Although we live in a digital age, it is estimated that nearly 90% of U.S and Canadian commerce stores are selling their products and services in physical stores. Only 10% make up the total online retail sales following 2021. Brick and Mortar businesses still remain king, but the widespread shift of online shopping is becoming more and more apparent.
The pandemic has definitely been a factor when it comes to forcing smaller businesses to shift their operations online as they struggled to have their stores open. However, with areas opening up, businesses have still decided to pivot their time and efforts towards the online e-commerce side. If there is anything that the pandemic has taught us, it is that we need to expand and diversify our business in order to stay competitive and accessible.
So if you’re a small business owner, how do you start to make that switch to online? Well here are some easy and cheaper ways for you to get yourself started so you can set the foundation of your business in full display.
Create a Website Online
You can’t present anything to your customers without having information to communicate between the buyer and sellers. This is where a website comes in. Not only is it cheap and affordable, but also very easy to manage and optimize your changes through website builders and content management systems.
From here you can reach new audiences with content such as blogs, or build an e-commerce website where you can sell your products and services online. In order for you to create a website, here are some things you need to do first.
- Pick a Website Platform: WordPress: Also known as a website content management system (CMS), WordPress lets you use tools easily to edit your site without knowing any coding. The benefits to WordPress is that it is very beginner friendly, easy to use, fast and optimized, and very versatile while being relatively cheap. Studies show that 35% of users use WordPress compared to all the other website platforms.
- Choose a Domain name and Web Hosting: Deciding on what company you want to web host your plan is very simple. There are thousands of companies out there, but some good ones to use are Bluehost, Hostgator, and GoDaddy. From here you can choose a plan that ranges from basic prices like $2.95/month to more advanced plans that are $9.95/month. During this process, you will be able to register a domain name for your website and have the web host install WordPress for you.
- Customize your website online: Now that you have your website, it is time to customize it to your business or preference. The good thing about WordPress is that you can change the way your website looks with a simple click from themes. A theme is the overall style, feel and look of your website which includes the colors, elements, and layouts. Here you will be able to customize your website that represents your brand or business.
Once you are finished customizing your website, it is up to you to decide on what you want your website to include. This can be from content such as blogs and infographics to e-commerce pages which include what products or services are available to sell.
Online SEO: Search Engine Optimization
So you put a lot of time into your website and focused on creating quality content. But you’re not receiving many visits. What can you do to improve the frequency in traffic to your website? Search Engine Optimization is the perfect way to answer that question.
So what is Search Engine Optimization? Well it is a digital marketing strategy where you optimize or improve your website to rank higher on the search result page like Google. The more relevant it is to the search result page, the more organic clicks and traffic you will get from potential customers looking for your content.
So think of it like this. You own a coffee shop with premium beans in Toronto. Well there are thousands of shops who sell coffee just like you. So when you search for coffee, the chances of your website appearing in the results page is next to nothing. By utilizing SEO, you will gain a higher chance to appear in the results page compared to before.
So now that we know why SEO is so important. How do we get started to optimize our website? Well there are 2 types of SEO: On page and Off page SEO.
Before we go on and talk about the different types of SEO, we first need to address keyword queries. Keywords are essential to SEO strategies because they are relevant words that people search for when looking for information online.
Keywords can be inserted in everything you do online like the website, the content in the website, meta description, title tag, and even your ads and social media campaigns.
On page SEO
So we want to start with on page SEO, because it refers to increasing the quality of your website and in return will increase the relevancy and traffic from search engine users. This basically means that you are fixing your website in order to welcome more people to find it on search engines like Google.
There are many different elements that can be optimized with On page SEO, but we want to first pay our attentions to things we can see like the Title Tag, Meta Description and Headers. The reason I mentioned how essential keywords are is because you want to insert those queries into the elements mentioned. Meta description refers to the summary of what your webpage is about and the Title Tag is the title of that webpage.
If the content on your website is blogs or infographics about certain topics or even products, be sure to insert keyword queries that are relevant as well. This will ensure that you will gain more traffic as users will be looking for information relevant to your content.
Off Page SEO
After optimizing your website with on page SEO, you will want to follow up with off page SEO. This is a technique that promotes your product or website through links. The 2 types of links are inbound links and outbound links.
Inbound is when other websites are linking users back to your site. This could be achieved with good content that other websites would like to use.
Outbound is when you are linking users to other websites that you are referencing. This is usually out of courtesy or if it benefits the end user.
Social Media Marketing
Now that your website is optimized, it is time to spread your brand awareness to social media. This will create a more personal approach to your audience and be able to interact with them on a personal level. At the same time, you will also be able to advertise your brand, bring awareness and send them to your website.
To start, you will need to plan what type of social media channels you want to cover. Many channels have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to advertising and engaging their audience. The most popular channels that you can start with are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. The good news is that all of these social media platforms are easy to register and use so you can start posting.
If you decide that you want to use all social media platforms but don’t have time to post everyday, here is a simple solution. Social media automation tools. With this tool, you can schedule posts weeks ahead and all together so you don’t have to post them all individually. Some great automation tools to use are Buffer, Hootsuite and Heropost.
The digital world of marketing is increasing everyday. Because of this, people are aware and are adapting to the changes of this day and age. By increasing our visibility to online, we also increase the chance to get ahead and stay accessible no matter the situations. The steps shown aren’t everything, and there is a variety of digital marketing channels that you can still explore to become a better business online. With that being said, these steps are a great foundation for anyone to start their business online.