Great Ideas for your Small Business: Look Big in Cyberspace
One of the best things about the web is that even though you may operate a very small business, you can look huge and prosperous online. To do this, you should invest in a website that’s professionally designed, with tools that allow customers and clients to order goods or services, track orders, and communicate quickly with you. This will be an expense, but the money you spend on a great-looking website is a fraction of what you would spend to rent and outfit a fancy office anywhere in the country. And, your site will let you do business locally as well as globally.
Whether you sell high-tech components for rockets or rubber stamps, customers still need to find you in cyber- space. When Scott Johnston designed, the website for Oregon Stamp and Stationery in Port- land, he didn’t assume that customers would find their way to the site on their own. Johnston made sure the site was registered with multiple search engines, monitored how effectively the search engines were pulling up his site during searches, and had the Web address printed on all of the company’s materials—forms, brochures, and business cards.
“We made sure that everything we printed had the URL on it,” Johnston said. “I also would go to search engines and see if I came up listed, and how. If we didn’t come up, I’d make sure we registered with them,” he said. He also made the site a destination, serving as a resource center for rubber stamp enthusiasts with links to other related sites.
Here are some other things you can do to raise your profile on the Web:
- Post your site to Internet news groups whose topics are relevant to your site.
- Make sure your site provides the real name, phone number, and location of your company. Consumers want to know with whom they are dealing, and a phone number with a human voice on the other end of the line is crucial.
- Register your site with as many search engines as possible. Yahoo!, AltaVista, Lycos, Hotbot, and Google are examples of some major search engines.
- Search engines index sites based on the repetition of key words appearing in the site name, the site’s content, or both. Choose three to four key words that directly apply to your business type, products, and services, rather than just your company’s name or location.
- Monitor search engines for how they index your site. If you do not appear in their top ten ranking for your key words, modify your site until you do. If you pepper your site with keywords that relate to your business, you have a better chance of moving up in the rankings. For example, when the big, venture-funded Wine.com site went out of business in 2001, a much smaller company, moved up in the search engine rankings. Every search engine has a different system of ranking, although you can buy your way to the top of the list—the more you pay, the higher up the list your site will be.
- Don’t be stingy about showing your product. Include lots of photographs. Describe it in detail and offer pricing information and options. Let the site function as a catalogue. (Be sure to include your website address on every page of your catalogue if you publish one.)
- Be creative but judicious with graphics. The more graphics and images, the longer the page will take to download.
- Maintain your website to keep it current and to give repeat customers a reason to return.