To survive post COVID you have to take your business online.
You didn’t have to vote for it, but, the coronavirus has left the future of virtually all brick and mortar businesses at the mercy of the tech industry.
But as it is the case with a conservative with a new idea, most business owners only see the internet as more of a threat than an opportunity for growth. Even if it is, they don’t budge.
Lucky for them, they’ve made by with customers who opt for touch, smell, and see before buying.
Then, boom, the coronavirus hit.
Without warning countries have prioritized health over the economy.
They’ve had to enforce social distancing measures, crackdown movement with lockdowns and curfews, and just like that many businesses are forced to closed.
While the coronavirus is rocking physical businesses, it’s been a boon to online businesses.
People now know and are comfortable with shopping online or at least looking for stuff online and this will continue post-COVID or any other disasters to come.
That’s why I won’t try to convince you why you should take your business online, COVID hopefully has.
Its impact on how customers shop will leave in its trail a lasting, disruptive impact.
So instead of complaining about everything going wrong, you have the opportunity to make the best of it – even in uncertainty, you can thrive.
All your customers are now online, so let’s take your business online and adapt to the new world the fast and easy way.
Besides, you have something going in your favor.
This article will equip you with skills and tools for taking your business online and always stay open.
It will empower you to establish your digital presence, sell to customers online, and while at it stay safe from hackers.
If you stick to the end, our website hosting partner – Liquid Web – will give you a 50% hosting discount to move your business online.
Disclosure: I may earn a commission when you use my referral link or coupon code to purchase from some of the providers I recommend. This helps pay the bills that keep this website running. Thanks for your support.
Step 1 – PLAN to take your business online – strategy.
It is a lot easier to succeed on paper than in practice. Short of luck, you can’t succeed in practice without charting your journey on paper.
I could easily argue that to succeed offline, all you need is a corner shop intersecting two busy streets for your restaurant. You won’t worry about getting customers. There’s just enough foot traffic to stray into your shop.
The internet is different.
I’ve seen many customers who get excited. They build websites and apps and then nothing happens. No traffic. No sales. Just crickets.
A digital marketing plan gets you started on the right foot.
Bottom-line, it helps you understand your customers and competition and how best to position yourself.
There are two main things to plan for: Your digital presence and How to sell online.
PLAN – for your digital presence.
Do you need an app, a website, or just a presence on social media?
Do you intend to use your online presence to sell products or to create awareness about your business?
Creating awareness typically ends at having a website or blog integrated with social channels and a content marketing plan.
If you are to sell products, do you plan to complete the sale online or only showcase your products online?
Both require a shopping cart like WooCommerce to display product inventory.
Completing sales online requires considering payment processing, security measures, shipping, and more.
PLAN – how to sell online – how to drive traffic to your website.
There’s no point in investing time and money if you can’t sell.
Now, is the time to think and plan on how you will get customers to your website and other digital properties
Getting customers requires you to know them – their behavior online and offline.
When you know that, you can position your brand in the right channels with the right message.
Most clients ignore this thinking that once they are online customers will just come.
No, they don’t. It may take you 5 minutes to set up a website but getting people to it is a mountain to scale.
However boring and sometimes pointless planning seems, don’t ignore it. It helps you
- Understand your customer
- It will show you how your competition is faring and how to stand out from the pack
- It will provide you goals and metrics to track and improve your business performance
At the end of your planning, you will have a digital marketing plan.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can even be one page.
Just ensure you know what you are shooting for and how you will get it online.
How to Create a Digital Marketing Strategy – Hubspot
Step 2 – Take your business online with a website.
With your digital marketing plan as a guide, roll up your sleeves, it’s time to work.
Pick a domain name that represents you.
Every time you open your browser and go to a website, you enter a domain name – google.com, facebook.com, growthhacking.africa
A domain name is your online identity. It should be simple, catchy, easy to remember, and above all rightly represent you.
Picking the right domain name for your business is a two-step process.
First, choose the name that represents you.
Names can come from your legal registered name, your product focus – computers.com, or a marketable made-up word like google.com
It is widely believed that choosing a name that contains a keyword can impact search rankings.
Second, choose the right TLD. At the end of each domain name is the TLD – dot com, dot org, dot Africa, dot co.uk, dot gov, dot space, and thousands more.
