If you are a small business that has yet to make an impression online, there is a very good chance that your competition is leaving you in its wake.
As the Internet age continues to grow day by day, small businesses need to make an impact on the Web in order to promote their brand, engage with current and potential customers, and grow their business.
In the event that your company has not truly identified itself on the Web, there are a number of ways that you can catch up to the competition, make your presence known, and see your return on investment (ROI) prove fruitful.
In-House or Outsourcing Internet Needs?
The first step in the process is to determine if you have the resources to handle your online responsibilities or if they should be outsourced.
Should you decide to keep things in-house, make sure you have the time and energy to devote to promoting the company online. As many small business owners discover over time, doing a little promotion here and there does not get it done. You must have a constant presence online in order to get noticed by search engines and potential customers.
For those companies that decide outsourcing their Web needs is the better route to go, make sure you are dealing with a reputable Web provider. If they have no idea what SEO, social media, and networking are all about, you need to keep shopping around.
Site Management Should Never Be Overlooked
With that decision behind you, make sure the following are reviewed and up to speed so that you hit the ground running:
1. Site management – One of the first priorities is making sure the site is clean, easy to navigate, and has contact information that’s easy to find. You would be surprised how many sites are informative, yet it is like looking for a needle in a haystack when it comes to locating their contact and “about us” information.
2. Search engine signups – Make sure you are registered with as many search engines as possible in order to expose your brand. Always remember that the goal at the end of the day is growing the amount of visitors to your site by registering pertinent keywords and terms. Given that Google is still the king in this area, you want to make sure you comply with their rules regarding avoiding spam and placing relevant and fresh copy on your site.
3. Offsite promotion – Another key in growing your brand online is promoting it offsite. While much of your focus is on the site itself, you should be placing your Web address on a variety of displays, including letterheads, business cards, and fliers. Even though consumers may not go to your site right away, having the information for them on some form of paper will give them 24/7 access to visit your site, see what you are all about, and return whenever they want in the future.
4. Gathering leads – Another important facet of online success is collecting leads. The best way to go about this is providing a signup section on the site for your email newsletter or other such publications. Typically, the upper right side of the site is the best place for a signup promotion. One way to enhance the leads process is by noting deals for the consumer, i.e. sign up today for our email newsletter and get 15% off your first online purchase.
5. Make the site reader-friendly – Have you ever visited a company’s site and found it to be rather bland? If that’s the case, there is a good chance that the site is too focused on copy and doesn’t include enough imagery. Pictures tell a story, so make sure your site does that and more. Whether your website offers products for the home or products for one’s business, make creative visual displays a top priority so that visitors want to come back to your site time and time again.
6. Don’t slack on appearance – Even though the site’s substance should be the primary focus, you should always be focused on appearance. Website owners should place some time and investment in solid graphics not only for their homepage, but also for respective product landing pages. While getting people to your site is always goal number one, having a large bounce rate and not having them return is something you want to steer clear of.
7. See what the competition is doing – Never copy what the competition is doing, but by all means check out their site to see what seems to be working and what does not. Companies that have a solid online presence with their products stand a much better chance of growing their business, producing a solid return on investment, and being the one consumers turn to for products and services. If your customers are coming to you and raving about what your competition is doing, you’d better take a few minutes and see what makes them so special online. A sign of a good small business owner is to always listen to their customers. Remember, your customers are your ears and eyes; not heeding their advice can be one of the biggest gaffes you make.
Take some time and review your Web efforts to evaluate where you are strong and where you may be lacking.
If you don’t make the time and effort to be productive online, your competition will be more than happy to do that task for you.
About the author: With 23 years of experience as a writer, Dave Thomas covers a wide array of topics ranging from securing the right business phone to promoting your company through SEO.