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8 Steps to Help You Successfully Launch an Online Business

12 Mar

While some people make the mistake of simply building a website then hoping people will visit it, you can launch an effective internet business, build traffic organically and convert visitors to clients by following a plan. Here are eight tips for successfully launching an online business.

1. Research, research, research

Probably the most important step in starting an online business is research. Once you are clear about the goods or services you are offering, begin by researching your competition online.

1.Research who else is offering goods or services similar to yours
Research what prices these goods and services are offered at
Research what marketing your competition is doing
Research who is buying from their sites
Research what kind of e-commerce system they are using
Research, research, research
The more data you have about the competition the better prepared you can be for launching your online business. Understanding who your competitors are gives you the opportunity to establish your unique selling point.

2. Understand your target market

Find out where your customers are already shopping online. By tracking where your target market is already spending time online, you can create an advertising campaign which follows them as they travel around on the internet. Where is your target market actually spending money?

3. Domain name

Your domain name is your brand online. Choosing a domain name that uniquely identifies your business either via service offering or brand identity is vital. In some instances choosing a domain name that contains words that are closely related to your business such as floristsydney.com.au if you were a florist in Sydney is the best option. However these days many of these generic domain names have been taken so choosing a domain name that relates to your brand or company is the best option.

Further to this, making sure you cover your intellectual property by registering multiple domain extensions is important. If your company name is “The Trading Co” then registering thetradingco.com.au, thetradingco.net.au, thetradingco.com and thetradingco.net is always a good option to future-proof your online presence.

There are multiple domain name registrars in Australia – the best advice is to register all your domain names with the one provider to ensure easy management and that you do not accidently let your important domain names expire. Netregistry offers domain name registrations for all .au domains as well as .com, .net and many more domain extensions.

4. Decide on the website design & build

Decide whether you will build your own website or whether you will hire a professional. Both your budget and level of technical experience may influence this decision. If you have more time than money, it is possible to build your own site using an array of tools that are available. Many providers offer do-it-yourself website tools, but there are other options such as Adobe Dreamweaver or Apple’s iWeb. If you are looking for a more professional presence or lack the knowledge or skills to build your website yourself then hiring a professional is the best option.

5. Web hosting

Once you’ve decided on your design and build finding a suitable web hosting company and establishing your domain name is the next step. Web hosting is the cornerstone of your website – providing the infrastructure for your website to be available on the internet. You web designer and the technology they use will govern the type of website hosting and the specifications your web hosting requires. Be sure to get all the detailed technical requirements from your web developer before jumping into buying web hosting.

Most domain name registrars will also provide web hosting solutions. Again having all your domain names and web hosting with the one company will ensure easy management of your online presence. Netregistry offers both cloud hosting and cPanel hosting solutions which cover almost all possible technologies your web developer may be using.

6. Content

Everybody who has been involved in the online community for sometime will know the term “Content is King!” and probably hates hearing it. But truth be told the term still holds true and keeping the content on your site fresh and relevant is a majar part of a successful online business.

Content does not only refer to the content on your website pages – it also refers to content on a blog, articles you may right or in email newsletters. When creating content be sure not to simply sell, sell, sell – readers will get bored. By writing educational and entertaining content you can ensure you are keeping readers engaged. This will lead to more return visits and more conversions for your website.

7. Create a marketing strategy and keep track

If you are serious about running your own online business, then educate yourself in internet marketing. Search engine optimisation and pay per click advertising are essential tools for ensure that your online business is a success.

Whether you hire a professional online marketing consultant or attempt to do it yourself, be sure you outline clear objectives and goals. Set milestones around traffic and conversions – and make sure you track your website progress using an enterprise tracking solution such as Google Analytics.

8. Create a sales strategy

Many online businesses fail to see the difference between marketing and sales. Establishing a distinct online marketing strategy versus a distinct sales strategy will help you ensure that both strategies can be successful.

Marketing is all about establishing your position in the market place and building your brand recognition whilst sales is about building a relationship with a portion of the market and converting their visits to your site, into sales.

