According to research carried out by names.co.uk, more than a quarter (28%) of new small-business owners wait months after they’ve registered their company name before they register their domain name, thereby risking losing out on their preferred website address.
In fact, our research suggests that about a fifth actually lose their preferred name and have to settle for a name that isn’t related to their company.
We surveyed 2,079 business owners and found that many were startlingly relaxed about owning their online brand – but come to regret this later on when they miss out on their preferred domain name.
Even many dot-com savvy firms established in the past three years have missed the boat. Most companies make the mistake of focusing exclusively on their company name, believing it to be central to the success of their business, without even thinking to check for their domain name first.
Your domain name is often more important these days than your mobile or telephone number, so it is a big oversight not to check whether it’s available before registering your company name. Customers will search for your .com or .co.uk address every day, so not owning the most logical domain can be a real issue.
However, not all businesses are as forgetful about registering their company name. More than a third (35%) admit to registering their domain name before they launched their business, with 25% building their website before launching their business. About half (49%) also admit to registering multiple domain names to protect their company name or expand their business.
Other key findings from our research include:
Names are important, of course, and every one with plans to start a new business really needs to think carefully about their domain name. We encourage small businesses to consider registering their domain name before they launch their company, so they can get the name that best serves their business’s interests.
Sally Tomkotowicz is marketing manager at Namesco, which provides online services for businesses and individuals.
The internet has made it easier than ever before to find information. Hours, if not days, of going through newspapers, books and asking experts has been whittled down to a quick search on your favourite search engine.
With this increased level of trust in the internet, people are now becoming more accustomed to purchasing products online although there is still a significant proportion who prefer human interaction, as 45% of calls convert into sales at some point.
If you’re thinking of selling or marketing your business online, you should know it’s very competitive. But if done properly, the rewards can be great as well. Here are four quick tips to get you started
Become an expert in your field
As a new business with an online presence, gaining trust and customer loyalty can be difficult. The vast number of fraudulent websites means that users prefer to purchase products from sites they know of and/or feel they can trust. One way to gain this trust is to become known as an expert in your industry sector by creating a blog on your site and updating it regularly. Let your professionalism shine through by replying to comments on your blog and guest posting on other blogs relevant to your niche.
Use social media to promote your business
Social media promotion is easy and it’s free, which makes it a marketing portal that should not be overlooked. Sign up to a social media site that you think would best suit your interests and post information such as news about your business, developments within your industry, new products as well as any special promotions you’re offering.
Analyse your site’s performance
Use tools such as Google Analytics and visitor level call tracking software to determine which parts of your site are converting the best. Once a cookie has been placed on your site, Google Analytics can show you which pages were viewed by your customers. This information can be used to determine which pages on your site and which marketing activity is converting and which are not.
Create specific landing pages
Unlike your homepage, which is designed to be the central page allowing access to other areas of your site, a landing page is designed to achieve a certain goal. This could be signing up to a mailing list, purchasing a product or even downloading an information pack. Use a landing page to help you increase sales of your products or services. Linking marketing activity for a particular product, for example, to the product landing page has been shown to significantly increase sales or enquiries for that product.
Rashed Khan has written this article on behalf of call tracking experts ResponseTap
Starting an online business is not an easy undertaking, there are many considerations to take into account before you even get your new business off the ground. Often new businesses fail because they don’t plan adequately or neglect to consider the magnitude of the task ahead of them. Here are my top 10 tips for starting a successful online business.
Having a website is only part of the marketing jigsaw. To make it purr you need to keep it updated with fresh, relevant content; optimise it for search engines; build a social presence, etc. A large part of the digital marketing puzzle is link-building, which increase the search engine equity of your website. One of the primary ways of doing this is by encouraging other relevant websites to link to it.
New websites and new businesses don’t need to invest thousands of pounds in SEO and link building campaigns. There’s a lot you can do yourself to get the ball rolling, which mostly involves a bit of hustle and some common sense.
