Such a survey conducted by Lloyds Banking Group showed that one in three UK SMEs dont have a website. With all the apparent benefits waiting for SMEs that take the steps to get an online presence to be a lost opportunity.
Whilst this will be down to a broad range of factors, much of the blame can no doubt be levelled at a general lack of education – which in turn leads to trepidation about the complexities of building and maintaining a website.
A good place to start for SMEs is to begin to understand what some of the jargon associated with what being online actually means. Like most jargon, it actually over complicates fairly basic concepts and tends to put people off before theyve even tried.
As a starting point, below are some of the phrases and words commonly used in the industry with an explanation:
The first port of call for any business venturing online needs to be a domain name, but even at this early stage companies begin to sometimes feel out of their depth. Getting the right domain name that will set your brand and business apart is vitally important. Almost every business should look to acquire what is now referred to as the monopoly set of domains . The three most important Top Level Domains (TLDs) are always .com, .net and .org and of course the local TLD, which for the UK is .co.uk.
However, with the forthcoming launch of .uk another option for businesses looking for a shorter, catchier, version of .co.uk, will shortly be available. The new gTLDs (Generic Top Level Domains) launching this year and beyond also give companies more options to secure a domain name that is even more specific to their area of business or location. For example, gTLDs ending in .plumbing, .construction or .london can make a huge difference to a businesss visibility, and ability to attract new customers. jackjonesandsons.com is all very well and good, but jackjonesandsons.plumbing immediately brings to life the business and its specific offering.
HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is one of the acronyms in the industry that tends to immediately put companies off making an effort to get online. However, like most acronyms it is much simpler than it seems. If you spend a couple of minutes teaching yourself some basic HTML tags, youll be able to start taking control of editing your own website, and will be empowered to learn more and improve the look and functionality of your site.
Another term that tends to cause some confusion is search marketing or search engine optimisation (SEO). For most business websites, search engines are the single most important source of visitors. In the UK this means Google, whose market share is over 90 per cent, so ranking well on this platform is extremely important. Ideally your site should be as high up the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) as possible, for people searching for your products or services.
A good website is a secure one, and any site that has been infected by online criminal activity suffers not only the short-term effects, but also longer term reputational damage. The good news is you dont need a degree in computer security to protect your site: there are affordable, easy-to-use tools available that can spot, pinpoint and help to remove malicious code from legitimate sites.
Just these four very quick explanations should start to help make things a little clearer.
SMEs should make some effort though to get more involved in setting up and running their own websites. If they did so they would find the web to be a welcoming and productive arena in which to do business. Most customers now expect a company to have a web presence of some form, and it is considered by most as a businesss shop window.
By not having one you are immediately handing a huge advantage to your competitors, losing potential new business and customers. SMEs need to start realising that rather than being scared of the Internet it is now very easy for them to help themselves to an online presence and all the very real benefits that goes along with that.
Nick Leech is Group Marketing Director at 123-reg, the UKs number one domain registrar.