Developing an online strategy is an important part of any business. According to the Statista, online retail shopping reached close to $40 billion in Canada in 2018. This means that now more than ever you’ll have to seriously consider your online strategy when building a website.
Ask yourself the following questions and learn how to use SEO tools to optimize your site performance for optimal online strategizing for your business.
How to Develop Your Digital Strategy
Even if you aren’t tech-savvy enough to build a site yourself, you’ll need to create a digital or website strategy based on your business knowledge. Everything else, including the design, copy, and tech requirements will flow from your plan.
Answering the following questions will help you build your strategy:
What are your main business objectives?
For example, what do you need the site to accomplish? Is it purely a brochure website to attract sales leads, or will you sell products and services online? Do you want to showcase your work as part of your portfolio of art, home renovations, designs, or photography?
You also need to decide how you will set goals for the site and measure its impact on your business. You can use what’s known as “objectives and key results” (OKRs): a system used across-the-board from Fortune 500 companies to non-profits.
Objectives are broad descriptions of your most pressing and important goals. They should be qualitative statements: short, memorable, and motivational.
Key results are quantitative metrics you’ll use to measure and monitor those objectives.
In Measure What Matters, John Doerr — the father of OKRs at Google — offers plenty of practical examples, like this “OKR Quality Continuum” on winning the Indy 500:
Here is an example of an OKR when applied to a small business:
|Baker: Showcase my very best work to “wow” prospective customers and get them to call or visit my shop.
|Create a folder with 100 of my best pictures and apply a single filter to them so they look amazing and consistent within one week.
Launch a homepage with all those images sorted by type within 30 days.
Post one picture per day to social media with a link to the image onsite (start on day 31).
Get 1,000 monthly visitors by day 90.
Who are your competitors (and what do their websites look like)?
Find out more about your top competitors by:
- Searching for competitors on Google
- Make a list based on who you know is a local competitor
- List strengths and weaknesses of each competitors’ site
- Be sure to take note of what their site design to help you decide what you want your site to look like.
Who is your target market?
To understand what information a potential customer is searching for consider the following:
- The demographics (age, income, location) of your ideal buyer
- If your ideal buyer is a repeat customer or one-time-only purchaser
- What functions and information does the modern-online-customer expect on a website
- The motives or pain points of potential buyers
- Any unique aspects of your business
You can pull this information from your existing small business plan if you already have one. If not, keep this information to use when you write that plan.
What is your budget?
Set a budget for yourself that includes both monetary and time costs. If you launch your own site, the complete set up should generally cost between $500 and $1,000. If you need to hire someone to help, that number can easily triple.
Your biggest consideration is time. Not just the time it will take you to get the website up and running, but also time for reoccurring updates like:
- Create content: images, videos, and blog posts
- Run online marketing campaigns: email, search, and social
- Monitor review and rating sites: Google, Yelp, etc.
Give yourself a realistic budget that outlines what you can afford to pay in the short-term, including: the monetary cost of launching, and the time commitments of launching. You can always increase your budget as your business grows.
How often do you expect to update your website?
Will you change content regularly or will your website be fairly static because the information is general? Most brochure sites are the latter, while online stores will likely require some upkeep.
Remember to factor upkeep into your budget since either you or someone you hire will have to do the work. It might also require new imagery or copywriting on a regular basis. Start by setting aside a fixed amount of time each week that you can afford to dedicate to your site. You can then adjust it up or down depending on what you find is necessary.
Do you want to integrate third-party functionality into your website, such as e-commerce or data feeds?
Do you need to integrate customer relationship management (CRM) software with your website content management system? Many sales organizations use a system to keep track of their sales pipeline and regularly update their site with new and relevant content or blog posts.
Also, do you want to be able to control the look and feel or customer-facing aspects of your site yourself, or are you happy to rely on a professional? This has implications for the type of content management system you might choose.
If you plan to sell goods or services through your website, you need to consider how you’ll process credit card payments, maintain security, and collect data as well.
While researching which web services to use, make sure the companies (like PayPal or Square) offer encrypted password features and secure payment processes.
Do you need to develop an online branding strategy?
Early on and with a limited budget, you might want to start with branding assets that you already have like your logo, photography, and copy.
You can also find budget-friendly solutions to get started by creating the assets yourself or being selective as to what assets are worth investing in now. Remember it is ok if your site doesn’t look as ideal as you’d like, you can update it as your budget grows. The most important factor is having a web presence and providing the right information to your potential customers.
