Getting started

Ready to bring your small business online? Here are 5 tips for getting started!

by Alisha Shibli

Many businesses, including small and local businesses, have had to reorient towards the web over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. But with the rise of e-commerce over the past decade, a strong online presence has become vital for all businesses, even before the public health crisis. The majority of your customers are online, and you have the opportunity to reach a much wider audience than what you can expect by using traditional marketing methods and off-line sales.

If up to now you’ve been putting off creating your online business, it’s time to stop procrastinating! But since it might seem complicated at first, let’s start with just 5 simple steps.

  1. Invest in a quality website
  2. Register a personalized domain name
  3. Boost your website’s search engine ranking
  4. Deploy an email marketing strategy
  5. Create your social media accounts

1. Invest in a quality website

Your website is the online counterpart to your brick-and-mortar shop or your offie. It should convince your visitors that you can meet their needs and reflect your business’s philosophy and your brand’s personality. Planning a perfect website takes work, but here are the most important things to take into account:

Your objective

What’s the goal you want to use your website to accomplish? Will it be to disseminate information about your company and raise its profile? Will it just be to present your products and services or to sell them? Everything, from your website host to you content to your website design, flows from this decision.

Appearance

Ensure the coherence and consistency of your brand’s image by incorporating the colors and fonts from your logo in your website. Use colors and other elements that match your brand’s personality and elicit positive emotions from your website visitors. You might, for example, use bright and dynamic colors if you’re in the fashion industry, or if you sell products for children, or you might take a more sober and minimalist approach if you’re a financial firm.

Build your website

You don’t need to be a website design expert to create your own. There are several easy-to-use website creation tools like Webnode, Squarespace, and Wix. CMSes like WordPress offer a wide range of different customizations and ready-to-use templates available for a range of prices. PrestaShop is another option specially made for e-commerce sites. For a highly specialized site, you can also hire a web designer.

Install Prestashop at Gandi

2. Register a custom domain name

When internet users look for you or your products on search engines or online directories, your domain name is the first thing they’ll see next to your business name. It also represents you on social media accounts and other online publications, as well as in off-line materials like brochures, signs, and business cards. In many ways, it’s the first point of contact that buyers have with you or that potential customers have with your online business and it’s important to make sure this first impression is good.

As you develop your online business, you’ll need a personalized domain name, and it’s a good idea to invest in a domain name from the start and strengthen your credibility in the market.

Finding the right domain name can also be more difficult than coming up with your business’s name, but here are a few best practices that you can follow:

Be concise and memorable

Your domain name should be sufficiently easy to remember, no matter where someone sees or hears it. Imagine that you meet a potential customer in a busy café. Will that person be able to remember your domain name and type it correctly if they only hear it just the one time?

Keep it simple

To make your domain name easy to communicate, you also need to avoid anything that might cause confusion, like numbers, hyphens, and unusual spellings. For example, say you have two choices: www.homemade.store and www.home-made1.com. The first is simpler to communicate orally because you can pronounce it just as it is.

Use relevant keywords

Going from a fully offline business to one with an online presence, it’s useful to incorporate the name of your business in your domain name in order to make your website address easy to identify. You can also consider adding keywords that people might use to search what you sell in order to set the right expectations, like your industry or your locality. For example, www.carwash-toronto.site or www.doyourshopping.online.

Choose the right domain ending

Beyond the classic domain endings, there are plenty of others that represent different particular industries or that just give businesses more choices to more easily get the domain name of their choice.

Consider using one of these if it better matches your online brand image. For example, you could use .store if you sell things online (www.vintagefurniture.store, www.thirft.store) or .tech if you have a technology-related business (www.phonerepair.tech, neighborhoodmechanic.tech) or .space (inexpensiverentals.space, yogaclasses.space).

Avoid copyright problems

Before registering your domain name, verify that it’s not already taken or that it’s not protected by a trademark registered by someone with intellectual property rights to the name. It’s better not to choose a domain name that would expose you to risks of legal action.

Similarly, think about protecting yourself from domain squatters who register domain names similar to existing ones hoping to force you to purchase it from them or to fool your customers into thinking they’re you. Fortunately, you can protect yourself with the TMCH (Trademark Clearing House) service through Gandi, a means of protecting your brand.