Don’t expect to have a constant stream of new visitors to your site who will buy from you, remember that you are building a relationship with people so that they will become trusting purchasers keen to return to your site.

What other steps do you think need to be taken to ensure that an online business is successful?

5 online marketing essentials..

5 Mar

Online marketing refers to the ways a business can market, promote and advertise its products, services or brand online. Online marketing helps promote your business to a target audience through multiple online channels – utilising these channels effectively means a business can reach a relevant, targeted market efficiently.

1. Search engine optimisation
Search engine optimisation (SEO) aims to improve the placement of your website in search results of search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing, for selected keywords relevant to your business. SEO involves onsite coding and content changes, as well as completing offsite tasks to improve its search engine friendliness. The more likeable your website is to the search engines, the more chance they will rank it highly in the results. SEO can be an effective online marketing strategy for driving traffic to your website in the long-term.

2. Pay-per-click advertising
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is available on popular search engines like Bing, Yahoo! and Google, and involves the advertiser paying if the ad is clicked and a visitor arrives at their site. PPC is broken into two segments, Search Network and Display Network. The Search Network ads appear next to and above the organic search results. The Display Network ads appear on partner websites. PPC provides an instant, direct means for a business to start marketing online, and an immediate calculable return on investment.

3. Email marketing
Email marketing uses email as a platform to market your product, service or business to a bulk email database. Email marketing, is in fact, a form of direct marketing that can be targeted to specific audiences. For example, your current customer base, or potential customers, that have signed up for newsletters. Sending email marketing campaigns is one of the most effective online marketing strategies available. Keeping your operations front-of-mind for continued brand loyalty and customer retention is imperative for all businesses.

4. Social media
In recent years online marketing has become heavily slanted towards social media. This means promoting your business via social media channels such as a Facebook Business Page, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn Business Profiles, YouTube and others. Social media enables businesses to get involved in real conversations with current and prospective clients in a public forum. Running competitions, answering questions and promoting your brand via social media is all part of running a successful online marketing campaign.

5. Business website
All the above online marketing strategies can help you promote your business to a relevant, qualified target audience. They can be used as either short term traffic driving tools or long term brand building campaigns – but if you fail to have a business website that delivers your brand message, product or service in an easy to digest, favourable light, then your entire online marketing campaign will be a waste. A professional website with user friendliness built in will be the glue that holds your online marketing together.

How Google’s +1 Button

1 Mar

Since the days of Google Buzz, the +1 button has been a mystery to users and content producers alike. It’s different from Facebook’s “Like” button, in that it doesn’t directly share content to a user’s social stream. But the cultivation of a social graph has long been the goal of Google, and its connection to search was likely inevitable.

Google defines the +1 as a feature to help people discover and share relevant content from the people they already know and trust. Users can +1 different types of content, including Google search results, websites, and advertisements. Once users +1 a piece of content, it can be seen on the +1 tab in their Google+ profile, in Google search results, and on websites with a +1 button.

The plot thickened last month when Google launched Search plus Your World. Jack Menzel, director of product management for Google Search, explained that now Google+ users would be able to “search across information that is private and only shared to you, not just the public web.” According to Ian Lurie from the blog Conversation Marketing, in Search plus Your World, search results that received a lot of +1s tend to show up higher in results.

Google has come out and described the purpose of a +1, but hasn’t necessarily explained the direct effect a +1 has on search ranking. Here’s a breakdown of what we currently know.

Does a +1 Affect my Site’s Performance in Social Search?
The +1 has an indirect effect on your site’s search rank. This does not mean the more +1’s a link has, the higher rank it achieves in traditional search results. Take this scenario:

When a Google+ user +1’s a piece of content, he gives it his “stamp of approval.” Then, say one of his connections from Google+ searches for the same or related topic. Because of Search plus Your World, his friend is more likely to click on the same link the original user +1’d (when a signed-in user searches, his Google results may include snippets annotated with the names of connections who have +1′d the content). This is because content recommended by friends and acquaintances is often more relevant than content from strangers, according to Google.

