Like anything in life, those first few steps into a new passion project or business venture can be the scariest and most fulfilling all at the same time. You've decided to pursue your dreams and you're taking the steps needed to get it off the ground. Good for you.
If this is the path you're on, the day will come when you decide to put yourself out there and your first thought might be to build a website and promote yourself online.
Follow along as we do our best to shed some light on what you need to do to put your best foot forward online.
Less is More
First off, remember that less is more. It's so easy to get wrapped up and distracted by the latest and greatest the internet has to offer. There are always new social platforms popping up and the number of productivity tools and CRMs out there seems never ending. This can create a real fear of missing out, but do we really need to be in every space all the time to be effective? Can we even afford it? The answer is no. At least not in the beginning.
The best thing you can do when you're starting out online is narrow your focus and choose a few platforms or channels to master.
Before you choose, think about who your ideal customers are and consider the channels that you would expect them to use.
The truth of the matter is this. It costs money to expand into new advertising and marketing channels and there will be a period of experimentation. For that reason, it's best to start small and scale up as you learn what works for your business. The last thing you want to do is direct money and resources at something that's not working.
Automate and Delegate
Automate the things that you can and delegate what you can't. This one is especially important for many small and medium sized business owners and entrepreneurs.
To keep your operating costs down, you over extend yourself by wearing too many hats and you're not able to do all of them effectively. This negatively impacts the parts of your job that you usually do well. It's hurting your business and you can't figure out how to stop the leaks. You've become a jack of all trades, master of none.
If this sounds like it could be you, take a second and think about what tools might exist that can help you do your job. For instance, can you automate a portion of the emails you're sending out every day? What about your lead generation? Are there automated advertising channels that you can use to augment the cold calls that consume your day?
As much as you can, find ways to use automation to your advantage. If you can't think of any, you should seek outside help. At the very least, you'll save the tuition that you would have paid in lost sales trying to figure it out for yourself. Plus, the odds of getting a return on your investment will go up. Significantly.
See our 6 Steps to Getting Organized Online below!
1. Setup Google Analytics
How do you know if your efforts are paying off online? You have to measure it. This may seem obvious to most people, but you wouldn't believe the number of websites I've worked with that didn't have some type of analytics setup. Whether you're running an eCommerce store, a blog, forum or any other type of website, setup a free Google Analytics account and link your website to it.
Google Analytics is your window into how people are finding your website, and how they're interacting with it. Its basic setup (out of the box) will tell you how many people are coming to your site, what pages they're looking at and how much time they're spending. It'll also give you some useful demographic information like gender, age and location that you can use to fine tune your marketing.
You can also discover how people reached your website by looking at your traffic sources in Google Analytics. Traffic sources can give you a better idea of what marketing channels are working and which ones are not.
There are 6 traffic sources:
Direct traffic comes from users that know your website's address and type it directly into the address bar at the top of the internet browser. A user might have discovered your website address from a business card or perhaps they heard it on the radio.
Organic traffic represents the users that come to your website from a search engine (excluding users that clicked on paid ads). A user might search for a product or service or a branded term to discover one of your webpages.
Referral traffic comes from the hyperlinks on other websites that link to pages on your website.
Social traffic comes from users that visit your website after clicking on links shared on or across social media platforms.
Email traffic comes from users that visit your website after clicking on links shared in emails.
Paid traffic comes from pay-per-click campaigns that you can run on ad platforms like:
These platforms are used to place targeted ads in front of users on search engines, other websites and on social media sites.
We'll circle back to paid ads later in the article.
2. Configure Google Analytics
With more sophistication, you can setup custom tracking to record the various interactions people have on your site. This step can be a bit challenging for newcomers, but it's well worth the effort or the cost to have someone set it up for you.
An interaction can be any number of things, but most importantly:
Lead form submissions
I can't stress the importance of this enough. You really need to track how people are coming to your website and how they're interacting with it.
It'll help you understand which online marketing and advertising channels are profitable and which ones are not. This hyper-focus is critical for anyone that's bootstrapping a business or has very lean budget early on.
3. Create Content to Build Trust and Authority
Right off the bat, you'd be doing yourself a favour if you make a habit of creating and publishing new content to your website on a regular basis. This is the core of content marketing.
