When a business owner decides that they need to get online, often times they ask their friends, clients and customers what it is that they “do” online. Since the popular thing right now is Twitter, I’d venture to guess that a good amount of tech-savvy customers would suggest that the biz owner jump onto the Twitter bandwagon.
While getting on Twitter, Facebook or any other social media site is a great idea, I think it’s definitely not the right way to get started. Twitter is simply the flavor of the month right now. A year ago MySpace was all the rage. A year from now it’ll probably be something else.
Get Started Offline
I think the best way to get started online is to start offline, just like you are. Ask customers how they found your business. Did they search online? Did they look in the phone book? Did they just drive by and see your sign?
For the ones that saw you online, this means that you have some sort of presence online, even if you don’t have a website yet. Websites like Yelp, Yahoo Local and Google Maps (along with hundreds of others) probably already list your business, services, products and maybe even some customer reviews.
Do Some Online Investigating
Ask those customers where they saw you. Did they read about you on one of the sites above, did they find you in an Internet search, or did they get a referral from an online friend?
Then jump online and start looking around. See what’s mentioned about your business. Find your business in Google Maps and others and claim those listings. Add pertinent business information and you’re on your way. Search for your business name with quotes around it (for example: “Bobs Sink Repair”).
Next, start thinking about what your customers would type into Google to find you. Would they type some words and a geolocator (like ‘st louis’), or would they just type in your best product (aka ‘bathroom faucets’) or service (aka ‘sink repair’)?
Think like a customer, not like an entrepreneur. Try your best to avoid acronyms and buzzwords that people in your industry would know, but Joe Average (aka your customer) wouldn’t.
Do a Bit of Keyword Research
Sure, you’re not an SEO, and keyword research doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. But just taking an hour or three to understand some of the variants in keywords that people use to find you will be worth it before you start building a website in your mind.
If you need help, or just really don’t have time, you could find someone to do it for you for a couple bucks. Problem is, you still won’t get the experience of sitting in front of a PC and typing in various things to see what comes up. That experience can help you get to your ‘ah-ha’ moment for search. It can also inspire other ideas, other keyword ideas you didn’t think of originally, and it can also show you what your competition is doing (or not doing if you’re observant).
Find a SEO-Savvy Web Designer
It is my guess that business owners like to save money. I know I do. But I also know when spending money is smart. Spending money on marketing materials (flyers, signage, website) is a smart move. It’s not smart to go cheap on these things. If your cousin’s friend’s friend can crank it out, but you can’t find any of her past works in Google, chances are that’s not a good investment.
Take some time and interview a few web designers. Make sure they understand SEO, how to make search-friendly websites, and that they understand the importance of keyword placement, proper HTML coding and title tags. When looking for an SEO, make sure they can prove their rankings, and that they offer things like call tracking and ranking reports.
While I think Twitter is probably one of the most awesome business tools out there at the moment, it’s not the core of my business strategy, and it shouldn’t be for you either. Your strategy needs to be wide and yet focused. Build a quality website and provide educational information to your clients. Find a good SEO-savvy designer and you’ll be well on the way to better profits.