A handy ready reckoner to see how your business really measures up on the web. CRAIG REARDON
By Craig Reardon
Will it ever end? Every time you turn around there’s a new e-business “thingie” that we are supposed to have used, adopted and debated over the barbie at the weekend.
If it’s not a widget it’s a wiki. Or a weemee, or a webinar. Perhaps it’s PPC or a podcast. And if you’re not hip to the hyperbole, there’s every chance you might be poked!
All very well and good of course, but where is the smaller business operator or manager going to find the time to investigate, understand and master these new kids on the block?
The truth is, they aren’t. And no, the world isn’t going to end. There won’t even be a blip in the timespace continuum.
Business will carry on as normal and some will continue to get much of your business the way they always have.
But by the same token, business is not what it was 10 years ago, and there are now some e-business tactics that have genuinely changed the face of marketing as we know it.
So to sort the wheat from the chaff, here’s a checklist of e-business targets that smaller organisations really need to be hitting to be competitive in the noughties and beyond. If you want to tick off the ones you have achieved, you can check your standing at the finish.
1/ We have a professional website which looks good, downloads quickly, has well written text and calls to action
This isn’t just a lame excuse to drum up business for the industry. It’s now well documented that a business that doesn’t offer a reasonably professional website will be disregarded more quickly than a generous promisory email from a Ugandan prince.
It’s as important as a tidy reception area and clean uniform. In other words, it’s the online face of your business and if it isn’t presented well, will undo all the good work you have invested in getting them to your site in the first place.
2/ Our website has a content management system that allows us to add or edit pages whenever we need to
Now mandatory. By all means get a professional to establish your website, but not having the keys to the castle – a content management system – is simply throwing money away as you pay them to make simple adjustments. A CMS too will allow you to add and emphasise keywords for all important search engine optimisation.
3/ Our website takes customers and prospects as far through the purchase process as possible (for example, we sell our products online or include a briefing form)
There’s a myth that always gets rolled out whenever this is mentioned, and that’s “but we want them to pick up the phone”. Virtual reality check people. People using websites to research products (that is, most of the population) and services may not have the time or inclination to do business by phone. If you can capture them while they are in buying or at least inquiring mode, you will increase your chances of making the sale. Otherwise they will just click off to your competitors.
4/ We are found on the 1st page of Google and other search engines when searching for our business name
Absolutely mandatory. If you can’t achieve this you are waving goodbye to certain sales. These are people who want to contact you specifically and not your competitor – at least until they have made reasonable efforts to find you.
5/ We are found on the 1st page of Google and other search engines when searching for our category of business in our location (eg “architect Burwood”)
Obviously “catchment areas” will differ from business to business. But the idea is that you can be found easily within the key area you service.
6/ We are found on the 1st THREE pages of Google and other search engines when searching for our category of business in our region (eg “architect Melbourne”)
Obviously the greater the area you search the more difficult it is to rank highly for your category of business. If you can be in the first three pages of Google et al within your general region you are doing very well indeed.
7/ We use search engine advertising (eg Google AdWords) to help supplement our “natural” search results
The next best thing to being found in “natural” results. At least AdWords et al give you the opportunity to be found for a low cost instead of not at all. As you improve your natural results your reliance (and hence cost) on this advertising will diminish.
8/ We use regular email marketing to both maintain existing customers and attract new ones
Still one of the most under-rated promotional tools in existence. A brilliant, cheap and non-invasive way of keeping in touch with your existing customers and contacts. Content can be repurposed for your website and blog.
9/ All our promotional emails are spam and privacy act compliant
The lack of knowledge about this among smaller business is quite scary to the point where the relevant government departments really need to re-launch it. Do you know the three key tenets of the spam act? And do you know what the fines are?
10/ Email inquiries are responded to quickly and carry as much importance as phone calls
Don’t be “channelist”. Sales from email queries are more likely to be worth more than those from phone calls because web users are renowned to be either from businesses or better educated and better paid consumers. Non or slow response to emails could cost you big time.
11/ We constantly review expenditure on printed directory advertising
What were once rivers of gold are becoming more like our dams – sad dry shadows of their former selves. Few businesses use the printed versions these days, and consumers aren’t that far behind. Online advertising is far more accountable, flexible and measurable, and after all is where prospects now do their digging.
12/ We are investigating web 2.0 / social networking offerings to assess impact on marketing and business in general
If you target anyone under 30, this is now mandatory and “pending” for the rest of us. Four of the top 10 visited websites in the world are social networking sites – the others being search engines, email platforms and eBay. It’s an enormous, viral, indestructible force that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Not checking it out is akin to not having a website – a recipe for disaster.
So how many did you tick out of 12? As a guide, here’s what your score means.
- 8 – 12. Good work. You are likely to be meeting your customers’ online expectations and enjoying the benefits of a professional web presence.
- 5 – 7. Fair. You will be getting some benefits from your web presence but need to take action on those items that didn’t rank.
- Less than 5. Poor. To remain competitive, you should get some professional assistance – before it’s too late!
Craig Reardon is a leading eBusiness educator and founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which provide the gamut of ‘pre-built’ website solutions, technologies and services to SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. www.theeteam.com.au
Matt Dillon writes: As an interactive media specialist with a well known directional advertising company, I’m keen to get your thoughts on the value of SEO vs SEM (PPC). Research that I’ve seen indicates that conversions resulting from sponsored links are generally higher and yield more than the equivalent organic result. This seems logical when the users intention when dealing with organic results tends more toward informational requirements rather than transactional. I’ve heard or read of many businesses that acheived a strong organic ranking and also run a PPC campaign find their traffic is divided almost equally between the two. This would tend to justify equal resources being chanelled into both.
Craig Reardon replies: Thanks Matt! As an SEO specialist you are likely to be better informed than I as a generalist. But I have no reason to question your views. Our general rule is that for SMEs, PPC will provide you with some control over your presence unlike the untamed SEO. And yes, at least you know that PPC are likely suppliers unlike organic which might be anything at all to do with the search phrase. So a dual SEO and PPC strategy is definitely the go.