Learn more about protecting your trademarks with TMCH

3. Boost your website’s search engine ranking

Creating a quality website isn’t enough. You need to let the internet know you exist and for that, you need to optimize your site for ranking in search engines. Search engine optimization (SEO) lets you ensure that Google generates more traffic to your website. This primarily depends on the relevance of your content in relation to searches performed by internet users and the credibility of your website.

Search engine algorithms for ranking websites are constantly evolving, but certain best practices are consistently useful.

Use highly searched keywords

Whether it’s for your homepage, your “About” section, or your product pages, make sure you strategically place keywords that people are searching for in your niche. If you don’t know what your keywords are, you can use tools like Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush to find relevant keywords with high search volumes. You should, however, avoid overloading your site with keywords, as that can actually impact the quality of your website, which in turn hurts your ranking.

Offer quality content

Content marketing is quickly becoming one of the most effective tools for generating prospects. According to this study from 2020, 84% of businesses interviewed said they used a content marketing strategy. Providing high quality, appealing content that informs users and solves their problems allows you to generate new visits on your website, builds your reputation as an expert and increases your chances of conversion.

Improve the quality of your site

Make sure that browsing your site is intuitive and that load times are short. Use relevant calls to action to guide people in their user journeys. Create a responsive website that can be easily visited on phones and tablets.

4. Deploy an email marketing strategy

Between now and 2024, the number of email users in the world is set to surpass 4.48 million. For businesses, email mrketing allows you to connect more directly with potential customers and is also very profitable, financially speaking.

Along with your domain name registration at Gandi, you get your first two email addresses included 3 GB of storage, plus an unlimited number of aliases and forwarding addresses for free.

Implement your email marketing strategy by following these simple steps:

Use the right tool

Email marketing tools let you analyze the behavior of your website’s visitors and set up automated and personalized email. Some of the best email marketing applications are Mailchimp, GetResponse and SendinBlue.

Collect email addresses

For this, you can add a form to your website asking for the name and email address of visitors. Be sure to offer something in return for signing up, like regular updates about your products, or promo codes.

Configure automated emails

Use your email marketing tool or tools to send automated emails to people at different stages in the buying process. For example, you can send a welcome email to each new sign-up, a promo code to anyone who abandons their basket, or suggested products based on previous purchase.

Create a newsletter

Newsletters are an excellent way to keep your subscribers up to date on your business’s latest updates, but you can also use them as a content marketing tool, for example, by sending subscribers articles and videos based on current trends and recommended purchases.

Sign up for Gandi’s newsletter

5. Create your social media accounts

An active presence on social media is essential if you want to reach a wider public and create a community around your business. You can use your social media presence in creative ways to inform, engage, and entertain your audience, share news and important updates, highlight your brand’s personality, and even keep an eye on your competitors.

Choose the right platforms

Each social network has its own type of audience and content. For example, Facebook is the most used platform in most parts of the world. Instagram and Pintrest are more focused on visual discovery and interests, so they’re better adapted for creative content. LinkedIn is ideal for reaching a professional clientele.

Let people buy directly from your social network

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pintrest let users make purchases without leaving their website, which favors impulse buys. Create professional accounts to take advantage of this market on social media.

Publish quality, appealing content

Do research on your audience to learn what kind of content they’re interested in. Don’t be content to publish product news and updates about your business. Mix this with content that brings value and novelty, like blog articles, tutorial videos, quotes, infographics, etc.

Be regular and reactive

Publishing content that’s too timely will disengage your audience. Create an editorial calendar in order to have content ready to publish whenever you need it. Use social media analysis tools to determine the best times and days when your audience is most active. You can use planning applications like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Later to schedule automatic posts across several platforms.

Conclusion

Bringing your business online is only half the work, but it’s a good start. If you’ve kept your business offline until now, you’ll have plenty of lessons to learn, victories to celebrate, and defeats along the way. The online market changes quickly, along with the expectations of consumers.

Keep an open mind, stay up to date with the latest trends in your area, and experiment with different tools and tactics until you find the right strategy for your business.

More information about Gandi’s solution for small- and medium-sized business

Alisha is a Senior Content Marketing & Communication Specialist at Radix, the registry behind some of the most successful new domain extensions, including .online and .tech