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Getting online

Creating an online presence can open doors to a range of opportunities. It can support existing marketing and sales activities, increase your productivity, and allow you to engage in e-commerce, like online sales or fundraising.

Websites and domains

Websites

Creating a website for your business is a great way to attract customers over the internet. The kind of website you develop will vary from business to business. You may not want a 'traditional' website – instead, you might like to use a host website or service to create an online shop, or a blog.

If you are not familiar with web development and design, you may need to employ someone who is. This will save you a lot of hassle and ensure your website is appealing and professional. If your budget doesn’t allow for this, there are free or low-cost tools available.

Visit the Digital Business website to find out more about creating a website.

Domain names

A domain name is the address to a website on the internet. Similar to your house address, a domain name will tell your customers how to get to your website on the internet.

A domain name generally consists of a name, followed by an ending, such as '.net.au' or '.com.au'. For example, if your name was Peter and you ran a pet store, your domain name might be peterspetstore.com.au.

The first part of the domain name is your business identity and should represent your brand. The ending of the domain name (for example '.com.au') identifies the type of entity you are.

Find out more about domain names.

Social media

Social media is a group of technologies including blogs, online networks and online collaboration tools.

Popular social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Google+ can be used to expand your networks, increase market reach and collaborate with people on a larger scale.

Social media can help you engage with your customers, generate conversation and find out what people are saying about your brand and business.

You can also use it for advertising, promotional giveaways and mobile applications. Social media can be daunting, but with some research and planning, you can use it to your business's advantage.

Social media may not be suited to every business and it’s easy to get carried away. It’s important to consider the pros and cons before you decide to engage in social media for your business. If you are unprepared and launch your social media presence without proper planning, you could waste valuable time and money.

Taking the time to write a social media plan is essential to ensure that using social media is beneficial in meeting your business and marketing objectives.

Trademarks

Having a registered trade mark can be your most valuable marketing tool. It gives you the exclusive right in Australia to establish a brand identity and legally stop imitators. Unlike a business name, a registered trade mark can provide legal protection for your brand and enable you to stop others from trading with it.

Once registered, the trade mark is protected in all Australian states and territories for an initial period of 10 years. For international protection, you need to register your trade mark in each country you want protection in.

Registering your business, company or domain name does not give you any proprietary rights—only a trade mark can give you that kind of protection. To have exclusive use of your name now and in the future, throughout Australia, you should register your business name as a trade mark.

If you are unsure of what or how to register, seek the advice of your accountant, lawyer or trade mark attorney.

Online marketing

Online marketing can be beneficial for your business due to its low costs, interactivity of communication and the potential for a wide audience. There are online tools available to conduct all types of promotions including:

  • Building your own website – a website can help you build your brand and communicate with your customers. You may also use your website to sell your goods through an e-commerce system.
  • Email marketing – this is a cheap and effective method of contacting your customers online. Email marketing can increase traffic to your website, maintain customer relationships and promote new products or services.
  • Mobile advertising – this can be used to reach your customers through their mobile device or tablet.
  • Search Engine Optimisation – once you have a website, Search Engine Optimisation can help you increase website traffic.
  • Online networking – use existing networking websites or your own website or blog to raise awareness of your business.
  • Social media – if used well, social media can assist you to build your brand, attract followers, generate discussion and feedback, offer special discounts and maintain customer service.

Selling online

Selling online is known as e-commerce (electronic commerce). You might also hear it referred to as ‘online trading’ and ‘online shopping’.

Before you decide to sell online, use the Checklist for Business-consumer E-Commerce in Australia and read The Australian Guidelines for Electronic Commerce to learn about developing strategies to deal with business to consumer e-commerce.

Find out more about doing business online.

Security

Running an online business can come with its share of risks. If your computer accesses the internet, then it may be vulnerable to various security issues, such as viruses and malware, spam (junk emails and adware), being hacked, online scams, online payment and credit card fraud.

These issues can be a problem both in terms of your computer's usability – which can impact on your business operations – and for your customers, as their information could be at risk. Ensuring your business is using effective online security practices can reduce the chance of this happening to you.

If your business uses computer equipment, operates online or even if you just use email to conduct business, you should make sure you and your staff use the internet in a safe and secure way.

There are some simple steps your business can take on to protect your personal and financial information online. Following these steps will help ensure you build and maintain customer trust and confidence in your business.

It is important to regularly assess your online security practices for your business. The ATO has developed an online security self-assessment questionnaire that is designed to provide you with appropriate measures and information to assist you to improve your online security.

For more tips to protect your business online, read Stay Smart Online's Small Business Guide.

Cloud technology

Cloud technology is the use of third-party software, storage or infrastructure that can be accessed by multiple users over the internet. It uses internet technologies to reduce in-house IT overheads. Cloud technology allows a business to:

  • access computing resources as services, instead of products that are purchased, installed and managed within your business
  • increase or decrease computing resources to match fluctuations in business demand
  • only pay for computing resources actually used and they can monitor usage.

Cloud technology offers both time and financial benefits which make it a good fit for businesses. However there are also issues that businesses need to be aware of and manage such as privacy and security, quality of service and access to data.

Help

Visit Stay Smart Online for more steps to protect your business' safety online.

Digital Business has more information on protecting your computer's security and keeping your website safe, as well as preventing online fraud by taking the right measures.