asked your marketing department to handle it.

“Designing a website is far more complex, so don’t expect sudden changes on your part to be received with enthusiasm from the web designer. Make your decisions in the planning process and then let your web designer get to work. Agree on clear progress milestones and keep accountability.”

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. allchornr

    Mar 29, 2012 at 08:59

    Where as much as it appears that Carolyn from Mweb is trivialising the process (very serious mistake on a business owner’s part), it seems that Athena from Hetzner’s advice is spot on.

    It doesn’t have to cost the earth, but if you’re serious about your business, please don’t get your nephew in high school to create it, and if you’re an accountant, architect, computer retailer or [insert other non-web-design career here] then hire a professional web designer / firm.

    Just thought that might help as the distinction between Carolyn and Athena’s advice is not drawn clearly.

  2. onlineivan

    Mar 29, 2012 at 09:17

    My advice for people with a low budget is: Get a website started by yourself (or your nephew) and get the process rolling with free advice from professionals. Then, when you really want your site to start doing something useful, prepare to pay a professional to either advise, train you/your staff or continue the development for you. It can all be started by you but to get real results you will need to budget for it. In my opinion to keep getting good results from your website you need to assign a good part of your marketing budget to it every month. Paying someone a once-off amount and expecting the site to do something is wishful thinking. It is an ongoing and worthwhile monetary investment.

  3. Fudley Bez

    Mar 29, 2012 at 10:03

    Just do it! There is no right or wrong in getting your business online. A lot of the prevailing “advice” is superfluous… spouted by many who are unqualified. The best you can do is seek the advice of other business owners in your industry who have gone before you.

    For your own purposes, be absolutely clear on your goals. Just a simple “what do I want my web-presence to achieve”?

    Then get someone do it for you who you can trust to meet the objective. Remember, the Titanic was built by professionals, so using boutique web developers is no guarantee of success. If you, yourself, know nothing then employ someone who has the experience. If my neighbour’s son had built a couple of good looking websites, I would certainly use him for my starter web presence.

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Online Marketing

Everything You Need To Know About Instagram’s New Shopping Features

The app is giving influencers and brands new channels on which consumers can discover them.

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Influencers and brands have two new ways to sell products to users scrolling and tapping through their Instagram feeds. After a summer of testing shopping buttons that drive purchases via Stories, the Facebook-owned app has launched them for businesses in 46 countries.

It’s also begun rolling out a personalised shopping section in the Explore tab, which Instagram redesigned earlier this year to feature AI-powered channels categorising content based on topic (e.g. travel, art, decor).

The shopping tab will be a place for users who know they want to browse and potentially buy, with Instagram’s algorithm serving up brands the user already follows or would likely be into, based on past activity on the app. Meanwhile, the shopping bag stickers in Stories will give users a chance to not just admire their favourite influencers’ outfits, but actually click through and learn more about promoted items.

Since Instagram began testing the feature in June, more than 90 million users per month have tapped to reveal tags in shopping posts, according to a Sept. 17 Instagram blog post. The app already allows brands to purchase ads in the form of Stories.

More than 400 million accounts watch Stories daily, and one-third of the most-viewed Stories are from businesses, Instagram also reports.

Instagram has been testing shopping in feeds for nearly two years.

Related: Creating Power Digital Campaigns

Back in November 2016, the company explained on its Business blog that online shopping often involves research and deliberation, rather than impulse purchases, which is what led Instagram to build out shopping posts that would provide consumers with information about products without having to leave the app until they’d made a purchase decision.

Salesforce has forecasted that the referral traffic Instagram drives to retailer websites will increase by 51 percent between the 2017 and 2018 holiday seasons, according to Adweek.

Speaking of leaving the app, Instagram is rumored to be developing a standalone shopping app, according to The Verge, but the company declined to comment on these reports to both The Verge and Entrepreneur.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Social Media Marketing For Start-ups: Essential Tips

There are plenty of ways to get the leads your start-up needs, but only a few tactics you’ll need in your arsenal to get the job done at a limited cost to your burgeoning business.

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Social media marketing, when you’re short on funds, can seem like an intimidating prospect. If you and your team aren’t already knowledgeable about digital marketing strategy, you may think it’s impossible for you to manage marketing campaigns yourself. With a bit of determination and a great deal of studying, however, your startup will be able to successfully launch, direct, and refine your own digital marketing strategies.

What things can you do to help your start-up get more press, attract more customers, and get more brand awareness? There are plenty of ways to get the leads your start-up needs, but only a few tactics you’ll need in your arsenal to get the job done at a limited cost to your burgeoning business.

Get to know your niche

Many young companies adopt random acts of internet marketing. They’ll throw a few hundred dollars into promoting Facebook posts without necessarily understanding how to communicate to their audience.

Before you dive into advertising and promotion platforms, you should spend some time to define – and to get to know – your niche.

To help define your target market, use questions like:

  • Who are your existing customers?
    • How would you group them?
  • Who does your product or service help?
    • Does your product help business owners, stay-at-home parents, college students, or someone else?
  • Who are you looking to reach out to?
    • That is, are you looking to refine your target market or expand it?

Once you’ve answered a few questions like the ones listed above, you should be able to get a better idea of who you’re marketing to. With an understanding of who you’re communicating with, you should be able to craft a tailored message about your brand.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

Choose social media platforms wisely

Many start-ups try to master as many social media platforms right at the start. Instead of dividing your attention between Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, you should identify one or two social media platforms that will help you market your product or service. This is why defining your target market at the beginning is so very important.

You must first decide who your message is intended for before writing, editing, and positioning that message. After you’ve got your target market down, you’ll be able to pinpoint which social media platforms can serve you best.