Here are my three DIY link building tips for small businesses:
1 Who do you know?
One of the best places to start is by utilising existing business relationships. Chances are your suppliers, customers and other contacts will be more than happy to link to your website, it’s just a case of asking the right person.
List everyone in your existing business network. Ask them to link to you. Don’t discount those who don’t have resources pages. Ask to write a testimonial about their services or even contribute a case study about your experience. This way you’ll create value for them, as opposed to simply requesting a link.
2 Niche and local directories
‘Directory submissions’ have become dirty words in digital marketing, predominately because of the swathes that have been created solely for those looking to build links. Most will advise you to avoid them, because they tend to be flagged as spam by search engines. By submitting to them you risk wasting your time or worse – being penalised for overtly trying to manipulate the rankings. This doesn’t mean that all directories should be avoided – far from it.
Chances are they’ll be a few directories curated by people that are specific to your industry. These represent a relatively straightforward means of listing your business and getting a link. Try simple queries related to your niche and see what comes up. For example, if you manufacture pumps, just try ‘pumps directory’. Once you’ve mined that, search for something more general, but still relevant (eg‘process industry directory’ or ‘British manufacturers’ directory’).
3 Organisations and associations
Once you’ve cleaned up the directories in your niche, start thinking about industry bodies and associations. Check that any associations you’re a member of link to you from their website. If not, ask them to. Again, it might be useful to think beyond just asking for a link. How can you add more value to that community? Perhaps you could get involved more by sharing your business experiences on their websites. Are there any organisations relevant to your business that you’re not a member of that it might be worth joining?
Once you’ve boxed off your connections, niche directories and organisations, you’ll have built strong linking foundations for your website. You might even have whetted your appetite to try a few more advanced tactics. If you’re ever unsure about whether it’s a good linking opportunity, just follow link building expert Eric Ward’s Litmus test: ‘Would you pursue the link if there were no search engine at all?’ In other words, would you want a connection between yours website and someone else’s, even if you weren’t doing it simply to build the value perceived by search engines? Follow this rule and you won’t go far wrong.
Michael Smith is a marketer at Leeds-based SEO agency 9xb.
Visit the Marketing Donut for more advice about optimising your website for search engines.
It’s come to my attention over the past few months that more and more people are merging their Tweets with their Facebook and LinkedIn status updates.
I’ve also noticed that sometimes my Facebook and LinkedIn news streams are totally clogged with meaningless Tweets that have no relevance to me whatsoever.
So I thought I’d put together a few reasons why, as busy as you are, you shouldn’t feed every single Tweet to other social and business networking websites.
When a Tweet’s been fed into my news stream I know that the person who’s written it hasn’t written it from the website I’m using. It feels impersonal and can convey a lack of interest in what their Facebook or LinkedIn contacts are up to.
Twitter is the only social networking site that has its own language to either tag a subject (#), reply to a Tweet (@) or Retweet (RT@).
These make absolutely no sense on other platforms (although Facebook now has a tagging feature that uses @) and can make your update look as though you're speaking in tongues.
This mainly applies to LinkedIn in my case. Several of my contacts appear to be feeding every single of their Tweets to LinkedIn. Bearing in mind that some people might Tweet 20 or 30 times a day, this equals a heck of a lot of RSI-inducing scrolling to find even one update that might interest me.
And talking of interest…
Facebook is generally for your friends to keep up with what you’ve been up to or for businesses to promote themselves. Therefore, the fact you’ve replied to a hilarious tweet (@DippyGirl lmao and rofl!!) won’t really have any relevance whatsoever.
LinkedIn is for business people to share knowledge, help each other and network. The fact that the roast chicken you cooked with your nearest and dearest last Sunday was delicious really doesn’t matter.
Can you remember every single person you’re friends with on Facebook or connected to on LinkedIn? If not, be very careful to check your Tweets before feeding them to the other sites. If your boss is connected to you on LinkedIn he/she probably won’t appreciate knowing that you’ve just pulled a ‘sickie’ and sounded realistically croaky on the phone.
