Market your business online
I've worked with lots of people looking to create a website for their business. In almost every case, I've found that clients have no idea of what is involved in creating a business website and are not sure what is required of them. Some expect you to do everything, register a domain name, set up hosting, and write their website text content!
Creating a website is not an impossible task, although developing a professional web presence involves many things. I believe clients should know the basics of how it's done.
Plan your web site
The very first step is to sit down with pad of paper and a pen and write a list what you want from your website. You don't need to be very detailed at this point but you do need to create a basic framework. Details can be be added as you move forward.
Visit different web sites
Spend some time visiting competitive websites, especially the ones of your competitors (or "prospective competitors"). See how their information has been presented and note the good and bad aspects of each site. Pay attention to those things that you liked as well as what turned you off. Doing your homework by going to other websites will provide you with plenty enough to get your brain going and will lead to your ability to come up with your own original ideas.
Get the content of all pages in place
Web pages consist of both text and multimedia content such as images, video, audio, etc. Creating the content of web pages is probably the most time consuming aspect of developing a website. This is, typically, your responsibility and NOT the responsibility of the web developer you hire. No one knows your business as well as you do. So do not cut a corner when it comes to creating content for your website! Your content can be created using MS Word. Make sure each page has a heading and a sub heading. Put yourself in the place of the reader and create text in easy to read paragraphs. If you have a lot of content, consider creating a bulleted or numbered lists so that your content isn't "text dense." This is like going back to school when you had to prepare a report on a topic. Use competitive websites for ideas, but do not copy content from other websites. Consider visual appeal and the placement of images and graphics. Be careful not to use images from the web because most will have copyrights.
Decide the design and layout of your website
This is where the services of the professional web developer comes in. Choose a design that represents your business. A very important note: You can choose a "custom web designer" or a web designer who provides you with template choices (which can have some color modifications made to it). A custome website will be considerably more expensive than a template-based website. Regardless of what you choose, do not become obsessed with trying to come up with the "best" design. I've had clients who kept making small change after small change to their design and it significantly delayed the process of getting their website online. Your website design and layout is important, but since design is highly subjective, what looks good to you might not appeal to another. As long as the design template and the layout are clean and easy to navigate, you don't need to become obsessed with every little detail like a slightly darker shade of green or increasing your logo by 5 pixels! Remember, web surfers are always in a hurry – they come to a website looking for information and if they become confused and find it difficult to find the information they came for, they will hit the back button and be gone.
Find a domain name
A professional online presence needs a domain name. Registering a domain name is inexpensive and simple, but coming up with a good one that fits your business can be frustrating because many of domain names are already taken and finding unique name is likely to prove difficult. This task will require patience and creativity.
Secure web hosting
In order for your website to be seen online, you will need to secure web hosting. Your website and its content needs to be located on a web server which is a dedicated computer connected to the internet 24/7. Web hosting is basically like renting hard disk space of a web server.
Get the website created
Assuming you have hired a web developer to create a website, you are now ready to go. Some web designers will expect that you secure hosting and a domain name on your own while other web designers will help you with this task. Once you've done a bit of work it is time to ask the developer to complete your website.
Uploading the website and making it public
Once the website developer creates your website, you will need to check it for the final time. Check and test all pages within your website! When you are satisfied and are sure that all information is correct, ask the developer to make the website public.
Local internet marketing for the construction industry has exploded within the past 5 years. Homeowners looking to remodel, add an addition, replace windows, doors or roofs are starting by searching on Google. I don't suppose there is any real surprise in that, but what is a surprise is just how many contractors are not taking advantage of this. Local search marketing is where it's at today with local service businesses and if your business is not listed and optimized for local search, you are missing out on a great deal of business.
It is now more important than ever to have a website. Having website says you are a "real" business! Is your website written to talk to the consumer? Are you using language that a customer would use when describing your services? If not, the visitor is likely to hit the back button and go on to another local competitor.
Consumers are searching online for local businesses and are deciding who to do business with based on what they find online. You might say "my business appears online," but the question is What can a consumer learn about your business online? Is your business listed and optimized with the major local listing services? Are those listings written to showcase your business' point of difference? Do each of those listings lead to your website where potential customers can learn more about your business?
The more places your business is listed online and the more information that can be found about your services, the more likely your business will grow.
