This evening, I decided to attend and take part in a seminar by the Google Digital Garage that was taking place.
The presentation was given by Mike, from Google Digital Garage, which is based at The Tram Shed in Grangetown, Cardiff. Aside from the presentations they regularly hold, they said that they also offer free tips and advice to businesses via one to one mentoring sessions.
Mike went through four key areas with us, throughout the evening, about running a business and having your business online:
- Building an optimised and consumer friendly website
- Boosting your social media presence and content
- Managing your online presence on Google
- Gaining customer insights and finding new customers
Building an optimised and consumer friendly website
I learnt that the UK has the largest percentage of online consumers than any other country. With these statistics, it shows that it is clearly important to be online as a business, as you would surely gain benefits hugely.
UK – 77% > Japan – 70% > Germany – 64% > China – 49% > Italy – 36%
We looked at ways to make sure that you have a presence online. Firstly, it is of course important to have your own website. You can have a website in two main different ways; either have your own website that you create from scratch (or pay someone else to) yourself or you create one using another web platform (for example, using WordPress or Wix). These two options come with both pros and cons.
The pros of having your own website are that, you have full control over your brand and you have the opportunity for advanced options. However, the cons are that they are difficult to create, particularly on your own if you don’t have much expertise in the field, and then it can also become costly when paying someone else to create a website for you also. The pros that come alongside creating a website using another web platform are that, they are quick and easy to setup and they are low cost, if not completely free. On the other hand, the main con is that you have less control over customisation as you often have to follow a given template.
Now we knew that it was a good idea for us to have our own website, next we looked at how to build a successful one. A successful website should include:
- Clear purpose and goal
- Clean layout and navigation
- Strong call to action
- Fast page loading time
- Mobile first design
Mike also showed us a great Google website that allows you to test your site to see how it works across all devices: testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com. It looks at how well your site works on both mobile and desktop and then where your site may be poorer in some areas, it gives you tips on how you can fix and improve them.
We also looked at how to design your website best for a mobile. A successful design should be:
- Prominent call to action
- Simple and clear navigation links
- Streamline form fills
- Optimised for small screens
Boosting your social media presence and content
Aside from having a website, it is also important to maintain a digital presence from other platforms, such as social media (e.g. Facebook and Twitter). As well as social media, this includes selling engines (e.g. Ebay or Etsy), a blog (e.g. WordPress) and review sites. Did you know that there are, in the UK alone, 38 million active social media users? That’s a huge amount! Imagine how many people could find you and your business, whether it be intentionally or unintentionally, on the web every day – a lot!
When boosting your social media presence, it is also important to consider your audience – your customers. Where are they online? What do they do online? Who do they follow online?
Make sure that you write an effective social media bio for your customers to see. You should keep it relevant to your business, keep it clear and consistent and show your personality and have fun.
Don’t forget the power of YouTube either – another great social media platform to be taken advantage of wherever and whenever you can. YouTube is the second biggest search engine (after Google themselves) in the entire world! In order to create great YouTube content, be a though leader, create sharable content and identify potential collaborators.
Some great YouTube tips, given by the Creator Academy, include:
- Give your audience the power to watch what they want – think about what they want to see and then create it
- Be human and interact – have a conversation with your viewers, like you’re their friend
- Think about what attracts new viewers
- Don’t make just a one off video; keep it on ongoing series – create a narrative to engage
Managing your online presence on Google
This one’s simple! Make your business appear front and centre – get it onto Google My Business. That way, when people look for you or a business like yours, they’ll find you.
Gaining customer insights and finding new customers
Search is and always has been extremely important when it comes to gaining customers. Back when the internet didn’t exist, search was still around, just in a different form – the Yellow Pages. Now, even the Yellow Pages and moved online and have become yell.com. Online search is just one absolutely giant business directory, and with Google being the biggest search engine in the world, you better make sure your business is on it! New consumers, which is exactly what your business is after, have a journey that they go through when making a process. This involves: stimulus > research > purchase > experience. Search, is what’s at the heart of this purchase journey.
It’s always important to be found online. Why? Let’s look at some statistics. Did you know that 4 out of every 5 consumers use the web to find local information? And that 50% of these consumers visit a store within a day of their local search? You should surely be making the most of this – get Google My Business, so that all these potential customers, can become your customers.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the name given to activity that attempts to improve search engine rankings. For example, in search results, Google displays links to pages it considers relevant and authoritative. Authority is mostly measured by analysing the number and quality of links from other web pages. This means essentially, your web pages have the potential to rank in Google so long as other web pages link to them. Some of the best SEO practices include:
- Conducting keyword analysis and research – find out what your customer is searching for
- Creating useful and quality content
- Optimising your web pages – make sure that they shine across all stations, both desktop and mobile
It’s not just SEO on your desktop, you can optimise your mobile SEO too by:
- Avoiding uncommon mobile software
- Optimising your content to the screen
- Creating easy, clickable links
- Avoiding pop-ups if possible – they’re annoying
It’s brilliant to be able to give your audience what they want, so it’s also great that you can find out exactly who you’re customers are and what your customers are searching for. Use Google Analytics to help you find who your visitors and audience are, how they found you, what they’re doing on your site and what they’re worth to you. For Google Analytics, the path to success is to, set-up your website, collect data, create and set yourself goals, measure the insights and then take actions upon your findings. You can also use Google Trends to find out what your customers are searching for – you can see both regional and related searches here.
Search engine marketing is the process of gaining visitors and visibility for your website from search engines, through both paid and unpaid methods. Google Adwords is a great and useful way to optimise these efforts – it is a pay-per-click (PCC) model which means that you don’t pay anything unless a user actually clicks on your advert. The model also allows you to define your business goals, create your landing page and tracking, and determine your budget. When using Adwords, you can use a keyword planner to search volume data for keywords and ad groups, as well as get traffic estimates for keywords. Adwords uses a specific layout, but in order to write a great advert for yourself, you should include: why customers should choose you; details that sell; an irresistible offer; and a call to action.
And finally, in order to create an engaging landing page for once the user has found you and your business’s website, you should include:
- Clear call to action
- Offer (for example, 20% your first purchase)
- Narrow focus – just the most important attributes; don’t clutter
- Effective headline
- Resolution savvy layout
- Tidy visuals
- Social proof
Overall, the presentation and the evening as a whole really showed me that there are great ways and opportunities that I can use and take to push and promote both myself and my business. One of the first and foremost things that I plan on doing when setting up my own business, probably after leaving university, is to put it straight onto Google Business to make sure that I am accessible and easy to be found by potential customers. I will also most likely take part in some search engine marketing, such as Google Adwords, which is the ‘pay-per-click’ kind – this has the potential to increase my discoverability and to gain more viewers and customers. Perhaps if I struggle with anything and could do with a recap, I could call in on the Cardiff Digital Garage at The Tram Shed to take them up on one of their mentoring sessions that they offer there.