This month we’ve been looking at ways for small businesses to utilize the Internet. This week, I want to talk about how the Internet should be a key component to your marketing plan and could be your greatest source for new customers.
Your Future Customers Are Looking For You Online:
According to an iMediaConnection study, a majority of people (58%) use the Internet instead of the phonebook to locate specific (and mostly local) businesses (iMediaConnection). A Pew Internet poll also indicates that “Two-thirds (66%) of online Americans say they have purchased a product online” (Pew Internet poll). Clearly, the Internet has become the primary way for people find information and to shop. In that same Pew Internet poll, they reveal that 81% of Internet users research their purchase online before making a purchase whether the end purchase is made online or offline. With so many people using the Internet to find information and products, even small “mom and pop” shops like painters, hair and nail solons, restaurants, and independent bookstores need to have an online presence.
You NEED To Have a Website:
The first thing is that your business needs to have a website. If you don’t already have a website, don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. Many small business owners do not fully utilize their website and a significant number of small businesses don’t even have a website. So, if your business doesn’t have a website, it’s time to build a website. Of course, I’d recommend using OurChurch.Com. Our NE1 web builder makes it easy to build an attractive, easily maintained, and inexpensive website that you could have built before you go to bed tonight. And, if you want to take up a notch, OCC can build you a custom designed website that will impress any customer.
Market Your Business Online:
Once you have a website, you have to market that website so that people are able to find it. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating; just because you have a website doesn’t mean the search engines will find it and list it where you want them to. You have to tell the search engines that you have a site and for what keywords you want to show up. If you have a business with a local customer base, then your online marketing should include local search engine optimization (this is different than regular SEO) as well as getting listings in the various places people may search to find your business.
Local search engine optimization (SEO) focuses on getting high ranked listings in the local search engines, like Google Maps and Yahoo Local Business, and in the major search engines for keywords with local modifiers (eg. Pizza in New Orleans). The goal is get your business’s site to be one of the first sites listed for a keyword when people search for things in your town and the surrounding area. That’s exactly the kind of Internet visibility a business needs if it has a local customer base. After all, you don’t need to be found by people looking for a service in a city half-way across the country.
People, however, don’t just use the search engines when searching online, Internet yellow pages, business directories, and local review sites are additional places people search. Local review sites are becoming more and more important because of their review features that allow customers to post reviews. People can now not only find a business in their area, but they can see what other people think about that business. So, in addition to local SEO, you need to get your business listed in these other places people may search.
According to Greg Sterling, program director for The Kelsey Group, provider of strategic research and analysis:
“More and more consumers with broadband connections are using the internet for local lookups. And many of those consumers are turning to search engines for that information. Small businesses are clearly starting to recognize the importance of being in front of those online audiences, but getting them there is a more complicated matter.” (iMediaConnection)
However, you do it, your company needs to have an online presence and the more visible your business is online, the better. If you’re unsure how to perform local search engine optimization on your website, you don’t know where and how to get listings in the Internet yellow pages, business directories, and local review sites, or you just don’t have time in your busy schedule to do this yourself, once again I’d recommend OurChurch.Com’s marketing services. As you may have heard, OurChurch.Com launched its new Local Business Search Marketing service this month. The service includes all of these strategies I’ve talked about in this article and for a price that’s less than what you’d normally spend on most offline marketing. I encourage you to check out OurChurch.Com’s Local Business Search Marketing service.