In a time when most people make purchasing decisions while browsing their smartphones, business owners cannot afford to not be online. Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

DURBAN - In a time when most people make purchasing decisions while browsing their smartphones, business owners cannot afford to not be online.

"An online presence helps people find you, establishes trust and gives you a platform to communicate business news. With some marketing spend, you are able to target your niche audience – by location or interests – in ways that are more affordable than ever before," saiD entrepreneur and head of local hosting company 1-grid.com, Thomas Vollrath.

Going digital can be overwhelming, Vollrath acknowledges – so, he suggests starting simple and getting the basics right. 

His three tips for getting your small business online:

1. Get a domain - Get instant credibility through having a unique business domain name. Keep it short and easy to say out aloud, so that people remember it. If your market is very local, you could get a .co.za or even .capetown or .joburg domain name. If you set your sights on a larger market, .com domain names are most favoured by search engines.

2. Build a website – You no longer need to hire an expert to build a professional looking website. Website building tools make it possible to select a suitable template and customise it, so easily that updates can be done from a smartphone.

3. Invest in online security – SMBs are the number one targets for hackers, due to their reputation for having poor security. You need an SSL certificate and a tool like cWatch to offer constant online surveillance, monitor breach attempts and resolve threats before they gain access to business data.

Once these foundations are in place, setting up social media pages and basic digital marketing strategies is easier and more effective. “Do some research on SEO, Facebook marketing and Google Adwords – or sign up to a simple package that does this for you and monitors your return on spend,” says Vollrath. 

Vollrath added that growing a business is not just about the hours put in – it’s also about working smart and investing in the right tools and people in order to free you up to deal with the bigger picture.”

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