Making the transition to online business is sometimes difficult and can leave small business owners with a ton of questions. However, as 78 percent of North Americans are Internet users, the investment is likely to be a worthwhile one -- as long as a few simple things are kept in mind.
1. Be sure to have adequate hosting services
If you earn revenue online and your website crashes, customers will not be able to buy your product and revenue stops. However, power outages and Internet catastrophes happen, so it is important to be prepared in the event it happens.
Make sure your hosting service is considered in your overall business plan, and do your best to pick a reputable and honest company, something that is done more easily with research. Also be sure to get in touch with an IT professional who is willing to work on retainer, this way you ensure that no what what caused the outage, it will be quickly fixed.
The most important step to protecting your business during a website outage happen before anything goes wrong. Always keep an up-to-date backup of your website on hand. One way to do this is by using 3rd party backup software like Site Vault, which even has a scheduling function that makes it easier to plan your backups.
2. Be sure to take advantage of online deal programs
Online deal websites have grown explosively over the past few years, and with good reason "bring in the money" and are set to continue to expand rapidly in the years to come. Advertising Age, what many consider to be the Bible of the advertising industry, estimates that 87 percent of online shoppers use online coupons and Nielsen, a research company, has reported that 60 percent of shoppers actively look for coupons. In eras past, these coupons were found in newspapers or magazines; however, the digital age is a bit different.
Online Coupon databases, like Save1.com or Groupon.com, have become extemely popular for customers and profitable for businesses. These sites open your business up to a huge number of new customers that may not have found your site otherwise and many marketing managers feel that this makes the investment worthwhile.
3. Be sure to always keep your content in mind
Putting content on your site is an obvious step when building a website; however, as Google becomes smarter and more self-aware, it is important that small business websites are updated with fresh content at regular intervals.
Additionally, Google considers relevant and helpful content extremely valuable; especially after the latest algorithm updates. Use your content to demonstrate your expertise in your industry and become a resource for customers using things like a blog, FAQ page, or how-to guides. Another thing to consider is multimedia content like videos, infographics, ebooks as this could potentially go viral and catch the attention of new customers.
4. Be sure to build relevant links
Link building is a pseudo-science at best; however, when done correctly link building is one of the best ways to build a thriving online business. Once again, relevancy is the most important thing to consider when building links - always be sure that your link makes sense in the context of surrounding content and on the site your business is partnering with. If there is no connection between your site and the domain you are linking to, plan to put that link somewhere else.
Another important aspect of link building is to stay up-to-date on trends and Google's algorithm updates. There are countless resources on the Internet, like SEOmoz, that can provide information and tips to webmasters of every skill level.
5. Be sure to collect and catalogue your data
One of the biggest advantages of online commerce is the ability to collect customer data and use this to inform your business strategy. These tools, like Google Analytics or Bing Webmaster Tools, can collect information on users' search history that can give business great insight into customer interest and preference. Additionally, sales programs like Magento Enterprise, can track sales data and classify customers based on their purchasing decisions.
However, data is most effective when tracked over time, so be sure to monitor trends and track them. Pay particular attention to how your business data responds to different marketing strategies and website updates because those changes in data will ultimately be the key in understanding and growing your online business.
Follow Drew Hendricks on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrewAHendricks