In this economy, any marketing tool you can use to find new customers is worth considering. But perhaps the best marketing tool available to many small businesses is a yellow-pages-style web site. Such a site means prospective local customers looking for a business like yours know that you’re in business and ready for their patronage.
But a word or two of explanation… While the traffic statistics of the typical small business web site may not impress Google, eBay or Amazon.com, many small business web sites do generate significant numbers of prospects compared to the other marketing tools available. Commonly, for example, small business web sites can attract anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred new unique visitors on a daily basis. And that’s a lot!
What’s more, setting up one of these Internet marketing web sites just doesn’t have to be that complicated or expensive. Often times, employing the following half a dozen tips lets you enjoy surprising success:
Internet Business Marketing Tip #1: Evaluate Your Competition
A first and very simple tip is this: Start out by sizing up your competition. Do see what the other guy or other guys in town are doing. Look at the information they’re providing. And check out the number of links that point to their site.
In a nutshell, you need a better site than your competitors in order to beat them at the Internet marketing game. You need more pages of on-topic content. And you need more inbound links pointing to your pages.
You can check the number of inbound links pointing to your web site by visiting the Yahoo search engine page and then typing link:www.yourcompetitorsdomain.com into the search box. (Replace the smooshed together word yourcompetitorsdomain with the real domain name.) Yahoo then lists the number of links pointing to your competitors’ sites.
By the way, if competitors’ web sites provide only a few sparse pages and a handful of crummy in-bound links, you’ll find it very easy to make your site a rip-roaring success.
Internet Business Marketing Tip #2: Pay for an Inexpensive Professional Design
Another quick and easy tip: If you have an extra couple hundred bucks for marketing, spend that money on a professional web designer.
In other words, once you have a few pages of text about your business–perhaps a welcome letter, a page that provides directions and then a page or two that describes your products and services–pay some professional to setup your web site.
Web sites like elance.com make it pretty easy to find extremely talented designers who can create outrageously attractive web sites for modest costs.
Internet Business Marketing Tip #3: Get Smart about your Domain Name
One caution: You won’t want to make the mistake that I made. In other words, if you can avoid it, you don’t want to name your business using your name or some meaningless if clever phrase.
For my Seattle area CPA firm, I named my domain name stephenlnelson.com and have spent the last dozen years telling people, “No, with a ‘ph’…not a ‘v’ and don’t forget the ‘l’….”
Rather you want to use search words, also known as keywords, in your domain name. For example, if you operate a drycleaner located in town named Pine Lake, try to get something like PineLakeDrycleaners dot com.
Putting search words in your domain name will make your website easier to find when people use those search words. In other words, search engines are more likely to display a website named PineLakeDrycleaners.com when someone searches on phrases like “drycleaning pine lake,” drycleaners in pine lake,” “pine lake dryclean,” and so on.
Internet Business Marketing Tip #4: Add Your Site to Google Maps
If you include your business address on your web pages–and you should–Google will probably, eventually, display your business’s website when people search for a local business like yours.
If your business’s web site isn’t appearing when someone searches for local businesses like yours, you can visit the Google maps page and then click on the Put Your Business on Google Maps link to begin the process of adding your business to Google’s local search results.
Internet Business Marketing Tip #5: Win the Local Links Competition
You’re going to need to get more inbound links pointing to your site than point to your competitors’ sites in order to rank highly when people look for a local business like yours.
If you’ve done a bit of research on your competitors as suggested in the first tip, you already know how many and what sorts of links you need. With that information in hand, try the following:
1. Request that your site be added to free directories. Free directory links are not worth very much, quite honestly, but in a local search competition they can help. Search Google or Yahoo on the phrase “lÃst of free directories” to get a decent, reasonably-fresh listing of freebie directories, and then begin submittÃng your site to the directories listed. Also, note that you can pay a directory submission service like DirectoryMaximizer.com to submÃt your website to around a thousand free directories for about a hundred dollars.
2. Grab, beg or pay for links from the websites of the local business and community groups you’re associated with, including the chamber of commerce, community organizations, the public library, the local newspaper if you advertise there, and so forth. These links, especially when coming from a trustworthy local web site, can help your search engine visibility a lot.
3. Attempt to duplicate the links that your competitors show. In other words, if your principal competitor in town has purchased some links in paid directories like Yahoo.com or Business.com, do the same thing. If the competitor participates in and gets links from social networking sites like facebook and linkedin, do the same thing. Imitating your competitor will eliminate rather quickly any link advantages he or she possesses.
Internet Business Marketing Tip #6: Experiment with Pay-per-click Ads
A final quick though general tip: Pay-pay-click ads like those offered by Google can be quite costly. But the ads also often work wonderfully well for certain types of businesses.
If you can pay $2 for a click and 15-20 clicks usually seem to turn into a customer, for example, that means you can “buy” a customer for $30 to $40. In many businesses, acquiring a customer for $30 or $40 may be a steal of a deal. For more information about how Google’s pay-per-click advertising works, visit adwords.google.com.
About The Author
Author, business consultant and CPA Stephen L. Nelson is the author of more than 150 books about using computers and the Internet, including many of the best-selling “… for Dummies” books. Nelson is also the author of a new ebook, “Starting an Internet Business” which is available for purchase at StartingYourVeryOwnBusiness.com .