While starting an online business is somewhat easier than attempting to open a “bricks and mortar” location, getting your marketing mix right is essential in order to turn your company into a success. Though most businesses do not turn a profit during the first year, online businesses are in the unique position of having little to no overhead costs as compared to a big box store. Therefore, if you can focus more of your budget on engaging your audience and marketing to your customers, you have the opportunity to maximize your bottom line.

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Reaching Out: Building Bridges To Your Market

Though Google is notoriously secretive about their methods, many experts feel that 2014’s focus will be on great content and the size of your social media footprint. Think of your site as an ever-evolving animal: if you don’t feed it, it dies. Google looks for audience engagement practices such as blogging and news updates, as well as how far reaching your social media connections are forming, in order to make decisions about where you will end up in their rankings. The higher the rankings, the more likely customers are to find you and think of you as trustworthy. So how do you go about achieving that?

1) Have a blog.

Blogging gives you the opportunity to let your audience of customers, potential customers, and industry folk know what’s going on with you and your company. In order to get the maximum return from your blog, aim to update it at least 2-3 times per week. Focus on industry news, new product information, videos and photos, and always ensure you’ve got social media buttons right on the page for easy sharing.

2) Focus on the right social media.

There are literally hundreds of different social media avenues you and your company could walk down, but why? Instead, focus your efforts on the sites that will give you the most “bang for your buck,” such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+. After all, if you’re planning on engaging your audience, go where they are.

3) Don’t just send out marketing messages.

It’s a common misconception that simply flooding your social media and blog with marketing messages is effective engagement. It’s not. Communication is still a two-way street, even when it’s virtual. Be sure to actively talk to your followers, and re-tweet or repost things you find interesting. Failing to give back to the conversation is considered poor form online.

4) Do some guest posting.

An easy way to drive traffic to your blog and social media is to utilize guest posting, particularly by industry experts or others that your audience would find engaging. Most guest bloggers will promote their pieces, thus driving more (and new) traffic to your website. Ensure that the topic is specific to your site and that the content has not been used elsewhere before posting. There’s nothing worse than going to a site and seeing something that just doesn’t belong.

5) Look to a coach.

Getting a life or business coach is a great way to start learning new skills, particularly in worlds you may not know a lot about, like marketing. Look for a person who specializes in an area that interests you, or that you want to be better prepared to handle. One particular life coach in Cleveland who negotiated multi-million dollar contracts for Fortune 500 companies says that his approach helps "individuals bring out their true potential." Business coaches can help you focus your talents and better hone the plans you have for your particular market.

With the direction the web is going, engaging your customer in a meaningful way has become more important than ever before. Not only can it affect your search engine results, but it can also improve your reputation as a company with potential customers. Take the time to engage with your customers and you may just see a healthy jump in your bottom line.

Debbie Nguyen is a freelance designer and writer. In reading about the successes of other freelancers, she came across a certain life coach Cleveland - based, who was especially helpful to his clients in avoiding costly business mistakes.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thenext28days/9301562440/