The internet is an ocean of opportunities. It offers a chance to reach out to new potential customers, build your brand and use social media to your advantage. If you aren't online, you are invisible to a huge amount of potential customers.
There are hundreds of things you could do online with your business. That's the internet's greatest strength and challenge. You might wonder how to best get started, which platforms to use and what content to put forward.
This beginner's guide will help you with all the essentials, from choosing the right platforms to deciding what's important to your business and how best to achieve your goals.
Mayfly Digital's five steps to successfully taking your business online:
Step 1: Define your goals
Step 2: Create a website with content that represents you
Step 3: Set up reliable communication
Step 4: Pick the right social media platforms
Step 5: Reach your customers: SEO Best Practices
Step 1: Define your goals: what do you want to happen?
The first thing you have to do is figure out what you want from your online presence.
What would you like to happen?
Are you hoping customers will find your restaurant or café when searching for places to eat on Google? Do you want to grow or maybe test the waters for new business ventures? Maybe you are even searching for your very first clients.
There are no right or wrong answers, but the clearer the goal, the easier it will be to convey your intentions online. Once you have a direction in mind, it will be easier for you to choose the right way to get started.
Step 2: Create a website that represents you
If you are a business owner, chances are you have put a good deal of thought into the way your business presents itself in real life.
Just as the location and atmosphere of your venue, the music you put on and the way you answer the phone tells a story about your business, so does the design of your website and the kind of content you share.
How to create a website
Back in the day, the only way to create a website was to code it from scratch. It was time consuming and reserved for the few who could code.
Today, creating a website is more democratic. With the rise of Content Management Systems, anyone can go online, click a few buttons and create a new website.
It’s easy to create a standard blog. But you want to do more than that if you hope to set yourself apart and appear professional.
You need something customised that represents your business, that looks great on all devices and that communicates the right message to your clients.
Three essentials every professional website should have
1. A custom domain
2. A mobile-friendly design
3. Remarkable content
1. A custom domain
The domain is your business address online. The name of your domain appears in the URL of your website. Mayfly Digital’s domain is www.mayflydigital.com.au.
www.mywebsite.wordpress.com is an example of a generic domain. That might be fine for people who just want to blog for fun or share their hobbies.
But a custom domain is the only way forward if you are serious about taking your business online.
2. A mobile-friendly design
Websites are a visual medium and should be treated as such. A modern, visually appealing design is like having a clean and welcoming business venue that’s easy to navigate with comfortable furniture and a pleasant atmosphere.
Good design isn’t just about how your website looks. It’s also about user friendliness.
A website should be functional across all devices, not just on desktops but also on tablets and mobile phones.
In 2017, Australians spent most of the time on their mobile phones researching companies or browsing online shops. Mobile shopping rose with 14% during the same year.
With 88% of Australians owning a phone, mobile friendly sites are a must when taking your business online.
Many of the themes on platforms such as WordPress are not responsive, so it’s important to choose one that is.
You should have both visual content and text on your website. You should write about who you are and what you offer and support your message with images and graphics.
Take pictures of your projects, team or venue and post them on the website. Write about your business and make it clear why you are awesome.
Step 3: Set up reliable communication with your customers or clients
How can your customers best reach you? Let them know, and make sure that line of communication is reliable. Whether you prefer to communicate on social media, via a contact form on your website or by simply posting your phone number on the home page is up to you. The important thing is that you pick one.
Write your address and your opening hours somewhere in clear sight, so your customers know where to find you. The more they have to click to find important information, the bigger the risk they will leave your site and find someone else.
It’s also a good idea to set up a business e-mail. It’s a service usually included in the hosting, and it gives you an e-mail address with your business name.
Step 4: Pick the right social media platforms
Around sixty per cent of Australians are active on Facebook, making them some of the most prolific social media users in the world.
Other platforms have a large following as well, so it’s more important than ever to use social media to reach potential customers.
Here is an overview of the most popular platforms:
Facebook is where most start, and it’s obvious why. Fifty per cent of Australians log into Facebook every single day. Many businesses can get away with only having a Facebook profile.
Twitter allows you to share short texts of 180 characters or less. It presents a chance to monitor competitors and have a dialogue with your customers. Use it to find out what customers like and dislike and how you can better help them.
Use Instagram to showcase the behind-the-scenes of every day work. Take a picture of a meal at your restaurant, or show what it looks like when your baristas make coffee. Or showcase your installations or projects.
Video content is a great way to attract attention. But it’s also much harder to produce, so it’s best to only consider a Youtube channel if you have the means to keep it up.
LinkedIn is useful for making connections with other businesses and potential clients. Sign up on LinkedIn to make your business more visible to others in your field.
There are other platforms out there you might consider. If you want to tap into the Chinese market, try looking into social media tools like RenRen and Weibo.
Which social media platform should I choose?
Each social media platform has its own benefits, but you don’t have to have an account on all of them. Pick one or two that you feel can communicate what your business is about.
It’s better to have one social media account with great content than multiple accounts that you struggle to keep up with.
Step 5: Reach your customers: SEO best practices
That’s it. You are ready to take your business online for the first time. You’ve defined your goals, set up a website and maybe even posted your first content on social media.
It’s easy to stop here, and hope Google will shine its divine light on your business, but that’s not likely to happen. It’s better to take matters into your own hands. Some strategies make it easier for Google to understand what kind of business you are and rank you higher on the search page. When customers search for your type of business, you want to come up as one of the first options.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a massive topic, and we won’t get into all of it here. The basics however are quick to learn and something that can make a difference between not being noticed at all to having customers find you.
Google ranks your website based on the content on its individual pages.
It uses it to understand your business and judge how serious your website it. A crude simplification would be to say the more text you have on your website, the higher you will be ranked. Things aren’t that simple in real life, but having relevant content on your website is a good way to start.
The content should include keywords which are words your customers might type into Google when trying to find businesses like yours. You should be using those keywords on your website so your business pops up when customers type those words in. But it has to be genuine text. Google will penalise your site if you try to stuff your text with too many keywords.
Each page should have a focus, and the content on that page should back up that one focus. This will make it easier for Google to understand what that page is about and rank it higher. The best approach when building your content is to imagine the reader. Who do you want to find your page, and what action do you want them to take?
A good way to get more relevant keywords on your website is to have a blog section where you regularly post relevant content.
What to do next?
We hope this blog post has made you feel a little more ready to take your business online. It’s a bit of work in the beginning, but it’s an effort worth making as a good online presence will increase your customer base and revenue.