With an extremely restrictive 140-character limit on Twitter and a more generous 420 characters for status updates, it would make sense to post to these two websites separately. You can be far more personal and descriptive on Facebook, so why not make the most of your update?
If you still feel the need to merge your tweets with other social and business networking sites, please remember to be selective.
Read more about social media on the Marketing Donut:
After years of believing the holy grail of marketing was a flashy website with plenty of SEO activity, online retailers are getting back to basics and placing the catalogue at the heart of their marketing campaigns. It’s a clever strategy and something small businesses would do well to take heed of.
In our age of information overload – hundreds of emails a day, blogs, Twitter and other social media – the catalogue (to borrow an analogy from a famous beer brand) quite literally reaches parts other marketing media can’t reach.
A catalogue is intrusive. It lands on your doormat or desk just when you’re not expecting it, with its “oh so evocative” photography and asks you to sit down with a cup of tea and see what’s the latest must-have.
A catalogue will travel round the house with you: from kitchen table to sitting room, up to the bathroom and your bedside cabinet. A catalogue can be marked, written on and well thumbed. You interact with a catalogue physically in a way you simply can’t with a website. And you can dip in and out of it at your leisure. In fact, you’ll probably revisit a favourite catalogue much more than you will a website. A catalogue is a truly powerful medium.
To sell successfully online, you need an offline strategy, too. The big retailers know that. The White Company, Viking, White Stuff, Boden and Isabella Oliver have been doing it for years. Small businesses understandably see doing away with their catalogue as a way to save money in a tight marketplace – but it’s a shortsighted strategy.
A catalogue is your branding tool. It will underpin your web and retail propositions and help your business become memorable. According to The Catalogue Exchange, when you mail a catalogue, 45% of recipients will visit your website. You compare that to an email campaign where if you get a 17% click-through you’re doing well and you can see why the big companies haven’t given up on direct mail.
For every £1 spent on a catalogue, The Catalogue Exchange says you’ll get back between £2 and £5 in store or online. And if you run a luxury brand – or any brand come to that – you need to differentiate or die. A catalogue, with its evocative brand images, space to properly communicate and the way it intrudes on your customers, will help you do that.
I’m not for one moment saying you should ditch your online marketing methods, but what I am suggesting is you look at where your marketing spend is going, and invest it in the activities that are going to give you the greatest return. Put together a proper strategy that you believe will bring you a real return. If you’re spending anything on advertising, you can afford to create a catalogue. Advertising will build brand awareness if you’re lucky (and you chuck lots of money at it). A catalogue will bring you a return on your investment.
Fiona Humberstone, Flourish design & marketing
Research suggests that as many as one in ten mums would like to run their own business. It can be the best way to get control over your working hours and spend more time with children, while still being able to contribute to household income. If you are a mum and want to run your own business, here are my tips.
1 List your priorities. What is important to you and what do you expect in return for running a business? Do you seek to make loads of money or are you simply trying to find a way to spend more time at home with your children?
2 Think about time. How many hours you can devote to a business. Be realistic if you plan to work around your kids. Remember – young children are especially unlikely to understand “mummy’s working”. Write down your which hours are possible, whether that’s 12-2 each day during nap time; 9.30-11.30 to fit in with nursery; 7-9 in the evenings or a combination of these on different days.
3 Research your market. All new business owners must do this by finding the answers to key questions. Will enough people buy your product or service at the price you plan to charge? Is your product or service unique enough to appeal? What competition will you face and how can you be different or better?
4 Write a business plan. Set out your aims and objectives – and the steps you need to take to achieve them. Pop into a local Enterprise Agency or Business Link for advice. See if they offer a free start-up course, which could be a great source of information and advice.
5 Decide your marketing and promotional tactics. Have a promotion planning session, during which you seriously consider advertising, marketing, PR and events. What method(s) are likely to be most effective for your business? Note on a wall calendar promotional activities you will do each month, but spend enough time each day marketing your business – it’s critical to success.
