When you start your own online business you always end up being pulled in many directions at once. You are, quite naturally, consumed by the passion of the idea which drives you, have to deal with all the practical details of the setting up of your business and you have to struggle to obtain the funding necessary to get you started and keep you going. On top of all this you also have to deal with all the unforeseen challenges which crop up.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) at that stage seems, quite naturally, so far removed from what needs to be urgently done that the majority of entrepreneurs never even consider it. That however is a fault in terms of business thinking the correction of which takes time, effort and money. Sadly it can also often mean the success or failure of your online business.
Yet all this pain, cost and possibly broken dreams could easily be avoided with a 10-point business start-up checklist designed to give you an edge the moment your business goes live:
1. Site structure – way too often the pressure in new start-ups is to get a website up and running and get it into the search engine index as fast as possible. Important indexing considerations such as site structure, the need to have it as flat as possible and the necessity for a way to upload fresh content seem to be secondary, until much later.
2. Naming – This is a faux pas which even multi-national giants like HP can make as evidenced by the inane (from an SEO point of view) naming of its flagship tablet which has been called TouchPad. The name of your products and your website can, if chosen carefully, give you an SEO edge which will help you push ahead of your competitors.
3. Content creation strategy – More than just an SEO tool the need to create content which is original and confers real value to those who read it is a vital aspect of any business looking to connect with its customers.
4. Rules of engagement – You know that your best chance of going viral is to engage with your customers but have you really worked out how that is going to be achieved over the course of the next twelve months?
5. Social network marketing – You know that you need to be on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace but unless you actually know how to integrate all this together and project a unified message you are only really paying lipservice to the notion of social network marketing.
6. Viral messaging – Every start up hopes to go viral but the number of those who manage it is so small that the task itself seems to be impossible. Actually your best chance of going viral is to closely follow the ten steps detailed here and make sure that you actually engage your target audience rather than simply shout to them about your products and services.
7. SEO strategy – The word strategy here means that when it comes to SEO you really need to know what activities must be done when in order to get the greatest impact out of them. This requires a firm grasp of what you are trying to say, what impact you expect it to have and how you measure that impact.
8. Brand building – today a brand is more than a logo and a price tag. Brands are associated with lifestyle, image and customer expectations. Unless you have in place a strategy which will help your potential audience to ‘own’ your brand you will end up being on more voice on a web that’s teeming with voices.
9. Value for money – the global credit crunch has only helped to heighten awareness around price points. Cost has always been a factor in determining how a new start-up does. If you are in the business of selling something (and even if you are not) you need to help your target audience understand, clearly, why you offer value for their time and money.
10. Communication – It is very few companies (if any), these days, which can afford to stay aloof from their customers and still maintain their loyalty and trust. What customers really want these days is a means to communicate with the companies they spend time and money on and a clear means of doing so.
If you create your start-up with these ten principles in mind from the word go you will have covered every base which has to do with its online visibility. You will have created a platform that’s customer-centric, search-engine friendly and viral marketing inviting and that is the best possible start any new business can have.
David Amerland is the best-selling author of ‘SEO Help: 20 steps to get your website to Google’s #1 page’. A British NUJ journalist, editor and author he is actively involved in web trends and online business development. Online Marketing Help is available to buy from Amazon and any quality offline or online bookshop for $22.99. ISBN: 978-1-84481-988-1. It can also be purchased from the Amazon Kindle store or directly from David Amerland’s website: www.helpmyseo.com.