Image from Wikimedia
Since the nineties, modern business has become almost unrecognisable! International business has always been moving at a fast pace, true. However, over the last decade, various technological leaps have completely changed the game. A company can now be made up of home offices scattered across the world. People are carrying around devices more powerful than the first computers, and a fraction of the size. Perhaps the biggest change is the modern significance of the internet. If you’re starting a company in 2016, a strong online presence is extremely important. The following is a guide to establishing your company’s online presence for the first time.
The first thing you’ll need is a website. From here on, websites are going to serve as the storefront for any company. Directories like the yellow pages are nearing extinction. These days, most consumers will go straight to a search engine to find any kind of product or service. If your company doesn’t have a website, and is trying to reach a global audience, then it might as well not exist! If you’ve never set up a professional website before, then the task might seem a little daunting right now. However, it’s far from impossible, and you’ll find it much easier once you understand the various phases of it.
The first thing we should get out of the way is that you’ll have to spend some money. The only exception to this is if you’re already an experienced web designer. True, there are a lot of free resources you can use to build a website. I urge you to stay away from the temptation though. This will cut down on your start-up costs, true. However, if you use a free web-building program, it will reflect very poorly on your company as a whole. Most of the templates offered by these companies are easily noticeable. If you landed on a company site, and it was obviously a template job, would you think of them as professional? They may be expensive, but a job will do wonders for your professional image.Image source: Wikimedia
Image from Wikimedia
You probably know that you’ll need a proper domain name or URL for your site. Nothing says a lack of professionalism like “blogspot.com”. What you may not know is that these vary dramatically in price. Obviously you want a domain name which will stick in the minds of your target audience. It should be something easily memorable, which your customers can quickly punch into an address bar. You probably have an ideal one in mind already, but think of some back-ups in case it turns out too expensive.
You’ll also need to sort out some hosting for your website. Let’s say your domain name acts as the written address of your site. The hosting would be the building itself; all the files required to keep a website ticking. You may have already discovered that there are countless hosting companies out there. The sheer size of the market can make it hard to come to a decision, and protect yourself from a bad hosting companies. So which company do you go with? That all depends on what you need to get out of it. Generally speaking, the more expensive the hosting package, the more you can do with your site. Bandwidth allocation, the number of domains, and memory size are all things that tend to go up with price. If your business is in its primary stages, then you can probably afford to go with a cheaper option. As things change, then most hosting companies will allow you to change to a larger package at any time. However, some services will offer useful features which you simply can’t find with other packages. Make sure to do some thorough market research before settling on a host.
The next thing you’ll need to think about is your website platform. This is where you do all your customisation, and modify the architecture of your site. You should be using a platform, but not as a substitute for a professional, customised theme. When choosing a platform, the main thing you should consider is what you’re going to be using your website for. If you want the site to be packed with content, then you should go with a content management system. You’ve probably heard of these before, abbreviated to CMS. “WordPress, Drupal and Joomla are all popular CMS platforms. If you’re selling a physical product, then there are other platforms designed for e-commerce. These include Prestashop and Shopify. These are just two examples of the web platform you could use. There are a variety of these, intended for almost any niche you can name.
With the platform and the theme out of the way, you can get onto the really fun part; choosing features for your website. If you want to measure up to the competition, then you’ll probably need “a few plugins. These are add-ons you can bring into your website architecture, and enhance the experience of the user. Look at other, established websites which you admire for some inspiration. If it’s part of a site, then there’s probably a plugin which will let yours do the same thing. After this, make a list of all the different features you want to include in your site, and go about implementing them on your site. Many of these will be free, and included as part of the platform. However, for the really impressive stuff, you’ll probably need to spend a bit of money.Image source: Pixabay
Image from Pixabay
Your final step for your site should be filling it with engaging and relevant content. Standard blog posts are important and useful, but they’re by no means the only content you can use. Videos, infographics, galleries and so on should all make up parts of your content. Your business might have a pretty narrow niche, but try not to get stuck in a pattern. You need to make sure your content is nice and varied, and updated enough to keep your audience interested. If you haven’t already, look into hiring an in-house copywriter.
So now you’ve got a functional and professional-looking website up and running. Unfortunately, “build it and they will come” doesn’t apply here. Unless you have a good digital “marketing strategy in place, you’re not going to be making any sales fast. There are a variety of digital marketing tools at your disposal, some of which are better suited to certain business niches. Whatever kind of operation you’re running, you should be using a combination for the best results.
One such marketing tool is SEO and SEM. These stand for Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing. These both work by drawing organic traffic to your website, using various keywords and phrases to bump your site further up the list of results. The best way to go about this is usually through a paid SEO audit. This will assess how SEO-friendly your site is currently, and will help you decide which areas you need to change. The basic architecture of your website, along with links and page descriptions all factor in with SEO. You don’t need to be an expert, but it helps to know something about the way it all works.
Social media marketing is exceptionally important for any modern business. Social media is hugely popular, and that’s not going to change any time soon! If you approach it in the right way, you can engage a huge chunk of your target market. Compared to other methods, this needs to be a little more interactive and personal. You’ll need to get a friendly, possibly carefree image of your brand across, and get your followers talking using a range of techniques. On Facebook, for example, you can set up different kinds of competitions and sweepstakes.
Another digital marketing method you might want to use is pay-per-click advertising, or PPC. The traffic delivered by this is highly targeted, giving it a slight edge over SEO and SEM. The clue’s in the name here. Ads are posted in the banners of search results, and you only pay when someone clicks on one of your ads. This is a great form of marketing because it targets people who are already looking for your service. This method can be slightly costly for new businesses. However, it’s one sure-fire way of reeling in beneficial traffic.
If you’re a little old-fashioned, you might want to try an email marketing campaign. I say old fashioned; this doesn’t mean that it’s completely ineffective! If your customers have shown a genuine interest in your business, and opted for email updates, then this can be a fantastic way of creating more engagement. However, this is pretty weak compared to a lot of other techniques, so bump it to the bottom of your list.
There you have the best guide to setting up your company’s online presence. Although this will give you a great jump-start, you need to work at maintaining your online brand afterwards. It can feel like a minefield out there. Keep working closely with your marketing team though, and you’ll get the hang of it in no time!
Founder Dinis Guarda
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