It’s pretty much an imperative that your company has a website. Without it, you’re lacking a crucial marketing component which will appear to your customers that you’re either a) not a legitimate business, or b) that your company is too small and unsophisticated to do business with.
The good news about websites is that they’re more affordable than ever and relatively easy to create. The bad news, though, is that in many industries just having a website out there in the Internet world is rarely enough. To truly take advantage of the Web 2.0 Internet realm, you need to have an omnipresent Internet presence that goes beyond just your website. You and your corporate image need to be in front of your current and prospective customers on a recurring basis, in multiple areas, in order to demonstrate that you’re truly an expert in your field and that it would be foolish for someone to do business with anyone else.
• Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – If you’re not all that familiar with computers and the Internet world, Search Engine Optimization can seem a very intimidating creature to handle. Truth be told, while the internal algorithms and computer programming of Google and Yahoo search engines are complex, SEO is actually not all that hard to learn. Getting first-page placement and a million clicks a day may be a bit of a challenge, but improving your company’s visibility on the Internet isn’t. Search engines are continually tweaked in an effort to yield the most appropriate search results. To do this, they focus on key bits of information in your website. These things include:
1. your domain name
2. the titles of your web pages
3. the descriptions of your web pages
4. the keywords that summarize the content of your web pages
5. the actual content on your web pages-this is typically categorized based on keyword density (the number of times key terms and phrases are included in the body of your website text) and photos or videos on your site that relate to topics in your industry
6. related links to your website from other sources
If you manage your own website, either through HTML coding or through a hosted website creator, you should be able to work on the first five of these website components pretty easily. But if working on your website just isn’t your thing, a whole SEO industry has emerged that specializes in providing website optimization. Selecting an SEO provider, though, can be a task.
The sixth component of SEO work can be a little bit trickier to establish and manage as it depends on other websites and their links to yours. One way to establish additional links is to have multiple related-but-different websites that link to one another. Another way is to identify other companies that are related to yours, either online or through your personal network of colleagues, and see if they are willing to trade links with you. Be careful, though, to only link up with websites and companies that are truly related to your business in one way or another-stay away from general link-sharing websites. Not only do non-pertinent links impugn on your company’s image, but search engines like Google and Yahoo can actually rank your site lower as a result of these bogus links.
Other strategies include:
• Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising – Another way to improve your website visibility is simply to pay for it. Pay Per Click campaigns provide you the ability to instantly put your company in front of people that are performing Internet searches for your type of business. Setting up a PPC account with Yahoo, Google, or MSN is a fast and relatively easy way to get instant exposure in front of potential customers. The trouble is, though, that it comes at a cost, especially if you’re in a competitive industry. A single click onto your website can cost upwards of $30. To limit the cost of a PPC campaign, be certain of three things:
1. Your keyword search terms are very specific to the service or product you are offering. If your business is based on a given geographic area or a population segment, be sure you bid on your keywords appropriately (i.e., “office space in Denver, CO” or “retirement solutions for seniors”). Not only will this specificity cause your PPC bid price to go down, but it will better qualify the website visitors that do come to your site.
2. Make certain that the web pages that your PPC keywords are linked to relate to the search terms that you’re buying. If you’re a jewelry store that bids on the search term “pearl earrings” make certain that the website visitor goes to your site about pearl earrings, not men’s watches or some other unrelated page.
3. Make it easy for your website visitors to either purchase from you or contact you, and include a call to action. Be explicit about what your website visitors should do next (i.e., “Add to Shopping Cart”).
• Social Networking – Along with your company website, it is becoming more and more important to be involved in social networking websites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Having a presence on these sites and contributing to groups, forums and other discussions increases the number of times that you and your company are seen by the search engine robots and by your potential customers.
Contributing insightful information on topics relating to your business also provides greater credibility to you and your company, and over time, people begin to see you as an expert in your field that people want to seek out for your services or products. Having a profile on these sites also provides you the ability to integrate links back to your website (see point #6 of the SEO section above). Being part of these networking sites, especially in groups that are related to your field, also has the convenient side effect of keeping you informed about industry trends and other information that may be pertinent to your company.
• Blogging – Another way to improve your image in the face of your current and prospective customers is to write a blog. Show the world what you know by writing articles about topics that relate to your business and field. Pick topics that you and your customers are interested in, do a little Internet research, and offer something new and astute for your customers to read. These articles will further your corporate image as being a leader in your line of work. Once again, having a blog that you regularly post entries to also increases the number of links back to your website that the search engines recognize. A blog will also, more likely than not, provide you new ideas on how to market your company and the products or services that you offer.
• Monitor Your Online Reputation – The final part of this online focus is to monitor and manage your online reputation. With online customer reviews and discussion forums popping up every day, it’s becoming easier and easier for people to say bad things about your company. Now, of course, you can’t control what other people say about your business, but you can respond to negative comments in a positive way. Go to Google and in their advanced options section, set up a list of Google Alerts with your company name. Google will then automatically scour the Internet world for any websites, blogs, or comments that contain your company name and send you instantaneous, daily or weekly emails with the search results.â¨â¨
If you discover that a disgruntled customer (or even employee) is making disparaging remarks about your company, try to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and feel free to respond to the negative comments in a positive manner. Be sure you don’t come off as being petty, but feel free to share your side of the story if you feel that you are in the right. Studies show that while only about 10% of website viewers will act in response to a positive review, more than three-quarters of website viewers will shy away from a company or product that has a negative review, so it’s definitely worthwhile to mitigate any negative comments about your company as quickly as possible.
How to Make Your Company More Visible