Even in 2011, many small business owners still don’t have a website for their business or have one but neither realize nor use it to its full potential. I want to discuss some reasons why having a website is not only important, but essential, for your business:
1. People don’t need to grab a yellow pages phone book when they can search for businesses online.
2. People are now spending as much, if not more, time online than they do in front of the television.
3. Having a web presence is pretty much expected; some people or other businesses might not take you and your business seriously if you’re operating without a website.
4. Having a website is another way to establish your brand.
5. Having a website exposes your brand to a potentially limitless audience – the world.
6. You can sell products online whether you have a brick-and-mortar storefront or not.
Conversely, if you *do* have a website, or you’re having one built, and you want it to work for you, you must take your site seriously. “If I build it they will come” is simply not good enough, it’s more a matter of “I’ll get out of it what I put into it”:
1. Your site has to be visually appealing and have a professional look, or visitors will click away right away.
2. Your site has to clearly state what your business is about and what goods/services you offer, or visitors will be confused and quickly lose interest – and click away from your site.
3. Your content needs to be relevant and use keywords that potential customers would use to Google you, so that they can not only find you easily using topical keywords, but your site will rank highly among your competitors. Meaning, your content should be optimized for the search engines so you appear on the first search results page for relevant keywords/phrases. This is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short.
4. Make sure your content uses proper grammar and is free of typos. A site full of misspellings and bad grammar projects a most unprofessional image.
5. If you sell products online, use good sales copy and call-to-action words to encourage visitors to become customers.
6. Consider adding a blog to increase readership – BUT, make sure you post regularly (at least 1-2 times per week is my suggestion) to keep momentum going.
7. Use your website to build a mailing list by placing an opt-in form prominently on your site. Then send a monthly newsletter and announce sales and specials. I’ll say again though, to make this work for you make sure you send out something regularly, at least every month or two, or you’ll lose momentum.
8. Use social media in conjunction with your website: Facebook page, Twitter, YouTube (if you have video content). Post to your page and tweet regularly. You can build a pretty tight fanbase with those who “like” your Facebook page and follow your tweets on Twitter.
In many ways, marketing your business online involves applying the same marketing principles as being offline, just on a new playing field where word-of-mouth (or word-of-type) spreads more widely and more quickly. Even though money is tight, this is an area where you need to invest, with money and time well-spent. Don’t just leave it to a relative or the teenager next door to put up a website for you, unless they design websites for a living. And don’t just use a built-in do-it-yourself sitebuilder provided by your host and call it done. People *do* notice, and they’ll click away, taking their money with them. Find a professional who has the ability to create the image you want your business to project. It will pay off in the long run.