Don’t Get Left Behind Online
It wasn’t long ago that most small businesses could plan their advertising budgets well ahead of time, focused mostly on getting an ad in the Yellow Pages and scheduling a few seasonal spots on radio or in print.
Those days are over, and the landscape for business is changing under our feet as the Internet evolves. However, many small and medium-sized businesses are still missing out. According to a 2013 study conducted by Google and the research firm Ipsos MediaCT, 55 percent of small businesses still don’t have websites.
However, almost everyone searches online before making purchases anymore, and more than a third of shoppers say they are more likely to trust and to visit businesses with good websites. Click here for our curated collection of internet marketing statistics. With the rise of mobile search, the shift toward digital will only pick up speed. We put together this handy guide to help you get started, including expert tips and links to more resources and information. Get online. Your business depends on it.
1. Purchase a Domain
Starting a new website for your business is easier and less expensive than ever. We recommend finding a URL that describes your services and includes the city where you’re located. In most cases, your URL doesn’t need to include your brand name. For example, housepaintingSLC.com would be better than hansenscoloryourlife.com, even if your house painting business is named Color Your Life. We like to use GoDaddy. From there, you can also set up web hosting and build a basic site based on a template.
2. Design Your Website
Next, you will need to build the site. We generally recommend choosing WordPress hosting rather than GoDaddy’s sitebuilder tool.
Once you’ve decided on a basic theme and setup, make sure to add some basic information about your business. The most important details are your hours, location, phone number and email address. You also need to provide information about your products or services, but try to focus on how customers will benefit rather than just product or service descriptions. Google put out a helpful website quality guide a few years back, and it’s still very useful.
3. Get Your Maps and Local Listings in Order
You can start this process by searching for your own brand name and city in a Google search. If your company isn’t listed, start here. Next, do a quick Google search for the products or services along with “near me” or your city’s name. In almost all cases, that will bring up a few directory sites that list businesses like yours. They might include Yellow Pages, Angie’s List and Yelp, or they may be industry-specific. You can go through these sites one-at-a-time to manage your listings or you can work with an online marketing agency to do it for you, often at reasonable rates.
4. Plan Your SEO
Once you have a site that is listed correctly, you need to make sure it’s easy for search engines to find. That way, your customers will are more likely to find you on the front page of search results. This effort, known as search engine optimization (SEO), should be ongoing and can get pretty complicated. However, you can try to do some of the basics yourself such as optimizing your metatags and on-page headlines and submitting a sitemap. You can also find SEO plug-ins through WordPress, but you will still have work to do such as building out location-specific pages, conducting competitor research, optimizing your URL structure and earning links from other reputable sites. You can contact our team of SEO experts at Online Image® to find out more and to learn about our pricing packages.
5. Craft a Social Media Strategy
Nearly three quarters of businesses have a presence on social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube or LinkedIn, and you should too. Figure out which networks your customers are using and set up profiles there. Then, make a plan to post regularly and work to build your audience by following other users, making regular posts, commenting on other people’s posts and requesting likes and followers from your own page. We recommend focusing on just one or two top social sites so you don’t end up wasting your precious time on marketing that may be ineffective.
6. Consider Internet Advertising
Advertising online is outpacing almost all other mediums, including TV commercials, newspaper ads, and phone book ads. Think carefully about what you’re selling and take time to research what your competition is up to. Find out where your customers are and decide what makes you stand out in your marketplace. Then, you can choose whether to buy ads online that point back to your site.
You can choose pay-per-click (PPC) ads, which show up near the search results you choose. You pay based on whether users click. You can also opt for contextual advertising, which puts your ads on outside websites who partner with the ad company. You can set these ads to follow your potential customers as they browse around. Next, display ads are available. These can be animated or colorful and are posted on outside sites through display networks, including Google. In addition, you could choose advertising on mobile devices, mobile apps, or social networking sites.
When you’re considering whether to spend your advertising dollars online, remember that you should keep your digital branding consistent with your other branding, including anything you have in print or at your brick-and-mortar location.
Google published this Small Business Online Marketing Guide, and it’s an excellent resource whether you’re a digital beginner or a seasoned pro.
7. Track Your Data
If you have gotten this far, congratulations! You are well on your way to online success. However, you can’t just let your site slip to the back of your mind. Now, you need to track your success. Fortunately, software tools like the ones we provide to our customers make this easier than ever. Make sure your site is also set up in Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, and then either learn how to use them or pay someone with internet marketing expertise to do it on your behalf. Then, use that precious market research to continue improving your website while you learn more about your customers.