Here are a few examples to give you an idea of which social media platforms are best suited for your needs:

Twitter

  • Best for blog links
  • Frequent posts: 1-4 posts every few hours is the most effective
  • The community is open to businesses promotion

Facebook

  • Best for communicating to existing customers
  • Daily posts: 1 post every 2 days is the most effective
  • Users respond best to images, videos, and clips

Reddit

  • Strictly promotional posts are undesirable
  • Building readership and/or a following is slow
  • Better suited for long-term growth strategy

Do your social media research

Start conducting some preliminary research about social media platforms. Build a profile of each, listing their pros and cons. Try investigating other social media platforms such as GitHub, Stack Overflow, and Quora. While these aren’t platforms as large as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, they could have a far greater impact on your start-up.

Answering questions on Quora and interacting with other users on GitHub, for example, could help you build genuine business and customer relationships.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Concentrate on mastering a few channels

Ultimately, it’s important to concentrate on one or two social media platforms based on your target market and your goals. Attempting to have a significant presence on all of them will prove expensive, time-consuming, and, at worst, counterproductive.

Focusing on one platform will allow you to track your marketing efforts with greater precision, revise your marketing strategy more easily, and help you speak more directly to your target audience.

Digital marketing, while best left to a team of experienced marketers, content creators, and creative designers can be done by your team.

Start-ups tight on cash don’t need to fret, they only need to do a bit of market research and direct their energy accordingly. After narrowing down your audience and performing some preliminary research on social media platforms, you can start working on your social media marketing strategy.

Master a few channels rather than trying to dominate all of the social media space. Keep conducting research as you start your marketing campaigns. Each community naturally changes so you’ll want to keep up-to-date. Leverage your research and dedication to get the most out of your startup marketing.

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How To Create The Best Small Business Website: 5 Easy And Effective Steps

Check the steps below and get ready to create a successful small business website.

Ethan Dunwill

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It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is. If you don’t have online presence, it will become difficult to obtain the results you expect. Your target audience is using the internet nowadays for almost anything. So, if you want to attract more customers and build your brand reputation, you need to build a website. This is how you will be able to expand your business in an easy and not so expensive way.

On the other hand, you don’t have to be a savvy web developer to create a basic website and let the others know about you. Web development and design software have evolved a lot and now you can use several website builders to develop a functional site. You will have plenty of templates to choose from to increase your business’ visibility.

Check the steps below and get ready to create a successful small business website.

Easy and Effective Steps to Create a Website for Your Business

1. What is the purpose of your website?

It doesn’t matter if you develop a simple or a more complex website. Before you start working on anything related to your website, you should start with saying what your company does. Your customers need to understand from the first minute they access your homepage what is your mission and vision. They don’t have too much time to invest when they enter on a website. So, you can make their journey smoother by telling them from the beginning about you. In case you are not so talented at writing, you can use writing companies like RewardedEssays or SupremeDissertations to give you a hand.

Related: 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Building A Website For Your Business

2. Choose a domain name and a web host

Even though many think they shouldn’t focus too much on it, the domain name is an important feature of your website. You will use the URL to promote your business to existing and future clients. So, this means that your domain name should be explicit and talk about your business to anyone who wants to find more about you. A domain name should be short, clear, without acronyms or numbers. What is more, you shouldn’t forget to check if your domain name isn’t already taken by someone else.

Apart from a domain name, your website will also need a server where all your data is stored. When you own a small business, creating your own web host will represent a serious financial effort. So, it would be more cost-wise to choose an external host.

As your business grows, you can choose a different host, or you can ask several providers to work on a personalised solution.

3. Build your website’s pages

website-pages-build

You will need more than a homepage to create a good website. If you want your customers to understand that you are a professional in what you do, you will create several pages dedicated to different elements of your business. For example, you can include a catalog with your products or a blog.

Natalie Andersen, CEO of GetGoodGrade mentions that “It is obligatory that apart from the homepage, a website should have at least a page with the products’ catalog and a Contact Us page.”

Below you can find a list with the minimum number of pages a professional website should have:

  • Homepage – here you will include details about your business, making sure that you also talk about your mission and vision.
  • List of products and services – your customers need to know what are the products and services you offer. This will help them decide whether you can answer their questions and provide a solution to their problems.
  • About Us – “About Us page is the place where you talk about your story. Your target audience wants to know more about yourself. This is how you will create a connection with your customers and let them know more about you”, says James Daily, Head of content department at FlashEssay.
  • Contact Us – it should include your address, email, phone number and working hours. You can also include the links for your social media profiles.

Furthermore, if you want to achieve an international presence, you can also use the translation services offered by IsAccurate. Thus, you will be able to address your message to a wider group of people and expand your business on new markets.

Related: How To Secure Your SME Website

4. Test if your website works properly

Christopher K. Mercer, CEO of Citatior recommends that “before you launch a website, you should first test whether it works. You cannot tell your future customers about your website without knowing for sure that it will work without problems once you launch it”. Therefore, you should click on each page and check whether it has any errors. You still have time to fix something if necessary.

Once you have launched your website and something goes wrong, it will become more difficult to do any change. Plus, always remember that the first impression matters. So, you need to be perfect in the eyes of your customers.

5. Maintain your website

After you launched your website, this doesn’t mean that your work is done. You will need to keep your customers engaged and curious about your business. Therefore, updating the products’ catalog constantly or producing content for your blog will keep your audience informed about what you can offer and the latest trends in the industry. Plus, you should also check if your website is up to date with the latest add-ons. If you don’t know how to produce new content for your website or you feel that you are not talented enough, you can collaborate with HotEssayService or RatedByStudents for professional writing services.

It shouldn’t be complicated to create a website for your small business. As long as you keep a clear structure and create a story around your business, you don’t have anything to worry about. It is very important to understand that a website is very important for your business visibility. Thus, you should put all your efforts into it.

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