It is projected that in 2011 $197 billion will be spent online. Many consumers use the internet to preview products and research companies before they go into brick-and-mortar stores to make a purchase. Even if your business is conducted totally online, you have the potential to tap into this enormous sector of the global economy. But before you jump on the internet and expect the sales to just come rolling in, there are some things you will need to address in order to be a success.
Here are 21 things you should do to make your online business more profitable.
- Have a business plan. It is not enough just to have a website. What will you offer on your website and what will make you stand out from your competition? Decide what it is you can offer that makes you different. There are millions of websites out there claiming to be the best, most honest and so on. Sure anyone can say that, but you have to back these claims up with actual examples of why your potential customers stay on your site and take advantage of what you have to offer.
- Be specific in your web copy. People what to know what you offer and why they should take advantage of it. This step actually goes hand in hand with #1; make a plan of what you want to say on your website.
- Be brief. Web users scan pages rather than read each and every word. This is one reason this article has bullet points. Get to the point or your visitors will lose interest and move onto the next search result, losing you customers and revenue.
- Make your website user friendly. Make your navigation easy to use and easy to find. Always have a Home button on each page so visitors don’t get lost. Include a site map so that not only users can navigate your site, but search engines can find important pages.
- Take advantage of places. Local place tags are very important. You may want to devote a page to each one of the local areas you serve. Place the names of the areas you serve high in your web copy. Search engines will find them and index your pages to present to users in your service areas.
- Get social. Each business needs at the very minimum a Facebook and Twitter account. Facebook has grown to over 600 million registered users sharing and linking to their favorite pages and businesses. Twitter has 300 million registered users, and both sites are still growing.
- Get interactive. Make your Facebook page interactive by asking questions, holding polls and running contests. Your Twitter posts, Tweets, should be engaging and give interesting tidbits to your followers.
- Put Facebook and Twitter buttons on your site. Give visitors a chance to connect with your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Make them easy to find and add a small blurb of text encouraging people to connect with you.
- Add a sharing feature. People like to share. That is the secret of Facebook and Twitter’s success. Add a sharing feature so people can share what they find on their walls. This will add more exposure to your website, and gives others confidence in your site because their friends like it.
- Offer an RSS feed option. There are many RSS services and programs you can set up for your website and blog. This will email subscribers of any additions, changes and updates you make on your site and when you post a new blog.
- Give something away. Once you have your social media accounts set up, offer something for free. This can be as simple as an online coupon code or a free e-book. This will drive traffic to your site and get you more visitors and customers.
- Include a blog on your WordPress site. A blog is a great way to connect with your visitors and customers. For example, if you are an HVAC technician you can post tips on heater and air conditioner maintenance with a blurb to call you for more information or a free quote. This sets you up as an expert in your field and lets people know there is someone maintaining the site.
- Encourage interaction on your blog. Ask questions and encourage comments. Be sure to answer any questions and give away your knowledge. It will come back to you as increased customers and profit.
- Post informative articles on article bases. This not only lets people know you’re an expert, but by posting articles with links back to your website you create a network of links the search engines recognize. The more quality incoming and outgoing links on your site that Google and the other major search engines find, the higher your page index will be.
- Use related forums to create backlinks (links back to your website). Posting quality comments on forums related to your business will also help to build your network of links. Avoid posting generic or spammy comments on unrelated forums. Not only will search engines penalize your for this, but your comments will most likely be deleted. For example, if you sell books online, you wouldn’t leave a backlink in a comment on a forum about vintage cars. (Unless, of course, you’re recommending a book about vintage cars.)
- Do your research. One of the rules followed by successful businesses is meeting a need. Research your business idea to see if there is a need to be met by what you are offering.
- Do keyword research. You can do this for free by using the Adwords Keyword Research tool on the Google main website. Make a list of possible keywords and see how popular they are. You can also make a list of keywords you don’t want and research them to see if they should be added to your web copy.
- Regularly check your links. Website maintenance may be a bit tedious, but it is essential. Broken links and pages that won’t load are deadly to an online business. If you don’t have time to do this yourself, you can hire someone to do it periodically.
- Keep your site updated. Have you ever gone to a website and you could almost hear the crickets chirping in the background? The lights were on but no one was home. This is what an outdated website is like. You need to keep your contact information updated, content fresh and feature any new products or services you may offer.
- Create a forum. Forums are easy to set up; you can find many programs to set up a forum. You can use a forum to build community and connect your users. Be interactive and present on your forum so people can get to know you.
- Include a FAQ page. A Frequently Asked Questions page or section on your website gives people information quickly. You can address the more common questions about your business. This creates trust and makes people more comfortable doing business with you.
An online business has the same needs as a brick-and-mortar business. Customer service must be impeccable, the site needs to be easy to use, and you need to meet a need. If you address these 21 points, your business will be on its way to being not only successful, but growing and thriving.