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How Local Businesses Can Beat the Big Guys — Online

Small businesses now have a presence on iPhones, tablets and laptops. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The great thing about the Internet is allowing the smallest “mom & pop” store on Main Street to look like a Fortune 500 giant. I already know your first response. “Tom, web sites cost thousands of dollars to look like Wal-Mart or Target.” On the surface that might seem true. But let’s compare the buying power of those “thousands of dollars” in the online world.

What would it cost to have 5,000, 10-page, full color catalogs, printed and mailed, one time? I’m not knocking the printing world at all. I sold printing for the past 20 years or so. I’m a fan. However, you print and mail your catalogs once and it’s over. Perhaps 10 percent of the 5,000 will even look at your catalog and only about 2% will actually respond and buy something.

An Alternative

In the Internet world, when you create a ten-page web site, it’s there 24/7/365. Now you can spend significantly less advertising dollars directing clients or customers to your site in living color. You can now print 5,000 one or two color postcards for significantly less cost than the catalogs, at a much lower mailing cost, directing customers to your web site or include the web site address in your newspaper or other advertising. Which way sounds smarter to a small business on a tight budget? Here are some other ideas to level the playing field.

Search Engines

Getting found by customers who might not be aware of you is a great way to increase the bottom line. There are some great ways to do that without spending a bundle. You can get a free local business listing at Google Places for Business. Just fill out the form about your business, Google will send you a postcard with a code to verify your business address and you are up and running.  When customers do a search for your expertise, your business will be listed in the local section for free. 

Relevance

Google and other search engines are looking to match the search terms and the business as closely as possible. The more people who find that sight related to the search terms the more weight Google gives it. Think of each page on your site as an individual web site and tailor that page to one product or service if possible. What Google does not like is finding a page on training Poodles and half way down the page is a Viagra ad. The two do not compute and Google will move on. So be careful if you share advertising or promotions with other companies. They should compliment each other.

Use Keywords Everywhere

Most people know you use keywords in product or service descriptions but there are other very powerful ways to build traffic using them more extensively. For example if your web site was www.smalltownmarketing.com, as mine is, and you wanted people to know more about how to buy advertising on the radio the address would look like this: http://www.smalltownmarketing.com/buying_radio_advertising.html. As you can see I’ve added critical key words in the page address to make it more relevant to the search terms I think people would use to find this information.

Some Final Thoughts

Obviously there are many more tips than the few I’ve discussed here. The best advice is to make your site relevant to your products or industry. There are no short cuts or tricks that the search engines have not found or thought of. Do not try to trick the system. Put up the best site you can afford, make it as relevant as you can and add new content at least monthly. Just those simple things will go a long way to building local traffic and a stronger business.

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