Our claim to fame at Jones IT is being San Francisco's leading IT support experts for over a decade. As a provider of IT services to small and big businesses, you might be wondering why are we blogging about digital marketing? While our focus is on helping our customers with IT, we also want to use our blog to share and discuss topics that may be helpful to the businesses we serve such as digital marketing.
The world of digital marketing can be a scary one especially if you are new to it. Terms such as SEO, SEM, SERP, Analytics, AdWords, etc. can put you in a tizzy. Of course there are tons of resources available online that can help but you first need to filter through all of them and as a small businesses owner time may not be a luxury you can afford. Moreover, many of the resources are old and not curated so by the time you get to the end of the tutorial, you may find out that it does not work for you anymore.
It wasn’t long ago when I started work in this realm and went through the agonizing process of getting to know the demons that lay in the details of digital marketing. I am still learning the ropes but have moved from being a digital marketing noob to an enthusiast. Here is a quick start guide covering the very basics (without any technical details) you need to cover when you venture out to make your presence felt in the digital world.
Pro Tip 1: Start from scratch
If you already have a website up and running, you might want to skip to the next pro tip.
Create a website
Well this is quite obvious, isn’t it? If you are going to invite people to your party you better have a place of your own. The website serves as your digital address or storefront. When creating your website the first thing you need is a domain name. A domain name in simple terms is your unique digital address, for example www.mywebsite.com. You can get your domain names from registers such as GoDaddy, Namecheap, etc. Here is a handy list of domain name registers: https://www.thetoptens.com/best-domain-registration-companies
Chances are that the domain name you want is already taken by someone else. Many times domain names are bought by squatters who want to make big bucks by selling the domain name at exorbitant prices (www.mywebsite.com is a perfect example). Don’t get fleeced by domain squatters, be creative with your name. You also have a variety of top level domains (TLD), in other words domain extensions, to choose from - .com, .net, .info, .org are some of the most common ones. However you might have noticed lately extensions such as .biz, .business, etc. You can learn more about it here: https://support.google.com/domains/answer/6010092?hl=en
Pick a unique name that is apt for your brand and begin to build.
Choose a Web Host
Website hosting services provide you with a server that is always online so that your website is available 24x7x365. These servers are powerful and have several high-speed internet connections that ensure that your website is always online. The servers are maintained by the hosting company so you do not need to worry about server maintenance, upgrades, and configuration, etc. You can instead focus on setting up and managing your own website.
There are several companies that offer both domain registration as well as web hosting while some others offer stand-alone domain name registration. For convenience you may want to choose a company that offers both domain registration as well as web hosting. However, your choice would be influenced by availability of your preferred domain name, needs, comfort and of course price. Here’s a useful list of domain and web hosting providers: http://webtoptenz.com/top-domain-web-hosting-providers/
Choose a CMS
A CMS (content management system) allows you to create a website and get it up and running in no time. A CMS is the front-end user interface that allows you, even with limited expertise, to add, modify, and remove content from a website without any coding knowledge. The most popular ones are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Squarespace, and Wix. Each CMS has its benefits and limitations and you should choose one based on your requirement. One major benefit is that they have many readymade templates that you can personalize with minimal editing.
The most important thing is to get one up and establish you web presence. Once you hit the point where your business needs expert help, you can always move to a different CMS or engage a webmaster at very reasonable costs.
Make your web pages mobile friendly
Google lays great emphasis on the mobile friendliness of your website. So much so that it has a direct bearing on your search page rankings. You can check whether your website is mobile friendly using the following link: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
If you use a modern CMS template it is very likely that your website will be responsive, i.e. the rendering will change to adjust with the screen size of the device. Nevertheless, you should check the responsiveness of your website before finalizing on a template or CMS.
However, having a responsive website does not mean a mobile friendly website. It is only part of the picture. You also need to provide a smooth user experience when your website is accessed on a mobile device, i.e. on a small screen. Here are a few useful tips:
- Make your call to action buttons (sign up, submit, etc) prominent and easy to touch/tap.
- Use font type and size that are easy to read on a small screen. 14px font size is recommended.
- Make the navigation menu easy to touch/tap.
- Fight the urge to cram a lot of text. Utilize white spaces to give a clean and sophisticated look. This way you do not draw attention away from your call to action buttons.
Pro Tip 2: Make the website visible to search engines
Alright so you have your website up, but where are the clients? It will take a little while for the search engines to notice you before your prospective clients can see you listed on their search pages.
But you can always nudge the search engine to index your site. When I say search engine, you think Google and I mean Google too. You may root for DuckDuckGo but we all know who the boss of search is. Here are the steps to check and improve your visibility to Google.
1. First up, check if your site is indexed (i.e. if you are on Google’s list of websites). You can do it by firing up google.com and typing “site:yourwebsite.com” and hit enter. Here is what I see when I search for our site:
If you see similar results, i.e. a list of your webpages show up, it means you site is indexed and we can move to the next step. If not, don’t worry we will address it in the next section.
2. Search engines give great importance to the content you serve. A website that serves original, high quality content to its users has better chances of appearing higher on the search results. You need to ensure that your content is not plagiarized. Here is a handy tool that you can use to check your content: https://copyscape.com
3. Write a blog. There is no better way to serve original content than through a blog. You should set up a monthly or weekly blog to serve fresh content for your users. This helps your website in a number of ways- It leads to faster discovery of your content on the search pages, blog content also allow users to link to your content, as well as share and promote it in social media.
Pro Tip 3: Befriend Google
Google is the most widely used search engine and it is highly likely that a large proportion of your website visitors come from Google search page and Google maps. Therefore it makes perfect sense to focus on your friendship with Google before expanding your digital marketing efforts. Google provides you with a number of tools in its ever growing product portfolio that let your website get discovered.
Google My Business (GMB)
Adding your business information to GMB helps you get visibility in Google Maps and Google Search results. Your business will also get listed when people search for businesses like yours. This means that people do not need to be searching specifically for you and your business can still be visible on the search results. It also provides you a platform for engaging with your customers - keep them updated on opening hours, services/products, as well as managing reviews.
Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools)
Although Google search is automated and its bot will find your website, it may take a little time. In the meantime, you can request Google to index your site. The search console has various functionalities and tools that may appear intimidating. However to start off, we just want to add our site and view how it appears to the Google bot. Follow the steps below to add your website to Google Search Console.
Go to this link https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/googlebot-fetch
Click "Add property now" button to add your website to Google Search Console.
You will then be brought to the screen as seen below, click on "ADD A PROPERTY" button to continue.
Next you can enter the URL web address of your website that you want added to the Google Search Console.
You will need to verify your ownership of the website either through your domain name provider or through alternate methods as shown here:
*If you are not confident doing this, it is advisable to get help.
Once your website is added to the search console. You can go to “Crawl” on the left hand menu and click “Fetch as Google”. Then click the red “Fetch” button and once it appears on the row below, click the “Request Indexing”. This can be done whenever you make any changes to your website and want Googlebot to crawl it.
Now you are all set. Your site should be crawled by Googlebot and visible in the search pages to your soon-to-be clients.
There are quite a few Google tools that we can use for improving our digital presence, AdWords and Analytics come to mind right away. Once we have set our website up, the first goal would be to focus on the low hanging fruit- viz. Search Engine Optimization. However, that is for another day. But hey! I am just beginning to learn so let me know if you have a different approach, something crucial that I have missed or if you have any other comments. Cheers!
Now that we've got you started on digital marketing for your growing business, you're going to want to make sure you have lightening fast wifi and secure networks while you work. Get in touch with Jones IT today!