Taking full advantage of local search results

Many businesses are failing to take full advantage of all of the online opportunities they have for marketing their businesses. One of these is the Local Search of search engines. The concept of using Local Searches has only become well used over the past year. In fact, approximately 36% of search engine queries are Local Searches that involve adding a geographic term, such as the zip code, town or city, to a search engine search. By performing a Local Search, Internet users can reduce the number of results that are brought up by a search. This makes it easier to bring up more meaningful search results because only those businesses that are related to the search are brought up in the results. If you search “car parts supply” and “Indianapolis,” the search engine will bring up only car part supply stores that are located in Indianapolis rather than the thousands of car part supply stores on the Internet. With a Local Search, the results are even shown clustered on a map so the user can easily see which ones are located closest to them.

The map feature of a Local Search is important because people prefer to use the services of businesses that are near to them. In fact, according to research, over half of the people that use Yellow Pages consider the location of the business before they ever read the ads or other provided information. With the Local Search feature, this process is made simpler for the Internet user.

Despite the increasing use of the Local Search function, many businesses are failing to use this feature to its fullest. The reality is that the main reason people go on the Internet isn’t to actually make purchases. Rather, they go online so they can learn more about the businesses they are considering dealing with. In addition, research has indicated that most people who research products online actually make their purchases from stores that are located within their own communities. In fact, approximately 40% of the searches result in purchases made anywhere from five to twelve weeks later.

Armed with this information, you should use the Internet to help make your business a success. In order to help your customers find you, you need to help them find you when they perform a Local Search. So, the first step you need to take is to perform a search of your business online with various search engines so you can find out whether or not your business actually turns up. If not, you need to take some steps to change this fact. If you don’t take steps to make a change, you may be missing out on hundreds of potential customers.

The reality is that today’s consumers expect to be able to research businesses by looking online. If your business doesn’t turn up, they will become frustrated and may not even give your business a chance.

In order to help your customers find you, you need to first think about what your customers want to know. For example, they probably would want to know when your business is open and what types of special offers your business provides. They would also want to know if you have any special payment options or if you carry certain brands. In fact, the more information you can provide about your business, the better. Even providing buying tips or any other helpful information can help your customer have a more enjoyable experience on your website.

Taking advantage of Local Searches is actually like taking the Yellow Pages to a higher level because you can provide your potential customers with more than just a business address and phone number. The additional information you provide online can help you build a relationship with your potential customers, which will make them more likely to come to you when it’s time make a purchase.

Establishing an Internet presence is also a better way to get in touch with clients that are more likely to make a purchase. In fact, research has demonstrated that those who use the Internet to conduct their research are better educated and earn more money than those that do not use the Internet to conduct their research. Those that rely upon the Internet also tend to make bigger purchases. So, not only does building an Internet presence help with reaching more customers, it also helps you reach clients that are more likely to make a purchase – what better incentive to build an Internet presence could you possibly have?

A step by step planning guide for developing websites

Here are a series of step by step guides to help you gather the right resources and information to building a successful website. No man is an island, so it is best to surround yourself with as many resources and stakeholders as possible. Hosting IT technicians, online marketeers, web developers and so on.

What are your specific goals for your website?
Do you intend for it to be a brochure site? Focused on company or branding awareness? Do you plan  to sell products and/or services? Content and information? Social network communities? It’s important that you focus on this aspect, as it will set the tone for your overall online strategy. Find a business mentor or emulate websites in the industry that you wish to participate in. There is nothing wrong with “copying” if you take the best elements and personalize it.

Measure of Success
A simple, but often overlook point. Businesses are successful because their owners imposed goals upon them. By having a well defined “finish line”, be it eventual sale of the web business or generating online income, then psychologically you have won half the battle.

Take the time to develop a list of goals. This can be a simple list of items from most critical to nice-to-have. Be aware of how this list might change as your website progresses, depending on the growth and direction of your organization and chosen industry as a whole. A mission and vision statement for your website will also help you focus on the big picture.

Your Visitors
A well design and developed website is nothing without visitors. It is akin to having a ritzy 10000 sq ft retail store with all the latest gadgets for sale, but stuck out in the middle of the desert. You won’t be successful if no one can find your website! Simply understanding your target audience goes a long way in helping you develop a proper marketing and design strategy. For example, you don’t develop a corporate looking website if your target audience is Fortune 500 companies. Research your industry and competitors thoroughly!

