Developing an Online Strategy

Deciding How Your Micro-business Can Make the Most of Online Marketing

Woman looking up a website

Identify the level of web presence your micro-business should have

Developing an online strategy for a micro-business is not just about putting up a website and hoping lots of people visit it. It’s more complicated than that but this article will give an overview of what’s involved.

Websites

This is the starting point for anything related to online or digital marketing. The first thing to consider is the purpose of the website. This could be:

  •  As a ‘shop window’ or online brochure that provides an indication of what the micro-business provides, or perhaps only providing contact details. This is sometimes called a ‘brochureware’ site.
  • To provide an interactive facility with a variety of tools and information to help customers. This might contain product and service details to help customers choose, or have lots of tools, calculators and guides.
  • An ecommerce facility that allows customers to purchase goods and services directly from the site.

The decision on which to go for will depend on what your micro-business provides and what customers are looking for.

For more details on how a micro-business can use and develop a website read Websites and the Micro-business.

Search Engine Marketing

Search engine Marketing (SEM) is the name given to the techniques involved in helping your micro-business to be found via search engines. There are two aspects to it:

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) which is aimed at helping the site display in a high position in search engines such as Google. This is sometimes called ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ search.

Pay-per-click (PPC) which is paying a search engine to rank highly. Sometimes also called ‘paid search’ or ‘Sponsored Links’, it differs from natural search because the search engine needs to be paid for it, whereas you don’t with natural search.

Both techniques can be used at different times. SEO is considered to be the ideal as nothing has to be paid to the search engine for it, but it is a time-consuming process with no guarantee of success. It also requires a degree of expertise so you may have to pay a search engine specialist to do it for you. PPC is instant and you can choose where you want to appear on the search engine lists, if you’re willing to pay enough.

You can read more about Search Engine Marketing techniques in Search Engine Optimisation and Pay-per-Click Advertising.

Promoting Your Website

You can’t assume that your website will attract lots of visitors and generate sales for you just because you’ve created it. You will have to spend time and effort developing and promoting it, so think through how important online marketing is before you embark on it.

Assuming you do want online to play a significant role in the development of your micro-business, you might want to consider the following, in addition to Search Engine Marketing:

Offline marketing. Many people find out about websites from sources such as product packaging or newspaper advertising. Make sure that your website address – the url – is displayed prominently on everything you do.

Social Media. This is much more than just Facebook and you will have to think through whether social media activity is worth it or not. You can read more about how a micro-business might use it in Social Media and the Micro-business.

Affiliate Marketing. Affiliates are other companies that promote your offering on their website. The website you are reading contains affiliate marketing on the right hand side. Companies that have products and services suitable for micro-businesses can advertise by producing an advert which is then displayed on this site next to where I discuss the type of product or service they have to offer. You could promote your micro-business offering in the same way. This area is explored further in Affiliate Marketing.

Mobile Devices. Most websites are designed to be viewed on desktop computers, but many people actually view them on much smaller devices, such as smartphones, iPhones and tablets. If your customers are likely to do this then it makes sense to optimise your site for mobile viewing, which is explored further in Adapting for Mobiles and Tablets.

Analytics. Online activities are very measurable and give the micro-business the ability to track the success of different activities. Ways of doing this are explored in Using Google Analytics.

The first step in developing anything online is to decide the role it needs to play in your overall micro-business marketing approach. The article Customer Purchasing Processes can provide guidance on this. Then you can explore and develop any individual areas required.