No matter what kind of small business you’re starting or running, you will be expected to understand the jargon and culture of online information technology. That will be true whether you’re building your website yourself or hiring pricey contractors to lead your business to Internet glory.
Full Web fluency is almost never necessary for success. As a busy entrepreneur, you have a million things to do. But a working knowledge of the terms and concepts businesses use online can be critical.
Here is a basic guide to online terminology worth learning for business owners of all industries:
W3Schools.com can be a useful resource that contains definitions, tutorials and do-it-yourself programming exercises.
2. Static Web content: This refers to Web business content that remains more or less the same – such as the main pages on your site, contact information and “About Us” links. Think of these pages as your digital storefront. They have to be perfect, so they’ll take the most up-front investment of time and resources to create. It’s important to know that these pages are the foundation the rest of your online strategy will be built on.
3. Dynamic Web content: This refers to Web material produced in real time, such as blogs, tweets, Facebook posts and LinkedIn updates. The point of dynamic content is to be fresh, well-thought out and compelling enough to drive customer awareness. Understanding the difference between static and dynamic Web content, and when each is required, can help you keep your business relevant online.
Sophisticated content automation tools that pull in content from around the Web or automatically update social networking accounts can help make your content dynamic and compelling to customers. This includes traffic-boosting tools such as TweetAdder, which can help users quickly identity and interact with potential followers, and more involved content curation services such as Curata, which can aggregate specific content from around the Web for your blog.
4. Software as a service (SaaS): Unlike business applications such as Microsoft Office which are installed directly on your computers, software-as-a-service apps are installed on a computer or server outside your office and are accessed over the Web. Examples include task management tool Basecamp and office applications suites like Google Apps. These products back up information automatically, allow access to data from most any computer connected to the Web, and offer remarkable collaborative features.
These applications offer businesses flexibility as employees can use them from anywhere. And because an external third party hosts SaaS applications, they also have the potential to ease the burden on your own I.T. staff.
Other related terms for this family of products include “Web services,” “cloud-based app” and “Web app.” When deciding on a SaaS product, you might consider using Get App, an app search tool specially dedicated to businesses looking for software to use in their shops, or Google Marketplace.
5. Organic search: This is the world of products, content and marketing efforts determined by proprietary algorithms that appear on the left side of results from the major search engines. The trial-and-error processes of “search engine optimization” and “search engine marketing” often require considerable effort and luck.
If your business is looking for Web traffic, it’s important to understand the basic ways in which Google and others will direct users to your site.
6. Paid search: These are the sponsored advertisements that appear at the top and along the right side of search pages from search services like Google, Bing and Yahoo. Paid search requires using an ad service such as Google AdWords or Yahoo Advertising Solutions. Businesses bid on relevant search terms they hope will attract customers. Also called pay-per-click advertising, businesses pay only when an ad is actually clicked. Knowing how paid search works is critical to any serious online marketing effort.
You might need help to manage the bidding process for a serious paid-search campaign. Consider paid search management tools such as Word Watch or ClickSweeper, which can automate parts of the bid process.
7. ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’: These terms are the referrals social media services such as Facebook and Twitter can provide to a brand. Businesses often enter into the time-consuming process of creating their own social media content to drive both likes and follows. Companies can also purchase marketing on these platforms and reach potential customers directly.
8. Payment gateways: These are the online version of credit-card terminals. They encrypt and connect sales orders on your website to your merchant bank. Examples of major payment gateways include Authorize.net and VeriSign.
9. Point-of-sale: The generic term for technology attached to a checkout location, either online or near an actual cash register. New mobile point-of-sale solutions such as Square and Intuit’s GoPayment use smartphone-attached card readers, so payments can be processed just about anywhere.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, mastering these basics can give you a solid foundation upon which to expand your online tech chops.