With all of the changes that we experienced in 2020, it’s fair to say that it’s never been more important to have an online presence than it is now.
Even if your new business is one that relies on a physical premises, having an online presence is crucial to ensure that potential new customers can find you, learn about you and get in touch with you.
This blog will show you the stages involved in taking your business online – and the good news is that it really is easier than you might think.
First things first, you’ll be needing a website. This is like your virtual shop window and brochure combined into one, giving your business a home online.
To begin with, you’ll need to get yourself a domain name. Ideally, this should be your business name, but you’ll find lots more advice in this article on how to choose the perfect domain name. When you’re ready, you can buy a domain.
One way to make your domain name truly unique is to choose a .wales or .cymru domain. These Welsh domains create a real opportunity if you’re looking to target the Welsh market, increase awareness for your business and to share your passion for the Welsh heritage.
Learn more about the benefits of getting your very own Welsh domain. You can use the handy search box below to see if your ideal domain name is available today.
Use the search box to check if your ideal domain name is available to buy
Below is a selection of registrar partners for you to choose from, all of them will be able to guide you through the whole processes of purchasing your domain.
The good news is that you don’t need to be a website developer or pay a fortune to a website designer to get your new website up and running.
Sites such as Wix, WordPress and Squarespace make the design element easy, allowing you to choose from thousands of (often free) ‘themes’ – templates you can populate with your own information without needing to know the first thing about how to build a website. That means that all you’ll really need to think about is the structure of your site, and the words and images you’ll put on it.
As a minimum, you’ll need a homepage giving an introduction to your business and services and a way for customers to get in touch with you. While a simple one-page site may suffice depending on the nature of your business, you could start to build it out into a more comprehensive site by adding extra pages, such as:
If you sell products, you may also want to consider adding an e-commerce function to your website. This would give you an online, 24/7 shop in which customers could order from you without ever having to visit your physical premises.
The benefit of this is that you can hugely widen your customer base, but you’ll need the logistics in place to make sure you can fulfill online orders before you enable this functionality.
Establishing your presence online isn’t just about having your own website, though that’s an important starting point. In order to expand your business, you’ll need ways for customers to interact with you and for potential new customers to find you online.
As just about everyone spends an inordinate amount of time on social media, it stands to reason that if your business wants to reach out to and interact with both existing and new customers, social media is a great way to do it.
It’s important to remember that not every social media platform will suit every business – and when you’re a startup and pressed for time, you won’t have much time to devote to managing your social channels.
For these reasons, it’s important to choose your social media channel wisely before building a presence on it. For example:
You can read more on this in this article on which social media platform is right for my startup.
Once you’ve picked the right platform and built your new profile, you’ll need to post regularly, engage with other accounts and be ready to reply to any comments you receive – the more you put into social media, the more you get from it.
Read more about using social media to grow your business in this guide to social media strategy for small businesses, and find out how to grow your social media following and strengthen your brand online.
Once you’re on a social media platform, if you have the budget, you’ll also be able to use social media ads to advertise your business to a highly targeted audience that you can narrow down to location, demographic, interests and more.
Facebook’s ads are among the most comprehensive offering available in this regard – take a look at this video on four effective Facebook ad types for SMEs to find out more.
Social media isn’t the only form of marketing open to you once you’ve established an online presence. Another way to grow your business is through email marketing, which is still one of the most popular forms of online marketing.
It works by creating mailing lists of customers and sending them regular emails with content they might find useful and/or products they might be interested in.
Due to recent GDPR legislation, you’ll need your customers’ express permission before adding them to a mailing list, but you could add a form to your website encouraging people to sign up for emails, or ask customers to sign up in store if you have a physical premises.
You can read more about planning email content and how to get started with building a mailing list in this guide to email marketing for small businesses.
Once you’ve got your online presence up and running, you’ll want to make the most of it by promoting it – in particular, your website. There are numerous ways of doing this, and one of the most effective is search engine optimisation, or SEO.
This is the practice of optimising your website so that it starts to appear higher up in search engine rankings, such as Google. Higher rankings usually result in more traffic to your website, so they’re much sought-after. This is typically divided into two strands:
On-site optimisation – this involves tweaking your website so that search engines can better understand it and using keywords to increase the relevance of your site to searches you want to appear for
Off-site optimisation – this means building links from other websites to yours, as these are seen as an endorsement by search engines
For SEO tips on getting your new website ranking well, have a read of these SEO tips for new websites.
Another strategy for promoting your presence online is to try content marketing. The idea of this is to produce valuable content that people find useful, the aim being to establish new relationships with people who will then remember your expertise when they need your business for something.
For example, if your business is selling curtains, your content marketing might revolve around writing articles about interior design subjects. Browse these articles on content marketing for lots of advice on using this strategy to grow your business.
The success of your online presence depends on the thought you put into it, so here are some things to bear in mind as you launch your own corner of the internet:
It may seem like a lot of information to take in, but by taking one step at a time, you’ll find it surprisingly straightforward to establish an online presence for your new business and you can gradually expand your online activities from there.
© Nominet UK 2021