By definition the internet is about connecting people and it’s clear from the growth of social media sites that it does this rather well.
But, there is another function, a possibly more important function, that the internet and the Global Marketplace it has created is used for… To connect internet users with the products and services they want and need.
To quote Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the internet …
Web users ultimately want to get at data quickly and easily. They don’t care as much about attractive sites and pretty design. The Mobile Web Initiative is important; information must be made seamlessly available on any device.
The internet can provide local companies with the opportunity to build a solid local customer base and also assist in expanding that customer base nationally and even globally.
Unfortunately, most local businesses have had terrible experiences with technically gifted website designers who are ill-equipped to provide business solutions in an online environment.
These technically proficient designers can do pretty designs and fancy gadgets, but have virtually no understanding of business or, more importantly, have any real interest in your customers or business requirements.
Most local business owners are seduced by low cost options that promise millions of potential customers within weeks of website setup.
And the thousands of local business owners that do realise they need an internet presence have usually fallen prey to this approach on more than one occasion.
Unfortunately, when these low cost options, with their fancy gadgets and pretty widgets, fail to produce results most business owners simply turn away from the internet in disgust.
Time Pressure and Marketing Mistakes;
What most local business owners are failing to take advantage of, is that there are currently 240million websites on the World Wide Web, but only the top 1% of these sites ever manage to attract a reasonable level of visitor traffic. That’s just 2.4million websites attracting over 2 Billion global internet users.
Try to visualise this as a busy shopping mall filled with shops and businesses of every description, and every day a billion willing and eager to buy customers come charging through the doors.
Visualise your website homepage as a doorman, your concierge, standing just inside the entrance attempting to usher as many customers as possible towards your product displays.
Now imagine your store is just inside the entrance and as customers rush through, searching eagerly for things to buy, your doorman makes eye contact, smiles warmly and points them in your direction. How easy it is for your doorman to slickly usher customers through to your product displays.
Now picture the mall is Google and your doorman is your Search Engine listing, eye contact is your headline and site description.
Now imagine your store isn’t anywhere near the entrance to the mall and there are 5,000 other doorman standing in front of your doorman. All smiling warmly and making eye contact with customers before they get the chance to notice your doorman.
Then imagine your store is down three levels and round to the right, where no light shines and the glitzy signs have broken bulbs and dull paintwork.
How hard is your doorman going to have to work then.
How much more difficult will it be for him to bring hordes of visitors to your store, as he has to take each one by the hand and lead them to your dark, dingy doorway.
That’s where your new business website is, three levels down in the dark, dingy basement, where no-one can hear you sell.
Use this analogy to understand the importance of location, location, location. Just as the physical location of your offline business affects passing trade, so to does the position of your online business in search engine results.
Flash looking websites that include Flash Gadgets or the latest gimmicks very rarely make it anywhere near the entrance to the mall or more to the point, the first page of Google search results.
The only viable way to move your business closer to the bright busy mall entrance is to provide internet users with the things they need and to do it in such a way that the shopping mall owners, (Google, Yahoo, Bing), will recognise. Once the search engines recognise your offerings and decide your site will enhance their malls reputation, they will move you closer to the entrance.
Doing it right and Getting Noticed …
Between 1990 and 1995 owning and operating a local company that employed 300 people, we turned over 3 to 4million pounds per annum and we served 15 million people in a small local area called Greater London.
To generate sales we spent a substantial sum on advertising with 1000′s spent each and every week on a reasonably successful local radio campaign, and more spent on newspaper advertising, leaflet distribution and various local promotions.
Now, fifteen years later I can look back and say with absolute certainty that I should have taken the plunge.
Investing just one months worth of that advertising budget in a properly constructed local business website would mean that today, I would be generating more local business from local internet search results than I could ever hope to generate by using all the London radio stations and newspapers combined. And, it would be costing me virtually nothing.
How does your local business win local customers in this Global marketplace?
Google and other search engines have woken up and recognised the importance of local search results. The importance of providing internet users with listings of products and service providers that are in their local area.
Google Local …
Google Local launched in the UK in 2005 and combines business listings and relevant information from across the web to deliver a powerful and easy-to-use source of relevant local information.
For example; users in Fulham London, searching for a fish and chip shop in their neighbourhood simply enter “fish and chips”, plus their postcode “SW6″ or “Fulham” into the Google search box and the results they receive include comprehensive listings of fish and chip shops in their local area.
Each local business listing includes a phone number, a street address, links to the company’s business website, reviews of the company’s service and the ability to print directions.
You can even search by street name, underground station or airport.
Google Maps is a dynamic mapping feature providing internet users with an easy way to find locations and to generate and print, turn-by-turn directions.
The Google Maps service is integrated into Google Local, so internet users looking for local information can immediately see the location of the local business in their search results and obtain directions on how to get there from any given point.
Letting Google know you are a a local business and being included within those local search results is all about being online and showing the search engines that your product or service is relevant to the users search. It’s about knowing what the search engines need to see and taking account of this when you build your business website.
Building Your Local Business Presence in the Global Market …
It’s essential that any local business understands that creating a quality web presence involves creating a website that represents your company, its beliefs and the quality of its products; and that this cannot be left solely to an outside agency and definitely not to the local whizz kid that has absolutely no understanding of business or the importance of good customer relations.
Only those that understand your company, its potential customers, the locality it serves and its products can create an internet presence that reflects what you and your staff do and how much you believe in what you do.
Agencies like iDex7 and individual website designers can be used to create and setup the technical aspects and provide a framework, but only you and your staff can flesh out that framework.
Building a successful online business website requires commitment to the content of that website and to ensuring your content will capture the interest of your potential customer.
You see, building an online business presence isn’t about the latest fad gadget. No, a good quality business website uses a simple navigable design that promotes the Company’s products in a way that potential customers know, want and recognise.
Your local business website should be a logical extension of your local business and something you and your staff are proud to refer local customers too. It should leave local customers believing they have
- Invested in their local area
- Found a local product that is the best product for their needs.
Finding and focusing on a set of key words and key phrases with high search demand and greater local traffic potential, that retain a distinct association with your product or service and your local area will bring greater rewards.
- Don’t try to conquer the World Wide Web, stay focused on your local area.
- Don’t focus on keywords like ‘Plumbing’ or ‘Horse Riding’ instead, focus on ‘Plumbers in Leeds’ or ‘Horse Riding in Oxford’
- Focus on winning local business in your local area first, the world and the global market will come in time.
Build a quality web presence that capitalises on those initial four seconds, a site that rewards your local visitors with solutions they’ve been searching for. Your internet commitment will then pay off over the long term.
Building Your Business Website Organically and at Minimal Cost
There is only one, I repeat only one cost effective way to build a local business website for minimal cost. A site that will rank well at all search engines. that will provide traffic and make sales.
In the same way every business needs a business plan to succeed, a plan that measures and maps key achievements and ensures you remain on the right path; every business website needs an action plan.
Your Website Marketing Plan will ensure you and your staff carry out proper research to find the keywords and phrases that local people are searching for.
And you need to start by allocating time for a staff member to complete an eBusiness learning course, a recognised course that will take your business step-by-step through the process of building your very own successful thriving e-business website.
Then and only then do you Define Your Online Business Strategy and start compiling Your Website Marketing Plan.