The popular TLDs are dot com and dot org, dot com is great for a commercial business while dot org has been favorite to nonprofit institutions.
In addition to the popular TLDs, we have TLDs based on locality.
All countries in the world have TLDs in their name. The UK has.UK, South Africa, .ZA, Uganda, .UG, USA, .US, China, .CN.
If you are targeting a local audience then using a local domain name is favorable.
That’s not all, over the years ICANN the organization behind domain names in the world has released 1300 generic TLDs based on vocation.
Now you can have a domain name with gTLDs like .CPA, .RADIO, .HOMEGOODS, .BEAUTY, .SMILE, .TRAVELERS, and a 1300 more.
A TLD is a TLD. It will work with any name. Go with one that speaks to your online purpose.
Pro-tip. Use a domain checker to check for the availability of a domain name.
Pick the best website hosting for your online business.
A friend recently purchased a domain name but was shocked when they were told they need to purchase a hosting plan.
Yes, you need a hosting plan for your website and emails to be served to the world.
If you spent time earlier at the planning stage, the choice of what hosting plan to pick will be obvious.
A simple blog or brochure website will do with a WordPress hosting or a managed hosting plan.
A large eCommerce store will need a hosting plan designed for mission-critical online presence.
There are many website hosting companies to pick from, but not all will help you succeed online.
Matter of fact, over 90% of them will make your life a nightmare with servers going offline, timeouts, undeliverable email, and terrible customer service.
If you want to succeed online, like our business guy who is wise to set up shop on a street with high foot traffic, don’t compromise on hosting.
Your customers will love you when you provide a reliable online shopping experience only possible when you host your eCommerce store on world-class infrastructure like that of Liquid Web.
At the tail end of this article are coupons you can redeem when you choose to get your business online with Liquid Web.
PRO TIP. Want to know why I and other entrepreneurs like yourself love Liquid Web? Read this.
Build a Website for your online business.
You’ve got the domain name and hosting. Now we build a website.
A business looking to create awareness and drive leads to their offline business may need a simple website – just install WordPress, activate a theme, and customize it to your liking.
If you are to sell online you need a website that comes with a shopping cart and a host of other software.
When it comes to selling online, you need to integrate your store with a payment processor.
There are several payment gateways at your disposal; PayPal, Stripe, local mobile money providers in Africa, among others.
Most of the extra features you need for your online store are available with a plugin – if you choose to take your business online with WordPress, you are certainly in luck with thousands of free plugins at your disposal.
PRO TIP. Take a moment to know what makes WooCommerce on Liquid Web great for your eCommerce stores.
Once you know what you are trying to build, there are three ways to build a website.
Build a website yourself.
A DIY fan can take this route.
It is how you take your business online the fast and easy way.
All you need is a bit of time and tips on how to do it and you are good to go.
Check out my ultimate guide on how to create a WordPress Blog or Website by yourself..
Using Liquid web’s WordPress hosting plan, you get WordPress preinstalled.
The default WordPress theme by itself works for an entrepreneur looking for a personal space to start their online journey.
If that’s not good enough for you, there are thousands of free and premium WordPress themes you can use.
Install it. Customize it. And you have a world-class website without spending a fortune or learning how to code.
But, why buy a premium theme when within your hosting package Liquid Web provides Astra Pro – a premium WordPress theme that gives you 1000+ themes. No cost to you.
If you are techy, you can use a page builder like Beaver which Liquid Web provides to create a unique website.
Outsource – website development.
If you don’t have time or not into fidgeting with the techy aspects of building a website, you can outsource the whole process.
You can hire a local website design company in your neighborhood or hire a freelancer online.
Thanks to the internet, remote work is part of us.
Today you can hire experts from any part of the world to do almost anything for you remotely from websites like Upwork, Fiverr, Guru, freelancer.com, and many others for as low as $5.
Hire a team – designers, and programmers.
If you can afford payroll and the technicalities of managing a local development team – then go for it.
Big online sites like Amazon, eBay have their in-house programmers.
But, that’s not within the stretch of a birding entrepreneur or if you just want to take your business online on a budget.
And more importantly, it is not in the spirit of this article on how to take your business online the fast and easy way.
So, stick with the first two options for building a website.
What to have in mind when building a website.
Customers will click away when your pages take long to load. According to Neil Patel, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Google uses page speeds as one of its ranking metrics.
