Internet Marketing for Small Business in 4 Easy Steps

by Aparna Agarwal

With the advent of savvy web development software, special domain names, networking websites such as Twitter and increasing competition in the online marketing arena, small businesses are finding it increasingly harder to stand out from the crowd.

More so for those that may not be comfortable with either using site maps or spending tons of money on designers who would do it for them. Seth Godin’s recent blog post provides a simple and cheap solution to entrepreneurs who can take advantage of the internet without having to become software geniuses.

The main idea is to make sure that your business shows up in search results when someone Googles it. You can achieve the same results without buying your own domain name or getting involved with creating and maintaining a website. Here are some of Seth’s suggestions:

  1. Create your own blog using a simple tool such as Typepad. It’s a simple interactive tool that lets a user select their blog layout and design, write their own blogs and then features this blog in search results. It’s a cheap service that costs about $5/month.  In essence, it creates a website which can easily be updated whenever you want to feature new services or new pricing etc. Seth suggests your first post be basic information about your business such as name, hours, services provided and specialties. This then becomes the main post that all visitors will see on the top of your website.
  2. Next, create your own web page using Squidoo lens and assimilate all your digital information into one place. It allows you to not only list information such as hours and services, but also lets you insert a Google map with your location. There are numerous other features such as a list of books you can suggest to your customers to help them understand your business, a guest book that they can write in, an RSS feed from the blog you created in the previous step which will show up every time you update your blog. The last feature functions similar to Twitter except that you do not have to create an account and your updates will be visible across the web instead of being limited to Twitter members.
  3. Images go a long way and provide a human touch to the information you put out there about your business. An easy and fun idea is to use a 1ft x 2ft sign with your name and phone number and go around taking photographs with people holding the sign. You can use your staff, your office space or your happy customers holding the sign. You can post these pictures on Flickr, pull them into the Squidoo lens you created in the previous step and also include them in your blog.
  4. Ask some of your loyal customers to chip in as well by building Squidoo lenses about you, mentioning you in their blogs or commenting on your blog posts.  This increases your web presence and improves your credibility,

None of the steps highlighted above require you to become an expert in any technologies.  All of them are relatively simple, require a few hours of your time and a very small amount of money. They do, however, ensure that your business shows up in Google search results and provide you with a real shot at dramatically increasing your customer base.

Survey: People Are Searching Online for Local Businesses

By Aparna Agarwal

Nielsen recently conducted a survey on the Internet usage habits of U.S. consumers.  Two hundred randomly selected consumers were quizzed about their preferences when it comes to searching for information about local businesses and their attitudes towards advertising.

There has been an increase in the number of people using the Internet to look for information on local business in the past year, with 86% of the respondents having used it.  81% of the respondents called the Internet “vital” to their lives.

Among the various tools, search engines were rated as the top resource.  Most people prefer businesses that are close to their homes with 70% of the respondents saying they like to stay within a 20 minute drive from home. While most consumers use multiple information sources, 75% of people said they read user reviews about local business’s products or services with the popularity of online reviews increasing with the age of respondents.  People also trusted blogs as a source of information though most do not contribute to them. Blogs tend to provide a balanced opinion. The survey shows that 45% of the blogs provide negative reviews, 15% provide mixed and 40% provide positive reviews. These reviews can be very important in the consumer’s decision making process as 70% of the respondents said they bought a product/ service from a local business after having researched it online.

The survey also questioned consumers about their attitudes toward online advertising or SEM (Search Engine Marketing). There seems to be a clear preference toward SEM as compared to “push” advertising.  73% of the respondents feel that they have been “over-exposed” to advertising. However, this does not imply that these ads have been ineffective in achieving their goals. Only 24% of the consumers said that they have never been influenced by an ad, but most consumers would still prefer to search for the products or services themselves rather than have an overwhelming number of ads thrown toward them.