This is also true for users who are not signed in to their Google account when they search. When a user searches for the same phrase, the results might display the total number of +1’s a link has received, which is another validation that it’s a relevant link.

How Does This Relate to SEO?
Since the +1′d link has a chance at a higher Click-Through-Rate (CTR), there is a greater potential the link will be shared, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or any social network. An experiment by Rand Fishkin, CEO and co-founder of SEOmoz, tested the relationship between Twitter and Facebook shares and search results in Google. He found a positive correlation between the number of retweets and shares a link received and its search ranking. This means, the more the link was passed around on Twitter and Facebook, the higher the search rank of the page. This in turn led to better SEO.

What’s the Take-Away?
A Google +1 can indirectly lead to a better page rank. A greater number of +1’s increases a link’s potential for a high CTR, which could lead to increased social sharing, and in turn can increase its Google search rank. What’s important to note here is the correlation, not causation, between +1′s, other social shares, and search rank.

The bottom line is, the SEO effects of a +1 are very indirect, which means traditional SEO practices should not be ignored. SEO methods such as link building, relevant keywords, and URL structure have a more significant impact on page ranking.

The Google +1 feature is still in its infancy of course, and more data needs to be gathered to draw a statistical correlation to search. As Google said, “For +1′s, as with any new ranking signal, we are starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality.”

SEO experts, such as Erin Everhart from 352 Media Group, have a positive outlook on the future of social search. She says, “I don’t think we live in a world, nor will we ever live in a world, where any social cue doesn’t have influence over SEO.”

Are you seeing the effects of Google +1 on your SEO? Will the +1 eventually have a direct effect on search rank?

10 Social Media Tips for Bloggers

19 Feb

  When it comes to building an audience and driving traffic, bloggers are turning to social media with record results. Instead of relying on organic search or (gasp) IRL friends, successful bloggers know they have to develop a following on key social networks as a way to promote their brands and ultimately get more clicks. Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and now Pinterest provide the savvy blogger with plenty of opportunities to attract new readers and engage with regulars, but it can be overwhelming if you’re new to social media or if you only use it for fun. Here are 10 tips to help bloggers navigate the increasingly complex world of social media — while still making time to write content. 1. Display your social media icons prominently toward the top of your website. Make it as simple as possible for your blog readers to connect with you on various social media platforms. They shouldn’t have to hunt around to find your Twitter handle, but should be able to click on a button and be taken right to your profile. Bonus points if your social media icons reflect the overall design or feel of your blog. 2. Every blog should have its own Facebook Page. Even with Facebook’s new subscription feature, there’s still merit to giving your blog its own space on Facebook. It’s nice to be able to post a link every time you publish something new, and not have to worry about annoying your friends. Plus, readers who don’t your name but know the name of your blog can search for it on Facebook. Show your fans some love on your blog by using the Facebook social plugin, which makes it easy to convert readers to fans. 3. Generate traffic with StumbleUpon. This “recommendation engine” serves as an alternate browser where users click through pages that their SU friends and SU itself have recommended. You can submit your own blog posts into the system, but it works best if you also share them with your SU friends and accept their shares back. Like most social platforms, you need to have a strong following to get good results. While people are still trying to figure out what makes SU content go viral, many bloggers have seen terrific, albeit fleeting, traffic spikes through the service. 4. Import your RSS feed onto your LinkedIn profile using its Blog Link application. As long as your blog somewhat pertains to your professional goals, you should be showcasing it on LinkedIn. List it as one of your three websites in your profile, where it will be labeled “Blog.” However, by using the Blog Link application, your most recent posts will display right on your profile. 5. Pinterest is the hot new frontier for bloggers. Pinterest is the cool new kid, and all of the bloggers are scrambling to establish a presence there. Pin your best photos onto themed boards with links to a relevant blog post. Blogs with strong visual content, like fashion, food, design, crafts and travel, are a natural fit. Infographics will also do quite well. Don’t forget to add a Pinterest plugin (like the Pinterest “Pin It” Button for WordPress users) to make it easy for your readers to share your content on their Pinterest boards. 6. Use link shorteners even when you don’t have to. Twitter will now shorten your link for you, and the length of your link doesn’t matter on Facebook and Google+. But by using a link shortener like bit.ly, you will gain access to metrics, so you’ll know how many people clicked and at what time. With this essential data, you can experiment with different ways to tease your content and different times to post it. 7. Use your blog name as your username whenever possible.Promote your personal brand by consistently using your blog’s name for your Twitter handle, StumbleUpon name, Pinterest name and so on. Then, people don’t have to wonder about your blog’s name — it’s right there. Also, people will remember you easily across platforms, which is key as you develop up your online community. 8. Join blogger groups on Facebook. There are some very active groups on Facebook that are terrific resources for any blogging issues you encounter. Look for groups like “Travel Bloggers” or “Global Bloggers Network.” WordPress geeks have “Advanced WordPress” and Central Florida residents have “Central Florida Bloggers.” Not only are blogger groups good for problem-solving, but it’s well-known that bloggers like to read other blogs. Do some searching and find a bloggers group that’s suited to you, or start your own! 9. Be generous with other bloggers. Promote other bloggers’ content, and hopefully they’ll return the favor. You can’t simply blast your own content anyway — you need some variety in every social media stream. So why not check out what your fellow bloggers are posting and give them a retweet, a share or a repin whenever you can. And don’t forget to reciprocate and share content from bloggers who share yours. 10. Be on social media — even when it’s not driving traffic. It can be frustrating when you feel that you’re doing everything right (posting good content on the appropriate platforms in the best way possible) and you’re still not getting many clicks. But console yourself by thinking about all of the links that you see throughout the day that you don’t click on. Just spending time on social media platforms is great way to forge relationships, keep up on industry news and find inspiration for that next blog post.

