Once you have your website and social media platforms set up, you will still need to attract visitors to your sites. Historically, there were a number of techniques that you could use to improve your “ranking” (position) on Google, the leading search engine. Such methods included link building, keyword inclusion, domain name management, meta tag development, and various other tricks.

The search engines have become wise to this, as there was a whole industry devoted to building sites to get to the top of a specific search term. Obviously, this goes against Google’s aim of being a valuable search function for it’s end user, and it would prefer for a site with relevant content to be listed above a site that has merely paid someone to manipulate the results.

Nowadays, search engine optimisation is less effective than before, not least because Google changes their algorithms regularly, which can significantly affect a website's position online. My suggestion therefore is to recruit a web development team who are up to date with what is happening with regards search engine visibility, but do not become a slave to it!

Search engines such as Google and Bing also offer sponsored links at the top of their results. These are offered on a “cost per click” basis, meaning that in theory you only pay for results. The cost is calculated on an auction basis, with the highest bidder paying for the prime positions. I say in theory because in fact, you do not generate any business from a click through to your website – instead you only generate business from the subsequent conversions. Again, as with email marketing you need to monitor your click through rates and your conversion rates on the landing page. It is also worth monitoring your “quality score”, which is a score that the search engine will give you regarding the relevance of your site compared to the advert. This will impact on your ultimate cost per click, and it will depend partly on both your conversion rates on the search page (in other words, what percentage of “impressions” result in a click), and the bounce rate (early exit rate) of your site.

Again, as with social media, there are a number of companies that will offer to manage your pay per click campaigns for you. I believe that this is often a wise investment in theory, as the companies have invested themselves in bespoke bid management software and the knowledge needed to generate lots of cheap clicks. I would just say that you need to consider the management cost divided over the total number of clicks, to give you an effective click cost, as if you have a low search keyword this can increase the cost to you significantly.

Finally, bear in mind that the majority of the work performed by these agencies is in the first month or so, as they build and develop your campaigns and keywords. Once this has been done, you might find that you can manage the ongoing bidding and account settings yourself.

By Carl Reader, author of The Start Up Guide and The Franchise Handbook