If that doesn’t bother you, you soon will when we get to attract customers to your online business.
There are simple things you can implement to improve your website speeds.
- Host your website on servers optimized for fast load times.
- Use a light and well-coded website theme.
- Optimize your images before uploading them. Resize images to the right dimensions and compress them before uploading.
- Use a Content Distribution Network (CDNS)
Tools that can help with website speeds
Smush – Compress, Optimize, and Lazy Load Images – a free plugin for WordPress websites.
Cloudflare Content Distribution Network.
Autoptimize – is a great WordPress plugin that implements many of the suggestions from Google PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix.
2. Website Security
Most people focus on the visual appeal of their website. But, when it comes to the internet, website security is more important, especially if you collect and store sensitive customer data like credit cards and personal information.
Once you get your business online, the whistle goes for a cat and mouse game with hackers.
To be honest, most entrepreneurs are ignorant of how to secure their websites from hackers.
And for that reason, you should not try it on your own.
Website security starts with the website hosting company you choose, then the tools you use to build your website.
Hackers are always probing websites for vulnerabilities and either one of these can give them a window to wreak havoc to your website and reputation.
Tips on how to secure a website.
- Host your website with a security-conscious hosting company – I recommend Liquid Web.
- Use an SSL certificate on your website – Liquid web provides one for free with any hosting plan.
- Use a security plugin – On all our WordPress websites – I use iThemes Security – it comes free with Liquid web hosting.
- Don’t install any theme or plugin – vet it before you do.
- All the computers that manage your website must run updated software – operating system and antivirus
- Use strong passwords.
Now that your business is online. What next?
Step 3 – How to find customers for your online business to grow sales online.
In a new tab or window, I want you to head to google.com.
Now, imagine you are a customer looking for a product or service your website provides, what would type in Google? Enter it and hit the search button.
Do you see the results?
If I were in the market for a new laptop I would search for something like, “buy a new laptop in Kampala.”
Just before the search results, you should see a line, About 1,270,000 results (0.57 seconds)
If you have a website selling laptops in Kampala, your website is competing with 1,270,000 web pages for the first page on Google for the term “buy a new laptop in Kampala”
For head terms like “buy a laptop”, or competitive niches your website will compete with 200Million+ web pages for the top slot.
That’s a lot. Yet you decided to move your business online to sell, right?
How then do you make your business stand out online?
To sell online you have to get more eyeballs to your website. That’s the secret.
The more traffic you have, the higher your chances of converting some of these visitors to buyers.
Driving traffic to a website is a popular topic on the internet, there you will find more tips and tricks than you can implement.
Here are 5 solid ways you can drive traffic to your new website.
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Most customers will first run to search engines for answers to their problems. Solutions that your website provides.
Earlier, for instance, I went to Google to find where I can “buy a new laptop in Kampala.”
Now because your website is one of the 1,200,000 pages Google returns, it doesn’t imply that a visitor would go to page 20 of the search results to find your page.
Remember all the 1.2M webpages are competing for the first 10 places on Google because there is a joke among SEOs that
A fair warning, outranking millions of your competitor webpages doesn’t come easy. But it is worth it.
From the earlier search, newtech.co.ug the website that ranks number one for the keyword “buy a new laptop in Kampala.” is for one of my clients.
So I know how painstakingly hard it is to get to number one of Google.
I also know that once your efforts are rewarded with the number one slot, Google and other search engines will send qualified visitors and leads to your online business like clockwork.
So, what does it take to get to the first page of Google?
According to Backlinko, Google uses over 200 ranking factors to decide which site goes to the first page.
That’s a heck of a lot for someone who has to juggle the different aspects of running a business.
We’ll keep it simple in this article.
Focus on two things.
Create high-quality keyword-rich content
Newtech sells computers, to rank high; we had to create content-rich with phrases that most visitors will enter in Google.
Google uses software to figure out what a webpage is about, keywords are what teach bots what your site is about.
But remember the primary audience for your content are your readers
Your content has to be relevant to keep people coming back to your website for solutions to their problems.
And when they are ready, they will buy from you.
Get backlinks to your website.
Backlinks are the websites that link back to your website.
Throughout this article, you’ve seen me link to other websites that I think are relevant to you taking your business online. What I just did was create a backlink to those websites.