How important is mobile access for your business?
Most people look for information today through mobile searches, especially when looking for local businesses and products.
At a minimum, your site should be mobile responsive since it enables mobile users to read a mobile site without having to scroll or zoom and has large enough buttons or “tap targets” for people to hit with their fingers.
Also, Google now favours mobile-friendly optimized sites in its search engine rankings. So, mobile usability can also give you an advantage over your competitors. The Google Mobile-Friendly Test can help you determine if your competitors’ sites load and display well on mobile devices so you can make the necessary adjustments.
With 30% of e-commerce transactions in Canada coming from mobile devices, a mobile-friendly website is considered a must-have for any small business.
What methods and channels will you use to promote your site?
You’ll need to plan and budget for advertising or content marketing to drive customers to your site. You can use this online advertising post as a guide to get started after your site has launched.
A budget-friendly option to advertise is through social media. Consider adding social sharing buttons to your site design, to help with a digital word-of-mouth advertising scheme. You can also purchase sponsored posts through Facebook and Instagram, doing so means you’ll need to create and manage those social media profiles.
Are there any online legal requirements for your particular profession?
For example, if you are running an e-commerce site, you’ll need a privacy statement. And if you plan on collecting email addresses to communicate with customers regularly through a newsletter, you’ll need to be aware of proper anti-spam laws like CASL.
Once you have all of the information for your strategy, put together a project brief to either give to a web designer and copywriter or use it to build and host your website. We’ll go through those steps next.
Use Basic SEO tips for Small Business
The term Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can sound scary if you don’t know much about it. It means to modify your website and increase your chances of getting found on Google.
The two most important aspects of SEO are keywords and links back to your site. Keywords should be your primary concern when creating content for your new website.
Your aim should be to use high-volume and industry-relevant keywords and phrases. Although SEO once was considered an act of stuffing your site full of keywords, this strategy doesn’t work anymore. You might even get penalized by major search engines for doing so.
Be sure to use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, SEMRush, or seoClarity to find what your clients are potentially looking for. Keep in mind that these tools require a monthly or annual fee to use. For a budget-friendly option, try UberSuggest.
Also, make sure you’re using the keywords naturally through quality copy and content. Once your site has launched, you can work on generating links back to your site through a formal content marketing and SEO strategy.
The more links you have pointing back at your pages from other reputable sites, the better your site will perform in Google’s algorithm, as it will deem your site as reputable as well.
If you want to learn more about how all of those things work, check out MOZ’s: The Beginner’s Guide to SEO. It includes the basic information you need to get your website found in search engines.
Pay Attention to Load Speed:
Fast page loading speeds are critical when it comes to webpage design. In fact, the probability of a customer abandoning your page increases by 90% when page load time goes from one second to five seconds, according to Google research. You can check your own page’s speed by running a Google Speed Test when just after you launch your site.
You can also use WebPageTest, which provides insight into a variety of key metrics that can be run from a number of locations around the world using different devices, browsers, and connection speeds.
Make Sure Your Internal Search is Working:
Many companies that sell products online pay so much attention to SEO that they never consider whether their internal search is easy to use. However, a poor site search experience can cost you immediate sales. In fact, roughly 30% of e-commerce website visitors use on-site search and are twice as likely to convert.
It’s not uncommon for customers to use site search bars as a way to navigate through your site. So, if your site search functionality only returns products that have the keyword in their title or description, rather than including other attributes of a product, you’re losing out on customers with high purchase intent.
For more on how to improve your site search functionality, review these best practices recommended by ConversionXL.
Update & Improve Your Site Over Time
Remember that building a website is a process. Even big businesses build their websites in phases. As a small business, you can start with the bare bones and build on it as your business grows.
Phase one could be as simple as a homepage, about page, services page, testimonials page, and contact us page. Phase two may then include a blog and build out deeper pages within each of the sections you already have.
Phase three might be an entire revamp of your site because your branding has changed, or you might choose to add-on e-commerce capabilities.
Install an Analytics Tool to Track your Site’s Performance:
To meet the OKRs you identified in your website strategy, consider integrating a free tool like Google Analytics to your site. It allows you to analyze data about how users navigate your website.
Examining metrics like bounce rate and session duration reveals what visitors’ value, and how easy your site structure is to follow.
Many small businesses are so busy they don’t take the time to test whether what they’re doing is working or not. But having a better knowledge of successful activities helps you to make better decisions on your future website strategy and online marketing budget.