5 cheap ways to establish your business online

Chris Smith shares 5 easy wins to get your SME noticed in the digital world

Driving traffic and conversions to your website can be key to your success in the first few months of a new business.

With 5.7 million SMEs in Britain, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd, especially in highly saturated markets. Establishing your presence online can help you cut through the competition and give you the best starting position on which to build your brand.

The best news is that many of these practices are free or low cost, so with minimum investment you can reap maximum rewards.

Get on social media

Social media can be an invaluable marketing tool to brands of the 21st century. It allows you to connect with your current consumers, especially if you target the 18-34 age bracket who are most likely to follow brands on social media.

When starting up, ensure that you create a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram account. These four platforms are the pillars of social media and the most likely platforms that customers will use to search for brands. Other platforms like YouTube, Pinterest and Google+ can also be advantageous and are worth looking into once you’re more established.

Customer service is key when it comes to social media. One in three social media users will go to social media customer services before they telephone or email. Apps like Facebook or Instagram messenger give customers the opportunity to speak to someone in real time and 71 per cent of social media users are likely to recommend a brand to others if they have had a good online customer service experience.

Improve your Google ranking

Just as important as social media, having a strong presence on Google can be vital to a brand’s success. Currently, Google accounts for 78 per cent of all global search traffic on desktop and over 94 per cent of traffic on mobile and tablets. It is estimated that 18 per cent of Google searches result in a sale.

To boost your page ranking on the search engine for more generic terms i.e. “coffee shop Manchester” – you will need to look into paid and organic search. Paid search, more commonly known as PPC, is a service that allows you to create ads which appear at the top of search results pages paid for on a pay-per-click basis. Organic search, more commonly known as SEO, only requires time and patience and allows your website to move up in search rankings through optimising content on your site, blogging and backlinking.

Both of these practices work together to give your page the best chance it can in attracting visitors who are genuinely interested in your offering.

Create engaging content

Engaging content is very important when it comes to getting your brand noticed online. Visual content is over 40 times more likely to be shared on social media than other types. Don’t rip off content though, as consumers are wise to this and you could face backlash as a result.

Get others to promote you

In terms of brand exposure, affiliate marketing can be a quick and successful way to get your name out there. It may be easy to think that this channel is targeted towards products and services that suit a younger audience but building up an affiliate network can benefit any brand.

The traditional method of affiliate marketing is contacting influencers directly and asking them to promote your brand. Most deals are cut with the exchange of an incentive for brand exposure. Most incentives are free products or services or are monetary, depending on the popularity of the influencer. Tracking this type of marketing can be difficult, so it is important to give your influencer a particular code or link to promote so that you can easily track the success of this campaign.

Another method of affiliate marketing is to use an affiliate marketing platform. Platforms like Awin are free to sign up to and give you the opportunity to engage with a global community of affiliates who will promote your product in return for a commission from the sale.

Freshen up your website

As the online shop front, or the sole shop front for many small businesses, your website is vital to your success online. If customers are not encouraged to convert at the final stage of the marketing funnel, all your efforts could be wasted.

Building trust is the key element of a good website. It must function the way users should expect it to with easy-to-use, responsive design. Your navigation bar should be obvious so users can navigate without too much thought. Your check out page should also have the necessary security procedures in place to optimise conversions.

Your website should also look the part. As your first impression to potential customers, it should be uncluttered and modern. As the years go on, it is important to refresh your site to stay current and visual appealing to your customers.

And ensure that your site is optimised for use on multiple devices, especially mobile, which makes up over 51 per cent of global web traffic.

Chris Smith is a personal finance blogger. You can find him at Spend It Like Beckham