Internet Law

Finding Online Customers and Making Your Site Sell

When you do business on the internet, you're probably going to be looking at your target market in a new way. Knowing how your potential customers search, who they are and how to best increase traffic to your web site matters. Understanding demographics, search methods and meta data may also affect how you plan and design your web-based business.

Defining and Targeting Your Customer Base

Traditional Advertising

Traditional businesses often define their customer base by a certain geographic area or customer group in an area. For example, advertising is aimed at customers located within a certain proximity, or to a trade group, also located in a defined area. Ads are placed in local newspapers or trade publications. Some drawbacks are cost and the limited audience you can reach.

Direct mail is an option, too. While its target can be more focused, based on demographic data, such as sex, age, income and addresses, direct mail might never be read if viewed as junk mail.

The Reach of Internet Ads

Contrast old methods of promoting your business to attracting customers for e-commerce. The internet can be cheaper, and more efficient and effective at drawing customer traffic. You aren't limited to a specific edition of a publication or phone book, and there are several ways users can find your web site.

Internet Advertising Basics

Using Demographics and Ad Potential

Start with demographics. Who are your potential online customers and how can you help traffic find your site? Know your online customer is an active searcher, and once she arrives at your site, make sure it delivers.

Demographics can be used to make your site sell with outside advertising, too. There are many ways outside advertising on your web site may take form, including:

  • Direct ads and advertising networks, where you're paid per click or per page view generated
  • Direct banner advertising on your site
  • Affiliate marketing, where your site directly or indirectly sells others' products and services

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the process of designing your site's content so it ranks high in search engine results. For any given search topic, keywords related to the topic are ranked in frequency. When your content is rich in keywords, and used in the proper way, hopefully your search rankings should rise. Knowing how your site will be found on the internet can affect your business plan and how you'll present it online. For example, you might choose a name for your business and site with SEO value in mind.

Understanding best use of keywords is important. Value is greater when your page title has keywords and is catchy and descriptive. Placing keywords in headings, subheadings and the start of paragraphs increases effectiveness.

Meta tags are brief descriptions of a web page and are used by some search engines. It's the brief description displayed with search results. Include relevant keywords in this meta data, and those keywords should also be found on the web page.

Search Engines Look at Audio and Visual Information

Search engines often place audio and visual information types near the top of search results. Users might target their searches to this information type, too. You may want to add this content type to your site, or connect keywords and meta tags to it. For example, you might have images of your product or service. Videos are possible too, and they don't have to be elaborate production pieces. Many businesses have links on their web sites to YouTube videos to feature products or to answer customer questions.

Interacting with Internet Users

Use interactive internet content to drive customer traffic to your web site. Several content types encourage people to interact on the internet such as blogs, social networking sites or forums. These types of sites allow you to promote your business, and even be a cyber community resource. You could have this content type on your web site, or participate on other sites, such as a forum community related to your business line.

Another example of this content type is an interactive tool or service. Examples are calculators, or maybe a service related to your product, such as a design tool for everything from paint colors, building materials, clothing or many other products.

Knowing the basics of how customers will find and frequent your web-based business can have an important place in your business plan. Whether you're just starting out, or have an established business, ask yourself if there's an e-commerce impact as you work your business plan.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can I reserve a business name and web site address for my business?
  • A competitor's web site has an URL almost identical to mine, and I think it's costing me customers. Can anything be done?
  • Are there any state laws on advertising I need to be aware of ?
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