When you get the content part right, you won’t struggle with this.
Readers love to share, websites love to link only to relevant and quality content.
Google, in her wisdom, knows how many websites link to your website. The more they are the more it thinks your website is relevant to her customers, and so it will rank you high.
What you should know, however, it is not just about the number of backlinks you get.
The quality of backlinks and how you get these backlinks are more important to Google.
To test this hypothesis, quickly search for “Growth hacking in Africa” on Google.
You will see my website growthhacking.africa on the number one slot above over 9Million web pages competing for the “Growth hacking in Africa” keyword.
You can see – at the time of writing the article – I only have 12 backlinks from 8 referring domains.
If you scroll down under Top 100 backlinks, in the DR column, I’ve earned backlinks from high domain authority websites.
So get only quality backlinks.
I’ve shared with you only two ways to rank high, for exhaustive resources check out these guides.
Joshua Hardwick’s Interactive Guide on How to get on the First Page of Google.
A guide to Link Building For SEO – Backlinko
Tools you can use for SEO
Ubersuggest – Neil Patel – is a super tool for online marketers. Use it to generate keyword and content ideas for your website.
Answer The Public – is another great keyword research tool.
2. Leverage social media for traffic.
With over 7 billion social media accounts around the world, your potential customers spend their time on some social networking website.
Figure out where your audience is, set up your presence, and actively engage with them.
When you share relevant content with your followers, you will easily get them back to your website where you can now convert them to paying customers.
To learn more, here’s another guide from Neil Patel on How to Easily Double Your Traffic from Social Media
Social media tools for your online business.
- Hootsuite – for monitoring and scheduling posts. The free account provides up to 3 accounts.
- Canva – create eye-catching graphics online, it’s free.
3. Add your website to local directories
This may be the easiest task you can do to get traffic to your website.
Search for local business directories in your area or niche and add your website. Most of these are free.
4. Leverage Email Marketing to grow your audience.
Email marketing is another great way to not only drive traffic to your website but very important in building a following around your brand.
Email is here to stay, and the statistics prove it.
You’ve spent time building a website, creating content, driving traffic to the website. Don’t let that traffic go to waste.
A simple growth hack is setup visible calls to action sign up and pop up forms for your newsletter.
At leisure, you can nurture your leads into paying customers.
Email marketing tools and resources to grow your online business.
The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing – Hubspot
Mailchimp, MailPoet (manages a newsletter within your WordPress website), Hubspot, Constant Contact
5. Use Paid Ads to scale your growth online
On the other end of free methods of driving, traffic, and sales to your website are paid methods.
When you start, you will realize it may take months even years to get the above free methods to bring consistent traffic and consistent revenue to your business.
That’s where paid ads come in.
You leverage channels your audience is in to push your message to them with ads like Google Ads, Facebook Sponsored posts.
It’s fast and effective, but, it gets expensive. Google makes 97% of its money from ads, with some ads earning it $50 per click.
Even $1 per click is expensive. To get 1000 visitors from such an ad would cost you $1,000.
Step 4 – Use data to Measure. Learn. And optimize for Growth.
Along the way, I’ve shared with you a bunch of tools to get your business online and to manage your digital presence.
Most of these tools collect data that are insightful and useful for calibrating your online efforts.
Take advantage of them to better understand your customer and your business.
These tools go behind the hood to track customer behavior and the technical aspects of your website.
With the data gathered, you can learn and optimize your digital presence for growth.
Wrap up on the easy way of taking a business online
If you’ve made it this far, then I have all the confidence that you have learned what it takes for your business to succeed online.
Plan for your online presence.
Get website hosting designed for business growth
Build a website.
Promote the heck out of it to sell more
Measure. Learn. And optimize for Growth.
You are now ready to bulletproof your business from the uncertainty that pandemics like COVID-19 wreck on physical businesses.
I am rooting for you.
As promised here are the coupons you can redeem from Liquid Web when you decide to take your business online.
If you are wondering why Liquid web – take a moment and read why I believe Liquid web is the best for eCommerce sites.
Need help or if you’ve got questions about anything on this article or just about everything getting online, leave your comment below.
If it is about Liquid Web hosting, contact them directly – I am confident you are in safe hands – they have the best customer service in the industry.
If you found this article helpful, don’t be selfish, help your friends and followers take their business online too when you share this article.