Find out how to strengthen your website, sharpen your SEO and keep your customers happy

Top ten ways to boost your business online

In today’s digital age, making small changes to your web strategy could have a massive impact on site traffic and sales.

PCR speaks to search engine optimisation and marketing experts for their advice.

1. Strengthen your website
“When you’re marketing a business digitally, your first priority should be the platforms and the channels that you control,” Peter McCormack, partner at web agency McCormack & Morrison, tells PCR.

“The first thing you should do is make sure you have a really good website, with optimised content, so people can find you by searching for the terms relevant to your business. And the site must be mobile-friendly now. You’ve got to be producing really good content which is relevant to your industry.”

Dolphin Upgrades’ Lorelei Gibb agrees: “The way Google is moving, the fine art of SEO is beginning to play second fiddle to quality content.”

If you don’t have a website, you can buy domain names and hosting for a relatively small amount online and use services like WordPress to create a basic site. However, employing the services of an agency or designer can pay dividends. Writing a regular blog can also help.

2. Keep your links close
Linkdex’s John Straw urges businesses to build relationships with organisations with both credibility and authority. For example, a link from your local university may provide a boost to your Google ranking.

McCormack says: “That is helpful, but link-building is something that Google isn’t keen on. If somebody links to you who isn’t relevant to your business, Google will just kind of ignore it.

“What they want are links from good sources that are relevant to you. So, for example, if you’re a
PC vendor you’ll want a link from PC World.”

Overclockers UK marketing manager Mark Purdy adds:“We work closely with review websites, supplying them with exclusive items which can only be purchased from us. This means we are present on many ‘where to buy’ links across the net, giving us a wide reach.”

3. Sharpen your SEO
Nichola Stott, founder of SEO (search engine optimisation) agency, offers these words of wisdom: “Make sure your site is being crawled by searchbots effectively. Invest in the Screaming Frog SEO Spider tool which crawls your site, mimicking Googlebot behaviour, and reports back.

“Fix 404 (file not found) errors. These can occur naturally as content getting archived or deleted, but become roadblocks for crawlers.

“Re-point your 301 redirects – if you have added multiple re-directs to your website, you risk leaking equity. Go back and change the link reference so that it points cleanly to the new URL.

“Check your URL parameters – search engines can struggle with some sites that have parametered URLs.

“Finally, use a tool like CopyScape to see if there is any plagiarism of your content on the web. If there is, refresh your content, or, if you hold copyright, you may prefer to file a DMCA report.

4. Keep your customers happy
“It is more important than ever to get your social media strategy spot on,” says Hama’s marketing manager Simon Buckingham.“A humorous picture along with a witty brand message can go a long way. Don’t leave it days before your next post – be consistent.

“The most important thing above all is to analyse what is best for your company. Start monitoring competitors, see what is and isn’t working for them and replicate the best practices.”

Gibb adds that too many companies use social media to broadcast all about themselves – give value or people won’t listen.

Entatech marketing executive Suzanne McNicholas comments: “Over the past year we’ve increased our number of followers by 550 per cent by utilising social media.

“We tend to tweet four to five times a day, ensuring that important messages are sent near peak times. Know your audience, know that you don’t need to be serious all the time and be sociable. Acknowledge mentions with a reply, retweet or favourite where applicable.”

5. Be smart with social media
While social media can be useful, be mindful of how you use it.

McCormack says that a Facebook page’s posts are seen by just five to 12 per cent of its followers. To get a larger audience, you have to pay.

“A Facebook page is inside a platform, so you don’t control it, you don’t own the data and you don’t own the customer,” he says.

Gibb suggests not posting the same messages on all your accounts at the same time, as it can put followers off. She adds that it is better to skip updates than to post rubbish, and to respond to your customers.

However, Purdy warns: “Be careful of turning social media into a point of contact for support. We’re happy to deal with customer requests, but we run a webnote system for sales queries, which we urge customers to use.”

6. Give away free stuff
By running competitions, distributor Entatech has seen its follower count soar, with a 75 per cent retention rate after competitions end.

“Competitions on Twitter and Facebook are one of the most effective ways to gain followers,” says McNicholas.“For these to be effective it’s important to repeat the message throughout the competition timescale but by keeping the entry time short at around two weeks, urgency – and hungry winners – will follow.”

But Buckingham warns: “Try not to overdo competitions – we have found there is a large increase in people who scour social media for competitions. While these look like they are helping your brand, the reality is when you stop the competitions, they will not be interested and will unfollow. Figure out what type of audience you want, and provide content that you know will suit them.”

7. Think outside the box
There isn’t really a ‘one size fits all’ online solution. Why not experiment by trying out some emerging platforms and embracing different technology?

For example, Google Helpouts connects people who need help with those who can give advice – you.

Video can explain a product to customers, and give you another web traffic source. However, avoid the effort of trying to force viral popularity.

McCormack says: “I don’t want to give people hope that they will make a viral video, because it’s rare.”

8. Set up a PPC campaign
Arranging pay-per-click advertising with Google AdWords or Bing can help drive more traffic to your site. Polly Pospelova, head of search at explains how to get the most out of a small budget:“Analyse and avoid negative keywords using Google Keyword Planner or Google search. If you are selling ‘used computers’ in the UK, type it into Google and predictive search will show you the terms most closely associated with your query.

"Also, make sure you target the areas your business operates in. To do this in Google Adwords, go to ‘Settings’, ‘All Settings’ and then ‘Locations’.

“Choose devices and channels that are right for you. Set the date range to the last two to three months, go to ‘Campaigns’ and segment your data by ‘Network’ or ‘Device’. If your cost per conversion is much higher or there are no conversions from a particular device, I would recommend not to show your ads on that device.

“Use remarketing in search ads – this option lets you show ads in Google search results to users who previously visited your website but didn’t convert.

“Eliminate ineffective keywords and ad groups. Go into your account, set the date range to the last two to three months and sort keywords or ad groups by cost in descending order. If cost is greater than or equal to the average cost per conversion, then pause that keyword.”

9. You’ve got mail
McCormack comments: “You should always be collecting email data and emailing your customers.”

Email marketing lets you reach thousands of your own customers – even millions – in a very short space of time at little cost. You can also pay to send your messages to external email databases.

“Through the use of catchy, attention grabbing subject lines and artwork, we receive fantastic results from our e-shots with a 13 per cent open rate and an eight per cent click-through rate,” adds McNicholas.“We limit the number of e-shots we send to our customers to a maximum of five per week and are conscious to only communicate news and offers that are appealing and offer added value.”

10. Put yourself on the Map
Using Google’s ‘Places for Business’ tool will add your store or business to Google Search, Maps, Google+ and mobile devices, letting customers easily find you.

“You should be using Google Local,” advises McCormack.“Create a local listing then put it into Google Maps. You should also have a Google+ account and link that back to your website.”

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