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by Stephen Logan on 15th November 2011
With the diversification of online marketing channels, it’s easy to underestimate the power that a website can still have. Some businesses are so busy trying to develop their social networks that they completely overlook getting their own domain. Others are happy enough to rely on directory listings to provide search engine users with all relevant information, including contact details.
This kind of reliance on non-centralised domains beyond your control can be dangerous. Even if you manage to build a strong following for your brand, where do you direct them to? What happens if somebody optimises their site or creates a PPC campaign to compete with your company’s name? With your own website, you are in control of what people see and where they go.
A website doesn’t always need to feature a cutting edge design and have page after page of useful content. In fact for many this investment would prove to be far too much, certainly in the early stages. If you’re running a small building company, personal ironing service or have an equally restricted business, in terms of size, locality and income, then you don’t want to spend thousands to get online. However, this shouldn’t be seen as an excuse to ignore it entirely.
Small businesses can get online for just a couple of hundred pounds. Domains aren’t expensive to purchase and there are plenty of freelance website designers who can provide a basic design to get you started.
What do you do next though?
Once you have created a website, secured a decent URL (preferably the company name) and perhaps done a little bit of promotion, you just have to wait for it to be indexed and start appearing in Google.
However, a website isn’t just there to attract search traffic. It is a single source to direct all your visits towards. It should feature on business cards, on email communications, your social media activity and even on the side of branded company vehicles.
The larger your business, the more development and marketing you should be looking to do. Having a website is a great start, but if search engine traffic is likely to be a huge source of revenue, then you have to make sure that it appears for the appropriate terms. This is where SEO is vital. You need links coming into the site, original, optimised content and a navigational infrastructure that makes sense as a starting point. This all takes investment and plenty of time to properly implement.
But regardless of the size of your business or its online ambitions, the same fundamental principles apply. You should be looking to direct visits to a single source – your website. From here you can effectively control what visitors see and encourage the kind of perception/image that you’re looking to achieve. It is also possible to push them out towards your other social profiles and blogs, providing cross-promotion and developing brand awareness.
Most consumers still expect a company to have a website. So when they search for a name and can’t find what they’re looking for, perhaps only seeing the aforementioned directories, this could lead them to carry out a second, more generic search for companies that provide the same service. Many don’t just want to be forwarded onto a Facebook business page either. Social networking profiles are a fantastic part of a combined online marketing strategy, but as a standalone method of promoting your business, there are clear flaws.
Online conversions usually happen on websites. Even if interest has been spiked elsewhere, people gravitate towards a company’s site to find out more, get contact details or buy products. By funnelling interested visitors towards your domain you stand a far better chance of turning passing interest into regular custom.