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According to Google, the world’s most popular search engine, 97% of Americans who use the Internet at all are using it to search for local goods and services. But more than half of America’s small businesses don’t have websites.
The other (almost) half of small businesses in this country DO have websites, but few of these websites are really being utilized to their full potential. That’s because the online world has been changing so rapidly over the last few years. This rate of change will only continue or accelerate.
A dozen years ago, all you really had to do was get a nice-looking website designed and add some content relevant to your business or activity. That was enough to make your site serve its purpose. It’s just not enough any more.
It’s not so much that there is now more competition for that little bit of virtual real estate, although that is true. It’s that both the functionality of the internet and the thinking processes of users have changed. People need and want different benefits from the information on the internet. Those changes have guided the front edge of development of the internet (and vice versa), the way searches work and the interconnected nature of many of the resources out there.
Social Media Enters Right About Here
People are sharing information at a truly mad rate these days. People are posting their activities to Facebook, tweeting updates on Twitter, splashing their photos across Instagram or Flickr, perhaps blogging about their experiences and writing reviews, reviews, reviews. Consumers are checking for ratings on the products they want to buy, looking at reviews from other customers and browsing the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List before they commit to a home or auto repair.
Amazingly enough, Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines manage to keep all this information straight. So if a person in Cincinnati, Ohio wants to check out Lou’s Auto Repair, located around the corner, that person can quickly have a long list of reviews, Facebook comments, photos and other information about that business in a matter of seconds.
Old style websites that simply offer the same information, day after day, will not be able to compete with sites that link in to all these rich resources. To keep up, a company now has to keep their online presence alive, fresh, connected and fully functional. Some of the actions a company would need to take to keep their online presence in tip-top condition:
1. Have a Facebook page that is well liked (which means hundreds or thousands of
likes, depending on the potential audience for that company)
2. Post articles to their Facebook page that all link back to their business website
3. Monitor and respond to reviews, both positive and negative
4. Add fresh and very relevant content to their business site regularly
5. Keep all links and pages fully functional
6. Utilize any other social media that would be relevant, such as Pinterest, Flickr or
Instagram for photos
7. Enlist the help of an up-to-date web development company (such as Visual Edge
Design, of course) to keep the out-of-sight details used by search engines fully up to current standards.
A little more on this last point since it is significant. Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines look in certain places for information on what your site is about and other facts, such as location and what products or services are offered. This fairly technical content is never seen by a visitor to your website, but is critically important to your ranking in search results. No matter who built your website, it needs to be updated on a regular basis just to keep up with the changes in technology. It needs to be reviewed on a regular basis to make sure all the pages connect properly.
If you have a website, you now need to be thinking with maintenance of this basic type and other types that we will cover in future articles. This is just scratching the surface of optimizing your website for search engines. Stay tuned to learn more.