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Companies need to work harder to ensure they maximise their digital presence

06 Oct

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Finding the host
with the most

by: Joshua Gliddon

Is the web on the way out? With the rise of the app economy, and the shift towards app-driven mobile computing, some pundits are saying that there’s little need for a traditional digital presence at all.

One shift away from the web that is occurring is the move towards using social media, and in particular Facebook, as a channel to consumers instead of a traditional website. Social media offers unprecedented reach (Facebook has over 1 billion users), and is prized for its ability to “push” media to consumers, overturning the old web 1.0 way of consumers actively visiting websites and “pulling” media towards themselves.

Does that mean a modern business can dispense with a web presence altogether and just rely on Facebook or some other social media platform. Not everyone agrees. A traditional digital presence is still vital so long as consumers keep relying on Google to point them in the direction of a relevant business or service.

The keystone to any digital presence is a domain name. This is an area where there’s been a lot of change over recent years, especially with the release of new top-level domains, or TLDs.

These top-level domains substitute a word, like “fishing” in place of the well-known dotcom or dotcom.au.

These TLDs are supposed to make it easier to find businesses and organisations in a particular sector – want to find a surfing company? Simply search dot.surf and you should, in theory, find something.

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Traditional domains, however, still have a lot of life left in them, says Hendrick Kruizinga, marketing manager at Crucial, an Australian hosting company.

“Region is still very important. Search engine optimisation, and Google in particular favour local domains and so it makes sense to register an Australian domain in the first instance for your business.”

It also makes a lot of sense to register associated domains for your business, and then populate those domains with mini-sites pointing to your main business page, says Andrew Koloadin, founder and chief executive of Digital Pacific, an Australian hosting company responsible for around 80,000 Australian sites.

“You can build mini-sites around your brand and send that traffic back to your main site,” he says.

“If you’re a gardener, you can build mini-sites around plants, and giving tips and tricks to your customers, all pointing to the main site. This increases your credibility and your reach online.”

Verity Meager, marketing director at Melbourne IT, also says it pays to direct your attention to some of the really simple things about registering domains.

“Make sure it’s a simple domain and easy to spell,” she said. “And have a central domain name you advertise, but don’t forget to protect your brand online and secure the matching extensions before your competitors do.”

Meager said it’s also vital to consider who will host your site, and the location of the hosting. Not all hosting is created equal, she noted, and some companies can appear more capable than they actually are.

“The hosting infrastructure, security processes and technical support often vary greatly,” she says.

One of the advantages of local hosting is that customer service tends to be better than with overseas hosting sites. “It depends on what you’re willing to invest,” says Crucial’s Kruizinga. “Local hosting means that if there’s a problem, you’re going to be supported locally, and there will be someone at the other end when you pick up the phone.”

All things being equal, a locally hosted website also tends to load faster than a site hosted overseas, says Digital Pacific’s Koloadin.

“Some Australian companies will use overseas hosts, and there can be a speed difference,” he says.

Koloadin also noted locally hosted sites aren’t subject to the vagaries of US law. In the US, the FBI can confiscate servers if there’s been a breach of the law, and if your site is co-located on one of those servers, then it’s gone. Local hosting avoids this problem.

He also recommends that a business keeps its own website backup, separate from the backup done by the hosting company. This means if there is a problem, the site can be up and running quickly, without waiting for offsite backups to come into play.

The integration of ecommerce has also changed greatly over the last few years, he notes.

Where a decade ago it would cost in the region of $100,000 to build a dedicated ecommerce site with its own shopping cart, the same functionality is now achievable for a few hundred dollars per month using off-the-shelf software and tools such as the popular Magenta shopping cart.

“It’s also important to automate as much as you can,” says Crucial’s Kruizinga. He noted there are plenty of cloud applications and hosted applications, which make creating an online commerce presence as easy as loading in a catalogue and then looking after the fulfilment end of the deal.

“It’s the complete opposite to bricks and mortar operations,” he says.

“Ecommerce is all about streamlining and automation so that you can look after the customer service side of things.”

All the hosting companies contacted offered their own packages of hosted ecommerce solutions using off the shelf and cloud applications, as well as popular shopping carts, payment gateways and the like.

The important thing is once a business has a commerce solution; it needs to double down on customer service, as competitors are simply a click away within the browser.

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