I am a strong believer in supporting local businesses and helping out your hometown, but I am a little torn right now. Ya see there is a local florist from my hometown that is sorely in need of internet help. Many of you already know I do a lot of pro bono internet help but this local florist hasn’t always provided me with 100% satisfaction (not even close).
For the sake of karma and also to provide another case study for people looking to promote a local business WITH SUBSTANTIAL MAIL ORDER POTENTIAL I’m gonna forget the unpleasant history and offer some free help. Please do not to apply these suggestions to a local pizza shop website. They won’t truly profit from it. These suggestions are for businesses that deliver locally for orders taken from a very large area (ie florist shop).
- Domain Name – Always make your website a .com. Most people will assume your domain is a .com and type in .com thus resulting in you losing traffic.
- Make your company name prominent. It should be the first thing I notice. Do not think that including a small thumbnail picture of your storefront can replace the need of having your name in easy to see BIG LETTERS.
- Include substantial text on every page. Pictures are nice but search engines cant see pictures. If you have a pretty logo and it contains your street address and phone number, search engines will think you do not have a street address or phone number. Make sure there are at least 4 paragraphs of text. If you are wondering if you have enough text on your pages YOU DON’T.
- Build multiple pages. No one likes to work but if you want users and search engines to like your site you need to make it valuable. A lot of pages of good content does just that. Add testimonials, add a page for each of your top 20 products and write a lengthy description along with situations that the product would be appropriate for, create how-to pages, add pages that show off your portfolio.
- Don’t stuff your footer with keywords. It reduces the trust users have for your site and it doesn’t really help with the search engines. This was a trick that stopped working over 5 years ago. If you think a keyword is valuable enough to stuff in your footer than it is valuable enough to create a real page for.
- Make sure each page has a unique and descriptive title tag, meta description tag and text headline. The title tag and meta description is what shows up in Google’s search results and the text headline will help your visitors know what the page is about.
- Make sure your website uses pretty filenames. This is about to get technical but just bear with me. Some website content management systems (thats the computer program that organizes your website content) use dynamic urls (this means you see “?” and other ugly things in your filenames. Search engines have a hard time with this and it is also not winning any points with your visitors. Ask your webmaster to use Mod-Rewrite to transform the urls into keyword rich urls. Which would you prefer www.example.com/category?id=86 or www.example.com/prettyflowers/
- Create a simple navigation that is easy for users to understand. Do not include 100 links on every page. Break your site up into a few main categories and provide unique subnavigation for each category. For example your top navigation bar could have 6 links for each of your main categories. Each of those 6 categories would have a unique subnavigation bar that has 10 links.
- Now that you have a decent site or at least one that will meet minimum standards, it is time to promote it. To promote a site you will need to get other websites to link to it. This is one of the hardest things to do in internet marketing. If you built a good looking site with a big amount of relevant and useful content than you should have something people will be willing to link to. If you have a small site with no value then it will be near impossible to get people to link to you. Here are some suggestions to gain inbound links aka other websites pointing to you.
- Submit your site to the top directories (Yahoo, DMOZ, BOTW) and avoid the smaller directories. Some of the smaller directories are scams and most are just not worth it.
- Ask businesses you deal with to exchange links with you. If you are a florist it would be helpful to interlink your site with catering halls, photographers, limos, funeral homes etc.
- Contact local bloggers and see if you can do a guest post on their website. In exchange for offering free information you can include a link to your site. The readers of that blog will be in a win-win situation.
- Support local organizations. Everyone loves charity and while helping them ask if they would be nice enough to recognize your charity by posting a link on their site.
- Contact your counterparts across America. If you are a local florist contact other local florists and start a helpful referral directory on your site. This will help your local customers who are looking to send flowers to relatives in other parts of the country and it will also help promote all the participating local florists. Just make sure that you do not create duplicate content that is repeated on many websites – use unique descriptions.
- How much money was spent? Don’t keep spending just because that is what you did before. Make smart decisions.
- What time or day brings the best results? You can control the time and day your ad appears. Maybe it is best to turn off your ad during the nighttime because it is only clicked on by people in other timezones.
- What keywords were used? Avoid using generic terms. There are many people competing for “flowers” and thus the price is high. There are alot fewer people competing for “flowers 90210” thus the price will be lower.
- What negative keywords and filters are in place? This will help to prevent your ad from being shown to people that are unlikely to buy. Using the flower example you might want to include the negative keyword “paintings” to avoid your ad being shown to people searching for flower paintings.
- How many sales were generated? It is great for the ego to know you have a thousand visitors/day but if they don’t buy anything it is a quick way to go out of business. Track where the traffic comes from, what pages they visit and if they buy anything. Google Analytics is a good & simple way to do this.
That should help any local florist and similar businesses get off the ground and enjoy the internet.