How to Get More Value From Your On-Site Search Data

2 Feb

When we work on search engine optimization (SEO) or pay per click (PPC) campaigns, be it keyword research to user experience to identifying missing content, it seems that we can never get enough data no matter how many tools we use. At the same time, I’ve noticed that not many companies were using on-site search as a data resource. On-site search data is very much underrated in my opinion. It gives you the actual user data on your site instead of general data that are often standardized or averaged. The signals you get from on-site search data are far more valuable than stats and trends you read from other sites or businesses since it reflects actual user wants and needs as well as navigation and content gaps.

Here’s a list of valuable data that you can get from the on-site search, and how you should utilize them to improve on-site search experiences and your search marketing.


Search Queries


Considering the fact that majority of the site visitors on most websites come from the search engines and land on a specific page, we’d expect to see more long-tail search queries happening with on-site search. The most common being product numbers and spec (size, color, price range, etc.) related queries. You may also see some customer-support related queries. These support queries can often be an early warning sign to new bugs or problems with your product.

First, you should check to see what search results come back for some of the popular search queries to ensure that you are providing the best list of content available on site. You should generate a report monthly to see what words are being searched and not producing any results or results that are not being clicked. Both these reports will help improve performance as well as identify content problems.

Many queries could be great candidates for the PPC campaign keywords. If you keep seeing certain queries showing up again and again, consider adding them to the SEO target keyword list, select a preferred landing page (PLP) for them, and optimize them for the keywords.


On-Site Ranking Results


One of the goals for investing in SEO is to bring people to the best possible landing page that provides the information the searchers are looking for from the search results. This increases visitor retention and decreases bounce rates. The same idea applies to on-site search. Have you checked to see if your SEO PLP ranks for each SEO target keyword in your own on-site search results? A lot of work goes into PLP identification and optimization so why not maximize it? Unlike the external search engines such as Google and Bing, you realize that you have control over the on-site search results. Using “Top Page Biasing” function in most applications you can actually specify which page should rank number one for certain search queries. I suggest to all web site owners to adjust their on-site search results by setting all of the key SEO words and their PLP’s as the preferred page for the same phrase on on-site search. You can also remove the pages that you don’t want to show up in the search results.


