ONLINE BUSINESS ASIA

RESOURCES TO PLAN, START AND GROW YOUR BUSINESS

Beginner’s Guide to Keywords and SEO

What are keywords? Here in our Beginner’s Guide to Keywords and SEO, we discuss exactly what keywords are and how to get these right to generate large amounts of organic traffic.

Simply put, keywords are individual words or phrases that search engines use to match people’s search enquiries with relevant content on the web.

For example, say you want to research short haired chihuahuas. You may go to google and type the keyword short haired chihuahuas and see which pages come up. It’s the search engine’s job to provide the most relevant search results to you the customer, and this is done through algorithms that ‘crawl’ each site’s use of keywords and determine how relevant these pages are to topics and keywords that their customers (the web-browsing public) are searching for.

What does all this mean for your business? There are 2 steps necessary to cover the basics in keywords and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and they are:

1. Identify which keywords your business should compete on

2. Place these keywords strategically in your web pages

Let’s have a look at these two steps in more detail:

1. Identifying your keywords

You’ll want to identify exactly which keywords your customers are searching for, and include these in the setup of your website pages to ensure your site gets found ahead of the others.

Google provides a helpful keyword research tool called Keyword Planner, which can be accessed for free through your Google Adwords account. This is a great starting point, so open the tool and head to the search function.

If you use Keyword Planner to search for a generic keyword or topic, the tool will provide you with a list of suggested categories and individual keywords and an estimate on the amount of monthly traffic on each of these. Note: short-tail keywords (for example: fashion) will have a lot of traffic and a lot of competition and may be impossible for you to compete on. Long-tail keywords/keyphrases (for example: Korean fashion styles) may have less overall traffic, but more possibility of you competing and being found for these keywords.

The trick is to find keywords that have strong amounts of traffic and little enough competition; you want to be on page 1 of search results of keywords that are searched 400 times or more per month. Stats show that the vast majority of people rarely look at page 2+ search results, so try to compete on keywords you can get to page 1 with, and that have some good traffic numbers.

Use this tool to narrow down your top 5-10 keywords; these will be the basis for your SEO strategy on each of your web pages.

2. Placing your targeted keywords within your site

Now that you have your list of targeted keywords, it’s time to place them exactly where the search engines are looking for them. Deliberately stuffing your pages full of all of these keywords is not advised, as Google and Yahoo have caught on to this practice long ago and usually penalise pages for these black-hat techniques. Instead, make your pages relevant to your chosen keywords, and try to include these exact keywords in the following places:

  • Web page title
  • Web page URL
  • Copy of the page (try to get the keyword in the first sentence, and once or twice more throughout the page)
  • Names and alt text of any images included on the page
  • Meta-description of the web page

Remember keywords are all about relevance, so write your pages for humans (not just for google), and these people will stay, share, and return regularly to your web pages. If you include the above techniques and build relevant, helpful web pages, the search engines will see this and reward your pages with higher rankings, sending you more and more organic search traffic.

If you’re using WordPress for your site, there are a number of plugins available to make the SEO process easier and more comprehensive; Yoast SEO is one plugin that is we have used over the past few years and highly recommend. There are plenty of other helpful plugins, so take a look out there and get your keywords and SEO right from the beginning!

Building quality pages with targeted keywords and strong SEO strategies is as complicated as you want it to be; indeed many people are building careers and agencies dedicated to this ‘art’ of learning to please the major search engines. Fortunately, if you follow the above steps you’ll already be ahead of a great deal of your competition.

For further reading, you may want to also check out 9 Winning SEO Strategies for Bloggers – these tips apply to most webpages (not just blogs) and will take you to the next level of SEO success.

Laid Bare: The Pros and Cons of Online Business

With a global audience and billions of people spending more and more time online these days, you may want to consider launching an online business. Let’s discuss some of the pros and cons of online business and taking to the internet for your next venture.

Pros of Online Businesses:

1. Open 24/7
Ever browsed the internet at 3am and ended up purchasing something? Millions do it every day, and having an online store catering to the convenience-crowd can be a winning formula.

2. Inexpensive to get started
Own a laptop and a credit card? Great, you can start a WordPress business in a day and begin marketing your products/services for the cost of a cheap web hosting package (US$5/month or less). Sites like Amazon and Lazada allow you to sell on their marketplaces, collect money via paypal, and be up and running in very short periods of time with next to no startup capital.

