3 Simple Ways to Grow Your Business Online

July 02, 2012

It’s easy to get lost in the complexities of internet business, regardless of whether you are a traditional brick and mortar business trying to expand your presence by creating a website or you’re a web-based company offering some sort of product or service. Doing business on the internet is a not at all a different realm than the traditional form of business our grandparents grew up with, it’s actually quite similar.

Both business models have 3 necessary elements in common that are required for success: advertising (to get new customers), a physical location (to sell their products) and customer service (to support the purchases). Taking these 3 simple elements, we can quickly implement a successful online business blueprint and transform them to coincide with the online model that contains search engine marketing (advertising), website development/optimization (location) and customer service (customer service stays the same, just doesn’t happen face-to-face anymore).

Search Engine Marketing

Any business needs to advertise, whether it’s online or located just down the block.  Conventionally this is done through the newspaper, yellow pages or commercials.  On the World Wide Web there is social media, pay-per-click, search engine optimization, guest posting, banner ads and online videos to name a few.

The beauty of online business is that you can make this work regardless of what your budget is; you don’t need to have a multi-million dollar advertising budget to drive traffic to your website.

There are three main ways to drive traffic to your site: social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn), pay-per-click (PPC – this is the sponsored section of the search engine results), and search engine optimization (SEO – this is the non-sponsored section of the search engine results).

The key to success for any of these forms of advertising is to first layout an outline of how you want to approach this rather than just jumping in head first.

For social media, what social networks do you want to use? If you’re an online pet-store, LinkedIn may not be the best place to spend your time, while YouTube, Facebook and Twitter would be. Create appealing images for your profile pictures and write descriptive information in the bio section so followers know what it is that you do. Update often and regularly, but don’t just self-promote every time you post. Instead, provide engaging and interesting content that your users will want to read.

If you’re not familiar with SEO and PPC, this can come to be rather difficult and probably one of the “make it or break it” points for an online business.  The most common mistake I see business making today is choosing the wrong set of keywords to focus on. For SEO, the key to immediate revenue is to focus on long tail keywords. With PPC, the key to success is to use the right combination of exact, phrase, broad and negative keywords to help refine the quality of traffic you receive.

If you don’t have the time or in-house expertise to manage search engine marketing, I highly suggest that you outsource this to a contractor or an agency that can complete this for you properly. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to waste thousands and thousands of dollars if you’re not focusing on the right set of keywords.

Website Optimization & Development

A business’s website is like the physical location you go to buy your groceries or that cute little dress you’re going to wear this weekend.  It’s the place people go online to visit your business, products and services.

If you don’t have a website yet, follow these simple tips as you go to develop your site. If you already have a site, the same tips below will still apply – the key is to constantly improve the user experience and convert a greater percentage of website traffic.

There are many different studies that show the psychology of the user online and their behavioral patterns. They all come down to basically the same conclusion – follow these three simple rules and you’ll be on your way to online success.

Trustworthiness - make sure when a user comes to your site they know that they’re on a site they can trust. Overloading them with advertisements and pop-ups is an absolute no-no. Prominently display any sort of security seals, trust badges, awards and industry accreditations your company may have received.

Call to Action – the call to action for every page must be above the fold and easy to find when skimming the page. The last thing you want to do is have your website user searching for your phone number of the “Buy Now” button when they already have their credit card in their hand.

Uniformity – this is often overlooked by many, but it’s a major factor in website conversion rate optimization. Make sure you don’t have too many different styles of fonts or colors. Try to stick with one or two fonts and a standard color theme and carry that throughout the entire site. If it’s hard to look at visually, odds are not as many of your customers are going to want to buy from you.

Customer Service

The all-important, underappreciated, customer service representatives are the people who can make or break businesses.  And as important as they are helping us upgrade to the newest iPhone at Sprint, these same types of people can be just as important in the online world, yet go unnoticed.

That is why it is crucial to have contact information pasted throughout your site, including an email address, a phone number and contact us form.  Place this prominently in the header and/or footer of the website.

One of the most helpful new tools is the online chat feature.  This tool allows customers to ask real life customer service reps (no bots) questions and help them through the process or ordering.  This is an important step in conversion, regardless of what product or service you offer. These customers are the most reluctant to actually buy online before speaking with a real human being (don’t want to give out the company credit card information to just anyone!)

About the Author

Matt Powers is an Internet Marketer at Blue Soda Promo, an eCommerce promotional products company based in the Chicagoland area.  BSP imprints company logos on everything from sunglasses to stress balls at ridiculously low prices.  We make your brand POP!

(Image Credit: #36860994 © olly - Fotolia.com)

We deliver! Sign up and we’ll send our valuable content right to your inbox.