It’s both easier and cheaper to trade your products or services online than you think … recent research suggested UK adults were online for a staggering 25 hours a week – up from just 9 hours in 2005 – and consumers spend around a pound in every £5 of their shopping budget online.
However, it seems the digital revolution may have passed many business owners by with more than a half of UK small businesses still not having a website, claimed a study last year by RedShift Research and GoDaddy. The reasons ranged from not having enough time, to concerns that the cost would be excessive, and that business growth would suffer as a result.
The reality is quite different, so if you’re thinking about setting up a website, but not sure where or how to begin, here are some good tips:
Choose where to go?
There’s somewhere on the web for every business type, so find the environment that works best for you. Hosting your own website, or like many small businesses selling consumer goods try ‘living’ within the big online marketplaces, such as Amazon, eBay and notonthehighstreet.com
Your businesses could also operate through social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram to use their power and reach. For instance, Facebook has some 2 billion people registered worldwide and you can use their targeting tools to reach your customers quite effectively with paid advertising at low cost.
You can also reach people online by simply getting your business listed on the many digital directories such as Yell or Yelp, however choose these wisely as some are not very effective without spending a few quid and when all added up can cost too much for the return.
Building is easy!
You can create a professional online presence easily with the help of companies like WordPress or Squarespace, which provide a drag-and-drop design interface. Their templates also come with third-party plug-ins, which allow for the addition of email services such as Dotmailer and e-commerce platforms such as WooCommerce and Shopify.
Alternatively there are local website developers, such as Silver Websites, who will build and manage a simple site cost effectively for you.
Your website needs to be mobile friendly, not only to reach consumers on the go, but to stay on the right side of Google’s search rankings. Be easily navigable, have a clear call to action, direct them to your social media channels, and most importantly offer regular content updates, such as blogs and photos.
Showcase your business integrity, so if you’re a member of the local Chamber of Commerce or an accredited industry body, say so. Offer a newsletter or mailing list sign-up to build a database of customers.
Maximise your SEO potential
Find out the keywords to use on your site, and improve search engine optimisation (SEO), by asking your customers what they would type into Google to find you. Great advice is to use Google Keyword Planner as a guide and install Google Analytics to find out where your visitors are coming from, and how long they spend on your site.
If you’re building your site with the help of a website template, you will be provided with payment plug-ins, allowing you to add a button from an online payment provider such as PayPal. But remember: collecting sensitive data online requires an SSL Certificate to authenticate the identity of your website and encrypt the data that’s being transmitted, and you must be GDPR compliant.
A blog brings your business to life
A blog on your website benefits your SEO and brings your business to life. Don’t use this to sell … think about topics that your customers will be interested in and you are knowledgeable about. Important note: Keep blogs short, to the point and often.
Legal and data protection obligations
Finally, you must have your business’s terms and conditions and, if you’re selling products online, customers need to see that you’ve signed up to rules such as the Consumer Contracts Regulations, which protects their rights when buying from you.
Check out Clickdocs for useful legal information. Check out your competitors’ websites for guidance on the terms and conditions to include. As a website owner, you must be transparent about cookies on your website and, where possible, obtain visitors’ consent to use them. Businesses that handle customer data need to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Hope that’s useful? But if you need help, APS are here.