How to start marketing your business online

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How to start marketing your business online

Three experts provided their top tips for getting started in online marketing at Xero's XeroCon conference last week.

You've heard of this internet thing, they have it computers now. You've heard you can get thousands or even millions of eyeballs looking at your page... if you market it properly. So how do you get seen, in a virtual world with billions of pages? Three experts gave us some tips:

• Sam Powell from Switched On Media talked about search engine marketing (SEM; also known as pay per click).

He described SEM as "speed dating for your business." Ninety percent of consumers use search when making purchase decisions, and 30 percent of clicks on search results go to paid ads.

So make sure the title and body of your ad gets across what your business does, and use 'extensions' (links to specific pages within your site) to make the ad more eyecatching and to show the depth and breadth of your offering.

Then make sure your ad links to "a crisp, smooth landing page." Perhaps you are a mobile car detailer, in which case the page should show the three or four packages that you offer.

When planning a campaign, think about structure (how customers search for your business), focus (start small and specific, and expand later), and make it simple for customers to purchase from you.

But be patient: "It's not going to happen immediately."

• Carolyn Stebbing of Little Village Creative provided the basics of search engine optimisation (SEO).

After pointing out that there's no "magic ingredient" in SEO and that it is important to balance SEO with site design because SEO is a waste of effort if potential customers arrive but do nothing on your site, she gave the following advice.

Be mobile friendly. (See "It's time to make your website mobile-friendly".

Be discoverable: that requires relevant content, making page topics part of the URL, being local (eg, "accountant in South Yarra"), and using images and videos sparingly ("Google can read but it can't see").

Be linked: legitimate links to your site improve its ranking.

Use metadata: make use of meta descriptions and meta tags. (If you don't know what these are, talk to your web designer or consult the documentation for the software you use.)

Keep updating the site: it should appear "lived in," and news feeds and blogs are good ways of achieving that.

Beware the dark side: don't stuff keywords into your pages, don't duplicate content, and don't try tricks like putting keywords in the background colour so they aren't visible to humans.

And finally, experiment to see what works for your business.

• Louisa Claire of Brand Meets Blog gave an introduction to the use of social media.

The basic questions to be answered are 'who do you want to reach' and 'what do you want to measure.'

"Social media works, and only works when you establish trust," she warned.

LinkedIn is good for small businesses seeking to gain traction, and for individuals aiming to establish leadership credentials.

Twitter is great for thought leadership and establishing a brand voice, but you must pay attention to replies and retweets: "it's meant to be social."

Facebook has 14 million Australian users, but it is 'pay to play' for businesses, even if they only want to reach their existing followers. "Facebook is not for the faint of heart," she said, but it can be good for highly relational people.

Blogs have the advantage that you own the platform. They are a good way to demonstrate thought leadership and to being clients to the rest of your site.

"Pick somewhere to start," she advises, and plan what you're going to do and how you will measure success. Then get started, and review the results in two months.

Whichever channel you choose, remember that "when you use social to lift other people up, you lift yourself up too," she advised.

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