There are hundreds of things that small businesses can do online to market their business, products or services, or for building their brand image. It’s needless to talk about the importance of a website that gets visitors, is easy to find on the web for relevant keywords, and attracts prospects with valuable information and resources. Of course, you already know what I just said, but very often we ignore all these aspects once the website is up and running. It won’t keep working and generating results endlessly unless we keep adding more value to it on a continuous basis.
Analyze your website and see where it’s lacking. Ask these questions: Does your website have a “hook” that makes the visitors move on to the next step? Are you able to give the important information and key links in the first view (above the fold) of your website? Can visitors connect with your site immediately by reading some of their key pain points for which they need a solution? Is the site well-designed and has as easy-to-follow structure? Do you offer various ways to get connected with prospects? These are just some of the angles to assess. You can even ask an external neutral person to look at your website and give feedback. It’s really important.
So what are the website related activities that you must invest your time and money in? Here’s a rundown of some of the vital tasks that small businesses must do:
- Keyword optimization: Some keywords have a lot of competition, so you must increase the density of those keywords by adding more and more articles, webpages, presentations, PDFs that are related to those important keywords. You can use Google Keyword Research tool to find the right words and phrases. You must come out as an expert in your field. Do remember to use your locality and city name frequently throughout your website, as people generally add that while searching for a specific service.
- Timely analytics: Make a habit of looking at your website visitor data every Friday evening or just any other time that suits your schedule. Learn how people land on your site, and the path they follow, and notice where they leave. These simple numbers and keywords will give you vital insights to make your website better. You will see that minor modifications can give you dramatic results.
- Building a well-connected website: Ensure that people can find what they are looking for with clear-cut navigation, simple sub-menus, related information links at the right places, easy contact details and maps, and important internal and external links wherever required.
- Possibilities to add more features: Your website design should be easy to expand and update frequently. Using a CMS based website or a simple WordPress website is great for small businesses that have limited budgets and do not want to pay endlessly to a web developer for site updates. CMS and blogging tools also allow various widgets and plugins to make your website tech-savvy and easy to use.
- Blog: There’s no better way to keep adding more content to your site than through a blog. There are so many allied topics related to your work that you otherwise cannot put on your site, but you have the freedom to do so on your blog. You get a great platform to write informative keyword-rich content to attract more visitors and make them keep coming back. Engage in relevant conversations on your blog by answering to comments and writing thought provoking articles. Make sure you have an RSS feed of your blog too.
- Web forms: Have a simple form to collect online leads and ask only for information that is relevant for you – lesser the fields to fill, the better. If you have a lengthy form, people might just give it a miss or fill fake data which won’t be useful for you anyways. It’s best to get only the useful details and remember you can always collect the rest later. Offer incentives like coupons, discounts, free downloads, access to member resources, free trial, etc., to people who fill your web form.
- Lead management system: Do your website leads come to a mailbox and get lost after you take action? Small businesses usually end-up forgetting about old leads or save them in Excel files that are difficult to update. Use Gmail or Outlook Contact Manager to keep your list of leads safe and easy to use.
- Multi-media content: Simple text-based websites have lived their life to give way to fresh ideas and rich media websites that offer content in a dynamic way based on visitor preferences. If there are things that can be said better through pictures, diagrams, presentations, podcasts, videos, conversational articles, surveys, then they must be said that way only. Uncomplicate your content by using multi-media.
- Mobile version: The number of people using handheld devices for web browsing is increasing and this trend will grow even more, so it makes sense to have a small-screen version of your website that loads faster on mobile devices, has simple navigation, and easy-to-read content. Do analytics of mobile visitors as well.
- Visitor engagement: Use conversational tone, write simple language, let users decide what they want from your site, give them options, ask for permission, tell them about their privacy, offer them various ways to get connected with you, give them a platform to speak out/recommend/give feedback, provide help and support, have live chat – you can do a lot more to build a relationship with your visitors.
- Social media links: Which social media accounts should your business have is up to your preference and business needs, but having at least one such suitable outlet is a necessity. Whether you use LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, make sure people can get connected with you easily through these channels. At the same time they should also be able to see what would they get by getting connected to you: is it timely information about the latest happenings, discount coupons, new releases, sales, etc.?
And lastly, the one single feature that will differentiate your website from the rest is:
Implement all these on your website and see the difference yourself. You cannot just build the website and forget about it for a long time. In order to make the best out of your website, you have to treat it like a business unit – find the right people to design and manage it, shower it with commitment, keep a track of what is happening on your website as well as other similar sites, and take genuine interest in its development.
From presidential candidates to companies, friends and celebrities, over 200 million registered users are out there on the micro blogging site, Twitter. The clutter is aplenty and you’re not alone if you feel lost in the world of symbols and general chatter! An estimated 140 million tweets are sent a day, so, how does one cut out the noise and make the most of the micro blogging site with a limited amount of resources and time? Read on to get a host of useful tips on how you can use the site to the best of your advantage, getting tools to automatically sift through all the unwanted messages that don’t really concern you or your brand.
Twitter friendly applications:To begin with, leveraging the advantages of user friendly tools like Tweetdeck, Twhirl and Hootsuite to manage your twitter account better and select relevant information for you or your brand is worth knowing. Tweetdeck for example works as your personal browser that you can install on your system and customize according to your specifications. Suddenly, Twitter becomes so much easier to understand with this handy tool. Attractively designed and inviting to users, all one needs to do is download the tool and it works behind the scenes, giving you unobtrusive, yet relevant updates as and when they come in. Twhirl is another very useful tool that rolls everything one needs for Twitter into a neat function. Hootsuite is an application and can also be used for managing multiple social networks, especially Twitter.
