Time For a Website Makeover?

Digital strategy consultant James Davidson shares tips to rev up your small business Internet presence AND attract more customers.
Time For a Website Makeover?
James Davidson, VP of Digital Strategy and a partner at 7Summits.

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Websites seem to be like noses and opinions — everybody has one!

According to Netcraft, an Internet services company that has tracked website activity for nearly 15 years, there were approximately 255.3 million websites in December 2010. That’s a far cry from the 18,957 websites reported by Netcraft back in August 1995.

It’s a safe assumption that pumpers — like most small business operators throughout the world — use websites to help market their services. But, quite frankly, the huge number of websites clamoring for attention makes it a challenge to get noticed.

For advice on cutting through the cyberspace clutter, Pumper turned to James Davidson, vice president of digital strategy and a partner at 7Summits (www.7summitsagency.com), a social business agency in Milwaukee. In his career, Davidson has applied expertise in marketing via interactive technology for organizations ranging from small to mid-sized businesses to Fortune 500 companies.

Pumper: What can a small business do to optimize its established website?

Davidson: Start by making sure your website has visibility for search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo so people can find you. The first thing someone from my generation (Gen X) and the next generation (Gen Y) will do when they are looking for a service is to go to a search engine. We’re also seeing the previous generation — the baby boomers — becoming more dependent on the Internet as a primary source of information.

Pumper: With the Internet rapidly overtaking telephone directories as an advertising information source, how can a small business keep from getting overlooked?

Davidson: You really need to own your business listing online. Google, Yahoo and Bing all offer local search capability with business listings. Any of these search providers offer local businesses the ability to claim their listing and update information like telephone numbers, e-mail address, website and hours of operation. If you’ve been in the Yellow Pages, there is a good chance that your business is already listed on one or more of these search engines. That’s because they leverage existing business directory databases to populate their local search.

You can start the process of claiming or adding your business to these online directories by going to the following links of three major search engines and searching for your business name. From there, you’ll be directed as to how you can add your business name if it isn’t already present.

Local business directories for three major search engines are:

  • Google: www.google.com/local
  • Bing: www.bing.com/local
  • Yahoo: http://local.yahoo.com

Pumper: Please briefly explain search engine optimization (SEO) and why it’s important.

Davidson: SEO is the process of improving the visibility of your website and its content on search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing. SEO is extremely important for small businesses because, when done right, it essentially provides free and very targeted advertising of your business. Basically, search engines look for relevant keywords that are on your website. For example, if a potential customer types the words “septic pumping” into a search engine, a business with those keywords on its website will show up in the search results.

Pumper: How can or should social media (like Twitter, Facebook, etc.) fit in to marketing a business through a website?

Davidson: From a marketing perspective, social media is the perfect complement to having a website to promote your business. Getting involved with social media is a wise move as consumers shift their time and focus to sites like Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, search engines are integrating heavily with social media sites as they look to make their offerings more relevant to online users.

An interesting — and relevant trend — is that word-of-mouth is migrating to the Internet. Consumers trust recommendations and opinions from other consumers. Today, they are using social media review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Service Magic, as well as major social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, to locate and research products and services.

You should recognize that some of your customers will share their experiences with your business whether good or bad. As a business owner, social media is an important source of feedback. You can embrace this feedback by having a dialog with your customers or prospects. The very real upside to investing the time and effort in social media is having contact with very qualified prospects and customer referrals.

Pumper: What sorts of things might be attractive to consumers who look to the Internet for a service provider? What about coupons, video?

Davidson: Online coupons are exploding right now given the recent success of “deal of the day” sites like Groupon and Livingsocial. Sites like these are a great way to expose your business to a large network of savvy consumers looking for special offers and can generate an immediate return on your investment.

Adding pictures and video can definitely make for a richer, more engaging website experience where appropriate. A visual portfolio that highlights recent work is always a good idea.

Pumper: Can you share some ideas that would prompt a customer to refer your site to others?

Davidson: Ultimately I think referrals are based on great customer service. That being said, there are free online services, like www.addthis.com, that can be included on your website to make it easy for people to share your site with others via social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, or via e-mail. Including customer testimonials on your website is always a good idea.

As I mentioned earlier, having good visibility on search engines like Google is key. Consumer review sites, such as Yelp, and business listing sites, like ServiceMagic, can also generate referrals.

Pumper: What kinds of website strategies can small business operators do on their own and which strategies are best left to experts?

Davidson: It all depends on your budget. Thanks to do-it-yourself website templates from providers like Google Sites and GoDaddy, the process of getting a website online quickly is simple. The challenge is making a site look good and producing content that will engage users and be optimized for search engines and social media. You should consider hiring professionals to assist with the development of your website from both the design and content perspective.


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