SMEs are falling behind the times with their websites and online presence. Let’s be clear: there was every reason for SMEs to take an interest in their online profile before the recession hit, now no business, whether big or small, can provide not to compete online.
Here is my look at five important issues SMEs are facing in making their websites work for their businesses.
1. Many SMEs don’t interact directly with customers online
OK, let’s be honest, there are three levels of involvement here: you’ll need to choose which one fits in with how much time you have to give to this and potentially your level of computer skills!
a) Join discussion forums and set alerts for certain keywords so that you are reminded about the site and can contribute on applicable content (don’t forget to link back to your site)
b) Create your own blog. For Search Engine Optimization purposes (SEO) or Google/Bing/Yahoo! rankings, it’s preferable to have your blog integrated into your site, but if you want a quick consequence, you can create a free third party blog in seconds flat at Blogger or WordPress.
c) Integrate Facebook comments, likes and shares into your own site. If you have the time to do this, it really pays off, because it method visitors are commenting on and referencing your site instead of your Facebook fan page. Facebook’s area for developers has a great range of widgets and creates the code for you, you just have to copy and paste into your website.
2. Few SMEs use social networking
With so much of business happening by social networking business pages, you can’t provide not to be here.
If it’s an issue of time, remember that you can integrate your Facebook and Twitter so when you update one, the other will be updated automatically. Just go to Facebook, kind ‘Twitter’ in the search bar and click on the App which appears. This will link your Facebook and Twitter profiles, saving you valuable time updating your social media.
3. Many SMEs argue that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is too costly an investment
You can learn a lot about SEO yourself or from free resources. Google’s Webmaster Tools are a good place to start for outlining the basic principles.
If you want to go further and you can edit your own website, MySEOTool is a great resource as it will give you specific guidance on what to change and responsibilities to help you accomplish your goals, in addition as helping you track your progress.
Don’t forget to take advantage of free advice. Lots of internet marketing professionals offer free consultations as a taster. Look for these offers and plan the specific questions you want to ask or areas where your knowledge is lacking to ensure that you make the most of these sessions.
4. Customers want more consistent branding from SMEs
You don’t already need to know much about web design for this one. When you use a graphic or web designer, ensure that you get the image and text files from them in editable form, so that they can be manipulated in future.
If you are going to invest in a designer, ensure that the designs are fully workable on the web in addition as in print, then you can make sure that your branding is consistent across different media. Some good questions to ask are: “Will that font work on all browsers?” and “What measures are in place to ensure that people can find my site and know that it’s me?” Ideally you should be asking a designer these questions before you sign up to their designs.
5. Basic features like email forms are missing from many websites
I am a big believer in the email contact form. They’re more specialized, they give the impression that you care about the contact and they’ll average less spam to your inbox because they do a better job of protecting your email address from those who’ll abuse it.
Simple copy-and-paste code for email forms is increasingly easy to find and customise online. If you really are code-phobic, you can use Survey Monkey to create a form which will collect responses for you. Simple as that.
So now there’s no excuse! Let’s make 2011 the year SMEs shake off web phobias and embrace the internet age!