SMEs can survive with a basic website on a single domain, but here’s why your business needs to prioritise your online presence in the new financial year.

 

Business websites: Critical, and tax-deductible

It’s the time of year when you examine your books and consider the deductions you can claim against your business’ tax liability. One of the significant deductions you can claim is costs associated to marketing, including your business website.

According to Forbes, 97% of people search for local businesses online. So if you don’t have a website with a reasonable search engine rank, you’re only selling to 3% of your local market.

Consider the money you’ve invested into your online presence this year. Does it reflect the fact that more than 9 out of 10 of your prospects are looking for you on Google?

 

Lessons from the physical world

Online marketing and sales is a relatively young concept, and as such it can be daunting to sellers. I find it helpful to remember that many of the systems are the same as physically visiting a high street or shopping centre:

  • Shops need to be visible, with effective signage.
  • Shops with good displays entice you to come inside and look further.
  • Some chains have multiple stores so that shoppers can find them easily in different areas.
  • Putting up appropriate signage can increase interest.

Translating these factors into the virtual shopping world, we learn some useful lessons.

 

Be visible

A shop that can’t be seen by passing shoppers is not likely to generate too many sales. In the same way, if people can’t find your website, they won’t buy from you. Get a logical and simple domain name and invest money into effective search engine optimisation.

The algorithms used by Google are updated from time to time. If you are outsourcing, make sure you find a professional who stays up to date with the changes in SEO or you’ll be burning your money.

 

Look attractive

Quite simply, a nice look will make people want to buy from you. People make opinions of your business in under a second, so make sure the first thing they see is attractive and enticing.

Investing in good copywriting and graphic design is essential. Prospects may browse your site as they would when window shopping in the high street, but you want to entice them to step inside and consider your product.

Having said that, it’s not all about being pretty. When it comes to graphic design, the key is psychology, not just pictures. A good web designer understands what is going on in a person’s mind when they view your site and can create accordingly.

 

Consider multiple storefronts

The odd advice that many web marketing experts offer these days is that purchasing multiple domain names for your business is a necessary investment.

There are good reasons for purchasing multiple domains, such as protecting your trademark and pleasing the search engines. For now though, let’s consider the most obvious.

If your website is like a virtual shop, then the more addresses (storefronts) you have, the easier it is for your customers to find you. In addition to “yourbusinessname-dot-com”, consider URLs that describe your product or service. Some businesses even go so far as to register misspelled versions of their site’s address to increase the likelihood of being found.

 

Signage

While you’re shopping for those domains, keep this little-known detail in mind: Google, Bing and Yahoo all like it when your key words are in your domain name.

A shopper knows exactly what products will be for sale in a store called The Gadget Shop. In the same way, the search engines realise that someone searching for “clever gadgets” will probably find what they need at www.clever-gadgets.com, so this site will be placed high in the search results.

 

A pricey package? Not necessarily.

When you consider all the elements, it’s not surprising that so many small business owners feel reluctant to start shelling out on web design. Remarkably, more than half of American SMEs feel so paralysed that they don’t bother to build a website at all.

The good news is that it doesn’t need to be expensive. There are skilled people out there who can offer affordable web design. Find someone who can work with your budget, and remember that the money you do spend is an investment, not an expense. Without it, you’re missing 97% of prospective buyers.

A barebones site you construct for yourself may not dent your ledger. Then again, a properly constructed web presence should pay for itself many times over. Given that your advertising investments are tax deductible, which is the better way for your business? Will you invest a little more this financial year?