Finding Success Online Is Hard Work — It Doesn’t Mean The Work Isn’t Worth Doing
If you have followed my writing, you’ll be aware that I believe small business has been left behind on the web. It is the whole reason we started WebriQ Goes Mad.
I wanted to share a real life story about why the work we do is so important to myself, personally, and to our clients.
As with most stories this one started by surprise. With a text message of all things. Right before the Fourth of July.
The text message was bleak. I could hear the anxiety through the text.
“Is there a different way of selling online without a full blown website??????”
I had been speaking with a gentleman for some time about launching an e-commerce store for his passion project which he desired to be his full time job. For the purpose of this article let’s call him Dave.
Dave had put in the work on his side hustle and really wanted to take it to the next level. He knew he wanted to sell online and grow a brand, but how does one do that!?
I replied to his question, “Definitely, you can do eBay, Etsy, etc. You can also use a DIY tool. I’d check out Shopify and Squarespace. Facebook has a shop too.”
Dave’s reply was bleaker still.
“Done some…. zero response. [I] Feel like I’m doing something wrong half the time. FB…. Shopify wants money.”
This quick exchange with Dave is an all too common occurrence. We live in the evolving era of the internet. Pop culture tells us an idea, our garage and a plucky website will allow us the chance at our dream enterprise. All too often that is not the case.
Is a website important? Yes, of course, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.
With great regularity I find myself in conversations with entrepreneurs who have wildly unrealistic ideas of what is possible on the internet. Sadly I also talk to folks, like Dave, who have had the harsh realities of the internet come to bear.
There is no way to sugar coat business. It is tough. The pie in the sky idealism of “If you build it, they will come” is really just a misquoted line from Field Of Dreams.
In the real world, if you build it, no one cares.
Dave had learned the tough lesson that digital marketing requires more than a website. Savvy readers already know where I am going with this article. They’ve seen the next question I asked in the screenshot above.
“What was your traffic strategy?”
In all my conversations and discussions on digital marketing, websites and WebriQ Goes Mad we always come back to strategy.
Strategy is crazy important. To many of you that would seem obvious, but with all the hype surrounding starting a business many people race right by it. They are well intentioned, educated and driven entrepreneurs, yet still they forget strategy.
Now, in all fairness, they have the COGS (Cost of Goods Sold) figured, the team is in place, and all the logistics are covered. Usually they have put together strategy on the tangible side of the business. They’ve created a logo, printed brochures and business cards and have their product or service USP’s (Unique Sell Proposition) on message and ready to regurgitate.
The tangible stuff clearly needs a strategy, but within the intangible internet, that logical practiced business sense breaks down. The internet is a place for action not strategy. At least that is how many entrepreneurs look at it.
If you build it they will come. We all want to believe it.
I asked the question “What was your traffic strategy?” Dave simply replied, “None.” Many of the entrepreneurs and small business owners I talk to find themselves in the same spot. Worn out and tired of digital marketing that they’ve actually never really started.
What I mean is that a website is not the beginning of your customer’s journey. Actually the website is the middle and nearer to the end.
Customers need to be guided to your website with a traffic acquisition strategy. Quality traffic properly acquired will use the website as intended and convert into a sale, a web-form submission or a good old fashioned phone call. In other words websites are great when they are incorporated into a bigger picture.
Building a Simple Strategy
Honestly this is the really fun part. Your website needs traffic in order to work as intended and delivering that traffic to the website is a big part of digital marketing.
If you are new to this — as most small businesses are — then I suggest starting small.
You’ll want a simple landing page on your website. A landing page is just a page designed for visitors to arrive at first. It should be easy to navigate and understand and have a clear “Call to Action” to help make your visitors take action.
With our company we actually make the homepage a landing page. This may surprise you if you have sat through lectures, webinars or other educational series on traffic acquisition and landing pages. Many folks might disagree but we have a method to our madness.
A simple strategy needs a simple tool.
Often times small businesses start out too complex. They speak with an agency or attend a seminar and they listen to experts talk about building out an entire web of pages and when the business goes to implement it themselves with a DIY tool they quickly realize how complicated all this can become.
Our response is simple. Aim small — miss small. By using a super simple homepage landing page small businesses can focus on the other side of the equation: traffic.
Not all traffic is equal, but generally, starting simple allows you to build quality traffic quickly. There are a few methods of traffic to focus on.
This is a great place for small businesses to start. It is easy to be authentic and generate interest on social media. We are social creatures and we respond well to invitations on social media.
It may not be easy at first but over time and with consistent practice you can begin to learn what your customers and stake holders care about when they interact with your business.
Remember to be social on social media. Imagine if you attended a BBQ and simply stood in the corner with a mega-phone shouting about your business. Would anyone talk to you? Probably not.
Instead you go about shaking hands, asking questions and having conversations. This is how social media works too. Once the conversation has started then you can invite people to check out your business.
As you get better and better at being social you can begin to experiment with paid advertising too. Don’t wade into this side of social media lightly. Remember aim small — miss small.
Organic Search Traffic
In my opinion this is the most sought after, the most valuable and the most misunderstood traffic type. Organic search is the ability to capture traffic that is searching targeted keywords. Putting together an organic search traffic strategy is a whole encyclopedia, but for this article I’ll simply say the dreaded word: blog.
It is a major hindrance to why most small businesses have a hard time ranking. They simply don’t produce enough original content with any consistency. Blogging is still the best way to build up original content and rank your business website.
However there is a new section of organic search that has nothing to do with your website or original content. It is the Google My Business listing. If you have not claimed or created your Google Business listing you should.
The Google listing is ranked based on many things but research suggests it is based on proximity, reviews and content within the listing.
What this means to a small business is simple: focus on customer reviews and fleshing out all the sections of the Google Business listing. If you don’t have a Google Business listing start here.
Paid Search Traffic
Until recently I would have steered our clients and readers away from jumping into paid search all by themselves. However, Google just updated AdWords to Google Ads and the first major change is a retooling of ads for small business.
Again: aim small — miss small. With hyper targeted ads to your landing page you can acquire quality traffic and make your website work!!
If your are interested in using these new tools check them out here.
Remember: Aim Small — Miss Small
Putting it all together
Once you’ve built out the landing page and worked out your traffic strategy you’ll have no choice but to start running the game plan. As you roll out your strategy and start sending traffic to your website you’ll be at the very beginning of your digital marketing journey.
Now you can begin tweaking and adapting your traffic, landing page and strategy to see better and better results. Remember a website is never complete and your strategy should never get stagnant. The internet is a living breathing thing and you’ll need to focus and adapt to see the most success possible.
Just remember that finding success online is hard work — it doesn’t mean the work isn’t worth doing.
This is the exact message I delivered to Dave. I hope you find it as useful as Dave did.