Keyword searches: Once you’ve set up one of these applications, invest time initially on looking for keywords and people who are tweeting on a topic that you want to track. ‘Follow’ing these people is useful as it saves time and eliminates unwanted chatter. Subsequently, you can keep track for new users that you may want to add to this list.Re-tweeting is a popular way to rebroadcast information from one tweeter to another as this information is usually found particularly interesting and useful by another individual/s and therefore worth tracking.
Mentions: Another search criteria that you can set for your brand is @mention. When you do this, you get an alert on anyone who mentions you. This column will track it and keep a column for your ready reckoning with all the people who have been Tweeting about you.
#tags and direct messaging: Advanced Twitter users use the organically evolved #tag. This is to enable the person who tweets to categorize the message, making it show up more easily in searches. Following these tags is also a time-saver. When replying to messages, replying via direct messages will earn you a higher chance of getting noticed and a reply as opposed to posting a general message on the site that people may ignore.
All these could save you time on looking for information relevant to you, now, how do you make YOUR brand stand out and get people to notice you?
Beings search engine friendly: To be noticed, you’ve got to have your head above the crowd. And to do that on a micro blogging site like twitter, your tweets should be SEO savvy and contain keywords for which you are trying to market your service.
Tracking your performance: Performance is tracked not only by the number of people following you but also by the number of relevant followers, number of useful interactions, and your influence over your followers. There are many free and paid twitter analyzer tools that you can use to assess various aspects of your twitter presence. If your relevant followers increase, you know you are doing something right. If they’re dwindling, it’s time for some introspection! Key influencers of your brand are people who not only talk positively about you, but also have a big ‘followers’ list themselves. This insures that that they spread the word for you. If you’ve earned a substantial number of followers that fulfill these criteria, your time on Twitter has been well spent!
Where is twitter heading? It was a bubble that grew with such a pace that the growth went out of control. And now is it about to burst and leave the rest of us wondering, was it even worth it?
When twitter started, it was amusing to be online on my favorite TweetDeck application that allowed me to say whatever I wanted, without thinking too much before writing it down. The first few days were somewhat addictive, when I followed each and every conversation happening and tried to make more friends, read tweets by famous people I liked, and gain “followers”. But soon enough, the euphoria ended. I started getting bored of the constant chit-chat, senseless hash tags, increasing number of spam messages, and above all the timeline that flowed and changed like a stock market ticker.
I believe many people are like me. I would like to connect with people I “know personally” on Facebook, and rest of the “business contacts” on LinkedIn, which is more serious and professional. I like to read the news by setting RSS feeds of my areas of interest. Now what do I use twitter for? Having conversations with strangers; passing time (which is already in deficit), shouting about my new blog posts that hardly gets any visitors from twitter, or for bugging people by re-tweeting famous quotations every minute of the hour.
Twitter’s defects are now very apparent. Though it was meant to meet the inherent need of every netizen to have meaningful online conversations and share thoughts, it is now slowly failing to do just that because of all the distractions, and problems like:
No more meaningful conversations: Although some updates are thought provoking, the rest of 99% of the times, it’s just worthless chatter. I do not want to know if you are staring at a wall now, which incidentally you were doing five hours ago too. I also do not want to read that same old copy-pasted one-line wisdom again and again. I do not want to read the running commentary and collective grunting and cursing every time a match happens. I know, you can control who reads your tweets, who follows you, and whom do you follow. You can even follow people and ignore their tweets by putting them in lists that you never read. But then the essence of having conversations is gone; and not to mention that this requires a lot of work and time too.
Too little value as opposed to the time spent: We are information hungry, but we do not have time to sift through running junk to find a few compelling thoughts. Twitter demands time, if you want any good to come out of it. The moment you start following a few active twitter users, your timeline starts to run like Bolt. There’s no way you can read the feed by spending five minutes a day on it and perhaps that’s the reason why about 80% of the twitter accounts have activity nearing zilch and 60% of new users stop using twitter after their first visit.
You have to follow people you don’t want to: Celebrities and famous people gain instant followers as soon as they open a “verified” account, but the rest of the world has to follow others in order to be followed back. It’s a vicious circle which promotes the philosophy of mutual back-scratching. I have to read what you have to say, in order to make you read what I have to say. And there’s no point of twitter unless you have a following of people who read what you have to say. So, a normal twitter user would only have 2-3% of real useful online interactions. And the chances are that it’s with people he or she already knows. So, why not switch to Facebook or good old email.
It’s easy for your message to get lost: Just like you, other users also have timelines that are changing incessantly, unless they are following approximately five inactive users. If you send out a useful piece of information, the chances of it getting lost in the clutter are quite high. In order to get heard you start sending the same piece of information repeatedly. I consider that annoying when somebody else does it.
Is it useful for businesses? Big companies are using it to send out company news, product info, and useful tips for customers, but what are the returns? People who are interested will anyways search online to find that information. So, here’s a thought: wouldn’t it be more useful to spend more time on search engine optimization of your content, rather than twitter?
Twitter is not gone till now, but there’s something drastically wrong with the whole system. People get excited about it, join it, explore it for a while, lose interest, and walk away. I have seen many who have done just that. Twitterville is populated mostly by youngsters, and people who have time to kill. Thought leaders and celebrities frequent it to send out messages, but it is hardly ever a two-way conversation. And the most important twitter user is the invisible eye of a marketer. He sits silently to observe what is being said about the brands he is studying and do something useful with the insights that are generated. How much value it has generated is still doubtful.
But there are some ways twitter is helping business owners – the other side of twitter. I will talk about that in my next post.