I recently attended a local small business conference regarding a myriad of online marketing topics that range from search engine optimization to social media and ecommerce websites to blogs. I hate to say there is still a lot of confusion out there about these topics and others.
In this post I will try to dispel a few specific rumors and misinformation in a non-technical sense so that it becomes more clear what online marketing really entails. My hope is that you will take what you see here and identify how it might work within your own web marketing strategy.
This may seem random, but it’s in the order of the discussions as we had them. Enjoy!
The first note I had was about the advantages and disadvantages of a Shopping Cart on your website and when to implement one. Shopping carts are for ecommerce websites selling a product and may make it easier for your customer to find and purchase multiple products within a single shopping experience. You can collect payment information right from your website, offer receipts, make other purchase suggestions at checkout time, coupons and much more. A disadvantage to having a shopping cart is its potential for more maintenance, legwork and upfront cost.
When should you get a shopping cart for your website? If you’re selling one product twice a week, a shopping cart is probably not for you. But if you have multiple products, a shopping cart could be a very viable option so that your customers may purchase many items all at once. A shopping cart on a website also lends credibility to the merchant and your customers may appreciate it.
PayPal is a no-contract, secure and easy solution for buying and selling goods /services online and an alternative to a merchant account in some instances. If you offer purchases via PayPal, the buyer can pay with a credit card without even having a PayPal account.
PayPal takes a small portion of the sale (often 1.9% – 2.9% + $0.30 USD), which may be feasible depending on the size of the sale. You’ll need to determine what’s best – a merchant account where you need secure payment pages and all your payments occur on site or allow PayPal to take a small cut for the convenience of using their secure payment pages and transactions.
Some websites offer both.
Many small business owners are afraid of Social Media or feel it is no place for their business. I’m here to tell you this – if your customers are using social media, so should you.
One topic that has come up recently was a Facebook issue where their Terms of Service assumed rights to users’ content. That’s not so anymore… we spoke, Facebook listened. Your content is your content.
Of course as a business owner you’ll need to practice discretion with what you decide to upload. There are also many privacy settings on all the major social media sites so that YOU determine what others see. Privacy is only a concern when you don’t address it in your social media strategy…
Hosting Your Own Blog or Go With Free Hosting
This is a common question that you’ll hear a million different answers to. Our stance is this: If you’re just starting out, use the free WordPress , Blogger or other free blog services to determine if blogging is for you. Once you’re serious, pay a few bucks a month and host your own. You look more professional and have more options when you host your own blog.
Free Hosted Example = www.mybusiness.wordpress.com
Host Your Own Example = www.mybusiness.com
Forums vs. Blog
In its very simplest terms, forums are predominately user-generated content (threads) which users interacting with other users on a broad topic. Here is a great example of a Syracuse, NY forum.
A blog on the other hand is a website or blog owner offering information and interacting with his/her readers through posts. In our blog we give small business owners tips and tricks with regard to online marketing. If you’re so compelled, you may leave a comment but you cannot start a post on our blog the way you can a forum. Blogs also have more options and offer more diversity than forums, in my eyes.
SEO and Metadata (Meta Tags)
Meta tags are a great place to optimize your website for search engines. Aside from the keyword meta tag, this is not for keyword stuffing as much as it is for including relevant keywords, location, robots direction etc… It can certainly get confusing, but if you are a DIY Search Engine Optimizer, you cannot ignore the meta data.
SEO and Flash / Images
Flash and Image SEO can be very tricky but is not impossible. Keep in mind that a search engine cannot read an image for what the image is and it cannot view a Flash Animation. Search Engines can only read the text associated with it and whatever text lies on the page.
Frequently Updated Content
Frequently updated content is about keeping your site current, fresh and interesting so that visitors and search engines come back to your page again and again. It’s not changing the color of your background or redoing your entire website every two weeks, but it is making sure you offer your customers timely information and removing information about an upcoming event that happened last year. Having a blog or “News” section are wonderful options for fresh content offerings.
That’s it for now – I hope this has been a bit enlightening. There is much more information on each of the topics above and I’ve only offered an abbreviated overview.