3. Transparency & data availability
Yes privacy is dead. Online marketers now know so much about their customers it can be scary; some businesses literally scale back their systems around customer analysis so they don’t freak-out their customers with the incredible detail they know about them. On the positive side, you can really know your customers better and provide a stronger, more relevant offer to them, meaning the business serves them better and achieves excellent results for you.

4. Scalable
Want to start from your bedroom with a laptop (or an iPad)? Sure. An online business may work from this size and be able to be scaled up when necessary.

5. Start small, look large
If you invest the time/money into a professional looking site, who will know if you’re a one-man-show, or a team of thousands? Add a couple of different phone numbers and email addresses to your site (they can all be forwarded to one central place), and you’ll have the impression of being a large company, and the confidence of your new customers.

Cons of Online Businesses:

1. Competition
While it’s true that it’s easy and inexpensive to get started, that also makes it true for your competition. It only took you a day to start your Shopify store? Great, but that means you may have new competition popping up overnight if your idea is imitatable. Try to sell an exclusive product or service, and something that isn’t easily commoditised.

2. Transparency
The internet has created a level playing field for a lot of industries that used to thrive under less transparent market conditions. Why buy in-store if you can order online and get it 40% cheaper? Price transparency can make it tough to compete and keep a healthy margin on what you’re selling. Access to information also makes the customer a lot more informed about their choices, meaning you’ll have to find a niche in which you can win.

3. True Costs – Marketing & People
While setting up might be cheap enough, the true cost of most online businesses is in marketing and driving large amounts of quality traffic to your site. Traffic is the lifeblood of any online business, and acquiring this traffic takes a combination of time and money through Cost Per Click (CPC) advertising, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Social Media Marketing building an email subscriber list, and various offline marketing initiatives. While there are many ways to drive organic (free) traffic to your site, having a solid Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) plan is vital to knowing what you’re in for with regard to marketing costs and the subsequent growth of your online business.

Once your online business gets to a certain size of traffic and sales, you may find you have to hire specialised people to handle the volume of work. Yes many tasks and functions can be automated or outsourced, but there are also a number of ‘moving-parts’ that require dedicated human interaction on a daily basis; SEO managers, digital marketing professionals, logistics and operations, IT, and other functions that your business may need to keep the business up and customers happy.

So, Do The Pros or Cons Win?

Hopefully we’ve made it clear; setting up an online business isn’t just about sitting around at home in your underwear with your laptop and watching the PayPal payments come in. While it’s easy enough to get started in online business, it’s vital to think about how you will win and create a defensible business strategy for the long term. Knowing what’s coming will help you plan for and outmanoeuvre the inevitable competition to your brilliant new business idea.

Coming up with a business idea

In coming up with a business idea, it helps to start by taking stock of all of the things you’re good at, have an expertise in, or enjoy doing regularly. Take some time to write a list out of all these things and their derivatives. This might take you a little while, so open a new notepad file on your phone and jot down any ideas you have while you go about your regular day.

Having completed a list of things that you are good at, have an expertise in, or enjoy doing, you will now have an excellent brainstorming base for a business idea. The beauty of the internet is you don’t need to be all things to all people; pick a niche and specialize in it, and with a global audience you may well be able to build a good, defensible business model.

Try to find the convergence of a field you enjoy and something you can make money doing.

You may have a passion for Mongolian throat singing (yes, that’s a thing!), but is there a chance of making money from doing this full-time? (Or part-time to begin with). Can you see a clear way to get paid from what you enjoy, and will you have the passion to continue on with this industry years after you start the business?

You need passion for the business, but also remember it has to work financially. All passion and no financial rewards is not a winning formula (the starving artists out there might back me up). On the other side of the coin, all financial rewards and no passion for the business may make it tough to carry on in the inevitably challenging times you’ll face as a start up.

