Getting a local business found locally sounds like an easy task, but it involves much more then just Web Design.
If you are a web designer, local business marketer or do it yourself business owner you have to wear many hats when it involves website building and marketing. It’s one thing to build a website, its a whole new challenge getting it found by the people looking for your services. Usually what happens is your website will be found, and then your phone rings, but the calls you are getting aren’t coming from perspective customers but instead from marketers and web services trying to get your business. Most of these companies spend more time looking for new customers instead of providing services. So in order to get your website found by the right people you need to develop a strategy to gain a positive WEB PRESENCE, and this involves many, many steps.
First thing, if your a business owner looking to do it yourself, be prepared for a process that will consume a large amount of time. This isn’t a statement to push you away from doing this yourself, it is only to prepare you for the can of worms you are about to open. Developing an online presence is a constant process that is developed by design. And it is a design that I myself agree with. Constant interaction with perspective customers and updating the flow of information that your website is delivering to the internet is the same as old school interactions that successful businesses have provided before the internet was invented. Its just gone hyperactive online.
Web Design, SEO, Local Search, Online Directories, Video, Blogs, Reviews, Social Media, Hosting Service, Etc… The list goes on and is constantly growing. Yes, it is a huge task that will never end. As a business owner you will want to make sure that you are able to keep up with all of these things or hire someone who can do this for you. It is a good idea to be sure you have someone who is versed in proper internet marketing strategy so when those sales calls start coming in, and they will, you can tell them that you already have it handled. Having someone assigned to your online marketing is already a better strategy then hiring one of these firms. It is better to have someone locally who can concentrate on your businesses marketing tasks rather then an out of state or overseas employee assigned to your account for 15-30 minutes a month. And if you notice, the topics I discuss below all seem to have a separate salesperson or company that will attempt to tell you that their approach is best. Well, proper web presence consists of all these parts.
Of course it all starts with Web Design. Not only do you want to concentrate on making a beautiful website. But you also want to make sure that it is functional and easy to navigate. People are using your website because they are looking for something, lets make sure they find it. Remember that you are building this website for the end user, or perspective customer. Not a search engine. The first issue is that building your website so a search engine finds it is going to be of little use if people can’t find what they are looking for once they are on your website. That also works in reverse, the second issue is if you build a website that is easy to use but search engines can’t find it then it is also of little use. Luckily you will find that the second issue usually fixes itself if the content and information you bring forth is relevant.
On-Site SEO and SEO are tasks that need to be done early and often. This is were most people fail, stop thinking like a search engine. Search Engines are using algorithms now geared towards the end user, not a robot. Take a step back and think of your website as your companies identity, this is how you are introducing yourself to potential customers. and each webpage as a full page information sheet on your product and services. No longer are successful websites the ones that have the most meta tags and meta files and back links, these are things to still consider, but your main concern is the content that you have on these pages and how relevant that information is compared to what the end user typed in to search for it. There are millions of checks and balances occurring every time a search engine indexes its results. Concentrate on the message you want to get across and if you worry about that, the rest should take care of itself. SEO is still a science, and effective strategy, but to get it into detail right now will make the advice I would be giving you right now obsolete by next week.
Keeping the interaction with your current clients will always be good practice and a great way to inform them of new products and services along with updates and reminders. It is also a great form of word of mouth advertising. But lets be honest, marketing yourself for new clients with ads on a social network is a total waste in my opinion, how many ads do you follow on yours? Again, if you keep your message relevant and interesting, your existing customers won’t push the ignore button. Your looking more at creative advertising in this format then directive advertising. Effective yes, but it takes time to build up.
Reputation and Reviews
People do read reviews and follow your reputation depending on where they are getting them. It is important to keep an eye on them and even ask your customers if they can write you one. It is also important to answer the bad ones as Search Engines are looking. That said, paying a service to write them for you or writing them yourself is a no no. Nuff said.
Online directories mostly consist of companies that used to have successful advertising platforms that made bags of money for them and their advertisers in the past but no longer are of any use. Yellowpage companies, Newspapers, and other mass media outlets created these as they needed to find another way to be relevant in the digital age since their print directories are used more for kindling and doorstops then reference points. That said, they do have some users and reach. Maintaining your presence on online directories with up to date information and links to your website are important and helpful to your seo as the latest pigeon update seems to use online directories and review sites as reference points, and rumor already has it that it has been rolled back a bit anyways. Regardless, paying them for an ad may not be worth the investment. And hiring them to build their website and maintain your online presence would be like hiring a horse and buggy dealership to fix and maintain a high performance car, or better yet, make that jet airplane. They are not the only book in town anymore as their prices suggest.
Local Search like what Google, Yahoo, and Bing use are a great way for people to find local businesses and work well with your organic results. It kind of wraps your reputation and network sources into a nice little ball. Having your info up-to-date on these information sources are pretty important and will aid you in your online presence. Places pages and Maps are a great way to get your presence felt and are very mobile friendly.
This is a good start to your Web Design Approach. Of course there is a lot to be done but at least this is a good point of reference when trying to be found online by local customers. Finding a way to tie this all together will be an ongoing process with additional parts coming and going. But that’s what marketing has been for the last 100 years.
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