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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.

Goodguy February 29, 2012 at 11:44 AM
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Mat. Senatore February 29, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Suzen, we are a small business with a limited advertising budget & no website of our own. Whats your advice on using a template from a "free" website platform? Is something better than nothing? I'm inclined to say yes, but, am I going to be able to drive traffic through there using all of your great content tips? Also, can they be difficult for other sites to link to and from? Penny for your thoughts...
Mark Langlois (Editor) February 29, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Mat and L.A., depending on which town you live in, you may have a web page you don't know about on that town's Patch. We have listings for almost every single Danbury business, and if one is missing, we add it free. The listing (web page) is free to all local businesses.
akawal February 29, 2012 at 04:38 PM
This is a great article for someone like me, currently in the process of building valuable content from what I have learnt and experienced. This is a business of E.U.I Education, Understanding, Implementation, something that goes a miss when we all take the plunge into the world of entrepenuership, (If that is the right spelling!!) For people who are trying to gain maximum exposure and what to do it themselves, I can recommend, www.weblistincome.com for a free download of "how to create a website" incredibly informative and cuts out months of reasearch and spending money....
Large Green February 29, 2012 at 06:41 PM
How do you get e-mail addresses to send out a e-mail newsletter and promotional stuff? I'd like to try do e-mail marketing myself if I can. I know I don't have what it take to make an awesome web page and I don't have the time to so social media marketing so I've had my web page made by a professional and I use Magicbuz to do all my SocioVial marketing and that is going great.
Matt Dewkett February 29, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Large, there are a number of things you can do to get email addresses. One, if you have an expertise, you can speak locally about what you do, and have attendees sign up for your newsletter list at the event. Libraries and social groups are a great place to start. Additionally, if you have a website, you can use a site called Scribd to publish your newsletter, and then embed it in your website. That gives those who are interested a look at what you have to offer and they might be inclined to sign up for an emailed version with special offers, etc. Two email marketing companies you might want to look into are Constant Contact, and YMLP-Your Mailing List Provider. These are paid services, but the more you add to your list, your ISP will determine you are a spammer and shut down your send access to your account. These services will also give you analytics about who is reading and forwarding your newsletter. My wife and I own two small businesses in the area, The Joyful Organizer® and Social Ocean Media. Our success with internet marketing and social media marketing from our organizing business, led us to launch our social media management company this month. Suzen is absolutely right, it is all about content. Laura would recognize the idea in real estate- location, location, location! Same thing with the Internet. The more content that you have, and the more frequently it is updated, tells the search engines you have something to say.
Suzen Pettit February 29, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Hi Mat and L.A., There are a couple of ways you can go here. #1 is definately to set up a listing on Patch, and on a few of the other directories such as Merchant Circle, Angie's List and Manta. All offer space to create a listing, many are free for basic listings and can serve as a Profile for your biz until you have a website of your own. Once you do have a website, these links will be good for inbound links to your website, so it's worth setting up. Also using social media sites like Facebook is a must. Set up a Facebook business page-totally free and customizable. Many companies are using these pages either in conjunction with or as an add on to their websites. The good news about using a FB page is that it is a public site and will always rank high in the search engines, giving you good exposure. Just make sure you are constantly encouraging folks to go there and "like" it. More about that here: http://www.omaginarium.com/blog/?p=161
Suzen Pettit February 29, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Great answer Matt. I would just add as a warning for Large to refrain, as tempting as it may be, from purchasing a database of email lists. The days of list purchasing are OVER, now that people have discovered the delete button. You will be seen as a nuisance, better known these days as a "spammer". Better to slowly grow your list from people who are voluntarily opting in to your site. These are folks who really want your information and are of much greater value to you. Good luck!
Laura Cruger March 01, 2012 at 03:10 AM
I totally agree with Matt & Suzen!! Offering information of value on platforms such as Facebook, "The Patches" and the like - consistently, is a much better way to reach people rather than purchasing a list of names/emails of people that really don't know you or will care to. If you offer good valuable content on these sites - the hope is that they will come to you as their resource If you have a website, be sure to drive them there so that they can read more about you, your business and the services you provide. Build your clientbase slowly and offer good valuable content is the way to "grow/go" :-) www.crugerandlevitt.com
arkay March 03, 2012 at 08:31 PM
SEO is important, but I wouldn't say it's the best way to drive traffic for a small local businesses. Those businesses have a serious disadvantage when it comes to one of Google's key metrics, which is authority. Linkback strategies aren't working as well as they used to. Google is getting smarter and smarter, and most queries aren't looking for your small business. Google knows this, and that's why you're not on the front page. However, smart SEO that finds niches in the market specific to people finding your local business are important. So are directory listing and soliciting reviews: Yelp, Google Maps, Foursquare, etc. Social is important, but it amazes me how few small businesses know how to use Facebook. You DO NOT set up a user account on Facebook for a business, you set up a PAGE. Also, paid search can be very effective when used properly. I could go on. I do digital marketing for national brands and see so many small businesses that get overcharged with bad work, or try and do it themselves and just don't understand the ropes. This is a great resource and I hope our local businesses are listening!
arkay March 03, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Constant Contact is probably the industry best for a turnkey newsletter system.
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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