Think laterally and vertically

Let’s say you enjoy fitness and working out, so your first thought is to start a gym. But that happens to be a highly competitive industry, with considerable start-up costs, and a range of other barriers against starting as a small business. So instead of starting a gym, how about a complementary business to the sports industry? Here are a few ideas:

  • Develop a line of sports supplements and become a supplier to gyms and sports clubs in your area as a wholesaler, as well as retailing globally through your own Shopify online store.
  • Enjoy writing? You could start a WordPress blog about your favourite workout routines and build a following, selling advertising space online, and making affiliate commissions for referring your readers to other complementary businesses.
  • Create a fitness “How-To” product such as a video or e-book with a new way of demonstrating fitness techniques to a specific audience. Find a niche like “pilates for kite-boarders” and away you go!

The brainstorming phase can take some time, but once you get going and open your mind up to new possibilities, you’ll quickly put together a short-list of potential business ideas. A couple of ideas to help you in your brainstorming sessions:

  • What do you wish existed already that doesn’t? Could you make it happen?
  • What frustrates you?
  • What opportunities do you see in your industry?
  • What do you do offline regularly, that you could bring online?
  • Google it! Get online and do a number of searches around your favourite topics and see if this throws up any new ideas.
  • What’s working in other markets? Is there something making waves in Silicon Valley that hasn’t been tried in your market yet?

Can I make money with this idea?

So you’ve got your business ideas short-list together. It’s now time to rank these in terms of how profitable they can be, and how much time and capital is needed to get to a break-even point.

It’s also very important that you focus at this stage on your core business revenue stream; what specifically is it that will bring in the money? This is what you must focus on developing first. Do you see your business having multiple revenue streams and several ways of making money? Sure it might. But for now, focus on your single best revenue stream and build your business around this. The other ideas can come later, once your primary revenue source is in place and getting you into profit.

How much will each of your customers be worth?

You have determined your business idea to be viable, and you believe there is a large enough market out there. It’s now time to think about your pricing and how much each customer is going to be worth to you in terms of revenue over a full year.

Try to avoid business models where your customers are single-purchasers; you will spend money and effort to attract your customers, so it will be better if they are repeat purchasers and therefore have a higher worth to you over a 1 year period and beyond. This will also be an important metric to show future potential sources of funding down the track.

As a rule of thumb, try to aim for customers that will be worth US$50-$200 or more in revenue to you on an annual basis. This ensures you won’t be serving the very bottom of the market (which tends to become commoditised), and will allow you to allocate some reasonable marketing budget to Cost Per Click customer acquisition strategies.

What is your elevator pitch?

Can you explain your business model in the 25 seconds it takes to meet someone in an elevator and discuss what you do? If not, it may be a sign that you need to go back and refine exactly what your business is about, and your key benefits to your customers.

As an example elevator pitch: “Pilates for kite-surfers is an instructional video and guidebook helping kite-surfers build core strength and achieve fantastic results in their sport”.

Name it and claim it!

If you’ve got this far and you’re happy with the model, market, and how you’ll position the business, then it’s time to claim a business name. You may want to check online to see if your name is available with a .com extension. Try to get the .com as opposed to the .net or .org etc. If you’re working specifically in a country as a local business, it will also be helpful to check if your local domain is available, for example: http://www.yourbusiness.com.sg for a local Singapore business instead of (or in addition to) the .com domain. If you can get it, always try to get the .com domain name anyway, as you may want to use it later and not pay handsomely for it. As an example, www.VacationRentals.com reportedly sold for US$35m, certainly an expensive piece of online real estate!

So you’ve brainstormed, filtered out all the bad ideas, and now you have an elevator pitch and business name. Congratulations! On the other hand, you may well have gone through this process and filtered out ALL of your ideas. Don’t be discouraged, you’ve just saved yourself a lot of hard work and money, and your eventual choice of business model will be better because of this process. Go on back to the brainstorming section and repeat the process – there are literally thousands of business models out there waiting to be explored and taken advantage of, and the more you review the better your chances of success!

Getting Found by Search Engines

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the art of being found and ranked highly by the major search engines. Search businesses compete on serving up the most relevant results to their customers, the browsing public, and it’s your job to learn what these search companies are looking for so that you get the best results and get seen by the maximum number of people. In an online marketplace where paid marketing can be quite expensive, getting found by search engines is a key way small businesses can attract new traffic and compete for business.