6 Promote your business online. Get a good website designed. Start a Twitter account in your business name. Create your own blog and blog on other sites. Start a Facebook fan page for your business. To make things easier, use Twitterfeed or Friendfeed to link your different networking sites.
7 Get registered. You have three months to let HMRC know you have set up as a sole trader (ie become self-employed), otherwise you could be fined £100. Alternatively, you might decide to form a company by filing the necessary forms with Companies House.
8 Keep good financial records. It’s easier to note down every item of expenditure from the start than to have to deal with an unruly pile of receipts when you have to complete you tax return. Many expenses are tax deductible, while you can also benefit from a series of allowances, too. Visit the HMRC website for more information – or seek advice from a good accountant.
9 Make the most of every customer. It is much easier and as much as eight times cheaper to sell to existing customers rather than having to attract and convince new ones to buy from you, so you must aim to delight your customers if you want them to keep coming back for more. As well as products, this must apply to your services, too. Whichever means is most effective, always maintain good communication with your customers. Keep them well informed and updated. Sort out any customer complaints quickly and satisfactorily.
10 Get help. Before starting up, assess your skills list and identify any that are lacking. You might need to find someone to help with your bookkeeping, PR, online marketing, sales, deliveries – whatever. You might not have the knowledge, time or will to do everything yourself. Providing your business can afford it, buying in help can free you up so your time can be better spent on something else. Explore all free sources of information and advice – including the Start Up Donut, of course.
After you start your business, you need to remain focused on your ideal work-life. If you’re not careful, running a business can easily and quickly take over everything, which means your home life suffers and this can affect how you feel. Have a finish time each day; put your work away when it comes; spend quality time with your family and make sure you set aside time to relax by and do things you enjoy.
Antonia Chitty, Family Friendly Working
Start up business owners absolutely can’t ignore the opportunities that are available online to market their small business. As great an opportunity as there is, it’s also a pretty daunting task for a new business – especially if you’re not an expert in getting attention on the web. The good news is, keeping it simple is one of the best ways you can ensure that your website is ticking all of the boxes and serving the purpose it needs to for potential customers or business partners.
Stefan Tornquist, Research Director of Marketing Sherpa, talks about improving your search rankings organically through relevant website content. As a small business owner, how easy do you find it to write copy and articles for your business? Is it something you can do yourself, or do you prefer to outsource this job?
Whether your business is large, small, new or been around the block a few times, every penny in your marketing budget has to work hard and give you a return. Remember though that doors opened through your marketing now may lead you down a profitable path in the future, but not yield a financial return just yet.
Marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune and there are many effective marketing activities that you can do that won’t cost a penny yet will point you in the right direction to get your business to where you want it to be. Here goes …
The best thing to reduce your marketing spend is to Stop & Think before you commit any money. There may be a free or cheaper alternative … effective marketing does not have to cost a fortune.
The growth in the use of the Internet in recent years has led to a huge shift in marketing activities to the online space. This article explains some of the key things for you to focus on to help you market effectively online. Secure that domain name early. The natural starting point is the creation of a website. Once you start your business it is important to secure the domain name in the markets you intend to compete in. We at Palo Alto Software, Inc and Palo Alto Software Ltd have lots of domain names ranging from PaloAlto.com (global), PaloAlto.co.uk (U.K.), and PaloAlto.ie (Ireland). These help ensure that prospective customers can find us easily by typing our name directly into a Web browser.
There are numerous ways you can build a website, from doing it yourself using available software tools, to hiring website specialists. Regardless of the method chosen you need to be completely clear on the main purpose of the website. Is it to sell products or to generate leads? Once the primary purpose is clear, you can then decide on the layout, alongside the look and feel.
