strategies posted in business strategies  on 27 January 2013
by Andrew Lang 
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What Does It Take to Create a Successful Online Business in 2013?

Essentially, you need to:-
  • 1. Have a product or service that has a demand, and...
  • 2. the supply of your product or service must be easy enough to find for your target market, and...
  • 3. the quality of your product or service must be of a standard that generates word of mouth marketing / positive feedback and further indirect sales from your customer base.
The theory is simple, but it's easy to struggle with steps 2 and 3. Step 2 essentially involves marketing, though step 3 greatly aids marketing if you do step 3 right.

How Can Your Target Market Find Your Website in 2013?

First, let's look at 2012 and earlier years. Prior to Google's Penguin updates from April 2012 onwards, most marketers saw Google as an endless source of visitors. Want to increase your sales by 50%? Then just increase your Google referals by 50%, and to do THAT, the marketer would simply point more links towards his client's website (essentially it was that simple).

That all changed in 2012. Suddenly off-page signals could actually damage your site's rankings. Now we saw the bizarre (but understandable) actions of marketers spending their time trying to REMOVE links that pointed to their client's sites.

The great thing - and also the problem - with Google prior to 2012 was that it made traffic generation for website relatively cause-and-effect. Point more links, get higher rankings, get more traffic, get more sales. SEO services made the whole process quite mechanical, and it got to the point where smart (at the time) marketers could automate their whole link building processes. Because it was so (relatively) easy, so many websites relied HEAVILY on Google for their livelihoods.

In my view, Google have known and allowed a lot of SEO tactics for years. I'm sure they had their reasons to not react sooner than 2012 (on the scale they did). Likely it was based on financial pressures, since sending the SEO industry into turmoil would inevitably increase the Pay Per Click (PPC) revenue (and yes, it did). It was just about timing.

Google eventually swung their hammer in retaliation to the SEO industry in March 2012 with a number of sting operations on public blog networks, and then with their first Penguin update the following month. The sky was falling for many SEO companies. It was a shock and awe operation by Google that sent a lot of marketers scrambling. Overnight, Google went from a benevolent partner to a seemingly stung, malevolent ex-partner, shutting off reliable traffic and turning a lot of search results pages upside down.

However, as the dust settled, many realised what has always been true: Google aren't the only source of traffic, and hey, perhaps we should now really look at perfecting our websites to maximise conversion rates. In other words, many companies were for the FIRST TIME really focusing on all the OTHER marketing methods outside of search engine optimization.

It's actually been a good thing for the internet. Prior to March 2012, search engine results were spammier, and my product searches would often lead to thin-affiliate sites. Google now rewards sites more readily based on their content and visitor metrics than simply just links. I've seen a lot of sites do well that have just a few links pointing to their site. There's still the problem of negative SEO - whereby a competitor can easily point a bunch of spammy links to a website, and that website becomes a false positive to a future Penguin update because it doesn't have enough top quality links to "defend" itself against such attacks. Many small businesses are under threat of such activity.

But let me get to the question : how can your target market find your website in 2013? Using more traditional forms of marketing - in MANY ways.
  • Get onto forums that allow link signatures and help people. You don't need to spam your services there - a link signature is enough for curious people (who find your posts helpful) to click on.
  • Word of mouth. This really points to step 3 - improving the quality of your product / service to the point that it helps promote word of mouth marketing from your customer base. There's no higher conversion rates than this method - a recommendation from one friend to another is much more likely to convert than anything else. Even if you sell a commodity product (and I kind of hope this type of seller is in a tiny minority by now...), you still run a service of sorts - work on standing out from your competition.
  • Position yourself in the wholesale chain. If you sell retail products, and you have a good supply chain, consider moving up a step in the wholesale chain, and sell small amounts to related retail businesses. Your profits are smaller per unit, but you sell more units and you're more likely to get repeat business.

Improving the Quality of Your Service / Product

I've written about this before, but it's worth repeating. This is the most important aspect for me. From your customer's perspective, their interest lies in the quality of the thing that you are offering. Improve it and it becomes more compelling to them. A lot of companies overlook this part, and simply sink more money into direct methods of marketing, and/or tinker with the pricing. The thinking goes that if you want to sell more units, just market more aggressively and/or reduce the price. No doubt it works, particularly for commodity-type products. However, this is to forget about all the other aspects of marketing: customer satisfaction, recommendations, reputation, and the simplest thing in the business world: a product or service that sells itself.

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