Key Points to Note When Setting up your site for SEO:

1. Get your own domain and hosting
Having your site on your own domain with your own hosting not only looks more professional and trustworthy to customers, but it also presents a more authoritative website to the major search engines. Using the free hosting provided by WordPress and others won’t do you any SEO favours.

2. Build relevant backlinks
As you develop content you should be actively seeking opportunities to have other (preferably larger) sites linking back to your pages. Why? The search engines will see these links as votes toward the relevance of your site and pages. If these links come from reputable sites with great Pagerank scores, or .edu or .gov websites, your SEO rankings will improve. Note: there are many online business offering to sell you services to build thousands of backlinks. Avoid these, as Google and Bing will see through the scam and punish your site rankings accordingly.

3. Develop original content that solves people’s problems
If you think about it, the major search engines’ job is to solve people’s search problems; a customer goes to Google and searches for an issue, and relevant answers in the form of search results appear.

Providing great original content in the form of a blog, podcast, vlog (video blog), images, tools or plugins, can help that search customer find a solution, and in turn tell the SE’s that your page is worth a high ranking on this topic.

4. Get your permalink structure right
Permalinks are how people and search engines locate your content on your site, and are made up of a root and an extension, for example this page looks like:

Root: http://www.onlinebusinessasia.com/
Extension: getting-found-by-search-engines/

You can change your permalink structure to to reflect each page post title with the keywords you are targeting included in the permalink, the page title, and the content of your post. There are debates about what the SE’s really look at here, but it seems common sense to sort out your permalinks and add your targeted keywords there. Remember, changing existing permalinks will mean previous backlinks and search results to that page will be broken, so be careful to not change old page permalinks.

5. Install a sitemap and submit it to Google & Bing
Any site with inbound links will eventually be ‘crawled’ by the SE’s spiders and indexed accordingly, but you can submit a sitemap manually to be sure. Depending on your site CMS, you should be able to install a plugin to automatically update the SE’s with your sitelink on a periodic basis. You can also do this yourself, by following the below steps:

  • Add your site. Go to www.google.com/webmasters/tools and add the URL of your website. Follow the instructions to verify that you are the site owner.
  • Verification. You will be given a link to download the HTML file, which you will then need to add to the root folder of your site. Once you have done this, click “Verify Ownership” and Google will check that the file is indeed there and that you are the site owner.
  • Submit your sitemap. In Google’s Webmaster Tools you should now see your site added. Click on “View Details”, and then “Submit a sitemap”. You can copy the URL (e.g. sitemap.xml) of your sitemap location into the form and submit it here.
  • After you site has been crawled, you can also use the Webmaster Tools to view interesting information about the way Google sees your site and the main keywords used across your site. A quick audit of these will help you assess whether you’re using the right keywords for the intended purpose of the site.

6. Use SEO plugins
If you’re using WordPress, a SEO plugin such as Yoast can be invaluable in making sure each page and post is optimised for search results. These plugins often highlight where you can improve SEO on each page, and help you remember to structure your site in a kewword-focussed manner, ensuring the best SEO results for your time spend.

Follow these 6 simple steps and getting found by search engines should be easier than expected, and a valuable source of organic traffic to your site.

4 Common Skills of Successful Entrepreneurs

Many new businesses are launched every day and you’ve probably heard the stats: 90-something percent of businesses fail in the first 5 years, etc, etc. It’s true, starting a new business can be a high-risk move and many fail for lack of planning, skills, capital, or other unforeseen hurdles. There are fortunately a number of common skills of successful entrepreneurs, regardless of the industry or business you choose. Let’s take a look at them.

Common Skills of Successful Entrepreneurs:

1. Drive

5% inspiration, 95% perspiration? There may be something to that saying, as it is certainly in the execution that businesses turn from being a good idea into a successful and proven entity. You’ll need the drive and determination to see projects through, and to finish what you start even when it gets tough.

2. Decisiveness

Running a business is all about making decisions and dealing with the consequences. You must be able to gather the necessary information, review the options and make quick decisions, otherwise nothing in the business will get done. As the business owner the buck stops with you.

3. Teach-ability

Great entrepreneurs don’t know everything; they’re constantly learning, adjusting, and surrounding themselves with people who know more than they do. Why? Because becoming arrogant will make you lazy, you may miss important threats/opportunities, and ultimately your business will suffer. Make sure you’re open to learning and trying new things!