If you have an existing or upcoming promotional marketing strategy, consider how your website will fit and integrate with the overall strategies and materials. Research the keywords that generate buzz and traffic for you. For example, a Seattle based firm selling web design services, should focus on keywords such as “Seattle web design”, “Website design Seattle” and other variations.

Identify and put together your team as soon as possible. As project manager, it is your job to decide and assign responsibilities. Typically the following components make up a website.

  • Design
  • Development and Programming
  • Content
  • Web Hosting/IT Support
  • Online Marketing

Some of your team members may be skilled in two or more tasks (like a web designer/developer). So be sure to consider any issues with regards to budgets, software, deadlines and training to bring the best out of your team.

The Competition

Identifying your competitors and studying their websites will provide direction for you. Some of the more typical elements to research are look and feel, breath of content and website functionality.
You should develop a competitive analysis that includes important elements of key competitors, of which your focus is to match or exceed them.

Content is King
Always spend the time and resources (hiring a good writer) to craft the content for your web pages. Do not simple cut and paste your competitor’s content. This is unprofessional and no one will take you seriously. Consider how your content flows, and how your architecture is designed. Is it easy for users to find the page they need? Thinking in terms of a tree-style hierarchy with the home page at the apex, helps you visualize the entire web sitemap.

Which functionality should your website offer? An ecommerce/shopping cart? Forums? Blog? Memberships? Advance functionality requires a competent programmer, software and hardware. It is important for you to consider how this impacts your overall budget and technical resources.

To recap, the more time and effort you devote to planning and information gathering, the better your chances of building an effective, customer-driven and profitable website

Factors to consider when hiring a web design company

With today’s technology, more and more companies are utilizing the World Wide Web to promote their businesses. Prior to putting a website on the Internet for individuals to view, the company must first set up the website. This is where web design companies enter the picture. A web design company is hired to construct a website for an individual or company that is suitable to their tastes. There are a few factors to consider prior to settling on a specific web design company to construct your new website.

Examples of Prior Web Designs
One important factor to consider when choosing a web design company to develop a website is the type of web designs which the company has produced in the past. Many web design companies will make portfolios available for potential clients to view so that they may see the style of the web design company and determine if their finished product is what the client is looking to achieve in the way of a website. This is extremely helpful when trying to determine if the work product of the web design company is up to one’s standards. Therefore, always ask to see samples of a web design company’s prior work before signing them up to construct a website.

Estimated Completion Time
Another important factor to consider when selecting a web design company to design one’s website is what their estimated completion time may be. This is beneficial to know up front so the client can expect the finished work at a certain time. Since many individuals are using the Internet for conducting business, it is important that the client get their website up and running as soon as possible. This will also give the web design company notice that the client needs their completed product at a certain point in time and they will be less likely to push it to the side and work on other client’s projects.

Cost of Web Design Project
It is also crucial to know up front how much the completed web design project will cost the client. Since many businesses are on a tight budget these days, it is vital that one knows how much they will need to pay for their web design. Along with the total cost of the web design project, the client should also receive a breakdown of the individual costs of the project.

What Is Included with the Total Web Design Price?
One who retains a web design company to construct their website should also ask about what items are included in the total web design cost. Some companies will include follow-up consultation in the web design price or web design help in the future. It is important to inquire about these things in the beginning so as to know what type of items they can expect with the amount that they paid for the web design.

For those clients who wish to be on the safe side and know exactly who they are dealing with, requesting references is always an available option to the client. Many times the web design company will offer references that will vouch for their professional behavior and wonderful finished product. References are a good way to weed out the bad web designers from the good ones.

Volume of Past Experience
It may also be beneficial to inquire about the company’s amount of experience. Companies that have been in business for a good many years may just have a bit more experience than newcomers to the web design scene. Although this is just one of the many factors which should be looked at with regard to hiring a web design company, it does help to sway the decision maker one way or the other with regard to hiring or not hiring a specific company to prepare a website for them.

Customer Service
It is also important to consider the customer service skills of the web design company. One who is paying good money to have their website designed wants to make sure they are dealing with a company that will listen to what they want and make themselves readily available to their clients. If one is considering a particular web design company that has bad customer service skills, it might be more advisable to choose a company that is more client-oriented.

There are many different web design companies one can choose from when they want to have a website designed. By considering the factors mentioned above, one can help to ensure that the company that they select to take on this important task does so in a professional, reasonably priced manner. In addition, the client should determine that the web design company has an adequate amount of experience and will produce a product that is exactly what the client is looking for.