E-Commerce Strategies for SMBs

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There are dozens of e-commerce tips for small to medium businesses out there. Some of these include consumer-friendly Web site design, the value proposition for effective content management, branding, niche marketing and other ways to drive customers to your site. Darrell Zahorsky, who runs the small business information site at About.com, said blogging and proactively managing your online reputation are two particularly timely e-commerce strategies to consider.

“When you’re talking about strategies for the Internet today, that’s really evolved since the Internet meltdown or crash in 2002, which people refer to as Web 2.0,” Zahorsky said. “This is the part of the Web that encompasses social computing, which covers things like blogs, podcasts, consumer generated content, social Web communities. All of those provide new opportunities especially for small and medium-size businesses to compete effectively in the Internet landscape.”

Zahorsky said that blogging is one good strategic tool to focus on because it offers SMBs a chance to improve their search engine rankings without breaking the bank. “Blogging has had a lot of press. It’s been around for about seven years but it’s really just started picking up steam in the last few years. Most big corporations have gone to search engine optimization and paid search and tried to optimize their organic listings. It’s become extremely competitive for some top, key words, and it’s hard for small businesses to compete.”

“A lot of people may think of blogging as a tool, a chance for a company to show their voice and communicate with their audience, share their knowledge, but Google has something called a freshbot that daily scans Web sites looking for fresh content. That’s what blogging is all about, providing fresh content all the time. Companies can optimize key words on their blogs to help their search engine rankings.”

Second, companies should consider a strategy that Zahorsky said is frequently overlooked, online reputation management. This is when a company or a CEO tries to effectively manage their name online, such as when items come out on search engines. Online reputation management is especially relevant if you consider how easy it is to disseminate information, including false information, via the Web. There are sites exclusively devoted to calling out company’s shady business practices, poor customer treatment or labor snafus. And given how the media has a tendency to glut itself on high profile incidents via the sheer number of outlets available on the Web, without some kind of online spin control to counteract or repudiate potentially damaging incident reporting, companies not concerned about online reputation management can end up at a serious disadvantage in the Web marketplace.

“There may be a one sided view so it’s important that the company gets their view out there, and the small business can get out there and get their name into associations and publications in their field,” Zahorsky said. “I think it was Search Engine Watch that said 25 million people searches are done a month by somebody’s name. That’s something that a company needs to keep in mind.”

“There’s one big corporation that has tried to do that, Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has had a lot of bad press with unions, so Wal-Mart effectively put up a Web site or a landing page so that when you go into Google and type in Wal-Mart unions, I think the third hit or site that comes up is their own Web site giving their side of the story. This is something that’s going to evolve as a part of Web 2.0 as companies realize that they have to get out there and manage their reputations online on the search engines.”

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