4. Detail-Driven

Online commerce is all about data. It’s now possible to know our customers and their habits in granular detail, and this can be the make-or-break of an online business. The ability to filter and analyse the business’s key information will help the business owner to know what’s working and what isn’t, and will drive strategies that will both avoid pitfalls and capitalize on opportunities along the way.

And remember as Mark Twain famously said: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.”

Want to Start Your Own Business? Read This First.

So you’ve decided that you would like to start your own business (or a new business unit). One of the first things you need to ask yourself is what do you want to get out of the business?

This often means different things to different people, and setting out with a clear goal in mind is key to measuring your success along the way. Of course, many businesses are launched and then change direction, but all businesses must start with the end in mind and continue to review this as they go. So the first question to ask yourself is: Why am I doing this?

For many entrepreneurs, the quest for freedom from the 9-5 job, and the almost limitless potential of income (versus an index-linked salary) are two big drivers in setting out on a new venture. For you it may be these things, or the desire for independence, a new challenge, or simply a great opportunity that you can’t say no to. It’s important to get this clear in your mind, and then envisage what success in this business looks like to you. Is this a part-time Taobao business you can run from your laptop in your spare moments, or a large scale operation with heavy funding requirements and world domination in-tow?

Your clear vision will give you a sense of purpose through what will undoubtedly be a challenging and demanding process. So go on, take the time to nail this down!

It’s also crucial to discuss your vision, timeframe, and future exit with any business partners, investors, husband/wife, or other parties involved in your business. Are you all on the same page when it comes to these things? Going into business with partners is much like a marriage; it makes for much smoother sailing if you agree on the direction you’re going.

Do you need to quit your job yet?

While you might be ready to pack in your 9-5 right now, that may not be the smartest thing to do. Consider the options of running your new business part-time while you keep your job (and salary), and use this time to test out the business on a small scale. This can be a good way of lowering the personal risks while testing out whether your business has potential. You may quit your job and scale up at a later stage, or simply keep the business as a profitable sideline, depending on what you learn about the potential size and viability of your model in those first 6-12 months.

Do you have the capital needed?

While setting up an online business can be inexpensive, it pays to set out a realistic business plan and budget. Do you plan to fund this business out of personal savings, a loan, or an investment, or a combination of these in stages? How long will you give the company to break-even and become profitable? Remember, a great majority of businesses fail because of lack of capital. We’ll discuss financing in more detail in a later post.

“Fail to plan, and you’ll be planning to fail” said Benjamin Franklin. Take the time to plan what you really want before you start your own business and you’ll be in for a happier and more focussed journey to success.

9 Winning SEO Strategies for Bloggers

Maintaining a blog about your business, industry, and products/services you are selling is one of the best ways to boost your search rankings and drive large volumes of organic (non-paid for) web traffic to your site. If you think about it, millions of people get online and search Google, Yahoo and Bing daily for things that they want to buy, research, or simply have an interest in. So get blogging and be found by these people! Below we’ve put together our 9 winning SEO strategies for bloggers; there are certainly more ideas than this out there, but these 9 strategies will give you a great start towards winning SEO on your chosen keywords and building your organic traffic.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art of being found and ranked highly by the major search engines. Search businesses compete on serving up the most relevant results to their customers (the browsing public) and it’s your job to learn what these search companies are looking for so that you get the best results and get seen by the maximum number of people.

9 Winning SEO Strategies for Bloggers:

1. Make sure your site is set up so that you are giving the search engines what they want to see. Search engines have ways of rewarding relevance, so make sure your site is relevant to what you’re promoting and talking about. Having a focus theme or topic for your website is key here, and as you build pages and blog posts, these should all contribute to the relevance and authority of your page in that given field.

2. For each blog post, first decide which keywords you are going to compete on. A handy tool is Google’s Keyword Planner, which is free if you have a Google account. Head over to Google Adwords, login and use this tool to estimate how many people per month are actually looking for these keywords. Too few monthly searches (say below a few hundred) will indicate there’s limited market, and probably not worth your time. On the flip side, a very large volume of search may indicate a crowded market and a lot of competition.

