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 There’s nothing worse than a website with outdated information.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?

Web Design Case Study: Pampered Mummies Yarraville

Pampered Mummies is a down to earth child friendly cafe, hair and beauty salon located in Yarraville, Melbourne.

Brief

Trina Paskins, the owner of Pampered Mummies, wanted a website that could give prospective customers a feel for what Pampered Mummies was all about. She also wanted to be able to display and update her hair and beauty price lists and communicate with her customers via her website in a timely fashion.

Solution

The solution was to develop a website using a custom WordPress theme. This would allow us to incorporate a blog into the site and enable Trina to communicate with her clients and update the pricing herself.

I also used the services of my photographer husband, Raoul Wegat, to provide a strong visual focus for the website. Photographs could then be used throughout the site giving prospective clients a feel for Pampered Mummies and what they could expect when visiting.

Outcome

The result is a beautiful website that provides a wealth of information for clients and prospective clients alike. It gives visitors a clear idea about what Pampered Mummies has to offer them and why they should visit.

I love using WordPress CMS (content management system) as it’s easy to use and doesn’t overwhelm my clients. In fact Trina has already picked it up and has already started communicating through her blog.

Treen is thrilled with the result and has even started blogging!

Visit the Website

http://www.pamperedmummies.com.au

Benefits of a Search Friendly Website

The process of putting your business online involves more than just building a website. As with other areas of your marketing your website requires careful planning to ensure it will be a success. One area which is crucial to that success, but sadly often overlooked, is a search engine friendly, or search friendly – website.

What is a Search Friendly Website?

A search friendly website is a website that has been designed from the ground up in a manner that enables the search engines to find, crawl and index the website’s pages. You may think that sounds easy but you would be amazed at how many search engines, such as Google, are unable to list a website because of technical issues.

A search friendly website should also ideally rank highly in the search engines for keyword phrases related to your business. Personally I would take search friendly a step further and say that a search friendly website is a website that is also user friendly. By that I mean a website that users (your customers and prospects) find easy to use and engage with.

What Are the Benefits of a Search Friendly Website?

A website that looks great but has no one visit it is not very useful. It’s kind of like a bricks and mortar store that is tucked away out of sight, and no doubt out of mind. The search engines are like busy shopping strips and ideally you want your business, or website, to be positioned up front and centre so you can attract lots of prospects and convert them into customers. A search friendly website can deliver this prime position to you. Some additional benefits of a search friendly website include:

  • High visibility in the search engines;
  • Increased targeted traffic to your website;
  • A website that is search friendly is usually more user friendly – meaning your prospects will find it easier to use and therefore convert into customers;
  • Saves you time and money by not having to find someone to optimise your website after it has been built;
  • Increased customers and sales!!

What Stops a Website From Being Search Friendly?

As I mentioned above you would be amazed at the number of websites that don’t appear, let alone rank, in Google purely because of the way they are built. Here are some common issues that can harm your website and stop it from being search friendly:

Frames

In the earlier days of the internet frames were hailed as the next big web design weapon. These days frames are probably one of the worst offenders when it comes to having a search friendly website as most search engines cannot follow links via frames. Even if a search engine does index your pages it is usually just the content of the page so a user is taken to a page of your website’s content with no visible logo or navigation as they are part of a separate frame. Frames also cause problems for users when using the browsers back button, printing or bookmarking a page. There are some remedial fixes available but they really are an interim fix until you can get your website re-designed.

If your current website has been built using frames I would highly recommend you consider redesigning it.

Flash

Flash is not the total search engine friendly killer it once was but you do need to ensure that the web designer who implements a flash website for you either develops a HTML version of your website or creates a website that can incorporate Flash within your HTML search friendly website.

Again I would avoid a purely Flash built site if at all possible.

Dynamic URLs

Dynamic URLs are generally seen in e-commerce websites and Content Management Systems (CMS) that have not been designed in a search engine friendly manner. Here is an example of a dynamic URL:

  • http://www.mywebsite.com.au/products.php&123=prod762&subproduct

Re-written to be search engine friendly the URL would look like this:

  • http://www.mywebsite.com.au/products/123/prod762/subproduct/

Dynamic URLs can cause problems with the search engines who may find them too complex to index. Generally speaking they can be avoided by ensuring that the system you use allows search engine friendly URLs. If your website already has dynamic URLs your web designer should be able to work with you to correct the problem.

Splash Pages

A splash page is usually the entry point of your website which contains an animated image/message and not much else. Apart from all the usability issues I’ve raised about them in the past they generally contain no content a search engine can index which makes them redundant to the search engines as well as your users.

Poorly Implemented Page Title and Meta Tags

Unique well crafted page title and meta tags on each page of your website help the search engines to understand what each page of your website is about and rank it accordingly. A website with the same page title and meta tags on each page makes it difficult for the search engines to understand the contents of the page which in turn will affect their ability to rank the page well.

What To Do If Your Existing Website Is Not Search Friendly

If your existing website has not been built in a search friendly manner I suggest you talk to a web design company who specialises is search friendly web design to see what can be done to rectify the problem. They may be able to make changes to your current site, or re-design it to ensure its search friendliness. A company that specialises in search engine optimisation (SEO) may also be able to help you.

Its also important to review your current site for it’s potential to convert visitors into customers. If the design is not up to scratch in this regard it may be better to re-design the website from scratch.

How Can I Ensure My New Website Is Built In a Search Friendly Manner?

The best way to ensure your new website is built in a search engine friendly manner is to find a web design firm who understands the importance of search engines to the success of your website and has knowledge of search engine optimisation and search friendly web design. Alternatively select web design and search engine optimisation firms who are happy to work together to ensure your website is search friendly.

The best way to find companies who have this expertise is by doing your homework, asking questions and looking at other sites they have built to see how search (and user) friendly they are. If they don’t seem knowledgeable and/or interested in search engine traffic I would suggest you run, not walk, away.

Conclusion

A search friendly website is vital if you want to receive targeted visitors to your site from the search engines, such as Google. Ideally having your website built in a search friendly manner from the ground up is the ideal way to go, however if your site has already been built talking to the right people can help you rectify the problems and reap the reward of targeted traffic to your website.

Microstock: the designer’s dirty little secret

I’m constantly going on about stock photos and why they should be avoided as much as possible. Fair Trade Photographer has written a great post which illustrates the point perfectly. From it:

Companies need to think more carefully about the images they use. I suspect many businesses are unaware that the photos their designer has sold them are spread a-dime-a-dozen across the web. There is a good reason that microstock’s original catchphrase was “the designer’s dirty little secret”.

Well worth a read.

It Takes Two to Make a Successful Website

I am often asked what it takes to build a successful website. Of course web design, usability, search marketing and the like are vital but the most important element is teamwork. Teamwork between the web designer and the client. If this teamwork is not there it doesn’t matter how good the site looks, or how usable it is, it probably won’t be successful.

So how do you acheive this teamwork? Start by understanding that as the client you will need to spend time on the project. Yes you are hiring a web designer to build your website but you need to be able to educate them on your business, your products and services and your site goals.

It is also important to define who has what role from the beginning. For most parts of the site it should be pretty clear but one area that crops up again and again is the website copy or text. It is vital that you and your web designer clarify this at the beginning. If it is you, the client, who will be providing this, talk to your web designer about what they expect and the format it should be in. If the web designer will be writing your copy understand that you will still need to provide them with information and some of your time so they have a foundation to work with.

I guess what I am trying to say is the more you are able to work with your web designer the more successful the outcome of your project will be. If you lack time or resources talk to them in the beginning so you can come up with a plan that will work for you both.