Marketing on the Internet

By ACS Distance Education on December 3, 2012 in Business | comments

How Do You Market on the Internet
(extract from our Modern Marketing Ebook)

The internet may not have had a massive impact on how we produce goods or plan our business; or how we do the bookkeeping or manage our staff; but when it comes to communicating with potential customers, the internet has caused very dramatic changes in the world of commerce and particularly marketing. 

In the previous chapter we talked about websites and how they can be used. Just having a website is, however, often not enough. A website has to be done well to be effective.

A website can be used to advertise goods and services, or, it can be used to advertise and sell goods and services.  Either way, it should be linked in with all your social media tools.

If the website is used to advertise the goods and services, but not sell them, it should still tell the potential customer where to buy them. If the website is used to both advertise and sell the products, it should be an effective advert and encourage the potential customer to click to buy the product instantly. 

You can hire a website designer who will design the website to fit your needs, or use pre-designed websites.  These come in the form of templates which allow you to change the content.  You can also use blogging sites such as Wordpress to design your site. Whatever you decide to do, it is important that the website is effective. A complicated, flashy website will not necessarily achieve the effect you want.  The following are some simple rules on the effective design of websites.

1. Keep it Simple
It sounds obvious, but if the site is too complicated, there is less chance that visits to the site will convert to sales. The more that is on the page, the more it may confuse a visitor. Fancy, complicated graphics, links, innovations and bolt-ons can look good, but do not mean the customer will want or be able to buy the product. 

For example; a customer may read a good review of a product and decide it is the product they wish to buy but then the button to ‘click to buy’ is not obvious, or they are taken through three more web pages before they can buy, so they lose interest and leave.  So make it simple, describe your product and have a button where someone can immediately go to buy it. Make the button large and obvious.  A customer does not want to be searching all over the site for the place to buy the product. It is just the same as a customer walking into a physical shop. They might wander around, but if they can’t find the product, they may leave the shop. 

2. Tell Customers What They Need to Learn
A customer wants the facts. They want to be told how long, high and wide the object is.  If it is a fridge, for example, they want to know how many shelves it has, what colour it is, how energy efficient it is, how much it costs and so on. The customer will want to know all of the facts to determine whether they will buy the product.  Tell them what they need to know without too much extraneous information.

3. Do Not Focus Too Heavily on Layout
What you like in terms of website design is not necessarily the same as what your customers may like. We hear a lot about the colours of a website, the font, the layout, the background, how many pictures it should have and so on. What one person thinks is classy, however, another may think is boring. So try not to over-think the layout of the website.  Once the website is built, as long as you have all of your fields and pages sorted out, you can then fiddle around with the colours and do market research amongst customers and potential customers.  Until it is on the internet, it is hard to determine how effective it is. 

Whilst saying “don’t worry about the layout”, there are a few aspect of design that are of particular importance, such as the size of the front used. If the customer has to squint to see what you have to say, the font is probably too small, so ensure it is clear enough for the potential customer to read.  Your site should also include a “call to action”, such as a button which tells the customer to “click here” or “buy now for a huge discount”.

In addition to these elements there are all sorts of other issues that can be taken into consideration if you intend to make your website inclusive and easily accessed by people with disabilities.  Even things like a customer’s colour blindness can have a major impact on the legibility of your site.  Ideally, you want a site that as many people as possible can read and buy from.  If, for example, your website relied heavily on video, you might consider captioning the video so that people with hearing impairments may also be able to interact with you.

When designing your site, therefore, it is worth doing a bit of research on the internet and familiarising yourself with the principles of inclusive web design.  This is not necessarily something that the web designer you engage will know about.

4. Plan

It is important to plan what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. Otherwise you can end up with websites that are messy and complicated. Having a plan to your website can help you to stay on track for what you aim to achieve.  Before planning your website ask yourself these questions:

  •  What do I want to achieve?
  •  Who are my potential visitors?
  •  What are the needs of my visitors?
  •  How am I going to convert my visitors to customers?
  •  What is my marketing strategy?

Then, draw up a site plan.  Work out how many pages you need both now and into the future and how these pages will interlink.  It is easier to plan for website expansion now than to tack it on a year or two down the track. 

5. Make it Easy for Customers
Customers and potential customers do not necessarily want to spend a great deal of time reading your website. They want to scan and look at the images, and then buy the product. They want to absorb information in short chunks. They want to be led to the next step. So each step should be clear and uncomplicated.  Important information should stand out. Each page should have suitable titles, headers, descriptions and suitable links.  Everything else is unnecessary padding, so remove it.  Although the key attraction of your page might be the photos, image are generally the last to load, so put some thought into your captions too.  

6. Tell Customers Where to Go
When a customer visits your site, they may want to explore, so make sure the navigation system is simple and easy to understand. Do not rely on complex drop down menus. Make sure it is clear; “if you want to see fridges, click this button”. The more simply the navigation is organised, the easier it is for the customer to find the information they want.

7. Do Not Distract the Customer
Although they can help with search engine optimisation, links to other websites can be distracting. If they lead potential customers away from your website, they are potentially losing you business.  If you are using links, make sure they are placed somewhere that prevents this from happening – not on the home page.

8. Ensure Links and Buttons Work
There is nothing worse for your business than for a customer to decide to buy a product, click on the button, and come up with an error message. So check every button and link to make sure they work.

9. Ensure the Site is Easily Found on Search Engines
Whilst a website should be attractive and useful to customers, this is all to no avail if they cannot find it. It is important, therefore, to ensure that you are aware of the rules used by search engines. This is not as easy as it sounds.  Search engines often change their rules, and you should do your best to stay abreast of the latest changes.  This will require regular research.  In the interim, a good way to ensure you are found, is by the use of keywords. 

Keywords should describe your product or service in a clear way. For example, a search engine may pick the first five words on a webpage to decide what the page is about, so if you write:

This is a great fridge
The first five words are “this is a great fridge”. The only word that the search engine may take notice of really is fridge. So it may not really attract attention.

But what if you did the following?

Fridge – Black, Table Top Style
This fridge is black in colour and fits on a table top or desk. The search engine will find the first five words, fridge, black, table top, style. So if someone does a search for black table top fridge, your website will come up in their search.

The visible words on your website are not the only thing taken into account by search engines.  A lot of what is called “metadata” is hidden behind the scenes.  This is information placed in by the programmer to let search engines know what the website is about.  You want your metadata to be reflected in the front end of the website, in order to increase the likelihood of being found by search engines. 

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