Another way to research your competition is to simply search those keywords (or variations of them), and see which search results appear. Are there many (10+) paid-search advertisement results at the top of the page? Is there a full page or more of relevant organic search results from long-standing online companies? Keep searching keyword combinations until you see a middle ground where you can compete, and with a strong blog post you could viably get onto the 1st page.

So instead of targeting broad, generic terms like ‘dog food’, you may want to go more specialised with say, ‘gluten free dog food’ or some other niche around the topic which your customers may be searching for. Finding that balance between low-to-moderate competition, and reasonable monthly search volumes is key here.

3. Make sure that the keywords you are targeting are used in the page title (name of the webpage where your blog post is), the title of the blog post, and the first paragraph of the blog post. It can also help to name your images with these words, and insert these words into the Alt text of the images. Why? People are searching the web for text and images, and the search engines can’t yet see pictures, so naming them correctly will help get your images found, and boost the perceived relevance of that page for those keywords.

4. Remember to write your blog for humans, not just for Google! Yes you want to be strategic about your use of keywords, but you also want people to enjoy reading your posts and share them. More traffic and longer viewing tells Google that your page is authoritative and more relevant than others with less views, and up go your page rankings.

5. Use backlinks to relevant pages. Once you build a history of blog pages, you can begin to link them together and allow your readers to find other relevant articles and information, further building your case with customers and SEO that you are the authority on this topic. Outbound links (to sites other than your own) probably wont help your site’s SEO much, but inbound links (from other sites to yours) from sites with higher PageRanks will help your SEO.

6. Build backlinks. Unfortunately there are a lot of unscrupulous companies out there offering to build thousands of backlinks to your site for a small fee in the hope that you will be rewarded by search engines with better search results. These generally aren’t quality backlinks and can actually penalize you from getting results in SEO. Instead, choose to build quality backlinks from reputable sites with higher PageRank scores than your site. How can you do this? You might approach similar non-competing companies and offer to blog about them in exchange for them blogging about and linking to your site. You can also pay for editorial coverage from online magazines, bloggers, forum posters, and other online companies to build links on larger high traffic websites. Use relevant keywords in your anchor text of the links. What is anchor text? They’re the words used in the link, and these matter to search engines so keep them relevant!

7. Guest blog! Offer to write an informed and useful article on another blog in exchange for being able to link back to your page. This will give you wider reach, another backlink to your site, and help to improve your PageRank if the blog you’ve chosen has a higher PageRank than yours.

8. Link to and share your blog posts on social media. What better way to get your hot-off-the-press posts out there than via social media? With luck (and planning), your readers will like and share/repost these blog posts, giving you far wider reach than simply waiting for search traffic. Remember, Google owns the social network Google+ and will reward posts on this network with high search rankings on the browser Google Chrome.

9. Use great quality original images and videos. Videos especially. Guess what? Google owns YouTube and rewards sites for including video and linking to YouTube. Be sure to use your chosen keywords in the title of the video when you upload it to YouTube.

When done well, a blog can create a strong community resource and establish you and your company as a thought-leader and authoritative source of information in your field. That should lead to happy, engaged customers, and, if you’ve followed the above advice, better results in SEO.

Should you host the blog on your own site, or an external blog like Tumblr?

If you can only manage one, host the blog on your own site under your domain name for the best SEO results. People who visit your blog can then stay on your site to browse your product selection and other features right there, rather than having to follow a link to a new and unknown page.

If you have the resources, you may consider hosting the blog both on your site, and on an external blogging platform like Tumblr. You won’t want to have exactly the same content on both blogs though, so it’s suggested to use your site’s blog as the main blog host, and the external blog as a ‘feeder’ to this; consider posting the first paragraph or two of each post with a bunch of the images, and a link to read the full article at your own site. This gives you a wider net of readers, search results for these external blog posts, and new backlinks into your site.

Short-Tail vs Long-Tail Keywords

Many small businesses compete by targeting niche and long-tail keywords (or keyword phrases). For example, the short-tail keyword phrase “buy fashion” might be highly competitive in both organic and paid search results, but the long-tail keyword phrase “buy designer fashion Bangkok” may have considerably less competition. Keep in mind the more niche you go, the less search traffic there is likely to be. Do your research and you’ll find keyword phrases that you can both compete in and get reasonable traffic from.

