Making the web work for local businesses.
I can't think of a single example, of a company who wouldn't benefit from a web presence, but still there are companies out there that don't have any form of website. To this day I still see business cards with the email address being provided by Hotmail or Yahoo!. The email address on a business card is one very simple example of how the web can help a business. firstname.lastname@example.org is a lot more professional looking than email@example.com. If a company wakes up and decides it is time to secure their domain name and move into the great unknown of the web, what could and should they do to make the best return on this investment.
Notice, I used the word investment when referring to the simple purchase of a domain name. It amazes me how many companies still view this is an expense. If a domain costs $10 how much of an expense is this in reality. My opinion is, this will always be money well spent. Even having a simple holding page and use of company name email accounts will look better to a customer.
The difficult part is convincing a company who may have been around for a long time that things are changing. As more and more people turn to the web to find services, the service providers that have not established themselves on the internet are loosing out on a lot of eye balls.
One of my recent examples is a real world store that have been around for close on 20 years. They do advertise locally using yellow pages and local press, but the idea of having a company website was looked on as an expense as opposed to an investment with returns. It can sometimes be very difficult to explain to such companies how a fully developed website will benefit them not just today but also long term.
Search traffic is one of the many reasons I give to potential clients who as of yet have not set up any form of web presence. Now, more then ever people don't pick up a phone book, they reach for their mouse. By designing a site with the intention of ranking for [town name service] you will almost certainly. Receive traffic from the major search engines. The important issue here is to provide the web user with the information they need so they can act quickly. For example if I was to land on the website for a local business I would probably want to be able to get in touch.
If a local company is advertising then they would be able to widen their reach by including a website address within their advertising activates. By having a website address used within the ad copy a reader would be able to go to the businesses website and find out a lot more about the company that the advert could possible tell them. There are people who simply don't like using the phone, they might not want to call a company from an advert. By providing a website the potential customer may feel a lot more comfortable getting in touch this way.
like I mentioned before a company email address looks a lot more professional than one provided by a third parts such as Google mail or Yahoo. The business card can also, and should contain the company website address. Think now small a business card is, how much information can you fit onto a business card. By providing an email address there is a lot more scope for providing information should the card holder visit your website.
Branding is an important aspect of running any business be it an online business or a bricks and mortar business. By incorporating the companies branding into the website is will reassure the potential customer that you are the real thing. Nothing puts me off more than visiting a companies website to find it has a totally different look and feel to their bricks and mortal presence. This doesn't make any business sense at all. Make sure you retain the same sort of style in your website. For example of the company has an established logo, why use a different one online?
Local website links
Almost every community has local websites. They may be tourism related or community orientated sites for the general population. These sites are very local focused and they are prime targets for link requests. Simply sending an email to the website owner from your company email address requesting a link would be a smart move. It is also a good idea to contact as many other local websites as possible asking for links. In some cases link exchanges will be the only answer if the other site is “clued up”. A reciprocal link will have less effect than a straight one way link, but they can still be effective, even if just for click through as opposed to search ranking.
I still think it is a good idea to get your business listed in business directories, but there are downsides to this. There are literally loads of directories that scrape the major directories and they end up filling the results pages. This can lead to directory details pages outranking your own website. The question is do the leads they generate justify this sacrifice. In some cases they do, but it also sets you a target to keep your site ahead of the scrapers.
Any local business can benefit from a website. You don't have to sell items online to earn returns from your website. It may be about lead generation or simply letting people know you are there. In either case a website done right will benefit your company.