Checklist for Startups: Online Priorities

Launching a business is never easy. The process is costly, time-consuming and riddled with uncertainty. You can have the best product ever made and still have no guarantee consumers will buy it.

The Internet has alleviated some of the pressures of launching a business. It’s cheaper to launch a virtual store than a brick and mortar store, and it generally takes less time as well.

The easier entry point for online businesses means there’s plenty of competition from other entrepreneurs, which creates a whole new set of complications. To find your niche in the marketplace, your business has to stand out from the crowd. That requires personality, and your online presence must convey the personality of your business at every turn.

Your Audience

You’re launching an online business, so you must believe there are customers out there somewhere. The questions are “who are they?” and “how can you help them find you?” Knowing your customers is paramount to the launch of a successful online marketing campaign. According to the Pew Research Center, 83 percent of 18- to 29-year-old Internet users are on social networks, while only 32 percent of 65-year-old and older Internet users are on social networks. Obviously, social network advertising will reach a lion’s share of younger users, while reaching the 65 and older crowd will require more work.

Your Website

Before interacting with your audience, you need an attractive, easily navigable website. Not only does your website need to tell consumers what you have to offer, it needs to illustrate what makes your company special. As a start-up, you’re a little fish in a big ocean with sharks and octopi overshadowing you. You must show your bright colors to be seen.

First and foremost, make sure your website is easy to read and to use. Limit the information per page, and tell consumers what makes your product unique from the very start. There are thousands of greeting card companies on the Internet, but you may be the only one making greeting cards out of recycled art canvases. Highlight what makes you distinctive, and, if you don’t know how to make an attractive, responsive, navigable website, get help from someone who does. It’s easy to find help building your small business website. It will cost you up front, but pay off in the long run.

Making it Accessible to Search Engines

Getting placement on search engine results pages is essential if you want users to find your website, and it should be a priority in your site design. Placement on Google is most vital, since it’s the most popular search engine on the planet. To ensure you don’t get overlooked by Google, heed their guidelines for creating a quality site, which include the creation of high-quality content and a site map that makes it easy for users to navigate the pages.

Once you have a proper website, you can begin your online marketing pull. Though they are most popular with the younger crowds, social networks are still an ideal tool for promoting your company, and you should have a presence on the most popular ones, Twitter and Facebook. Since these sites are indexed by search engines, your social network pages will help your placement in search results and serve as gateways to your website.

With online advertising, message boards and subject-specific websites, there’s ample opportunity to advertise an up-and-coming business on the Internet. Starting with a good base — a workable website, a social presence and knowledge of your audience — is the key to a successful launch into the online business world.