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Website Promotion Advice from the Experts

5 Tips for Small Businesses to Build a (Stronger) Web Presence

If you are a small business owner in Delaware, and you advertise your business, chances are that you do that in print, maybe on the radio, and possibly on television. If you aren't taking any steps on the internet to make people aware of your business, you may be missing some opportunities, and some customers.

Fortunately, there are a number of low cost steps that small businesses can take to add a web presence to the ways that they reach out to customers. Some of them don't even require having a web site.

The major search engines, such as Google and Yahoo can be very helpful in leading people to businesses in a global marketplace, but smaller businesses relying upon customers a short drive from where they are located can take advantage of opportunities to increase their presence on the web.

1. Add your business to Local Search

Regardless of whether you have a web site or not, the major search engines have been developing local search options that people can use to find goods and services in their communities, and there is no cost to be listed on those.

Google Maps

There's a link at the bottom of the left column labeled "Business Owners: Add/Edit Your Business". You may find that your business is already listed since some of the information that they use is taken from the telephone companies. Make sure that it is all correct, and if there is anything missing, consider adding more information. Google has a verification system where they check to see if you are who you are, but the verification process
isn't that difficult.

Yahoo Local

At the very bottom of the Yahoo Local page is a link to "Add/Edit a Business". The page that leads to offers both paid placement, and a free listing. The free listing is a very good start, and can include a fair amount of information, in addition to your location, such as your hours of operation, and what types of goods and services that you offer. It does
require that you have or create a Yahoo account, but that is free also.

Again, your business may be listed in Yahoo's local search because of information that they have collected from the phone company and other sources. They also allow people who aren't business owners to provide information about a business, so you may want to see if you are listed, and the information they have about your business is correct.

2. Add your business to local directories

Being included in a good local directory like DelawareOnTheWeb.com can bring
visitors directly to your website, or lead to direct contacts from potential customers, and is highly recommended. There are also larger directories, such as the Open Directory Project, which offer regional listings for businesses that have web sites. Being listed in a number of directories can not only lead to people finding your business, but will also help your business appear higher in searches of those local search engines I mention above.

3. Include address information on your web site in text

If you have a web site, including the address of your business on every page can make it easier for visitors to know where you are located. Researchers at Stanford University came out with a couple of studies which indicated that address information on pages also makes a site look more "credible." A set of credibility guidelines they came out with offers that suggestion, and more.

It is important that when you present your address on your web site, that you do so using text that a search engine can read. Unfortunately, many of the local sites that I've visited show their address on their pages, but do so using a graphic image that includes the address. Search engines can't read text that is part of a picture. It's also not a bad idea to spell out the name of the state "Delaware" in your address instead of using the shorter postal code "De" to make it more likely that people will find your web site in a search on search engines.

The local search engines I mention above like to include more information than just an address, and if you include some additional information about your business on your site, you not only help potential visitor, but also increase your chances of appearing higher in search results for those local searches. This kind of information can include your hours of operation, parking information, and information about accessibility for people with
disabilities.

4. Use social networking sites to communicate with customers

Some businesses are very social, such as restaurants and clubs, and social networking sites like MySpace allow business and organizations to join and create web pages. Those can be nice ways to communicate with your local clientele, telling them about weekly specials or which bands may be performing, the latest news about your business, and more. This approach may not be for every business, but it can be a good one for businesses that are targeting customers that might use MySpace.

5. Look at business review sites, and encourage good customers to write reviews online

People may just talk about your business online, and it helps to see what they are saying. There are a number of review sites that allow people to talk about businesses, and share their opinions about them online. Some focus upon particular niches, such as restaurants, while others cover a much wider range. Here are some examples:

Yelp.com
Angie's List
Insider Pages

These review sites don't require that you have a web site, but they will create a web presence for your business. Consider them as feedback about your business that the whole world can see. If someone has reviewed your business in a negative way, often the best option is to try to understand why, and see if you can improve your business, and then maybe respond to the review in a polite and positive manner.

Those are some of the ways that small businesses can increase their presence online without spending much in the process.

About the Author: The author of this article, Bill Slawski, runs a Internet Marketing firm
in Newark, Delaware - SEO by the Sea, Inc., located on the web at http://www.seobythesea.com

 

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