Small businesses often struggle with marketing and find it difficult to obtain new customers, while keeping their current customers. The key to any small business success is marketing and advertising. Direct selling began with advertisements using flyers and posters and evolved into emails, websites, and electronic ads on social networking sites. Targeting the appropriate customers is the best way to anticipate and meet the needs of those customers.
Social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Myspace offer small businesses the opportunity to create profiles and pages, giving them the ablity to advertise their products and services.
This social networking system has become a basis of electronic advertising for small businesses. Facebook now allows small business owners to communicate to the masses. Businesses can post what they are doing, what events are taking place, what achievements or recognitions have been received by the small business, etc… News about the business or news articles pertaining to the small business can be copied and pasted onto the business profile or added to their status. Twitter updates allow clients and potential clients to view news or achievements posted within minutes of the publication. Small businesses can create "buzz" by indirectly advertising these achievements or by posting their activities.
Social networking enables small business owners to build relationships, keep customers, and receive referrals by marketing their products and services. The benefits of creating a profile on these social networking sites which contains all pertinent information that users need in order to evaluate the small business’ are great. Business profiles can include contact information, logos, pictures of the company, products, completed work, before and after pictures, etc. Business profiles target large audiences with a single click.
Before you get started, it is wise to log onto GetListed.org. Here you can put your business name and zip code and click the "Check my listings" button to see if a listing for your company exists. If a listing does exist, then you may go in and claim it. If there is no listing for your company, you will need to create a listing by going to your Google Maps Listing at the Listing Business Center. Sign in using a gmail email and click on the "List your business" tab.
To create an optimized Google Maps listing follow the instructions below. Simply filling out your local listing without giving it real thought is a big mistake. The Google Maps Listing should be given the same time and devotion you give to your on-page SEO for your website. Much of the information below comes directly from Google Places Quality Guidelines.
Google Maps On-Page Optimization
Put some thought into the following elements before you summit your Google Maps listing. Remember, so long as you have access to your listing, you can go in an edit it. It isn't as if it cannot be changed.
- Do not include marketing taglines in your business name.
- Do not include phone numbers or URLs in the business name field, unless they are part of your business name.
- Do not add keywords in the business name unless they are part of the business name.
- Make sure you enter a precise address where your business physically exists, not broad city names or cross-streets. P.O. Boxes are not considered physical locations. Listings submitted with P.O. Box addresses will be removed.
- Do not create more than one listing for each business location, either in a single account or multiple accounts.
- Businesses that operate in a service area, as opposed to a single location, should not create a listing for every city they service, they should create one listing for the central office or location and designate service areas. (Learn how to add service areas to your listing.)
- Do not create multiple listings to cover more than one specialty even if your business has multiple specializations, such as law firms and doctors. You may create one listing per practitioner, and one listing for the office.
- Do not include information in address lines that does not pertain your business’s physical location (e.g. URLs, keywords).
- Choose at least one category from the suggestions provided.
- Categories should say what your business is (e.g. Hospital), not on what it does (e.g. Vaccinations) or things it sells (e.g. Sony products or printer paper). This information can be added in your description or as custom attributes.
- Categories should not contain locations (for example, Dog Walker Los Angeles).
- Only one category is permitted per entry field. Do not “stuff” entry fields with multiple categories.
- You should do some searching with category keywords in Google and note which keyword categories trigger a 7-Pack. Those keywords that trigger the 7-Pack are those you should consider using. Do some good keyword research to ensure that the keywords you are choosing have a decent search volume.
- Add photos & video, etc. People are very visual and expect to see images and videos when online.
- Coupons could be what sets your business apart from other competitors found in the local listings. Coupons are also a great way to track sales generated from your local listing on Google. NOTE: If you have coupons running on other local listing sites, make sure you create different coupons so that you can track where your customers are finding you.
- Once your listing is complete, it will need to be verified. You will be required to input a PIN number which Google will provide. You can obtain this verification PIN in 3 ways.
- SMS – Text Message
- Mail – They send a postcard with a PIN # via USPS
- If you verify using your phone or cell phone text, then your listing will go ‘live’ with all the changes immediately. To verify your listing by phone, you must be available to answer your business phone immediately upon clicking the "verify" button.
- Not all verification options may be available due to several reasons:
- The mailing address or the phone number do not match the listing, meaning Google's records indicate different information than what you are providing.
