There is no denying the fact that the Internet is at the centre of everything we do. From the way we communicate with others to the way we consume media – even the way we decide what services we want to use. It has become a common phrase to ‘Google it’. Now, with the invention of smart home devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, our connection to the internet has never been stronger. For businesses, this means having a presence online is essential to success. The problem is that the Internet is so saturated with business websites, it can often be challenging to make your voice heard through all the incessant Internet chatter.
But when more than 80% of sales enquiries begin with an online search, it is now more important than ever to be visible in the online world. So how do you stand out, gain visibility and use the internet to increase your sales?
Where Are All Your Customers?
Since the Internet was first invented in the 1980’s, businesses have been using it to promote their services to the world. You see, that’s the brilliant thing about the Internet – it connects people from all across the world, uniting people of different cultures, languages and creeds in a single common goal – knowledge.
But the problem is that there are millions of businesses out there (in fact, there are more than 5.5 million small businesses in the UK alone - that's over 99% of all private sector businesses in the country). And almost 80% of those businesses will have a website. That’s an awful lot of competition for a small business owner like you.
We refer to this phenomenon as ‘saturation’. In terms of Internet marketing, saturation means that you are unable to find new prospects to sell to, because everybody has already purchased the product or service that you’re offering. It can also be used in terms of market share – i.e. there are so many other businesses offering exactly what you offer that the odds of being found and chosen probably seem astronomically small. It is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out in such a saturated market. Futhermore, there has been a lot of discussion over the past few years around whether we have reached saturation point – with online marketing, with social media, with the Internet. And yet new businesses seem to keep coming up and ramming their shoulders in, making sure we take notice despite the ever-increasing struggle of being found online.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel though, and that’s the continued growth of the Internet’s user base. There are already over 2.3 billion people online, and more are joining every second. Research suggests that an average of 8 new people join the Internet every second, which equates to:
- 474 new users per minute.
- 28,476 new users per hour.
- 683,443 new users per day.
- 4,784,103 new users per week.
- 19,136,415 new users per month.
So it seems user base isn’t an issue when it comes to Internet exposure. Instead, the downside of the digital saturation problem is that it can be incredibly difficult for the new upcoming businesses to make any sort of impression online. Without the proper knowledge and tools, it’s like dropping a coin into an arcade machine and hoping to win the big prize. Your hard-earned money filters down into a container full of identical coins, and the machine that is online marketing gives you a few chances to win the grand prize of the user purchase. If you don’t manage to grab the furry toy or new gadget in the time period, that’s it, game over.
Competition is rife online, and you need to be ready to meet it.
And therein lies the problem. There are very few businesses in the world offering something truly unique. There will be dozens if not hundreds of businesses offering exactly the same thing as you are. For example – a Google search for the term ‘web developer’ yields 54,100,000 results within 0.88 seconds. All of these businesses are clamouring for the attention of the customer on the other end of Google. Faced with those odds, how is your small business supposed to stand out?
What Can You Do to Help Your Business?
For big businesses with a lot of cash to throw around, exposure online has never been a problem. When you have a big enough budget, you can afford to try so many things that a few of them around bound to stick. However for small businesses, the money pot is a lot smaller, which makes them very careful about what they do spend their money on. Unfortunately, it often isn’t spent on online exposure – something that could ultimately generate them a huge amount of business and present a very healthy ROI. Small business can miss out on online exposure for a number of reasons, including:
- Lack of budget
- No awareness of online presence
- Lack of tracking and measuring online traffic/activity
- Lack of knowledge
Notice how none of those things were ‘being overshadowed by bigger businesses’? This is due to for 2 reasons - 1) because it is such a wide pool that bigger businesses aren’t always interested in the smaller customers, and 2) because there has been a cultural shift in recent years away from buying from big conglomerates. Instead, customers are looking to buy local and support the smaller business where they can.
So what does online exposure mean, and how can you achieve it?
In simple terms, online exposure for your business translates into website traffic. Some of these visitors will then convert into prospects or sales for your business. But just having a website isn’t enough to get you the online exposure you need. Instead, you need to employ Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tactics to elevate your website up the search engines' rankings. The ultimate goal is an optimised, high performing website that can be seen by search engines, along with a truckload of online collateral that boosts your visibility at every turn.