The bottom line: if you’re spending time and effort creating great content, you want to be found by your readers. Investing time into your SEO is a key way to be noticed online and take advantage of the power of organic traffic from the major search engines.

Have any SEO strategies that really work for you? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

Finding Customers and Selling on Social Media

Whether you’re selling children’s toys or Software as a Service (SaaS), your customers are almost certainly spending time on social media. The questions to ask are: where are they active, and where do they expect to find you? Having a presence and leading the conversation about your product/service and industry is a crucial step in finding and converting new customers, while keeping existing customers happy and engaged. Selling on social media may or may not be for your business; let’s dive in and see why.

Not all social media channels are the same, or engage the same demographics. For example, Pinterest is said to be used by more than 90% females, and perhaps not the best channel to be marketing a mens-only type of product. Facebook may presently be near ubiquitous across age ranges, but if you are selling professional services your customers may not expect to see your presence next to their favourite cat photos. In this case, LinkedIn may be a better choice to build a professional social community.

Where is the conversation happening?

Do your research on your target customers, and where they are talking about you and your competition. Do your peers/competitors have successful pages on these channels? What is the engagement of their fans? A little research will give you more than a few clues on the best channels to pursue.

There’s no need to be on every channel

When you start out it’s likely you’ll have limited resources, so choose 1-3 social media channels that are relevant and you feel you can get results from. For a lot of businesses that has traditionally been Facebook and Twitter, and perhaps a Pinterest or Instagram account.

Advertising and Acquiring Customers

Advertising on social media can be an extremely targeted way to attract new customers, and is indeed a cornerstone of many online businesses’ customer acquisition strategy. Cost Per Click (CPC) can often be much lower than traditional Search Engine Marketing (SEM), because there is less competition than on the well trodden path of Google Adwords and Bing Ads.

The beauty of advertising on social media is that targeting can be incredibly precise (Example; send your ads to only, 30-34 year old Chihuahua owners in Manila, Philippines), and completely measurable. Assuming you have your site’s Google Analytics and conversion goals in order, you can then track the CPC from your social media campaign, visitors’ conversion rates, and average spend/customer to know whether or not the advertising is worthwhile and has a positive/negative Return on Investment (ROI).

Facebook: Becoming Less Organic

In the early days of Facebook, you could start a business page or group and simply message the whole group’s fans whenever you liked. Not so now. An average post may reach less than 5% of a page’s fans, making your hard work of building a fan base less relevant and useful to your business. The push is obviously to get business owners to use the paid advertising functions of Facebook rather than using it as a free marketing service.

How to get around this? Great content is a start. Posting original images, videos and articles or blog posts that people actually want to read and share will help people engage with your page. Remember, it is called social media for a reason; it’s quite easy to spot “sales-ey” posts, and just as easy to ignore them. Facebook tracks which fans have interacted with your posts recently, and accordingly shows new posts to engaged fans. Those fans you don’t engage won’t see much of what you post in future. Keep it interesting and engaging, with a healthy split of social to sales focussed posts.

Either way, you’ll need to spend resources (time and/or money) on building your social media presence. The choice is yours; build organically (time consuming but cheap!), or advertise and spend money on developing a fan base and a steady stream of referral traffic to your site.

The bottom line; a social media strategy should be a key aspect in most online businesses’ marketing plan, and can be an excellent way to engage your future and existing customers.

For further reading, you may want to check out Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users.

Welcome to Online Business Asia!

Hello and welcome to Online Business Asia, your resource for planning, starting and growing your online business in Asia.

As millions of new customers come online each month across the region, there is no greater opportunity for businesses to tap a fast-growing and lucrative market. Online commerce certainly is on many people’s minds as companies across the globe seek to cash in on the “Asian century”.

Gathering a wealth of knowledge from people who have started, own, and run successful online businesses across Asia, OBA is your up-to-date reference for all things in the world of online business. Join us for regular updates on topics relevant to online business operators.

In my time in Asia I have built online businesses, raised capital, marketed and sold product and services in multiple languages across several markets. I hope this resource is valuable to you as we look more in-depth at what is working here in Asia in the world of online business.

Cheers,

Damien Bos
Founder, Online Business Asia