Blog Moderator | May 16, 2013
The key for any business to be found online is to establish an online presence with a website. But that’s not all it takes. Many well-meaning businesses operate on an “if you build it they will come” philosophy when it comes to their website, but it takes much more than a snazzy website to get customers interested in your business. Luckily, there are a few simple techniques that can help your website rise to the top of search rankings and give your small business a significant competitive advantage if done properly. Below are five of the most important ways to help customers find your small business. If you don't yet have a website, the first step to getting one is to search for and register a domain name. We've made it easy for you on our website here.
1. Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is one of the most important things you can do to help increase traffic to your website. SEO is the practice of strategically using keywords in your website content to help make sure your website can be found by people trying searching for things through Google, Bing and other search engines. Keywords are the descriptions, words and phrases people type into search engines to find what they are looking for. It is important for your site to include the right keywords and phrases so search engines can identify your site as a destination for people interested in what your brand is about. For example, if you own a pizza shop in Boise, ID, it would be wise to include phrases such as “best pizza in Boise” on your home page as that is a commonly searched for phrase by Boise locals who want to know where to get the best pizza. It is also important, however, that these keywords not be overused or underused. It may sound complex, but implementing even a basic SEO program
can greatly increase your chances of finding new customers online.
According to a recent survey conducted by SearchEngineLand.com
, 85% of consumers used the Internet to find local businesses in the past 12 months and one in six consumers use the Internet every week to find local businesses. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets in the consumer marketplace has made mobile search one of the fastest growing ways people find small businesses like yours. Mobile traffic among consumers is exploding and folks aren’t just using their phones to search, but also to make purchases.
According to Forrester Research, by 2016, mobile commerce will reach $31 billion. If your website isn’t already mobile-friendly, meaning easy to use and navigate by mobile users, you may be missing out on business and losing customers and sales. Another thing to consider is that mobile search, because it is routed through telephone company networks, weighs local results more heavily, making mobile search the 21st century replacement for the old Yellow Pages.
Your website is the center of your online presence and social media provides a powerful avenue to drive traffic to your site. Blending social networking with traditional marketing channels
, like your website, is one of the best ways for a small business to connect with new customers and strengthen relationships with existing customers.
When getting involved in social media, it is important to remember that not every business is the same - there’s no one size fits all approach here – so you’ll want to spend some time looking at which social networks make the most sense for your business. A good place to start is to look at what your competition may or may not be doing. For example, Pinterest can be great for driving traffic to single product pages while Facebook is better suited for engaging your customers and building a culture around your brand.
No matter which channel you choose, the key to driving small businesses success with social media is to post relevant information – i.e., coupons, sales, specials, news, etc. - regularly, and respond to and engage with followers who take the time to visit your social channels.
Most small businesses are missing a huge opportunity by not setting up profiles on local review sites
. These days, your customers often turn to the Internet first to research local products and services, and many are landing on local review sites like Yelp, Yahoo! Local Listings and Google Places first, making them very influential. While customers do care what you have to say about your business, they care even more about what other folks like them have to say about their experiences with your business. The good news is that those who have had great experiences with you will trumpet your praises to the heavens. The bad news is that those who have dissatisfactory experiences will too. This is the new word-of-mouth.
While you can’t please everyone, an abundance of positive ratings on local listing sites is a huge competitive advantage for local small businesses. It may seem like a daunting task to get your customers to sing your praises, but it is actually really simple: Just ask them. You know who your best customers are. Next time they visit your business, simply ask them to write a review. You can also post a link to your local review site on all of your social media accounts and ask your followers to write a review. The efforts you put into this activity will pay you back in droves.
5. Contact Info/Business Hours
While it may seem obvious, there are countless businesses that either forget to include this essential information on their websites altogether, or relegate it to a buried “contact us” page. If you spend time on all of the tips above and don’t make where and when you are open for business obvious for customers, you stand to lose their interest as soon as they land on your website.
Every single page of your website should feature your contact information - your address, phone number and email address (fax, too if you still use it). This information should reside somewhere in the upper half of your website, whether it’s in your website’s header or sidebar. Yes, you can have a special contact page with a built-in e-mail/comment box to make sending you a message easier, but put that important first contact info on every page, too.
Some businesses’ don’t run 9 to 5, or even on a clock, but if your business has specific hours of operation, make sure that information is also easy to find. For any retail store, letting your customers know what hours you open and close will keep you from losing sales because they assumed you were open when you weren’t. It also helps to prevent phone calls from curious customers so you and your employees can focus on your core business.
What are some other things you have done to help customers find your small business? Do you have any personal experiences with the above techniques to share?