5 Steps To Get Your Local Business Online

A web presence is a major part of the marketing mix for most large companies these days. However I find many small businesses have still not taken the plunge.

With the rapid growth of local search and a tendency to research everything online a website is a must for smaller businesses in today’s competitive market. In fact research firm BIA/Kelsey notes that the website now serves as the core of local business marketing linking to all other forms of advertising including print, the Yellow Pages, mobile, SEO/SEM, social media and e-mail/direct mail.

Here are 5 steps to get your local business online.

1. Create a Website

There is no excuse for not having a website. The last thing you want is for a potential customer to type your name into Google or another search engine and not find you. Instant failure.

Your website should also serve as the hub to other parts of your marketing mix including direct mail, social media sites, print ads, review websites and the Yellow Pages. It’s where you can provide additional information on your products and services, provide customer support and news.

2. Provide Up to Date Information

Once you have your website make sure that it’s kept up to date. There’s nothing worse than a website with outdated information. There are a wide variety of CMS’s (Content Management Systems) out there that allow you to update your content rather than go back to your web designer for each little change.

3. Include Contact Details

Contact information, including your address and telephone number, is vital to ensure search engines and local sites pick up you website. They also clearly tell prospects where to find you and how to get in touch. Ensure they are prominently displayed on every page of your website.

4. Launch a Blog

I love blogs. I really love them. They are a fabulous way to keep in touch with your prospects and customers and the search engines just love them.

They are a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your field and to give prospects a glimpse of who you are. My Essential Guide to Business Blogging is a must read if you’re branching out into the blogosphere.

5. Get Social

I’m sure you’ve heard of Facebook and Twitter by now. These, and other social media sites, are the next big thing. People are talking about you and you can ether join in the conversation or close up shop. Join the large social networking sites and any others relevant to your industry and start talking.

With more and more people using the internet to find products and services can you afford not to have an online presence?

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Customers Want To Know When Their Goods Will Arrive

Selling products online? If you are then take note: let your customers know when they should received their order. I’ve ordered from two different online stores in the last 24 hours and neither of them gave me any time frame for delivery. In both instances I received confirmation of my order but no delivery time frame. It’s such a simple thing to include and pretty much essential in my book. It gives the customer peace of mind that their order is important and being shipped as soon as possible.

If you sell products online do you include delivery times? If not I suggest you get onto your web designer straight away and rectify the problem.

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How Not to Treat Online Enquiries

This one is almost to dreadful to be true. After having the decency to email a company to let them know you won’t be going with their service you’re insulted by said company. Yup this happened to a couple in New Zealand:

They asked for a simple quote on the cost of a wedding marquee – but lovebirds Steve Hausman and Paula Brosnahan got a vicious email from the hire company describing their planned nuptials as “cheap, nasty and tacky”.

Of course the email has spread like wildfire and the company, The Great Marquee Company, has had to post a statement on their website. The owner Klaus Jorgensen has also sacked the person who wrote the email – his wife!

Really, you’d think people would know better. I suspect The Great Marquee Company is going to need some online reputation management real soon. ;)

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Keeping Out the Customers

Daz over at On SEO Pond writes a great post How many enquiries are you missing out on?

Sadly this happens far too often online too. How many times do you email a company and get no response? Or a response that takes 5 days. I can’t see the point of having a website if you don’t reply to enquiries or take your time in doing so?

Online your website and fast communication is how you are judged. What sort of impression are you making?

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Here We Go

With a little push, ok a damn huge shove (thanks Barry) I’m going live.

To be honest I’m still finding it hard to find my voice and come up with post ideas. My thinking is to focus on web design, usability and marketing as opposed to pure search – there’s enough wonderful search focused bloggers already.

So I’ve decided to ask you what you’d like to read about. Please post any comments or suggestions – heck you’ll be saving my skin.

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