It has been written about the internet that “if you’re not there, you may not be anywhere”. There is no longer any business, however small or localized, that could not benefit from internet presence.
Everyday more and more people (of all generations) are using their computers, Smartphones, and iPads to access the Internet and find the information they need. If you’re a business owner, you need to be aware of the fact that more than 80% of consumers are now trying to find local business information online.
A 2010 case study showed that 82% of US consumers chose the internet as their preferred media channel to find what they were looking for on a local level. 37% of these survey respondents (across all age categories) said they are using their mobile devices to browse or research local products and services. The number of people accessing business directories on a mobile device at least once per week increased more than 16 percent year-over-year to nearly five million in March 2010. The reason is simple: the internet offers dynamic, real-time information, through more devices than any other channel. It is also shown that mobile users were more likely to act/buy that any other types of local search users.
The typical approach consumers take when looking for something is to use an internet search engine. Search engines are most widely used, followed by email, and then “word of mouth.” According to the most recent numbers, Google dominates this market with a 65.8% market share. Yahoo and Bing combine for about a 28.1% market share. Google’s dominance is a result of many factors. The most important of these factors is their ability (using sophisticated mathematical algorithms) to “understand” what a consumer is looking for, and then return the customer relevant websites and other content. Performing a local search drives consumers to take ACTION. The same study indicates that 57% of local searchers visit that business, while 47% make contact offline.
There are two types of search results that search engines like Google can produce: organic search results and paid search results.
Organic search results are “natural” (i.e. free) search results based, quite simply, on Google’s opinion of relevancy to consumer search. Organic search results are displayed on the left side of the results pages below the paid search results.
Achieving the #1 organic search results is the Holy Grail for most advertisers. First, it costs you nothing in terms of hard dollars. Second, 78% of all searchers click on the FIRST or SECOND search results they see, whether paid, or organic. That means if you’re NOT in the top two searches, you’re likely wasting any money you’re putting into paid search results, and also not getting any juice from natural search results you may be enjoying.
Most businesses can’t afford to write checks to ensure top positions on paid search results. A better approach may be to engage in a practice called Search Engine Optimization. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the practice of improving your natural search results for Google and other search engines. Achieving SEO is a function of applying some very basic approaches to the content and design of your website.
1. Content- Google wants to help consumers-and as a result you—by giving them specific results for their specific search. If you are an auto glass technician in San Antonio, use the expression “San Antonio” as times as you can in as many places as possible on your website. Make sure to use your keywords effectively but be careful of stuffing your content with keywords.
2. Photos- Search engines agree with the phrase “a picture says a thousand words!” Make sure to display photos of your courteous, well-groomed staff and your squeaky-clean office.
3. “Linking”- Linking is the art of connecting your site with other sites with unique content relevant to whatever a customer may be searching for. The real bang for your effort is to have other sites link to YOUR site. The logic is simple: Google thinks that your site is more valuable if other sites link to you. So, if you are a technician in Milwaukee, consider approaching the owners of relevant local website in the Milwaukee area.
4. Original Content- Unique and original content will go a long way towards improving the SEO of your website. Anyone can copy and paste articles on their site, but search engines don’t reward this. Take advantage of your expertise and start regularly posting authoritative articles of FAQ responses on your site.
5. Ease of use-Finally, it’s important to know that the usability of your site actually matters to search engines. Whenever you’re thinking about the design of your site, keep your customer in mind. If a consumer is in need of a same day glass appointment, they likely want a PHONE NUMBER as quickly as possible. Also, resist the temptation to distract the consumer with site features that don’t add value to your two primaries interests: to a) qualify your shop as a quality repair facility, and b) CALL you.
If you do a good job with SEO, you should start seeing good results within about 12 months of developing your site, and all of these results are completely free advertising for you.
If you want faster, more stable traffic, paying for advertising is a great way to attract new business. Paid search results are the results that a particular advertiser (i.e. your business) pays to produce. In short, you write a check to Google to ensure that your website or article ranks among the top results for a particular search topic. Paid search results are always at the top or right side of search engine result pages.
Social networking is a popular trend that can greatly influence your business. In fact, to find local-business information on social sites, a majority (56%) visit companies’ pages. If consumers can find the brands or services they’re seeking on social sites, the payoff is positive-69% of consumers are more likely to use a local business if it has information available on a social-networking site. These social methods have continued to see quarterly growth. 56% of merchants have now created a social networking profile versus 48% in the first two quarters of 2010.
Most major advertising solutions offer simplified packages for businesses, such as Google Boost, Yahoo! Small Business, and AutoGlassSearch.com. Local businesses should consider a multi-channel approach that combines an online and mobile strategy with their target consumer in mind. The marketplace has globalized; consumers demand more information at their fingertips, and those without a strong web presence will be left behind.
Good luck in your quest to attract more customers via the internet. It’s the most powerful, most measureable advertising channel out there. Employ some of the above tips, and I’m certain you and your new customers will be pleased.
About the author: Alexa Wachstein is the Sales Executive of AutoGlassSearch.com, an AGRSS member company. For more information on this article and other Internet matters, Alexa welcomes your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.