Here's How You Fight Back
The 7 Keys to Success Online
The thing is, you don’t need to be unique to stand out online – you just need to be clever. Want to poke your head out above the saturated parapet and make a real impression? You just have to be smart about what you do online.
We're not going to tell you that you need to change your business to make it successful. Rather, we’re going to focus on what you can do online to make your business more visible, ergo, more successful. The way you run the rest of your business is frankly, your business - you know how to do it better than us. So, here are just a few tips we can share with you:
- Target Carefully
Businesses who succeed online rarely use a scattergun approach. Instead, they plan meticulously and have a precise target in mind. For smaller business, the key is to understand exactly who you want to find your website. Once you have a target, focus on making your website easily discoverable to them. For example, if you’re a builder, you will likely only work in certain geographical areas, so you will be able to target your online presence for that location. If you target a specific niche with your business, find out how they search. Figure out where they hang out online and then be there. This targeted approach means that you will see much better results with a much smaller investment.
- Set Yourself Up for Success
When it comes to online presence, there are some things you absolutely must do if you want to succeed. Businesses that don’t bother, or don’t know about these basic principles of online marketing are the ones to fail. Don’t be that business. For one, make sure your website is optimised to the hilt, preferably with the help of an SEO expert. These wonderful people can identify what terms the people you're targeting are actually searching for, and help you weave those key terms into your website so that it will be found. SEO should permeate through every part of your business' online presence.
- Be Prepared to Change
The Internet is a constantly evolving beast; those who aren’t ready or willing to evolve with it get left behind. The same goes for the search engines – the lifeblood of online marketing. For example, market leader Google has launched over 1,600 new changes to their search engine algorithm in the last year. These changes have subtly altered the way they find, qualify and rank the search results they show users. The businesses who succeed online are those who keep a close eye on the changes Google and other search engines make, implementing them as soon as they are launched. As a result, this puts you head-and-shoulders above the competition and additionally keeps your business up-to-date and ranking high.
- Look into Digital Remarketing
Ever wondered why adverts for something you were considering buying online last week have started littering every website you visit? That’s called digital remarketing and it’s an absolute must for businesses who are selling online. It’s a fairly simple tool. Marketers use it to continue the conversation and increase the likelihood of a sale. All it does is leave a specific cookie in any visitor’s web history. This cookie then tracks their web use and subsequently presents targeted ads – either for products they have viewed and not bought, or specific items of your choice. Most notably, this little tool means that users see your business name and products over and over again. Therefore, it's great for helping to spread brand awareness and increase sales online.
- Be Visible
If you want to have any sort of presence online, you need to make yourself visible. Get yourself listed in directories, set up a Google My Business listing and get on social media. This is especially relevant. The more ways you are present and engaging online, the higher the likelihood that you will be found. You don’t have to go mad and try to do everything at once (again, go back to the idea of targeting). Just choose a few things that align with your ideal customer’s behaviour and do them well. Every tweet you send, comment you post or blog you write will add another element to your online presence. This will consequently make it much easier to be found.
- Track and Measure
Not everything is going to work for every business. That's why, most of all, you need to pay attention to your online presence and success. For every new thing you do, ensure you are tracking its progress and measuring its success against your goals. You must also keep tabs on your general online presence. Measure the results; discover what's helping you get more exposure online, and what is wasting time for your brand. This means less spending less money on things that don’t work while spending more on successful exposure online.
- Enlist Experts
Try as we might, business owners simply can’t do everything on their own. That’s when it’s time to call in the experts. For every point we’ve made here, and every other element of digital marketing, there is an expert out there waiting to help you. Can’t afford an expert, or don’t want to outsource totally just yet? Invest in some tools that can help make your life easier and better promote your business.
As you can see, there is no secret magic formula to being found online. All it takes is knowing the right steps, implementing them properly and tracking their success. At My Website Solutions, we work with small businesses across the South. We help them gain more exposure online and present their business to the right kind of customers. With ongoing competitor analysis, detailed metrics and full management, small business owners can rest easy knowing their online visibility is in safe hands. We are your SEO experts. For more information, just visit My Exposure Solution, or get in touch with us today.