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Ask Suzen: Internet Marketing 101

Suzen answers questions from local business owners about the best way to drive traffic to their websites.

Welcome to the Patch’s first official small business advice column where you, the small business person asks me, the marketing professional, your most pressing questions about how to get your company exposure (not the kind that will get you arrested), lead generation, traffic to your website, all you’d ever want to know about online marketing, Search Engine Optimization, best use of your marketing dollars and whatever else might cross your minds in the business growth arena. No dating questions here or how to handle your out of control toddler, just the business facts, ma’am.

Laura Cruger from asks: Can you give 3 of your “Top Tips to help drive traffic to your website. In your years of experience and knowledge, if you had to say — if you do nothing else, do this, what would “this” be?

Richard Monestero from piggy backs Laura’s question asking “What would you say is the most efficient way of marketing on the Internet?”

Laura and Richard,

Great questions for just out of the gate. As much as we are surely still in a tough economic climate, here is the good news: the beauty of marketing today is that the small business person can do so much more for so much less. With the advent of the Internet we are no longer slave to the huge ad budget that we have traditionally thrown dollars at and hoped for the best.

Don Draper would be rolling over in his grave if he was trying to run his agency with his old school 1950s methods. And he’d lose his clients to boot. With the growth of the Internet we also now have infinite creative and effective possibilities of how and where to spend our money, with many of these choices at our fingertips. And this is only the beginning.

Top 3 tips for driving traffic to your website, from my standpoint would be:

  1. Content, content, content. Valuable content. First and foremost. There are many realtors out there, Laura, as you know. What sets you apart from the crowd and will make them flock to your website rather than to your colleague’s? Making your website a hub of valuable information that folks want to come to because you are offering them great info, and thereby gaining their trust and respect. Tip of the day that they can subscribe to, a blog (both of which should be set up to capture email addresses), a free report, a weekly video, a resource page, a complimentary power CMA, etc., all made readily available on your website at the click of a button. You want to go above and beyond what your colleagues are offering, and expect nothing in return. You’re earning trust. That’s how people will take notice of you.
  2. That’s all well and good, but how will your potential clients know of your fabulous website? You must get the word out: inbound links from directories and business affiliates. Where are potential home buyers/sellers going online? Attorney sites, mortgage sites, moving company sites, etc. Think like a buyer/seller and be there, where they are going. Market your blog on the social media sites… every single week, and offer valuable info and offer specials, one-time offers, etc, to get folks over to your site. Use keywords (words that your potential clients would plug into a search engine) that will be picked up by the search engines to help rank your site higher and be more visible.
  3. Smart SEO on the back end of your site to help get your website visible. There are technical tactics that can be done on the back end of your websites such as meta tagging, alt tags on images, back linking, tagging, xml sitemaps, optimized page titles, etc. that will help your site be noticed.

There is no one technique that will help get traffic to your site unless you choose to spend a lot of money on a pay-per-click campaign, but even that will only serve to drive traffic to your website. It won’t hold ‘em there. That is your job.

An effective online marketing plan will incorporate many facets and will take time. But the payoff is worth it. Isn’t it better having folks come to you, rather than you chasing down clients? It can happen with a great online marketing plan that encourages engagement.

So go get ‘em. Get Found, Get Heard, Get Crackin’

Have a question about bringing your small business into the 21st century? Send Suzen your questions at Suzen@omaginarium.com or leave them in the comments section below. Be sure to include your name, the name of your business and contact information with your question.

arkay March 03, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Set up a Facebook page and enter as much info about your business as possible. Then encourage people to "Like" you and post as much content on a daily basis as possible. Photos, links, specials, even just irreverent conversational posts with your customers. Solicit them to engage with your posts "What'd you think of our _____?" as it'll increase your reach. Facebook, like Google, has an algorithmn that is based on what people WANT to see, so the more people engage with your page, the more of the people who "Like" you will see it on a regular basis. It's free. http://www.facebook.com/pages/browser.php (Click +Create Page)
arkay March 03, 2012 at 08:37 PM
IMO if you don't have money to have a nice website done, don't waste your time trying to create one when there are so many other opportunities to more effectively market. The big one being Facebook, but also make sure you're properly listed on Yelp, Google Maps, etc. You can set up a URL for your Facebook page and drive people from all those other directories to your Facebook page: e.g. facebook.com/yourbusiness. A poor or/and amateur/cheaply made site can actually hurt more than it helps.
Suzen Pettit March 03, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Great input arkay. Local search is vital for local businesses, and is an important SEO strategy. SEO in and of itself has become a broad sweeping category and there are many ways to skin the cat now that were not available even a few years back. Integrated approaches are usually the most effective approach rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket...
Nicole Olmstead May 24, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Hi Suzen! I have seen some websites host contests or have poll questions. Is this a good way to increase traffic and potential sales?
Suzen Pettit May 24, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Absolutely Nicole. contests, surveys, polls all open the door to invite interaction, and people love offering their opinions; it's human nature. asking an open ended question as well.

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