The Internet is a maze of opportunities, with every new craze popping up as the next frontier for “guaranteed” success.
With so much at stake, understanding the online market and, more importantly, how it can be best used by you, has become paramount to succeeding online.
The Internet is purely a medium, a platform of connections that provide a place to display information. Though like a blank canvas atop an easel, complete with paints and brushes, if there’s no vision, then it’s hard to get started.
Outlined below is a quick mud map of the online market, some of the keys to look out for and a starting point for your business to begin or expand your journey into the online frontier.
Where to Begin
With so much diversity, so much to offer, it’s the old saying of a kid in a candy store … or the modern equivalent, a man visiting Bunnings.
Confronted with so much, understanding where to begin your online foray can prove daunting, especially for those that may not be Internet savvy.
Assuming you own, run or wish to promote a business, it starts with Google. As the market dominator, Google by far controls the majority of online search. Between Google search and YouTube, they account for well over 90% of business related search traffic.
Featuring on Google is not as simple as it may sound, but a great place to begin is to add your business to Google Places.
This is a free service that can be created by any business owner. Though note, many companies are selling this service and some provide “optimisation” to increase the chances of the page featuring higher than those pages that have not been fully updated.
To attempt to divide the web into just three segments is folly, though for this exercise I’ve attempted to provide a few pointers about primary categories within the online culture.
Business Websites & Blogs
For simplicity, I’ve combined business websites and blogs (web logs or online journals) as predominantly information sites.
A business website is defined here as purely a reference source, not a shopfront. It is used as a form of advertising but not necessarily for selling.
Having an online presence, with your own website is important. More and more, prospective customers are turning to the web to gain a better understanding of your offer and more detail on your company.
A website is your opportunity, first to present your business to the world, and second it provides a mechanism to be found in a search engine such as Google.
There are a multitude of web development companies, graphic designers, SEO specialists, hosting providers, all claiming they can do a better job than the next. Navigating this first stage of developing a site is where many companies can get unstuck.
In terms of blogs, these provide an opportunity to regularly add fresh content that is relevant to your business and … well, like this post, hopefully attracts new customers that may not have visited your website otherwise. Blog sites such as WordPress, Blogger, and even Twitter (micro blogging or short form blogs), provide free platforms to simply create your own blog site.
Online Multimedia and Social Presence
Again at risk of seeming completely ridiculous I have bundled social media (Facebook, Pinterest) and multi media (YouTube, Vimeo) together.
For sake of word count, I’ve kept these together to capture other forms of content, such as videos, graphics or social posts.
Finding a way to use these best for your business is becoming an art form in itself. Everyone is quick to suggest you must have a Facebook business page or ask have you got Pinterest yet? But these may not suit every business.
A video hosted on YouTube and/or Vimeo is a great addition for your website and online presence, as some people would rather watch than read.
Though, in terms of social media (Facebook), the question really is how often are you going to be able to update your social media? Will you be posting every day? Once a week? When you remember?
If it’s less than daily, you probably need to question whether it’s worth it.
Social media offers a chance to engage your customer regularly, but if your updates aren’t engaging or you only have your best mate as a follower, well … maybe you need to talk to a social media specialist or review the best use of your time.
There are a number of forms of online advertising, from placing text based ads on Google search results (Google AdWords) to banner ads (graphic ads displayed on various sites), and, of course, directory advertising with companies like dLook (shameless plug but that is what blogs are for).
Google AdWords is a great way to quickly launch a business or a product in targeted markets via search results. This is quite time consuming and a difficult process. Using Google AdWord specialists can be costly but much more effective. Though this is a pay per click model – which means every time anyone clicks on your link you are charged. Anyone means anyone! Whether that’s a customer, a competitor or just a random clicker.
Affiliate marketing, banner ads and “product placement” on sites is also quite popular. The main platform for this has also become Google AdWords, though a number of affiliate sites are still providing a similar service. Here a graphic ad of your business is displayed, and again, you may be charged per click or on a cost per thousand (CPM) impressions. dLook provide banners to our premium listings on a reduced fixed fee cost – we chose this as it was the most easily managed and allowed a business to forecast exact costs.
Directory advertising, dLook and others, varies signficantly. Some directories provide free listings, some charge a small fee. The key to understanding value in directories is what you are getting for your investment.
A paid listing in dLook receives its own branding page, free from other advertising and is full featured, complete with optional coupons, quote function and business reviews. dLook can also embed videos, Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Of course, we’ll back our own product, but key to success in dLook is using our features. dLook provides a full featured service that can provide a standalone presence in the online space, or a great complementary page to support your website and backlinking strategy.