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Rural business: How to market online

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Agricultural businesses are beginning to realise the importance of online marketing. It’s now clear that it isn’t enough to have a website; you need to also ensure that it is visible to your potential customers. Your business needs to be found among the millions of businesses cluttering the online world. When your business name is searched online, search engines compare the keywords included in your website copy to assess the relevance of your site in the search. You need to determine what your keywords are, that is, the words people use when looking for your products or services. Make sure these words are used throughout your entire website. It is a good idea to add new content to your website each week, because search engines promote websites that have fresh items - they don’t like outdated websites. This new content can include articles, industry news, customer profiles, case studies or videos about your products or services. Having a blog on your website is a great way to do this; it not only provides fresh information but provides your visitors with news about your business. Online directories are also a great place to promote your business on the web. Get listed in industry specific directories such as FatCow.com.au, an online business directory for the farming, agricultural and horticultural sectors. Your business will be found by people searching for products on the directory, which has a high search engine ranking. New Holland, an agricultural machinery manufacturer, is a global business and the team found it difficult to place the business’ website high on search listings in a range of different geographical locations. As a solution to the problem New Holland decided to advertise directly to its target audience with FatCow.com.au. "Our website is listed globally and so when customers, potential and current, search for us online our website does not appear high in any search listing while our listings on FatCow.com.au always generate strong results," New Holland Communications Manager Tara Stewart said. "So it made sense to advertise where many web users were going to view information on our products and have the ability to then direct them to our site through strategically placed links." Case for online Most successful marketing strategies take more than one approach to target a wider range of customers. New Holland uses a number of different platforms to inform customers of their products and services. "We use a series of above and below the line strategies including TV, radio, print and web advertising as well as promotional mail outs, email alerts, POS material in dealerships and giveaways," said Ms Stewart. Online marketing has seen some great results for the business due to its accessibility and long shelf life. "Online has become one of our strongest strategies as it provides us with the opportunity to showcase our products in a unique and interesting way via a channel that is readily available to our key consumers when it suits them." "Particularly in the lower sector of our market (hobby farmers etc) we have seen strong results and increases in sales through consumers who may be first time purchasers being able to access the information they need online and then make contact with their relevant dealer," said Ms Stewart. Keep it simple The key to online advertising is keeping it clean and simple. Consumers need to know what they are looking at and see what you are trying to tell them straight away. Not bombarding them with too much, or too technical, information can lead to greater results from your campaign. Speaking the language of your target consumers can also help. Ms Stewart agrees, commenting, "Regularly update your content both editorial and advertising and use clean simple message trying not to bombard the user with too much text, particularly with advertising". Online visibility is what distinguishes successful internet ventures from failures and underachievers. Even companies that invest thousands of dollars in sophisticated websites struggle to connect with their target audience because they are unaware they even exist. So make sure you do the basics: get listed in a directory, keep your website fresh and use keywords and your business will become more visible to potential customers.

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