Accurately measuring the size of the ever-changing world wide web is an impossible task. In 2008 it is estimated that some five exabytes of unique information was created – that’s about one billion DVD’s in the real world. Fast forward three years and we are creating 1.2 zettabytes – one zettabyte is equal to 1,024 exabytes or 2 to the 70th power or, now take a breath – 1,180,591,620,717,411,303,424 bytes. So with this kind of activity you would think most businesses would want to be a part of it yet in Australia a recent MYOB survey found that nearly two thirds (64 percent) of small to medium businesses don’t even have their own website. Add to this the fact that three quarters (75 percent) don’t use social media for business purposes and we have to wonder if Australia is getting a little left behind in the digital age.
Creating an effective online presence isn’t rocket science nor is it expensive. Getting online is a key strategy for any business to attract new customers, build customer loyalty, create new revenue streams and increase visibility, credibility and above all a competitive edge.
Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in April last year revealed that the number of internet subscribers in Australia has climbed to 10.4 million – a 10 percent increase on the previous six months. So whether you have a website or not, here are five ways for you to create and maintain an effective online presence …
1. Online content is king
Your website is an extension of your brand so make sure first and foremost that your web content correctly communicates your brand message.
What’s unique about your business in the traditional offline world is even more important in the online world. To find your website most people will ‘search’ for you on Google or other search engines – when a user enters a query their machines search the index for matching pages and return the results they believe are the most relevant to the user determined by over 200 factors.
Keep your content concise, targeted to your market and use plenty of keywords that will help search engines find you – search engines like ‘quality’ not ‘quantity’ when it comes to content on your site.
2. Search Engine Optimisation
Being an effective online player is not about having a complicated website – it’s about enabling your business to be found easliy. There has been enormous growth in the number of Australians contributing to and relying on online reviews, discussions, comments and social media ‘Likes’ before making a purchase – it is believed around two thirds of consumers search the internet before making any purchasing decision. So it’s important not just to have a website but to also be found easily. One way you can do this is with ‘search engine optimisation’ which can help increase your page ranking. You can start with shared and relevant links – in simple terms, each (quality) link to a page on your site from another site adds to your site’s PageRank.
Next according to Google, 1 out of 7 search queries are happening from mobile devices and expected to grow this year to 1 in 5 – so create a ‘mobile website’ that is optimised specifically for mobile browsing. Finally, look at ‘pay for click’ search engine marketing like Google AdWords that allow you to bid for prime positions on popular search phrases that are relevant to your business.
3. Engage with your market
Having potential customers find you on the web is just the beginning. Instead of simply ‘bouncing off’ your home page you need to get your online visitors engaged. Create ‘hooks’ and ‘links’ on your home page that draw your audience in and drive them to your social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Social media growth in Australia has continued to take the headlines, with Facebook leading the way. The social media kingpin announced last August that it had 9.5 million subscribers in Australia where 1 in 4 Australians ‘Like’ or interact with a brand on Facebook on a weekly basis – according to Stat Counter that accounts for about 65 percent of internet social media use in Australia.
Having people ‘talk about you online’ will help your search engine ranking immensely it also improves your presence on the web – for example, a Facebook or LinkedIn company page will always rank well when people search for your company or business brand.
4. Monitor and control a negative online presence
Having an online presence is good if it’s positive but how do you stop any negative publicity finding its way to the surface? First and foremost make sure you have all of your social media profiles up to date and completed as these will rank you well on the net – you then need to monitor messages posted to your wall, inappropriate picture tags or tweets and so on to make sure activity is positive and on-brand. Increase your online presence by contributing to blogs and submitting articles to online publications as this will be favoured by search engines and also add credibility to your brand.
5. Drive the offline world to your online world
You can help your online presence by promoting it across all your traditional media using tools like the QR or Quick Response code. This version of the bar code allows users to scan a business card or flyer with their smart phone and be taken instantly to a web page, video file or form to complete. Another driver in the online world is the development of ‘apps’ – promoting an app across your offline marketing can help drive increased traffic to your website and boost your online presence. Of their estimated 500,000 apps Apple announced earlier this year over 25 billion downloads had been recorded from their App Store.