Missing Content


On-site search queries tell the story about the site user behavior and the goals of their visits to the site. If you see one visitor using on-site search within a short period of time entering similar queries, it probably means that the search results weren’t providing what he/she was looking for. If you see the same queries used again and again by multiple visitors, you may want to add that to the taxonomy and in the navigation menu to help them find the page easily.

This user behavior may also be caused by the fact that you don’t have quality and relevant content for that topic on site. Review the list of related on-site search queries to identify the information they are looking for, and add that content to the site. Depending on the content, it may not be suitable for the company website. In that case, use blogs, forums and other social media to create related content.


User Feedback


User feedback provides valuable information for improving the on-site search experience and overall site experience. You should always keep it to two to three short questions, and ask very specific questions to obtain the exact types of feedback that you hope to collect. The examples of questions related to on-site search would be:

    1. What search query did you use on site search?
    2. What information did you hope to find with that query?

Did you find the information in the search results?

The feedback should be reviewed to improve:

  • SEO and PPC keywords
  • On-site search results
  • Missing content
  • Site navigation and webpage wireframe

In 2012, social media will increasingly have impact on the site visitor profile. Unlike PPC and SEO traffic, social media visitors are not always taken to the best page. Accordingly, on-site search data would become one of the strongest weapons for the site owners to stay relative to the visitor and their customer base.

First Time for Online Advertising BEATS Print Magazines and Newspapers

25 Jan

For the first time in U.S. history, marketers are projected to spend more on online advertising than on advertising in print magazines and newspapers.

According to a study released Thursday by eMarketer, online advertising is expected to generate $39.5 billion in sales this year — a 23.3% increase from 2011 — compared to a sum of $33.8 billion on print.

That’s impressive growth, especially since 2011 also witnessed a 23% jump in online ad spending, according to eMarketer’s calculations. Online ad revenues should continue to grow over the next half-decade, albeit at a more modest rate, as shown in the chart below. Total online ad investment is projected to hit $62 billion by that time.

 

 

 

The forecast for print is foreboding. Marketers are expected to continue cutting their print advertising budgets for the next half-decade, spending $32.3 billion in 2016, 10% less than what they invested in print ads in 2011.

 

 

 

Spending on TV promises to be largely unaffected by growing online ad budgets, although the gap between the two is set to narrow significantly. U.S. marketers are expected to spend $72 billion in TV advertising in 2016, up 18.6% from 2011.

 

Overall, it looks to be a healthy year for the ad industry, with total U.S. ad spending forecast to grow by 6.7% to $169.5 billion. eMarketer attributes the bump to investment in campaigns ads and mobile advertising. Total ad spending is set to reach nearly $200 billion by 2016, of which online will account for a third

Keeping your website ahead of the Curve 2012

11 Jan

Sure, having a website for your business serves a practical need: to draw net-surfing users to your product or service. However, it’s also much more than slapping on a run of the mill two-column template and calling it a day. Nothing kills an online buzz like a poorly designed or drastically outdated website. Dry and boring default templates, broken assets, confusing pages and invasive widgets do nothing but harm a page’s style, which in turn reflects poorly on the company.

2012 is heralding a new wave of innovative web technologies and design, and a page that stays in step with these trends is bound to pique interest and lower your bounce rate. Even more, a well done and on-trend website remains effective well after the year is over, reeling users in with thoughtful design and building a design-conscious and taste-making reputation. Keep these tips in mind when you clean up your company’s website, and stay ahead of the curve for the new year.


1. Don’t Be Afraid to be Bold


Mail Chimp. Instagram. Pinterest. All of these websites are joined together by a commitment to bold designs and layout. Whether it’s an exaggerated footer, a turn to minimalism or a bold and new typeface, incorporating a key graphical element to a website speaks volumes about the overall composition of the layout — and a keen level of attention to detail. Opting for a bold design element is a great way to modernize a website and keep it on trend in the coming years.

