While in times past it was enough to simply list your name in the local Yellow Pages, this is no longer the case. If your business does not have an internet presence, then chances are it is not reaching nearly as many people as it could and should.
Creating an online presence does not necessarily mean investing thousands of dollars in Google Ads. Creating a simple yet well made business website and promoting the business via appropriate social media networks is usually enough to get a business noticed by potential customers.
The Basics of Business Website Creation
A business that does not already have a website has various options to choose from:
- Build a website on a free hosting service such as Wordpress, Blogger or Weebly
- Have a web designer make a site from scratch. (Many designers also do basic SEO for the site so that it will get noticed and earn high rankings from search engines). A person who goes this route will still need to find a web host for the site.
- Buy a ready made site from an e-commerce platform. This site would have all the features needed to immediately offer items for sale online. Some companies that offer e-commerce platforms will also process and ship orders at an additional cost.
The option that works best for you will likely depend on what sort of site you want to set up. A local business that is not selling anything via the internet would not need professional site creation. However, setting up an e-commerce site is infinitely more difficult than setting up a regular one, as an e-commerce site has to have shopping cart features, be able to accept various payment options and process customers' financial information in a secure manner.
It is also important to make sure the site can be clearly viewed from a mobile device, as more and more people are using a mobile phone to browse the net as opposed to a computer. Avoid using animations on the site if at all possible, as these large files delay site load time. Most potential customers do not have the patience to wait for a site that takes longer than a few seconds to fully load.
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What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It means making a site easy for potential customers to find. This is done by using the right type of text on the site.
A site that sells children's shoes, for instance, should use keywords related to the brand and type (luxury or discount) of shoes being sold. If the business is located in a single state or city, then including the city name numerous times on the site is a good idea, as this will make it easy for local customers to find the business.
It is important to note that SEO is an ongoing process. No site will instantly get hundreds of visitors from one day to the next. However, adding regular, valuable content to the site will help your business build a reputation for being an authority in its field.
Link building is also important. Getting links from other sites will boost a website’s rankings. This is done by:
- Leaving insightful comments on related, highly ranked blogs and forums, coupled with of course the business site link.
- Submitting the site link to local directories. This includes Google Places and online Yellow Page websites.
- Submitting articles with the website link to article sites such as Ezine, HubPages and eHow.
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Marketing a site on social media is important; however, a person does not need to be on every social media network there is in order to attract customers. In fact, it is best to start out with a few social media accounts and update these regularly than it is to open a lot of accounts and leave most of them sitting idle.
Which social media accounts are most suitable will depend on the nature of the business. Following are some points to consider when choosing which social media networks to use. Thankfully, all of these are free and so choosing the wrong one and having to close the account at a later date is not a loss.
- Facebook is still the most popular social media site and every business should have a business (not personal) Facebook page.
- YouTube can be a shortcut for getting high site ratings. This site is owned by Google and Google automatically gives videos on the site first page rankings if they are relevant. If you post videos, be sure to give them a title that is closely related to what your site is about and put the site link in an easy to spot location.
- LinkedIn is ideal for self employed professionals such as content writers, proofreaders, lawyers, real estate agents, freelance accountants, photographers, etc. However, it is not particularly suitable for a small company.
- A site that is trying to attract local customers should use FourSquare. It is used by millions of people who are looking for a local business to meet their needs. Furthermore, you can offer a discount for those who come in from this service, thus boosting your appeal. Foursquare not only tells potential customers what the business does but also exactly where it is located.
How to Promote an Online Retail Site
Promoting an online retail site is different from promoting a business website and it can be a challenge if there is a lot of competition. Following are some tips to consider when attempting to sell items online:
- Use platforms other than your own website. You can not only sell items via your site but also on Amazon.com, eBay.com and other similar sites. These sites already get tens of millions of visitors a day and can help a new business owner to build brand name recognition.
- Put up coupons on coupon websites. These are used by millions of people and are sure to attract attention.
- Do not feel that you have to automatically put out ads on Google Adwords. In fact, a recent study by online retail giant eBay noted that paying for Google Ads does not necessarily boost sales.
- Do not limit a site to online promotion only. There are many offline promotion methods that can very effectively get visitors to the site. These include handing out flyers, teaming up with a related company to offer discounts, giving out freebies, etc.
Creating a positive online presence can be done, even by an entrepreneur who does not have a lot of experience with website creation and social media networking. Start by making a professional, good looking, yet simple website that is easy for people to use and navigate. This can be done on your own or with the assistance of a professional company.
Next, you will want to move on to creating a social media network presence. Start by choosing the social media sites that will best promote your site to your target audience and update these sites regularly.
It is also very important to be patient. It takes time for a business to grow, even if you are doing everything right. However, as people come to the site and like what they see, they will tell other people about it and more people will come and the site will start to steadily gain more and more visitors and turn over more and more profits. While it may take time to set up an online presence, the results will be more than worth it.