Recent research shows that 45% of all small businesses don't have a significant web presence of their own. Business owners are ceding control of their own message, marketing channel and search engine optimization, and letting others grab a part of their brand, without permission. Why would you give that kind of control to another person or an entity? For example, if a local restaurant doesn't have a website, shady web players like Yelp can come in as the first search result, running the risk of anonymous, negative reviews to be the first thing a potential customer might read about the restaurant.
But here's another conunundrum. Many small business owners, in the rush to be relevant in the new social media age, are trying to skip a step by going straight from no web presence to social media greatness. I'm talking them out of it one by one. Here's why.
Websites and blogs are really just content storage for your business. The type of content is only limited to your imagination and server capacity. For a retail business, it's the products you have to sell. For service providers, its a description of the services you provide. Social media sites are much more equipped to broadcast information, but not that great at storing it in any meaningful way. Your website is your story, written your way. It's your opportunity to define your strengths in a compelling way. Don't you want that to be the first thing your potential customers read?
Here are the steps you should follow for your web strategy when starting from scratch.
- Reserve a unique domain for your website. Keep it as short as possible and memorable. I use the site GoDaddy.com, but there are others out there. If your preferred domain name is taken, add on your city or state to the beginning or end. For example: www.iowaicecreamstore.com.
- Set up a simple website. I recommend using Wordpress, which is a flexible web platform that is typically used to create blogs. Using Wordpress from the very beginning of your project allows you to easily add a blog or other social content later using plugins. This is not a task for beginners. Get some help if you're not comfortable.
- Create content and update frequently. Start a news page on the front page of your website, or better yet a blog. The key is to keep the content fresh so that your customers will keep coming back to see what's new. Fresh content is also a key ingredient to allowing search engines to find your site and rank it higher on results pages.
- Now, you're ready to create a Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn company page. Use the links from your website to direct people to more information on the company site you created.
- Constantly remind people that you offer information on other mediums. For example, "Find us on Facebook and Twitter," with icons prominently displayed, should be posted to your website and in your print ads.
Keeping the content fresh on a website is another thing to do on your busy list, but it's worth it. Your website will become the best lead generation tool in your arsenal.