Every year more and more people search for local businesses on the Internet. People use the Internet because it is quick, easy, and because they can learn so much more about a business then they can from a Yellow Pages ad.
So who would you like your potential customers to find when they search the Internet for your type of business? You, or your competition?
Of course you want potential customers to find you first! So why not take advantage of the Internet by learning how to promote your local business on the Internet?
First, if you want people to discover your business, then you need to build a well designed website that offers helpful and up–to–date information based on the type of business that you operate.
Secondly you can incorporate local search engine optimization strategies within your website by making sure that you include your street address, postal\zip code, phone number and the local communities that your business serves. Remember that most people do business with companies that are located within their area.
Another important step in incorporating local search engine optimization techniques is to use Google Maps. If you are the type of business that is looking for pedestrian traffic, then you can make it even easier for people to find your location by creating a free listing for your local business on Google Maps Local Business Center (www.google.com/local/add) and Yahoo! Local (listings.local.yahoo.com).
Using this feature will allow your business to show up on a map that people can easily print and take with them when they go out to find your business.
Okay, so now you have a website. The next step is to attract lots of people to your website when they search for things on the Internet that relate to your business.
There are many things that you can do to drive new traffic to your website in addition to the search engine optimization steps mentioned above.
Below are a few suggestions to help you get started:
Blogs have become very common place. People use them to post information on personal things that they are interested in. Businesses use them to provide current information about what their business is up to, new services that they provide, new products that they are selling, etc. Blogs also allow you to build relationships with potential customers. People will read what you have to say and if they enjoy it they may follow you on a regular basis. Even if they don't need your products or services today, when they do, they will remember you and your business because you used your blog to keep in touch with them. You can also make your blog interactive by allowing comments after each of your blog posts.
Whether you're selling a product or a service, local business guides can be one of your best traffic generators. Many people check out local directories to look for goods and services, especially if they are new to town or just visiting. Get your website listed in as many local guides and directories as you can find. Some may charge for a listing, but many are free because they're just starting out and need to get listings. So get listed for free while you still can. Many businesses are still not taking advantage of this great source of traffic, so you could easily be the only listing in your category.
The latest buzz word on the Internet is backlinks. These are links to your website from other websites. When Google and other major search engines see an increasing number of incoming links to your website ("link popularity") they begin to consider your website as being important which will help you rank higher in the search engines.
Google has a measure called PageRank that reflects the quantity and quality of incoming links. However, having said that, not all links are good links. It has been said that links from trusted, popular sites help your site rank higher than links from lower traffic sites.
You can significantly increase the visibility of your website when you write articles in your area of knowledge and issue them to editors as free content for their email newsletters or their websites. Initially this may sound difficult and time consuming, but it doesn't have to be. You can hire a ghost writer or virtual assistant to write your articles for you. Secondly, for those not yet familiar, there are many websites setup as article databases. People submit their articles with a link to their website and a short description about themselves and\or their business. They do this knowing that other people in the same field of business can copy and post these articles on their websites and blogs as long as they include the writer's name, link to their website and short description. This is an effective "viral" approach that can produce many new links to your website over time.
One of the most popular article marketing databases is EzineArticles.com. Once you sign up for a free membership account you will receive information on how easy it is to publish your work.
A link from an online directory will help your ranking and attract new leads to your webiste. Note that a directory is not a search engine.
Rather, it is a listing of sites sorted by location, category and subcategory.
Several suggested directories are:
Look for websites that complement your general area of business and ask them if they would like to exchange links between your site and theirs. Then develop a resource page where you put links to other sites that you think your customers may benefit from. Your best results will be from sites that generate a similar amount of traffic as your own site. High–traffic site webmasters are too busy to answer your requests for a link and don't have anything to gain. Look for smaller sites that may have linking pages.
When you locate sites that you would like to exchange links with, send a personal email using the contact email or contact form on their site. Only link to complementary sites, no matter how often you are contacted with requests to exchange links with a cell phone site that has nothing to do with your cosmetic store. One way Google determines what your site is about is who you link to and who links to you. It's not just links, but quality links you seek. Reciprocal linking can be hard, tedious work, but it doesn't cost you a dime out of pocket! Keep working at this continuously, a little bit at a time. Patience and persistence will get you some good links, so keep at it.
Some of the best online communities for business include Facebook (www.facebook.com), LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), and Twitter (www.twitter.com). Once you create a free logon account you can use these sites to build relationships with people and possibly create alliances with other business people. For example if you are an Interior Designer you may want to connect with Contractors in your area that you can exchange clients with.
Social bookmarking websites are websites in which members share information about websites, articles, or news items that they like (or don't like). Many of them require you to create a logon account before you begin using them to post information.
There are new bookmarking sites appearing on the Internet everyday.
Several of the well known sites are Digg (www.digg.com), Delicious (www.delicious.com), and Google Bookmarks (www.google.com/bookmarks). Search engine spiders follow these sites looking for links to something new and relevant. You can usually place a link to your website in your profile, but the biggest gain comes when other people mention you (which generates traffic to your site), link to you (which increases your PageRank and brings traffic), or bookmark you, which increases your PageRank and brings traffic.
If you decide to participate on a social media site or on a bookmarking site you want to remember not to spam any of these sites with your information. Instead you want to use these sites to create business connections and foster new relationships.
I know when I first heard about article marketing sites or social bookmarking sites I found them confusing and I didn't understand why they were important. If you feel confused about any of the above mentioned ideas on how to promote your local business on the Internet, please do not hesitate to contact us for help or more information.