Ensure your website is optimised
Given the hundreds of thousands of websites out there, it is worth reviewing a number to get a feel for the type of design and user interface you would like. Finally, when it comes to a website it needs to be ‘search-engine friendly’. This means that searches initiated from the likes of Google (using repetitive software, called ‘bots’) can find your site, scan it and identify the keywords associated with the website. Many firms offer Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) services which are designed to help you achieve high rankings on the search engines, such as Yahoo! and Google. Most of the techniques they employ are widely known so you could choose to do it yourself. However, be aware: anyone promising top place listings on Google should be treated with caution. There are techniques (so-called black hat techniques) which can be used to game the system – however, Google has been known to punish sites known to be using such techniques, as BMW® found, to its cost, when Google delisted them in 2006.
As it takes time for a new website to get indexed by the search engines, it is likely that traffic will be low at the start. New sites tend not to feature in organic search returns for some time, but there are ways to drive traffic to your site using some of the methods described below.
Use Web analytics to improve your site
Once you have set up the domain name and site, you will want to understand how many users you are attracting, where they are coming from and how they are behaving on your site. Google Analytics is the most popular tool to manage this. It is available free from Google, easy to implement and even easier to use. If you want to see where people are going on your site, tools such as Crazy Egg® will help you improve the design of your site by showing you where people are clicking and where they are not.
Once the basics are in place it is now a case of creating awareness of the existence of your site and generating traffic to the site.
Get traffic to your site on day one
The quickest way to get traffic to a website is signing up for Google AdWords’ Pay-per-click (PPC) service. In the U.K. the vast majority of Web searches are via Google so this is the best one to focus on. This service lets you create adverts that appear when people search for certain keywords. You then pay according to each click you receive (hence the name ‘Pay-per click’). The main attraction with this option is that it is a highly targeted form of advertising, and you only pay when the prospect clicks on your advert and lands on your website.
Create unique landing pages
You need to decide where you want to bring the prospect when they click. Dropping users onto a homepage can be confusing, so you need to create a number of landing pages that are highly relevant to both the search term and the AdWord copy. For example, if a user searches for ‘marketing plan’ and the advertising copy is for Marketing Plan Pro® then the landing page needs to feature Marketing Plan Pro prominently. The beauty of running Analytics in the background is that you can measure conversions so you can identify which combinations of advert copy and landing pages are the most successful. After that it’s a case of testing, testing and more testing. A/B testing is a popular method where 50% of the audience is randomly assigned to see page A, and 50% to see page B. Whichever page results in the most conversions ‘wins’ and that then becomes the new default page.
Get websites to link to you
One well-known component of the Google algorithm that decides on the attractiveness of your website (which then correlates to a higher search ranking) is the number of back links to your site. The more sites that link to your website, the better, particularly if the linking site is an academic or government-owned site. Each link is considered a ‘vote’ and votes from impartial sites such as academic ones are deemed to carry more weight.
Seek a presence on high-traffic sites
It may be possible for you to feature on larger portal sites by offering to support them with either new or fresh content or special offers. Steer clear of anyone offering you a tenancy agreement, e.g. you pay £1,000 per month to feature on a third-party website. These offers mean you bear all the risk and they rarely, if ever, deliver any meaningful traffic. Similarly, spending money on banners and buttons is not in vogue like it used to be – for good reason. PPC marketing is where your budget should be going – not on risky placements on websites.
Blogging is not all it’s cut out to be
A number of companies set up blogs to enable them to communicate with interested parties and customers on a more informal basis. Blogs are simply basic websites which contain a list of posts or news stories by an author, typically about a specialist topic. While they are easy to set up and maintain, they do place a demand on the blog owner or blogger to constantly update them. If you do not think you have the time to post news stories daily it is probably best to avoid the temptation of creating a blog. Other, less demanding forms of social media include placing comments on forums and participating in news groups.
The above activities should give you a flavour of some of the types of marketing activities you can undertake online. Others, such as issuing online press releases and creating newsletters, can also help you drive traffic to your websites. From there it’s a case of ensuring the design and offer are compelling enough to entice the user to buy from you, assuming that is the primary purpose of your website.