Getting a new website for your business is no small task. There's the long ordeal of sifting through hundreds of web designers, finally hiring one, going through the back-and-forth process of finding a look and feel that reflects the business's image, making sure all the content is up to snuff, and then finally, finally, the site actually launches. But it's not unusual for a business owner to go through all of that, and be gazing upon that long dreamt about shiny new website, only to wonder, "Okay, so... now what do I do?"
(As a side note, it should be the first step: we’ve recently had a number of questions as to whether business owners should improve/replace their old site, or if they should focus instead on stepping up their social media game. The answer is, always take care of the website first. Doing lots of social media while having an inadequate site is a bit like a business blowing money on a huge billboard, while having a store that’s falling apart. Social media is a hook for pulling people to your site. If you don’t have a good site, you’ve got nothing to pull people to; you have no destination for them.)
With that out of the way, again, developing a new website is only the start.
Without taking steps to make it grow and get it noticed, your site won’t actually do anything. You’ll be the only person admiring the attractive new design and great functionality. Here are the next few things you should do in order to grow your site so that it can help you achieve your business goals.
Google Analytics is a customer behavior-tracking service that you can use to see what pages are getting the most visits, what keywords related to your market you should be targeting, ‘visitor bounce rates,’ and more. Just as a good business owner uses customer data to figure out what products are most popular, how advertising dollars can best be used, and so on, building a successful site requires making decisions based upon visitor data.
Content is like breathing–you have to keep doing it in order to stay alive. People engage with websites similar to how they engage with other people when trying to find a product or find information: they gravitate towards experts who are animated, knowledgeable, and responsive to questions and specific needs… and they’ll avoid people who seem checked out or lifeless. Blogging and/or consistently developing new articles related to your products or services is how you signal that you’re alive and responsive to customer needs. And actually, Google tends to rank sites better when they’re being updated and expanded on a regular basis.
Think about it this way: when you need help at Home Depot, do you talk to the employee who hides in the corner, looks busy, and doesn’t make eye contact, or the guy who approaches you with a smile and asks what he can do for you?
But only blog if you’re committed to carrying on with it. Nothing is sadder than a dead blog that hasn’t been touched in years. In fact, a dead blog is a more negative signal than no blog at all, because a blog well past its expiration date sends a very strong signal that you’re disengaged from your business.
Social media is the natural follow-up to blogging and developing new content. Obviously, you should post links to your new content on your business’s social media outlets. But you should also be looking for outside opportunities to demonstrate your expertise and put your content to good use. If you run a plant nursery, then subscribe to discussion groups on Facebook and Twitter feeds that are centered around gardening, landscaping, etc. Don’t blatantly advertise for yourself in those venues–that’ll just get you ignored or outright banned. Be helpful. Post links to your content when it’s relevant to the discussion. Act as a contributing, knowledgeable member of those online communities.
If your content is informative and helpful, people will want more of it. Roll out a weekly or twice-monthly email newsletter in order to build an email list. Despite the fact that email is positively ancient compared to the far more eye-catching modern social networks, email marketing works. Don’t ignore it. But make sure that there is a good balance between marketing (new products, discount codes, etc.) and actual content.
And don’t forget to set up a way for people to unsubscribe from your newsletters. In the United States, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 requires that subscriber-based emails provide an unsubscribe option. Many other countries now have similar regulations regarding bulk emailing.
We are very, very well aware of the fact that dealing with Yelp is a pain. But at the moment, they’re a necessary evil. Also, they aren’t the only major online review site. At the moment, customers can leave reviews for businesses on Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, YP, and more.
Reviews are an excellent way to generate attention. Not only is there the simple fact that positive word of mouth is always a good thing, but most of those sites use tags on their websites that allow Google to show business ratings directly in Google search results. If you Google, say, “post modern marketing yelp,” you’ll notice that those five gold stars under the link to our Yelp page definitely make that search result stand out from the rest of the pack.
Don’t bribe your customers to leave reviews, as that violates the terms of service of just about every review site on the planet. But gently remind your faithful customers now and again that leaving a positive review is a good way to ensure that your business will still be around in the future.
When you have successfully done all of the above for a while, as a natural consequence you’ll be presented with more opportunities to further expand your business’s visibility. Always seize those opportunities and leverage them to their fullest potential. As long as you keep the pedal to the floorboards, you’ll have the pleasure of watching your business grow and mature, and have the satisfaction that your success is due to the effort you’ve invested into your online marketing strategies.
If you have questions about any of the above, or need help in developing a large-scale online marketing plan for your business, please feel free to contact us for help. We truly enjoy every opportunity we get to help small business owners in any way we can.