The Complete Luddite’s Guide to Launching a Business Online
Published on February 1, 2017
Every business needs to be online. Whether you produce smartphones or artisan butter, your audience is living, breathing, working, and shopping on the web all the time – sometimes even on multiple screens at once.
It can be daunting to dip a toe into the churning waters of the internet. We understand!
But it’s important to realize that not using the amazing potential of the web to its fullest extent could be costing you valuable business in the long run. The other thing it’s important to realize? Getting started online is easier than you may think – even for total luddites.
A successful online strategy really comes down to three interrelated parts: an original website, regular content, and an active presence on social media. Let’s explore how you – yes, you! – can get started right now.
Build a Solid Website
Let’s start from the top! Your business, however small, needs a website. If you don’t, you’ll never be able to carve out a place online, and you’ll consequently miss out on countless hot leads and sales that would otherwise come your way.
Not just any website will do. First and foremost, it needs to have been built in this century. Tastes and technology change so rapidly that any site more than three or four years old will seem like a dinosaur to many audiences today. We would also strongly advise against relying on a free website builder or template; while these may seem like an affordable option, their cookie cutter designs will lose you business, and the hidden fees that many sites charge (for pretty much every feature worth having) could actually bleed you dry in the long run.
Instead, go with a professional web developer, one who is attuned to your singular needs. Talk about your design wants and needs, and your goals – do you need to have an intake form for new clients? Is a gallery of your portfolio a must-have? Every site is different, and you need an expert who is able to work with you to build the one that’s right for you.
With that said, however, there are few necessities for all modern websites. You’ll need your site to be fast and responsive; you’ll want intuitive navigation features; you’ll need to make your contact and personal information clear and accessible; and you’ll have to ensure that your site is user-friendly for the audiences who are visiting on mobile devices like smartphones or tablets.
You’ll also want to have your developer put in a reliable “content management system,” or CMS, so that you can regularly update your site with the one all-important feature of the modern web – content.
Grow Your Audience With Content
Content is the backbone of the modern online ecosystem, and it should be the backbone of your online strategy. Creating compelling, original multimedia content – in the form of blog posts and updates, infographics, listicles, image galleries, videos, and games – is how you separate yourself from the competition in the crowded online marketplace. Providing valuable content to your audience for free establishes you as trustworthy and reliable, positioning you as a thought leader in your field.
And generating content is for much more than just show! It works as “inbound marketing,” and has plenty of practical value for your bottom line. In fact, generating content is probably the single most effective way of bringing new users to your site. How? It’s all thanks to the art of what we call “search engine optimization,” or SEO. We’ve written about SEO exhaustively before, but here’s what you need to know in a nutshell.
When a user is looking to solve a problem, answer a question, or find a product or service online, they’re most likely to turn to a search engine, such as Google. They’ll type in their question, and click one of the first several results that pops up on the search engine results page (SERP). SEO is the practice of creating valuable content that appeals to a search engine’s algorithms and tools, positioning your site higher on SERPs – and, thus, getting more clicks to your site.
While there are certain ways to “game” the system, the surest way to appeal to Google and capture searchers is to generate high-quality content that people like, read, and share. This creates a popularity feedback loop: The more people like your content and engage with it, the higher you rank on SERPs. The higher you rank on SERPs, the more people will be reading your content!
This content-driven approach to attracting and keeping audiences is scientifically proven to work. Check out some of the amazing statistics we’ve kept over the years here.
Continue the Conversation on Social Media
Once you’ve gotten into the swing of producing original, high quality content in a variety of forms, it’s time to share them with the world. The most effective way to do that – and to make yourself visible to an even wider audience – is with social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
If content is the backbone of your digital presence, then think of social media as the nervous system, fostering connections and sending information out into the world in the blink of an eye.
First and foremost, it’s important to decide what social platforms are most effective for your brand’s goals. Are you trying to foster conversation and share your content? Facebook and Twitter are historically your best bets. Want to focus on lead generation? LinkedIn is the number one social source of lead creation for B2B organizations. Looking to humanize your brand, spread personal stories, or connect with a younger audience? Then keep Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram in mind.
Now, don’t spread yourself too thin and feel like you need to dive into all of these platforms at once! You’ll only end up short-changing your efforts. Each of these networks require their own unique approach and strategy, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by platform overload. Think strategically as you start to plan your social campaigns, and keep your brand’s unique needs and goals in mind. Do you have the budget for paid social advertising? Do you have the time or the materials to use Instagram or Twitter for a contest? All of these are important points to bring up with your social team as you get started.
Once you’ve chosen your social networks and gotten them optimized – complete with contact info, images, and a call to action, get started by setting up a regular schedule for sharing your content. Don’t be afraid to share the same piece multiple times, until you know what works best for your audience. Alternate your original content with the occasional link to other interesting or relevant content from news organizations or leaders in your field. Just be sure to promote plenty of your own backlinks: Not only does this send leads directly to your site, but it bolsters your content’s “off-page SEO” in the eyes of Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
And remember that you need to be social! Post personal updates and behind-the-scenes photos and videos. Engage with your users directly. Like, comment, and respond to any feedback or questions, be they positive or negative, with grace and tact.
Finally, you should always be listening on social media; not only does being receptive and connected to your audience make you seem reliable and trustworthy, but it gives you a chance to fine-tune your content strategy moving forward. Who is interacting with your page? What types of content are they sharing and consuming? What kind of language are they using? Use social media to learn who your audience is, so you can better figure out how to reach them.
Get Ready For Your Next Steps
Sounds complicated? It can be – when you go it alone. Fortunately, Geek is here to help! Our team has a wide range of experience, and we’re always ready to chat about whatever you need to feel comfortable online.
Whether you’re looking for website development, content creation, or social media guidance, we’ve done it all, for businesses large and small. Don’t hesitate to drop us a line, and be sure to follow our team on Facebook and Twitter for the latest digital media insights and updates from around the web!