A bold design can be obtained with very little money, especially for those who aren’t necessarily experienced in coding. For example, webpages operating on a WordPress can find a host of free templates that offer a wide range of customizable options to suit any business. New and exciting fonts can be found via Google‘s open API font styles and require a simple set of code to be dropped in for compatibility with a website. Inspiration and how-tos for more hands-on DIY upgrades can be found at coding/design blogs like A List Apart, One Extra Pixel and Mashable‘s Dev and Design channel.

For those with a little more cash to burn on a proper contractor, 99 Designs relies on crowdsourcing to gather great designers for companies looking for a reliable and cutting edge renovation. Companies on 99 Designs are allowed to name their own price, which means a promising design on a budget.

However you choose to go about it, a bold design dusts off the cobwebs on your old page and keeps it fresh for years to come.


2. Use HTML5 … With Care


For the last couple years, people have been buzzing about HTML5, and it’s not just chatter; HTML5 offers a lot of exciting flexibility that can make a website truly interactive. Seamlessly embedded videos, drag-and-drop interfaces and dynamic message posts are all achievable via HTML5, and with relatively little code work.

But it’s not enough to just call up your freelance web designer and throw up some HTML5 features. As with any programming language, there’s always an issue of browser compatibility. While your new and shiny UI outfitted with dynamic HTML5 might look stunning to a user running on the latest version of Chrome, your high-tech page may look like a series of broken features — or nothing at all — to a less tech-savvy user running Internet Explorer 7 (and there’s a lot of them).

This issue has been longstanding in the Internet world, but there are precautions to take in order to ensure that every user has a pleasurable experience on your website without you making a major investment. Modernizr is an open-source, JavaScript-based tool that offers feature detection for HTML5, and it’s just-as-snazzy brother CSS3. Instead of doing simple browser detection, Modernizr will figure out just what features the user’s browser can support and react accordingly. If a user is operating on an incompatible browser, then Modernizr will automatically decide whether to switch to a JavaScript-based fallback of the features or just create a downgraded version.

Make no mistake, this solution shouldn’t be implemented by a newbie to code, but it does provide a simple way to implement exciting and revolutionary features while still providing support for the little guys.


3. Cut the Fat


Image courtesy Curioser Creative Studio and pickupamerica.org

The traditional layouts for websites often call for separate pages that encapsulate the “About,” “Contact” and other informational areas of the website. 2011 saw minimalist designs from multiple websites, and that often translated to cutting these pages in favor of a sleeker overall design (think Tumblr or this design for Pick Up America). Some companies chose to forgo nearly everything to produce a strongly graphical one-page website — blogs like One Page Love and successful networking tools like Flavors.meshow that people are drifting towards a bold singular statement that makes a big impact on fellow users.

 

As we move forward in 2012, further exploration into one-page websites is a given. But a single-page website has both its pros and cons. HTML5 can help create a one-page website that cleverly contains all necessary information via pop-up boxes or other media, but the amount of information that can be on a one-page website is still relatively limited. Do you want your website to make a bold statement about your company and focus less on a blog-style format? If so, a one-page website could be right in your wheelhouse. Are you more interested in showing off testimonials, case studies and blogs from your employees? If yes, then this trend would be worth passing on.

However, that doesn’t mean to forgo trimming entirely. Culling the best parts of your website and truncating the rest will result in a sleeker, more intuitive design — and sleek never goes out of style.


4. Tie in Social Media Intelligently


This tip could also be titled “Quit it With the Widgets.” Announcing your social media presence on your own website is an absolute necessity, but it needs to be done with care. Automatically updating widgets that stream in social media presence seems intrusive and outdated, not to mention that they can be a hassle for a DIY designer to install and maintain.

To put it simply, social media should absolutely be a presence on a business website, but it should not be a dominating presence. Integrating social media, whether in graphic links or a social ticker, should be done with the user’s eyes in mind. It’s simple on paper, but can be difficult to execute. When social media is done intelligently and with consideration, your website instantly will look socially connected and organized.

Are there any other ways you’re keeping your website ahead of the game? Let us know in the comments.