Making Sure Your Customers Find You: Best Practices from the eBusiness Now

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Last week I was fortunate to be part of a panel at the eBusiness Now conference at the Washington DC Convention Center. The energy was high with over 300 business owners in attendance. Gerry Sanz, a mentor from the SCORE DC chapter moderated our high-energy buzz session: Making Sure Your Customers Find You. Our panel was a great mix of experts and practitioners:

  • Laura Poindexter is owner of Queen B Creative, a business marketing and graphic design firm. (You can also read Laura’s blog and follow her on Twitter at @laurabcreative).
  • Jenifer Pilcher and Kristi Hamrick are creators of Military1Click, an information aggregator for military families.  Through their hard work and smart use of social media and SEO, they have grown from zero to a weekly total Facebook reach of over 226,000 friends. They are also active on Twitter.
  • Jeanne Rossomme (me)

What are your best ideas for getting found on the Internet?

  • We usually think of getting found in terms of SEO or search engine optimization. But really, SEO should just be a part of an overall well-designed marketing strategy (see video here). What do customers read? Who do they talk to when looking for a company offering your products/services? Is your website not just easy to find, but easy to navigate once you get there? Are you getting the RIGHT customers?  Look at the three C’s – Customers, Capabilities and Content to drive your strategy.
  • Decide on the keywords you want to “own” – what do customers think of when searching for your products/services? Being too broad lessens your chances for getting on the first page of Google, and costs more to stay there. Work on selecting specific 3-4 keyword terms that describe your offer as your customers describe it.  You can get ideas for keywords by looking at your competitors, using Google’s free keyword tracker tool and by looking at your own website analytics to see what customers are searching for now.
  • Take advantage of as many free services, tools and offers as possible first. Extract all you can from social media, links from partners, advice from a SCORE counselor and any other help you can get. Start slowly with paid advertising such as Google Adwords and Facebook ads. Military1Click has had some positive experience in getting traffic growth, especially with Facebook ads, but we had to monitor our spending and results very closely.

What kind of website should I get? Will having a template website (such as from GoDaddy or Network Solutions) affect my SEO? Is there an advantage to custom versus WordPress vs Joomla or any of the other options out there?

  • Any cleanly programmed website (templates included) should be “findable” on the web. The key to improving your ranking is in carefully selecting titles and content that are both popular and relevant to your business. You also need to have an “active” site or one that is regularly updated with fresh content. (Most companies have blogs on their website that they post to on a weekly basis.)
  • When looking at which option to use for your website, it usually depends on how much time and/or money you wish to spend. For a few hundred dollars (or even free in some cases), you can get a template website that can help you get a great starter presence on the Web. Once you wish to have more design and feature flexibility, you can migrate to a WordPress platform that is easy to update and very SEO friendly. Finally, if you want to focus on other core aspects of your business, employ a website design firm to create and optimize your website. (Cost in the thousands).  For any option, however, your role is to specify the type of prospects you wish to attract, the keywords that describe what you offer, and the actions you want a visitor to take when entering your site.

What tools, apps and resources do you recommend?

  • NutshellMail is a free tool to track the activity on your social networking profiles. Owned by Constant Contact, Nutshell acts like a DVR for your social media.
  • Spreecast is a social video platform that lets people broadcast together – like a multi-media Tweet-up!
  • Pinterest is the latest social media darling and growing very fast. If your business is particularly visual and/or you market to female consumers, you should check it out. (See last week’s blog post for more ideas on using Pinterest for your business)
  • Mashable is a great source to stay on top of the latest marketing and online trends.

What have you done to help customers find you? Share in the Comments section below.

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