This is part 2 of a 3 part post on the basics of online marketing for local businesses. The first post covered How to Get Started Marketing Online. This article is about building presence online. The final article will be about advertising.
Each of these 3 topic areas build on each other. To begin building your web presence without setting up the basics covered in the How to Get Started is a waste of time and money. Start with the first step and only move on when it is completed.
How to research your (or your competitors) web presence
Its easy to know what your current web presence is: simply Google your company name and notice the results for the first few pages. For extra credit, Google your company name and add your city name; then add the word “review”. Now, try the same exercise for the company in your industry that you most admire.
Examples of your online presence might be found on: your web site, your blog, Facebook, Google+, Google+Local, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Bing Local, Yahoo Local, Citysearch, Superpages, Yelp, YP, Merchant Circle, BBB, YellowBot, industry-specific directories, Craigslist, blog comments, job boards, etc.
Why should a local business care about its web presence?
- The breadth and depth of your web presence is like a fishing trawler net: the bigger it is more more likely you are to catch prospects swimming by. Would you prefer a big net or small net?
- Google cares… a lot. Search engines have continued to evolve the factors they use to determine search ranking. Increasingly, content about your business drives search ranking. The more established, current and consistent your web presence is, the higher your ranking is likely to be.
Claim major directory listings
Claim your business listings on major directories including Google, Bing, Yelp, Yahoo, Citysearch and YP. The process for claiming your listing on all of these sites is similar. To get started, go to each of these sites and look up your business; you will typically see an option to “claim your listing” if you have not already done so. Depending on the directory, they may send you a post card with a unique PIN number that you will use to verify that the business is yours.
A few do’s and don’ts:
- Use the EXACT name, address and phone number you listed on your website and used in the 4th step of part 1. Exact means exact. Punctuation, abbreviations spelling, everything. I am not just being a geek here. This matters.
- Fill out each profile as much as you can. Add photos (this is a big one!!). Link to your social accounts. Add hours of operation, payments accepted and any other helpful information allowed.
- Control the email address used to claim the accounts. We have heard of some very unfortunate cases of businesses being held hostage to someone with access to key accounts.
Create social accounts
Create at least 3 social accounts for your business: Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. Pay attention to them and add content to your Facebook and Twitter accounts at least 2x per month (by the way, Customer Lobby will do this automatically for you!). Depending on your business, you may also want to consider Instagram or Pinterest. At this point, most businesses have already bought into the idea of creating social accounts but they don’t feel like they are getting a ROI out of it. Lots has been written about it. The simple truth is that if you use it, you will generate new and repeat customers from it. If you are not sure how, leave a comment below with your web site address and I can comment back on it.
There is a ton of research validating how important customer reviews are to search ranking and customer decision making. As that research demonstrates, reviews are most impactful when they are on multiple 3rd party web sites like: Google, Customer Lobby, Yelp, Citysearch, Bing, etc.
The problems with reviews have been well documented: Google reviews have been buggy and often simply do not work. Yelp has been accused of extortion and being a bad investment. Angie’s List keeps its reviews behind a pay-wall and has been accused of being a pyramid scheme. Regardless, reviews matter and finding ways to help your customers talk about their experience with you is critical.
This is what we do. We would be happy to help.
Look for other ways to spread your message
There are an infinite number of ways to spread your message online. A couple of examples:
- YouTube videos can be used to get more customers. Its easy and inexpensive to record a video using a smart phone and upload it.
- Craigslist is a great marketing tool for lots of industries.
Set up Google Alerts to be alerted when ever one of your competitors or other savvy marketers in your local area posts something new online and you will learn what works for them by seeing what they continue to use. While you are at it, set up some Google Alerts on your own company name so you will see when new reviews or articles are published about your business.
What other ideas have you used?