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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Keywords: a beginner's guide

Small businesses can get more online exposure by using the right SEO keywords. Danielle Haley of Freelance SEO Essex explains how to optimise your ecommerce website to generate more traffic and increase your online sales leads

Small business owners can find it daunting to try and compete with larger companies when it comes to getting online traffic. But small firms can attract an enviable number of online leads and sales - if they get their search engine optimisation right.

Search engine optimisation, or SEO, means doing what you can to help your site to rank well in the search results for your chosen search terms.

Search engines such as Google have complex algorithms that they apply to all web pages to measure how relevant they are for any particular search. None of us know the exact content of the algorithms, which change frequently. But we do know that the way we use our targeted keywords in our page content is an important factor in getting a site to rank well.

How to choose your keywords

All ecommerce website owners want a top ranking for the most obvious search terms related to their industry, but there's an awful lot of competition out there. Smaller businesses may find it more realistic to target less popular and perhaps slightly more obscure keyword terms that can bring in more targeted visitors to their site.

Keyword generators and online services such as Google's Keyword Planner, Microsoft Keyword Planner Tool, SEMrush and SEOBook can help you get keyword ideas and check how popular and competitive they are.

Domain name choice

If you're in the early stages of setting up your ecommerce website and have yet to choose a domain name, it can be a good idea to purchase a site name that contains one of your keywords, or at least a variant. That said, it is possible to rank well for keywords even if you have an unrelated domain name, such as one that simply contains the name of your company.

Page content

Once you've chosen a small selection of keywords or phrases that you want to rank for, you can concentrate on working these into your site content. It's important to sprinkle these keywords naturally throughout the entire body of your text - top, middle and bottom - but the trick is not to overdo it. If search engines suspect that you're guilty of 'keyword stuffing', they can apply a penalty to your site, which will see it drop further down the search listings.

Titles and meta tags

Unlike site visitors, search engines don't just read the text on your web pages. They also evaluate the coding behind each page. This is good news for shrewd webmasters, as it means there are extra opportunities to promote keywords on your site through the use of coding elements such as page titles, meta-tags and headings. Place your keywords naturally into each of these and you could see a dramatic improvement in your rankings.

Backlinks

Another great way to get the search engines to look on your site favourably is to get other related sites to link back to yours. Rather than asking these sites to simply list your website URL, a better idea is to request that your preferred keyword is the clickable 'anchor text' which links back to your site. This shows the search engines how relevant you are for this term.

SEO is an ongoing trial and error process. Try out a small selection of keywords and phrases on your site, then monitor which terms convert into real sales and leads for you.

Written by Danielle Haley from Indy Consultancy. Ecommerce content edited by Chloe Thomas of eCommerce MasterPlan.

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