DOMINATE YOUR WEB COMPETITION IN 2019

9 Tips and Strategies for Small Business Owners

Internet marketing is often touted as a way to reach new groups of customers all over the globe. You certainly can use the web to find niche groups of buyers on any continent, but most small business owners are focused on what’s happening closer to home.

Over the past few years we have seen a huge shift in the way consumers are using the internet. They aren’t just going online to read blogs or order books from warehouses anymore. They are still doing those things, of course, but they are also finding restaurants and bakeries up the street. They are searching for dry cleaning coupons and reviews. They are even looking for auto mechanic recommendations from family and friends in social media.

These are just a few examples, but they point to a bigger trend. As the Yellow Pages and other print directories have faded away, the web has become a crucial resource for buyers to find businesses and vendors in their neighborhoods.

Some marketers have responded quickly to these changes. We live in an age where most food trucks have thriving social media feeds. And yet, a lot of established businesses are falling behind. Some have done very little to keep up with the latest trends, while others have made an effort but haven’t pursued the right strategies.

How can it be that successful business owners are missing out on the biggest trend in their careers? It’s often the case that they simply aren’t aware of what they are missing out on.  They don’t know what local online marketing is, or assume that because they still have customers coming to them that they don’t need it. The internet isn’t going away.  It’s becoming a bigger and bigger part of your customers lives, and by extension, more and more important to your success as a business owner.

Contrary to what you may have read or experienced in the past, you don’t have to spend all of your time and money to outpace your competition online. In this short guide we are going to outline a handful of tips you can follow to dominate your local online market in 2019. Better yet, we are going to show you how to do it with a minimum of effort and expense.

If you want to know what it takes to get a leg up on your competition and see your business grow more profitable, let’s get started…

#1) Tune Up Your Website

The single biggest reason most small business owners don’t see better results in their online marketing is that their “online” isn’t quite good enough. In other words, they have a website that isn’t working as well as it needs to be to build a brand or attract customers.

That isn’t to say that all small business websites need to be replaced or re-designed. Unless you’ve had your site built from a template, or put together by a team of overseas vendors who rushed the job, you probably have a good foundation in place.

The big issue is that many small business websites are never updated. They go online and stay there without any software updates, new plug-ins, or content updates and additions. As a result, their HTML goes out of date and so do the words and images they use to attract buyers.

When a website is been neglected, customers notice (so does Google, but we will get to that shortly). The messaging is all wrong, the site runs slowly, and there may even be error messages or security alerts that pop up in a browser. That’s because outdated software – the kind that runs your content management system and plug-ins – needs to be updated on a regular basis to fix known security issues.

The commonsense solution to all of these problems, and a good first step towards dominating your online market in 2019, is to perform what’s called a website audit. It’s just an in-depth look at the coding on your website, along with a series of tests that evaluate things like page loading speed and content quality.

A website audit is fast, inexpensive, and incredibly insightful. You’ll know within days whether you have structural problems that leave openings for hackers, create problems for buyers, or cause search engines to ignore your website. You’ll get an easy road map for solving these issues and bringing your pages up to speed.

A lot of the business owners we talked to have never had a website audit. This is equivalent to buying a new car and never changing the oil. If you want this to be your most profitable year ever, tuning up the code on your site is a great place to start.

#2) Make Sure Your Website is Ready for Mobile Traffic

Although it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to, we still come across websites without mobile compatibility every week. That’s a shame, because business owners who haven’t made the switch to responsive web designs (the kind that display differently based on screen size) are shooting themselves in the feet again and again.

Numerous different studies have demonstrated that more than half of all web traffic originates from a phone or tablet. Not only that, but the preference for mobile devices over laptop and desktop computers is growing every year.  It isn’t just that the future is all about having your customers carry a high-speed internet connection in their pocket; it’s the reality of life in 2019.

Some marketers have decided to hold off on adding mobile functionality to their websites, reasoning that they aren’t getting much in the way of sales or walk-in traffic from the web anyway.  That’s looking at the problem in exactly the wrong way. If you aren’t getting anything from your website it’s likely because your layout isn’t up-to-date.

To understand why, there are two things you have to keep in mind.  The first is that Google and the other search engines will largely ignore your website if you don’t have mobile functionality. In a world filled with internet-ready phones and tablets it makes no sense to send searchers to a page that can’t handle these technologies.

The second is that customers don’t like to interact with websites that were designed for large screens while they are on mobile devices.  They tend to be slow, clunky, and filled with freezes or error messages.  That’s frustrating when you’re looking for a product, service, or company to work with. Why should they hang around and be annoyed when the next company is just a click away?

One of the reasons the web has become such an important part of local marketing has to do with the fact that buyers tend to use their phones and tablets to look for shops and service providers when they are on the go.  If your website isn’t ready for mobile traffic you can’t expect to compete with the other businesses around you, much less to steal any of their customers.

#3) Use Local SEO to Your Advantage

Sometimes, new clients come to us and say they’ve never seriously tried to find customers through search engine optimization because they feel like it’s impossible.  In their eyes, Google’s listings are dominated by big businesses with huge marketing budgets. However, that’s hardly ever accurate.

Small businesses don’t just compete for search engine visibility, they actually have a built-in advantage.  That’s because Google and the other engines try hard to match searchers with companies in their own geographic area.  If you use local search engine optimization (SEO) effectively you can give your business a very big boost.

Most business owners will already know that SEO works by incorporating the right kind of keyword-rich content on the website and attracting inbound links.  What many fail to realize, though, is that when Google’s spiders look to your site they aren’t just trying to figure out what your pages are about, but also where you are.

You can make it easier for them to understand and catalog this information by using words that relate to your city and state or province.  You can also give other geographic indicators like street addresses, neighborhood names, references to local landmarks, and zip or postal codes. It’s also a good idea to make sure maps, phone numbers, and driving directions are easy to find.

Putting this kind of content on your website serves two important purposes.  On the one hand it makes it easy for search engine spiders to place you in a real-world location where you can be matched with actual customers.  And on the other hand, it gives live human buyers the information they need to contact or visit your business.

One of the best things about local search engine optimization is that it’s fast, easy, and effective. With the right tweaks to your website (assuming you’ve already taken our advice and audited your mobile-friendly pages) you could see your search rankings improve in just a few weeks. Then, anyone looking for your kind of company will be likely to find it when they are close by. That’s true even if you have lots of bigger competitors who might be spending more on SEO than you are.

10-Point Strategy Guide to Small Business Website Design and Internet Marketing is a ten part Blog series by Founder and Owner of WebWize, Inc., Glenn Brooks.

Glenn has been part of the website design and development industry since 1994, over two decades.  Before WebWize he spent more than 15 years in the Advertising, Marketing, and Print Industries.  Don't miss this opportunity!

10 Part Strategy Series TOC

About Glenn Brooks

Glenn Brooks is the founder of WebWize, Inc. WebWize has been providing web design, development, hosting, SEO and email services since 1994. Glenn graduated from SWTSU with a degree in Commercial Art and worked in the advertising, marketing and printing industries before starting WebWize.

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