While performing research on behalf of a new client once, I noticed one competitor who was coming up in the search results quite frequently. There were pages with links to the company, classifieds, directory listings, and more. My first thought was, "this company has done everything available online to promote their site". It immediately occurred to me that this is what we need to do, also.
There are numerous resources for listing your business and web address online. Google and Yahoo! have their local listings. There are literally thousands of classified advertising style sites. Don't forget the hudreds of smaller search engines and directories. The popularity of trading links with other sites now has many business websites with link trading pages all over the internet. Seek these sites out and trade links, submit your site, and post classifieds. Review of your website traffic statistics will show that you do actually get a few hits from these resources every month, in addition to improving your own search engine standings by creating more links leading to your site. If you do one thing that generates three visitors per month, that is three visitors. If you do fifty such things, it is one hundred fifty visitors to your website.
Finding link pages and link trade partners may seem daunting at first, especially if you are new to internet marketing. One option is to sign up for one of many "Link Exchange Brokers" on the web. Most have both free and paid versions of their services. Another method is to go to most large search engines, and enter "link:www.mycompetitor.com" into the search box. That search term will show you who is linking to your competitor(s), or any website you enter after "link:". Visit those websites and start looking for links that say things like "Add Site", "Add URL", or "Get Listed". Follow those links and you will be presented with information on how to have your site and link included. Often, it is as easy as adding their link to your site, then filling out a form to add your link to theirs. Some such sites request money to be included, or some others have a more complex submission scheme involving email communication, etc. Be polite and follow their guidelines. Be careful not to judge the sites where you may be placing or trading a link too harshly. A site or directory may not seem very helpful to you, a specialist or professional in your field, but to a consumer feeling in need of education about products and services in your field, it is probably quite helpful. Said consumer is much more likely to become a paying customer than one of your competitors would be!
The local listings at Yahoo! and Google can be found by going to those search engines, clicking the link at the top of the page that says local, then performing a search. The results pages all have links somewhere that say "Add Your Business" or "Get Listed". Follow one of those links and follow the instructions to get yourself listed. You will need to create an account, much like a free email account. Once you have the account set up, you may login and create your business listing. You will also be offered the option to pay for enhanced listings. It may be worth it, but even a free listing can be helpful. The intent of these "Local" sections is to function as a phone book style directory for consumers. Even a free listing can generate a small number of hits each month.
To many people, the only search engines available seem to be the ones we hear most about. These would probably be Google and Yahoo!. According to publicly available statistics, Google, Yahoo!, and MSN search are the top three search engines available in terms of the number of searches performed on a monthly basis. However, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other search engines out there, and they may be getting used more than one might expect. Some samples include Exactseek.com, Searchsite.com, Aesop.com, SearchRamp.com, Ask.com, and many, many, more. SearchSite.com, for example, includes small screenshots of the listed websites in their search results. This would appeal to people who are more visually oriented rather than aurally oriented, or people who are less enthusiastic readers. There are also a number of directories that are niche oriented, such as DisabilityOnline.com, or locale based, such as IllinoisRetail.com. While they may not be able to boast the tens of millions of hits that Google or Yahoo! claim monthly, they should not be ignored. The smaller number of consumers using these sites may have a stronger interest in finding a certain type of listing or service, or a stronger loyalty to the results they get. Listings in these engines and directories will add a number of hits to your monthly traffic log. A recent survey published by a well reputed firm, determined that American women preferred Yahoo! while American men preferred Google. These are all factors worth consideration in planning your internet marketing campaign. Any search engine submission plan should include submission to smaller directories and search engines in addition to the most well known majors. Your listings and links on smaller engines and directories will also help your website in terms of higher visibility and "relevancy rankings" on the major search engines.
Just as Coca-Cola does not place a Super Bowl spot, expecting ten million people to run out and buy a coke at that moment to pay for it, you should not expect your website to generate the response neccessary just by setting it up. Our most successful website clients are the ones who take advantage of numerous online marketing opportunities. In addition, your website should be mentioned on your business cards, in your phone book listing, on any signage, any fliers, mailings, newspaper, or other advertising you may be doing. When people are referred to a website from other advertising, it increases the chance that they will act on it. Mention of your website can also save expensive display space in your print advertising by simply referring to your website in place of larger, more expensive display space. Offer a promotion on your site, and tell your customers to visit the site for special offers in your other advertising. You can also find link trading opportunities by talking to other business owners with websites at Chamber of Commerce events, networking events, trade shows, and other, more traditional, marketing avenues.
It is the policy of Chicago Creative Design to first, recommend and encourage small businesses to take advantage of the free opportunities available online. However, we are well aware of the fierceness of competition for the consumers' dollar. The company with the highest profile, the one who seems to be "All Over the Internet" rather than just maintaining their own website, will likely be the one to gain the most business. The question then becomes an issue of budget. There may be a national or international franchiser of your same line of business who uses their franchise fees and other revenues for very extensive online and offline marketing. Your small business budget likely pales in comparison to such a large corporation. To start to compete, invest some time weekly devoted to finding and posting classifieds, trading links, and the like. When you are seeking out paid advertising programs, be budget conscious. Consider search engine advertising on some of the smaller engines as listed above. For engines and classifieds that offer both free and paid programs, watch your traffic and see if you are getting hits from your free ads. That is generally a good indication that a paid listing actually will lead to a large number of page visits. Enhanced, or paid, classified listings can frequently cost as low as $10.00/month. Other directory sites, such as Verizon's superpages.com, offer pay per click ads much like those found on Google and Yahoo! (You can also list your business for free on Superpages.com, so be sure to do that after reading this article). The difference in cost can be substantial as your cost is based on the average bid per click. On a smaller engine, smaller businesses with a budget comparable to yours, will be the ones bidding for your same keywords. Overall, a program with a combination of both paid and free advertising will yield the best results for your online marketing campaign. Spend time investigating what is out there. See what directory pages and listing pages come up in the search results for keywords you are targeting.
With careful time budgeting and wise financial investment, one can make a website a success on its own. The benefits of owning a website in other areas of your advertising and marketing plan will increase the effectiveness of those, as well.
Chicago Creative Design specializes in small business website design, small business website development, and small business website hosting. Our websites include built-in internet marketing features and custom CMS solutions. Our rates are affordable. Improve the effectiveness of your current advertising with our print and web design related services, or establish an effective, new presence online and in print. Explore our site to learn more about our services and achievements or Contact us today. Initial consultations are absolutely free.