Market yourself online
For modern businesses, the internet offers some of the biggest marketing opportunities in the world. There are still businesses that are successful with very little online marketing, but if you want to make yourself visible and accessible to as many potential customers as possible then maintaining an effective online presence is essential.
Establishing your own website is one of the first steps you should take when looking to market yourself effectively through the world wide web. It needs to look professional but there is a lot of flexibility these days in web design so that you can set up a website that reflects your business with an image that matches your brand and gives a clear idea of what you are about. You also need to make sure some basic content is included on your site to give you the best chance of using it to bring in new business. If you want to promote your services and attract customers then you need to use the site to be able to succinctly and clearly explain what it is you do and tell people how to get in touch with you.
If you are a freelance web developer or a designer yourself then you may well have the skills to develop your own site, but remember that this will be seen as a key reflection of the quality of your work. The best web developers can charge tens of thousands of pounds or more but luckily there are ways for small businesses and sole traders to establish their own website without having to spend huge amounts of money. You may be able to negotiate affordable rates with personal contacts, or you can use low cost packages such as Wix, Squarespace or Wordpress to set up your own professional-looking website even with little or no experience.
Here are some tips you should keep in mind when designing your website to ensure that it is as effective as you can make it:
Keep things simple
It is better that your site looks clean and simple and is easy to navigate for users rather than bombarding them with information and gaudy images.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
You want to give would-be clients and customers the best chance of finding your site and giving it the best chance of featuring high up in Google and other search engine results is crucial to this. This is a vast and highly competitive topic but here are start points:
Include relevant keywords. Keywords are the phrases that people type into search engines when they are looking for a particular product of service. This may be ‘graphic designers Birmingham’ or ‘wedding photographers Glasgow’, so do some research using Google’s Keyword Tool to find out what your potential customers are searching for. You should then make sure these phrases (your keywords) are included in important sections of your website, such as a page describing your services. You should also include a selection of your keywords in the places such as meta titles and meta descriptions – these make up some of the code behind the website and are ‘crawled’ by search engine spiders when trying to establish what your site is ‘about’. Platforms such as Wordpress have tools that make it easy for you to enter elements such as meta titles to make it easier for Google to find your keywords.
Include regularly updated content. Content is the lifeblood of a website and Google will give higher rankings to websites that are updated regularly with fresh, unique content and content that is relevant to the subject matter of your website. A blog section on your site is one of the most popular ways to keep adding fresh content and helps show off your authority and knowledge about your industry.
Optimise your images. Google needs text to be able to search your site, but images can obviously enhance how it looks. Images are still searchable by Google but you need to make sure the image files have been given relevant and correct titles and that you have added meta descriptions and ‘alt’ tags to the images so that the search engine can ‘recognise’ them.
Show off testimonials
Your website is a great place to showcase the work you’ve done and tell people how pleased your previous clients were. This can be tricky if you’re just starting out but as soon as you have some satisfied customers then ask them if they would be happy to write a testimonial for you. Most people are happy to do this, especially as it also gives them a chance to show off their company name.
Collect contact details
Collecting data is a key aim of many websites, which is why you are often asked to fill out contact forms and input your email address when you visit certain sites. If you collect email addresses from people who visit your site then you can keep in touch with them, even if they don’t become customers straight away, and let them know about special offers or new services that they may be interested in.
Become an authority
Updating your site with useful articles, blog posts and how-to guides will help visitors find relevant information and encourage people to share links to your site. A website can be a platform for you to show off your expertise, helping to grow your reputation and impress some potential new clients.
Use your website address for consistent branding
Once you have chosen your domain name for your website, you should also use this domain name to set up a professional email address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org, instead of using generic free email addresses such as Hotmail or Gmail. This makes your company look more professional and helps maintain a consistent web presence for your services.
As well as setting up your own website, there are now many more platforms across the web where you can establish a visible presence that helps spread the word about your business and services.
Social networks are among the most popular sites in the world and many companies are successfully marketing to millions of customers every day through social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Some social networks appeal to specific industries too, such as Dribbble for designers and Pinterest for fashion professionals.
You can also maintain an authoritative presence on the web by joining discussions on forums relevant to your industry. By giving people advice or responding to queries you can build your reputation further and encourage people to contact you for professional guidance.
For more tips on using social networks to enhance your business, see this free guide to social media.