In his book Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Website, SEO and online marketing expert Jon Rognerud shows you how to build a high-performance website and get top ranking on all search engines. In this edited excerpt, the author reveals the five critical elements you need to have if you want your online business to succeed.
What are the key website success factors? Commonly accepted factors include the following five:
Brand or name recognition. When you're starting out, you won't have the advantage of a big name, unless you're successful enough to merge with an already established company. To build up your reputation, practice good business. For instance, make sure you respond to your customers' orders promptly. If you can't do it yourself, set up an autoresponder or hire a person to deal with orders. Offer rebates if the customer is dissatisfied with your product or service. Most of all, keep up a friendly persona. Generally, as the adage goes, the customer is always right. This isn't always an easy rule to live by, but it's important that a beginning business try as much as it can to observe it.
The more you do good business and the more you promote yourself, the more you'll get a name going in internet markets. The speed of information today can help or harm you. If you deliver terrible service, a blogger can write about his or her experience and within hours, your name and reputation can be decimated throughout cyberspace.
It's easy to track this via Google Alerts, or for instant updates, check search on Twitter. SocialMention.com is another free tool, as is Mention.net. Trackur.com from expert marketer Andy Beal is your best, low-cost solution for this, and you get a free trial to start.
Problems inevitably occur, but be responsive and fix them so you build a solid foundation of integrity for your company.
Access to unique resources. Do you have direct access to a specific market, particularly one that would be interested in the products or services you offer? For example, if you sell children's products and you're active at your child's school, the teachers and the parents of the other children could be a perfect base to whom you could market. Your personal connection with this market gives you an advantage because you have access another marketer would have to obtain through email marketing, direct mail or even search engine marketing. Additionally, if your customers like your products, they could use word-of-mouth to market your products further to their family and friends. Don't underestimate the personal element when it comes to marketing.
Customer loyalty. If you do well by your customers, more often than not, they'll do well by you. Recurring customers not only ensure a steady stream of income, they can also do your marketing for you through word-of-mouth and/or testimonials. Existing customers give you unique reach to your target market--other people like them. Too often, businesses fail to develop long-term relationships with their customers. Even if you're in a business where repeat sales are years apart, such as real estate or automotive, your current customers can be a good source of referrals. Treat them well, and not only will they buy from you again, they'll tell others to buy from you, too.
Financial resources. To start your business, you're going to need money. Depending on what you do, however, you may not need much money. For example, a virtual service such as word processing wouldn't require much in startup costs. All you really need is a computer and a printer. Even printing costs could be reduced if you email documents to your clients. As long as you can get your website indexed high in search engines, you could make money without having to invest much. On the other hand, if you're running a business that requires inventory, you may need to invest thousands up front. This is why you need to carefully examine your market before you open your internet doors. If it looks like you're going to make a profit, consider getting a business loan so you don't have to risk all your own money. If you're trying to sell a smaller amount of inventory (say, less than $5,000), consider getting a credit card, which are easier to get than business loans, and even at $5,000, the monthly payment would probably still be affordable.
Access to distribution channels. Don't limit your advertising to search engines, even if you get a first-place ranking. Other advertising mediums include direct mail, radio, magazines and, when you really get money, television. Google AdWords, for example, is available for print, radio, video and mobile. If you're low on funds, you can use the cheap, old-fashioned method of flier distribution. The best marketing strategy employs more than one medium. Today, you should consider both online and offline strategies.