I'm not talking about adding content to the four or five pages that make up the main part of your website. Although, those pages are very important. I'm talking about setting up a blog and possibly a newsroom depending on the type of business you have.
A blog is a great place to add content that will showcase your knowledge on particular topics that are relevant to your customers. Doing this will help you build trust and authority for your business. The goal is to convey that you're a subject matter expert in your field.
Why would you do this?
This will help you build trust and authority with your customers, which will undoubtedly help you to sell your services or products.
You will also get more traffic to your website, and the more you get, the more likely you are to make a sale. It's that simple.
Search engines like Google love content and their sole purpose is to connect people with information they're looking for. So think of the pages on your website as fishing hooks. The more hooks you have in the water, the more likely you are to catch a fish.
Start by creating content that answers questions that you think your customers would have about topics related to your business. Do that consistently and after some time you'll notice a steady stream of prequalified users coming to your website.
Content marketing takes time, but it's well worth the effort and expense. It can take up to six months for a page to climb the search results before its true potential is realized. After that though, the traffic you get every month compounds and before you know it, that article you wrote will have paid for itself 10 times over.
Keep your writing simple and limit the jargon to reach a larger audience
The more content you provide, the more likely people are to revisit your website
Frequency matters - you want to be predictable, so choose a posting frequency and do your best to stick to it
4. Use effective Calls to Action (CTA)
A Call to Action is a prompt you give site visitors to take a desired action on your website. You must ask them, or compel them even, to sign up for your newsletter or download a copy of a report. Otherwise, they simply won't do it.
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The most effective CTA's use strong value propositions up front to entice people to give up their contact information. A free trial, or some other no-risk CTA is a perfect example.
Your CTA's should also be strategically placed across the website in a manner that doesn't destroy the user's experience. That means forgoing the popup that fires the second someone comes to your website, nobody will appreciate that.
5. Email Marketing
One online marketing channel that is often overlooked early on, but shouldn't be, is email marketing. You don't want to miss any opportunity to start engaging with your customers by email. The sooner it's setup the quicker you'll be able to capitalize on what is considered to be the most effective online marketing channel there is.
The easiest way to do this is to use an email automation tool. Email automation allows you to send single emails or a series of emails to subscribers after they trigger them. For instance, a site visitor that subscribes to your email list might be automatically sent a welcome email, thanking them for signing up. Or perhaps you take it a bit further and send a series of three or four emails that are timed to send a few days apart after they're triggered. Each email might describe another benefit of using your product or service. This is called onboarding, and it's effective.
There are so many advantages and benefits of using email automation that we highly recommend that you make it a priority right out of the gate.
There are different types of email marketing campaigns to choose from. The ones you choose to run with will depend on the type of business you have.
Here are some typical email marketing campaigns:
6. Pay for Leads
Last but not least, the quicker you realize that you're going to need to pay for leads, the better off your business will be. Of course, everyone wants the easy, free traffic, but those days are long gone.
The online marketplace is highly competitive and the space is setup in a way that favours the established and most trustworthy websites.
A solid content marketing strategy will gradually help you to improve your authority and with it, your page rankings in the SERP over time. But that won't keep the lights on in the beginning.
What will keep the lights on is an effective, highly targeted pay-per-click campaign. I always recommend starting with Google first, since it's the largest and most used search engine in the world. Once you find success on one and you've scaled it up, move onto another.
Search campaigns allow you to put your webpages in front of people in your target market that are searching for your products and services now. No other online advertising channel offers the same connection to in market buyers. Basically, you pay to be on the first page of the search results for phrases that you think will be profitable for your business.
If you stuck with us until the end, good for you. Having a website simply isn't enough if you want to be competitive online. The best thing you can do right off the hop is narrow your focus. Do a few things really well instead of trying to do many things poorly. That means:
Get your website connected to some sort of analytics tool. Google Analytics is free and it's robust
Setup custom tracking on your website. That way you'll be able to see how people are coming to your website and how they're interacting with it in Google Analytics
Write engaging content that resonates with your target market as often as you can.
Make sure your website has strong Calls to Action
Use email automation to your advantage
Pay for leads. Start with Google Ads and scale your campaigns up before you move onto the next platform.