A company’s website is typically the central hub of its entire marketing strategy. It’s the easiest and most cost-effective marketing component in terms of updating with current information and engaging an audience. It’s the one medium where the allotted space to present information is essentially unlimited. And it’s also readily available to be viewed by the largest potential target market.

If your company isn’t focusing on strengthening its online presence, it needs to start. Quickly! In the past, we could get away with a mediocre online presence. “My website isn’t great, but my business comes through referrals, and potential customers just use my website to find my phone number” is a common response that simply isn’t valid anymore.

Here are two trends of today’s consumers:

  1. They’re educated – Consumers today aren’t contacting potential vendors to become educated. They want to be already educated when they make that call. Roughly 80% of the sale process is often completed before the initial communication between the two involved parties. The Internet makes it easy to learn virtually anything, and therefore, it’s what has become expected. Being educated before making the first call is also helpful because of the second trend of today’s consumers…
  2. They’re in a hurry – Consumers are looking for convenience. The desired first choice is to send an email. If a call is required, let’s make it quick. The successful business is the one that provides information online and is able to effectively communicate online.

There is a lot of competition out there, regardless of your your vertical, and in the eyes of many consumers, a company’s website reflects the ability of the company. A strong presence provides a feeling a confidence, a weak or confusing presence gets the company overlooked, and a non-existent online presence, unfortunately, essentially means that company doesn’t exist. Yikes!

In the next 700 words, I’m going to outline everything you need to know to make an informed decision on how to proceed with your company’s online presence.

Website Development

It all starts with the website. Below are the critical elements that your website requires to be effective:

  • Easy to Use – More than 50% of website traffic comes from a mobile device, so make sure your website is built as a responsive website, meaning the design and functionality “responds” to the size of the device being used to view it. On top of that, information must be easy to find and functionality needs to be streamlined as best as possible. If a website is annoying to use, the consumer will quickly move on to your competitors.
  • Memorable Design – Your website must have a modern design that reflects your branding. If a consumer is holding your brochure and business card, and sees your website, it should be easily recognizable as yours before seeing the logo at the top. The layout also needs to be easy to navigate and present information cleanly.
  • Content is King – This means two different things. First, content needs to be up to date. This means your website should have a content management system, allowing you or your staff to easily update information quickly and without programming knowledge. Requiring your web developer to update content is timely, expensive, and often prevents a company from making necessary updates. The second meaning of “Content is King” is continuing to develop new content on your site, which both helps present you as an industry expert and also creates content that search engines like to see. This is commonly achieved with a blog on your site.

Website Visibility

Now that you have a powerful website that will sell your business well, how will potential customers find it?

  • Search Engine Optimization – SEO is what impacts how search engines rank you in their natural, or organic, rankings. Some of the key components for successfully increasing organic search ranking include on-page content, meta data, inbound and outbound linking, directory listings, internal linking structure, and social media presence.
  • Paid Advertising – Paid Search, Display Advertising, Video Advertising, and Placement Marketing are a few methods of paying directly for the traffic or visibility brought to your website. It’s important to do the proper research and planning to ensure the right audience is being targeted, the correct landing pages are being visited, and the appropriate goals have been established.

Both of these services require an expert skill level and you should engage with an online marketing agency to make sure you’re seeing a return on your investment.

Social Media & Online Reputation Management

I like to put these two in the same category because, although this might not be apparent on the surface, ORM is a form of social media.

  • Form Relationships – Social media is an opportunity for your brand to show personality and establish relationships. Don’t oversell; it’s called “social” media for a reason. This is your opportunity to establish relationships and increase recognition with an audience that you may have otherwise been unable to reach.
  • Know What’s Being Said – In this age of the Internet, consumers have the ability to talk about anyone. That’s no secret. It’s critical that your brand is in control of its online reputation. That means thanking consumers for positive reviews and correcting negative reviews to salvage a relationship. The companies who are actively managing their online reputations typically have the most success generating business from consumers who read reviews before making a decision.

It sounds like a lot, and truthfully, it can be. But online marketing is no longer a value-added strategy; it’s now a necessity that your business can’t afford to avoid. It’s important to partner with an agency that understands the concept of consistent branding, keeps up with online marketing trends, and can prove its value for the services performed. Good luck!