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Your small business may be local, but you can have a much greater and wider impact by making use of a website. Most businesses have one, although some owners have yet to fully appreciate how a website can positively impact their bottom line. Your customers are already actively searching for information online; the following seven internet marketing tips can help your small business thrive in a sea of very stiff competition.

1. The Foundation

Why do you have a company website? Do you really need one? The second question was already answered in our opening paragraph — your customers are busy online and are looking for information. Unless you are part of the “answer” they may look elsewhere for assistance. Customer gone and a business opportunity has been lost.

Still, you should have one or more reasons for operating a website. The foundation is the general information about your small business: the name of your business, your location, your business hours and a list of services. That foundation can offer a structure, one that allows people to fill out a form to contact you, find valuable tips that they are helpful and impart other useful information.

You may wonder how this applies to your plumbing business, but wouldn’t you’d rather have your customers looking for answers on your site instead of on your competitor’s site? You’re one step closer to gaining a customer when they are already at your website.

2. Your Content

Quite easily you can put up a splash page with essential business information and be done with it. Just as easily you can expand your site and give your readers what they want: useful content.

Now, you may not see yourself as a writer and you may not have the resources to pour into adding fresh content for your site. However, for a small investment you can hire a freelance writer, an individual that would be happy to write 8 to 10 articles for your site. Writers can be found on Elance, Guru and Craigslist, talented individuals that can help your website shine in a sea of competition.

3. Your Competition

Keep an eye on your competition to see what they are up to. Websites make this easier to do as all that information that is out there for public consumption.

In the example of a plumbing business, you may find that your competitor offers tips on how to fix a leak, when to call for backup and where to shop for plumbing supplies. You can go one step further by including a series of how-to articles about replacing a toilet, updating a bathroom, servicing an HVAC unit and offering similar advice. Most of your customers won’t do this work themselves, but as you build a reputation for providing sound advice, you’ll gain customers that trust you and what you do.

4. Use photographs

A picture does tell a thousand words. As a plumber, you can appreciate the details of your work, something that customers may best understand when you are showing them pictures.

Those pictures can be included with your articles and demonstrate clear steps you must take to get the job done. Have a co-worker or hire an individual to take photos of a job, picturing each step of the job. Have your web person include “alt” tags and the appropriate brief caption with each photo. Your readers will love this information and the search engines will reward you with more traffic.

5. Set up a blog

You don’t have to be an expert writer to convey your thoughts. Instead, you can set up a blog and easily share information that your readers will appreciate.

Post photos, upload videos and invite your readers to ask questions. Dedicate a few minutes each day to interacting with people or have a member of your team do likewise. Consider these efforts as an important part of your marketing efforts.

6. Track your changes.

All work and no verification of how these changes impact your business is simply wrong. There are ways to check your traffic and to determine what your customers are doing once they visit your site. Work with your web person to set up site analytics; Google Analytics is a free program and can give you valuable information.

Make a point to get with your web person on a regular basis to track how your website is performing. He can adjust your campaign accordingly and recommend ways to improve what you are doing. The best results will be best determined, however, in your bottom line — are you getting more business?

7. Beyond your site.

You are now busy putting your website out for the world to see. Now, take it to the next level by spreading the world through various other means including directories and social media.

Be careful with web directories, as many are simply link mills. Register your site with Yahoo and DMOZ, and by all means take advantage of Google Webmaster Tools to see how your website is doing. Also, start becoming active on social media by creating Facebook and LinkedIn pages for your business. Open a Twitter account and assign someone to engage online. Even local businesses can benefit from social media — find your spot online and help your business thrive.

Business Considerations

For the smallest businesses, including one-person enterprises, finding the time to work on a website or to engage socially can be a challenge. For a low-cost solution, consider hiring a virtual assistant to provide assistance remotely.

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Posted by Jason Bayless

Jason Bayless is a professional blogger that gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice. He writes for BestSEOCompanies.com, a nationally recognized comparison website of the top SEO companies in the United States.

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