- Too many businesses have been verified with the same phone number or the same address.
When people do a search, a large percentage of their searches have a local intent – meaning, the person searching is looking to find something near them. It could be a plumber, a product or service, or a restaurant. Such a large percentage searches fall into this category that Google has begun displaying Google Maps listings (in a 7-Box format) in the organic search engine results pages (SERPs) on many searched broad keyword terms.
If a city or zip code is added to the search (example: pizza Newark, NJ), then the search is deemed 100% local intent. Google knows this and displays the 7-Box Google Maps listings at the top of the organic search results page (above the traditional 10 website listings).
There are often thousands of searches each month for businesses or services where people modify their search with a city or zip code. It is important as a business to actively participate in your Google Maps listing.
- 80% of all retail transactions happen within 15 miles of people’s homes
- 82% of local searchers phone, visit, or make a purchase
- 66% of people search online to locate local businesses
- 32% of smartphone owners conducted a local search
People conducting these types of searches are people who are looking for specific products and services in your area and Google Maps is the first thing they see in an organic search engine results page. In order to compete, you must have your business information appear. Having your business listing appear in Google Map listings gives new clients and customers an opportunity to find your business!
The Google Maps listings are totally free and you don't have to have a website to be listed. Claiming and creating your listing is not enough, however, you must actively manage your Google Maps listing. Getting a listing does not guarantee that your business will show up in the 7-Box Google Listing displayed in the organic SERPs. Even though claiming your listing is a good start, it’s not enough in today’s marketplace to really secure a position within the 7-Box which receives the majority of the traffic for local searches. I will talk about how to increase your chances of obtaining a preferred ranking within the desired 7-Box at a later time.
First, if you have not claimed your listing, you must do so. Your chances of ranking well with the 7-Box are virtually nonexistent if you don’t claim your listing. If there is no listing of your business, you will need to create one.
Hubspot provided the below information. It is pretty staggering. The days of traditional marketing are behind us. These numbers cannot be ignored. If your business is not online and if you are not leveraging the online resources available, you have your head in the sand.
- 79% of adult Americans use the internet.
- 78% of internet users conduct product research online.
- 10.3 billion searches are conducted every month on Google.
- The average US internet user views 2,750 pages per month.
- 1/3 of US consumers spend three or more hours online every day.
- 24% of adults have posted comments or reviews online about things they buy.
- 9 out of 10 internet users visited a social networking site each month in 2010.
- 1 out of every 8 minutes online is spent on Facebook.
- Twitter's active user base generates 90 million tweets per day.
- More than half of all internet users read blogs at least monthly.
- US internet users spend 3x more minutes on blogs & social networks than on email.
- 40% of Facebook's user base is age 35+.
- 64% of Facebook users have become "fans" of at least one company.
- Search engines, blogging & other internet trends have fundamentally transformed the way people & business purchase product, but most small business still use outdated & inefficient marketing methods – like print advertising, telemarketing & trade shows – that people increasingly find intrusive & screen out. (CEO – Hubspot)
- 70% of the links search users click on are organic – not paid.
- 78% of business people use their mobile device to check email.
- 40% of US smartphone owners compare prices on their mobile device while in-store shopping for an item.
- 1 in 5 US adult mobile phone owners have ued their device to make a purchase in the past month.
- 200 million Americans have registered on the Federal Trade Commission's "Do Not Call" list.
- 91% of email users have unsubscribed from a company email they previously opted in to.
- 84% of 25-34 year-olds have left a favorite website because of intrusive or irrelevant advertising.
- Targeted landing pages & clear calls to action are the new "visit my homepage."
- Keywords are the new neon signs.
- More than 1/3 of US companies use blogs for marketing purposes.
- Companies that blog get 55% more website visitors.
- 67% of B2C companies and 41% of B2B companies have acquired a customer through Facebook.
- 57% of businesses have acquired a customer through their company blog.
- 42% of companies have acquired a customer through Twitter.
- 2/3 of marketers say their company blog is "critical" or "important" to their business.
- The number of marketers who say Facebook is "critical" or "important" to their business has increased 83% in just two years.
- 51% of Facebook fans are more likely to buy the brands they fan.
- 79% of Twitter followers are more likely to recommend the brands they follow.
- The average budget spent on company blogs & social media has nearly doubled in two years.