“Having an online presence was very important to us. Like every business, that’s how we reach varied audiences in all parts of Wales and beyond Wales, and it’s a shop window showing our business and what we have to offer.” – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru
Like Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, small businesses across Wales have much to gain by being online. Your customers expect it, so it’s just a question of making sure they can find you. There are lots of marketing tactics for promoting your business online and the tips we’re about to share are merely the tip of the iceberg, but every small business has to start somewhere…
- Get the right name for your website
When you’re ready to take your business online, one of the most important decisions to make is what domain name is best for you. It needs to be memorable, easy to spell and match your business name, and it’s worth securing variations of the one you settle on so that nobody else can set up a website using the same name. For example, if you opted for a ‘yourbusinessname.wales’ domain, you might also want to secure ‘yourbusinessname.cymru’ too.
On the subject of Welsh-specific domains, getting a. cymru or. wales domain is a great way to show off your Welsh roots, and can therefore help to strengthen your brand. As Evans Pharmacy says, “Our business is Welsh and proud and the domain helps us show how proud we are of our Welsh identity and where we were established. Our customers love that our web address is so patriotic and it’s made us more popular than our competitors locally; they want to support the local company with “wales” in its web address. We’re always growing and the. wales domain is now a great part of it.”
- Make sure customers know where you’re based
You’ll want to use your website to drive customers to your offline business, so make sure it’s clear where you’re based ‘in real life’. Include your address and contact details on a ‘how to find us’ page, perhaps with a map showing your location. As we saw earlier, a Welsh-specific domain such as. cymru or. wales will also make sure visitors know immediately that you’re based in Wales.
Beyond your own website, you should also make sure that your business appears on all the online map sites, such as Google Maps, Apple Maps and Bing Maps. You can do this by submitting your ‘business listing’ and going through a simple verification process. This will help ensure you appear when customers search for businesses like yours close to them, whether through the normal search engine results pages or on map searches.
- Know your keywords and how to use them
What are people likely to search for when they want to find your site online? For example, if you’re a restaurant, they might search for a phrase like “restaurants in Swansea”, “Italian restaurants in Cardiff” or “best restaurants in Aberystwyth”. The process of getting your website appearing for relevant searches is called search engine optimisation, or SEO, and it’s another free form of online marketing that will help you reach the right people. Using keywords with high search volumes in your title tags and page headings is a good start, and will help search engines understand which searches your website is relevant to.
- Start a blog
Including a blog on your website is a great way to market your business, and it doesn’t have to cost a penny. You can use a blog to demonstrate your expertise; for example, if you make furniture, your blog could share interior design tips and perhaps explain some of the techniques you use. A blog is also the perfect place for telling the world about your good news, showcasing new products and ideas for using them, and sharing your opinions on subjects related to your industry.
Even better, blogging benefits your SEO, ensuring that your website stays fresh and up-to-date. And, because you’re sharing useful content, you might well find that people start sharing and linking to your posts, bringing more traffic and exposure to your site. For maximum benefit for your business, ensure that your blog is hosted on the same domain as your main website (for example, yourbusinessname.wales/blog), so that your whole site takes advantage of shares and links.
- Get to grips with social media
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other social networking sites aren’t just fun; they’re a fantastic marketing opportunity for small businesses. As the Welsh Rugby Union says, “Having a strong online presence is critical to what we do, with so much going through social media and digital communication, and our website is really our main connection sometimes with the people who come to the stadium who wish to engage with rugby in Wales.”
Social media gives you a platform for engaging with your customers, and it’s also great for driving traffic to your website. For example, if you’re blogging, you can share your posts with your social media followers, who might then ‘like’ your post, thereby putting it in front of their friends and followers and growing your audience organically. It’s important to remember, however, that social media is a two-way thing; the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. So, make sure you respond to your customers, and encourage interactions by sharing some of their posts or asking them questions. When they interact with you, their friends see it, and your audience has the potential to get bigger and bigger.
- Encourage Reviews
Many people now search for online reviews of a small business before using it, so another way of marketing your business online is to encourage customers to leave a review on relevant sites, such as TripAdvisor or Yelp. Reviews help boost your website for local searches, as well as instilling trust in potential customers. You can also quote some of your favourite reviews on your site, giving potential customers a feel for what happy customers have said about you.
You can get more reviews simply by asking your customers to write one, perhaps in a follow-up email after they’ve ordered from you, or by asking nicely on social media. You could even encourage them by putting all reviewers into a monthly prize draw as an incentive. Don’t be too afraid of negative reviews; realistically you won’t be able to please everyone, and potential customers know that too. However, you can at least respond to them with your side of the story, and you can turn a negative into a positive by the way you write back.
- Track how people use your website
Setting up Google Analytics is quick, easy and free, and it’s an important tool for any marketer. Tracking visitor movements on your website can give you lots of insights that can help with your marketing. For instance, you can find out how people found your site, thus showing you which of your marketing tactics are proving most effective. You might find that you have lots of people visiting your website from big locations such as Cardiff or Swansea, but not many from rural Wales; you could then target your marketing efforts to reach new, rural audiences, or redouble efforts to your urban customer base, which is more of a known quantity. You may discover that people typically leave your site on a certain page, without buying from you; this can inform efforts to improve your website to encourage more conversions. You could also find out which posts on your blog generate the most interest, so you can concentrate on writing posts you know your audience finds interesting and are more likely to share.
As you get to know what works for your business, you’ll get a better understanding of where to concentrate your marketing efforts for maximum effect. Get to grips with these basics and you’ll be well on the way to building a strong presence online. As Wales’ leading co-working company Indycube highlights: “I think nowadays you have got to be online and not to be missing an opportunity. Its important people can find you at the click of a keyboard or on their phone or their tablet.”