In 2015 e-commerce is continuing to outstrip retail in terms of sales turnover, and for a start-up online business, the great thing about web 2.0 is that not only can you see in real-time what your customers are enjoying and where they’re spending their time and money, you can also engage in direct interaction with customers via social media, getting valuable feedback and personalizing your company’s image.
Here are six ways you can make use of the online environment to increase your brand’s exposure.
Optimize your site
The number one tactic for online success is making sure your site is search engine optimized; after all, what’s the point in being online if no one can find you? To this end, there are a number of items to tick off your checklist. First off, it’s always best to have a local domain for each local site, preferably hosted in the target country, rather than having sub domains off your main site for each individual market. This is for credibility with your audience, but also because search engines rank local sites higher for local searches.
Naturally, you should make sure to have your keywords prominently displayed in headers, intro paragraphs and as META tags; but even more important is to make sure that you’re using the right keywords for your audience. This is especially true if you have sites in multiple languages; directly translating keywords rarely results in the most popular search term.
Research your keywords for each market with a keyword tool like Google, then incorporate a mix of the most popular keywords and more specific, long tail keywords of up to three words – for instance, if you’re selling car insurance, you’d want to use both “car insurance” and something more specific, such as “affordable car insurance USA”.
Lastly, make sure your site is regularly updated with new, relevant, original content that’s useful to your visitors; search engines are becoming increasingly sophisticated and able to recognize sites that are static or cheat with “copied and pasted” content, so if your site isn’t of genuine interest to visitors, it’s going to get the cold shoulder from Google.
Play the media game
A tried and tested method of getting your brand and message out there is to maintain a steady stream of press releases to news agencies detailing the latest developments in your business and industry. Similarly, it helps to be involved with the blogosphere RSS feeds, blogging both on your own site and writing guest posts and articles for relevant industry blogs and publications.
The aim of your articles should be to drive traffic back to your own website, but to do this they should be useful to the reader, authoritative and also entertaining. If you’re tackling localized audiences in different countries then it’s important to do your research beforehand to find out what the most popular and credible media outlets are in each local market.
In a similar vein, you might consider signing up as an expert on an advice site such as Yahoo Answers; if you’re able to answer a specific question related to your industry in the most detailed way, your answer will be the top pick, earning you instant free exposure.
Having a company presence on social media sites allows your company to interact immediately and directly with consumers, developing a personalized relationship with the people keeping you in business. In the case of instant-meme networks like Twitter, you can communicate new developments immediately to your followers and see the news spread organically across the web.
However, it’s important to make sure you’re using the right social network for your target audience. A bit of quick research is all that’s needed; for instance, if you want to enter the market in Hong Kong, then setting up a profile on blogging community Xanga.com is your best bet, or if you’re (bizarrely) looking at a joint marketing campaign targeting Brazil and Estonia then Orkut.com is your site.
The bread and butter of online marketing, AdWords (also known as pay-per-click advertising) are a simple way to make sure your company’s website achieves high visibility across Google and other relevant websites, and while you should always try to climb the rankings organically with clever SEO techniques (e.g. link-building), putting aside some budget spend for an AdWord campaign is a fast way to gain online visibility.
If you’re going to spend on banner advertising, it pays to make sure you’re placing your ads with the right websites for your target audience. Clothing company American Apparel is an excellent case in point for clever banner ad marketing; by carefully selecting the hippest Western music and youth culture blogs for their banner ads, the company has created a culture in which earning an American Apparel ad on one’s blog is a sign of credibility, rather than the blog giving the ad credibility.
Stay in touch
Once you get visitors to your site, make sure you stay in touch with them. Encouraging visitors to sign up for a regular e-zine or e-newsletter (in the relevant language, of course) with news and special offers will boost return traffic and your potential for future sales.