Getting Found Online - notes to the Yellow Pages Generation
- by Urszula Richards
- 19 May 2014
One of the most important things that you probably want, once you have a website, is to be found by those looking for you!
Just as 'in the old days' it was not enough to open up shop and have people simply know you are there, certain things need to happen in order for you to be found online. In the past, this would have involved a listing in the Yellow Pages, the local paper or even placing an advertisement in the local industry association magazine.
What you now need to do - in the online world equivalent, will depend on the type of business you have, how you currently get your referrals, if you are a local business (or not), and how many competitors you have, to list just a few variables.
This article helps explain what priorities you should focus on, depending on some of these factors.
1. The Bare Minimum
At the very least, when you have a new website launched, you need to -
- submit your domain name to Google and Bing search engines, so they become aware of your online existence
- have a special site map created for search engines (called an xml site map) and submitted to Google & Bing
- have on-page optimisation (specific ways of setting up your web pages) for at least 3 main pages of your website which focus on your key business, and include your business name and location - which people may be searching on.
This is the equivalent to having a white pages listing. People have to know your name to find you, but at least when they look, they will find you.
Adequate if -
Your business is well known to existing clients and prospects AND you have more than enough new prospects / referrals coming through other means AND you don't have many competitors
Not enough if …
- Prospects don't really remember your exact name, or how to spell it - as it won't then come up in searches
- You are a brand new business and need new customers who may not know about your services or your name
- You need to keep a steady flow of new customers as you don't have enough to sustain you via referrals and other means
- You have many competitors, particularly if they have a prominent online presence
2. Keyword Research for On-Site and Off-Site Application
Keyword research, at its most basic level is the equivalent of putting your Yellow Pages listing into the correct category. You can be in the Yellow Pages, but if you are not in the section people are looking for you, you may as well not be in there in the first place.
Translating this into the online world, keywords are what people type into google search (or other search engines) when looking for something.
If you think about how you use search online, you most likely type a number of words, often in a form of a question, or a cluster of words together.
Keyword research will start by guessing what your prospects are typing in, and then observing and analysing exactly what they are typing in, so that these words can be identified and used in all your other online marketing activities. The closer your online words match those which people are typing in, the more likely that your web pages will show up.
There is a lot more to it than that, but it is the core foundation which you need to start with. In my experience, effective keyword research is both a science and an art, and needs to be done by a LOCAL specialist. I do not believe in outsourcing this most crucial function overseas, as language and cultural nuances are the KEY.
Once you have had the keyword research done, you can apply this to everything.
Keyword Research is Required for:
- Correctly Optimised web pages
- Categorisation in online directories
- Google Adwords and other online
- Blogs - categories and content
- Any online marketing content creation
[Note: Even with the best research, keywords are a 'best guess'. Once applied, they need to be monitored and tweaked, and what people type in will change over time]
3. Local Business
There are specific things which should be done if you have a location based, physical business.
The first of these is to have a Google+ Local account - this is a Bare Minimum essential if you are a Local Business
The second is to have your business listed in relevant online directories, and
The third is to start to gather an online reputation - this not only helps with increasing your chance of being found, but also of people trusting you once they do find you.
Local Businesses who have taken care of all three of these factors will rank above those local competitors who have not engaged in these local online marketing activities.
The Yellow Pages equivalent of this is when businesses listed not just under their category, but in the locations listing for categories which have a large amount of listings. It helps someone looking for a plumber find a local one, not one from the other side of town.
4. Social Marketing
Social Marketing is all about being where your customers are, being seen, being helpful and being engaged. Its form will vary significantly based on your target audience - and as with any marketing, understanding your audience is the starting point which should drive any decisions about where to devote your social energy.
A very rough guide -
Business to Business: Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, You Tube
Business to Consumers: Facebook, Pinterest, You Tube
Importantly, social marketing is a long term commitment. It is not enough to have a social profile set up, if you do not actively participate on it - in fact this will impact negatively.
You need to choose only those social conduits which you can commit to (or employ someone to regularly contribute to), for this to have any impact. It is a long term strategy not a short term one.
5. Online Advertising
Online advertising is when you pay an Advertiser to have a specific 'Advertisement' put up online. The two most common forms of online advertising are Google AdWords and Facebook Ads (there are many others).
Online Advertising is recommended when:
- you have many competitors, and need to stand out from
- you are a brand new business and need to get business
- you have a particular time limited promotion which needs
- Online advertising works by showing up right at the point where someone is searching (in the Google AdWords example), or
- if the person fits a particular demographic/profile (in the Facebook example) *
Please note - this is a very generalised overview
The closest Yellow Pages comparison would be having a very large paid advertisement with lots more information and images, and even colours perhaps. This isn't really a direct comparison though - perhaps only in terms of cost - the more prominent you want to be, the more it will cost you.
Online Advertising has two costs - one is to the advertiser directly, and the other is to the professional/agency administering the advertising campaign. It is something you can do yourself, but again I don't recommend it as it is an art and science in one, and a lot of your budget can disappear while you are learning the ropes.
Online Advertising give you the opportunity to provide the exact link/web page you want your prospects to go to (unlike the other forms of online activities).
This may be your home page if you just want to show up above your competition, but if your advertisement is targeting one specific service or product from your range, make sure the link takes your visitor directly to that page. There is even more you can do to increase conversions of your website visitors through custom made Landing Pages.
To sum it upEnsure you have the BARE minimum (as above)
- If you are a local business, make sure you read and apply the local essentials
- To be found online, invest in keyword research, as all other online marketing activities will need to stem from that
- Do consider Social Marketing, but only once you understand and can commit to what it requires, and
- If you need results fast, invest in online advertising, but make sure you do it right
A further Note to the Yellow Pages Generation
It has been my observation that many new website owners do not budget for marketing and advertising their business online, and are surprised to learn that simply having a website will not necessarily get them found online.
However, think back to how much Yellow Pages advertising used to cost. You may recall that this was just considered a normal business cost and would not think of not placing an ad each year (remember the "Not Happy Jan"…. Yellow Pages Commercials?)
Back then, costs would vary depending on the size of your listing, how many categories it showed up in, and whether it was included in local listings. The same now occurs online.
The difference between Yellow Pages and online in a positive sense, is that rather than one huge annual payment, your online marketing is generally charged monthly (after initial setup) and it can be tweaked from month to month, depending on what the reports and analytics were showing. With the yellow pages, if you got something wrong or wanted to add something, it would have to wait up to a year!