Many businesses struggle to find ways to promote their services and location online. Everyone wants to increase their link placement on other sites, improve ranking in search engines, and drive more traffic to their websites. Most businesses also have limited marketing budgets for online objectives, making this task even more difficult. For businesses that are looking for free and inexpensive solutions, I have put together this list to help your business increase online traffic and gain public awareness.
“What are the top tips you would recommend to promote your business online for local search?” I get this question a lot. My response changes month to month, but this is what I have put together for 2011, and now I am finally going to share the secrets of getting your site promoted very quickly online using numerous free and low-cost methods.
For customers to find you online in today’s world, the below list is essential, not just optional. Once these items are completed, you need to follow up on each one. Check your ratings and make sure you update your specials to get the greatest ROI for your investment of time.
This is by far one of the most important places to register your business. Google Places powers Google Maps, Google Search, Google Hotpot and soon Google Promotions (Groupon competitor). I cannot stress how important this is. Google represents 66.6% of market share (comScore December 2010).
Want to have your own business show up within Facebook Places? For companies that have a physical location, it makes sense to be included in Facebook Places in order to track the people who are stopping by your store, office or venue. It’s a quick process and allows you to promote your site via Facebook. This is essential as you will be able to reach out to 500 million users. Using Facebook Places will also allow you to promote your business to local users as they check-in.
Express Update USA
Ensure your business listing is accurate and complete with all those GPS devices, and on Yahoo, Bing, AOL, Ask and Google. Express Update is a service of Infogroup, the primary data provider to top search engines. According to their website, the data supplied to this service accounts for 97% of all search queries, 90% of in-car navigation systems and 90% of mobile devices. There is no better method for business owners to reach out to so many distribution networks than Infogroup. With 25% of online businesses listed inaccurately, this system will not only help you provide correct information about your business, it will attract customers to your location and, more importantly, bring them in. Another option would be to use Universal Business Listing. The cost are minimal but will worth the results.
This new tool is a continually-improving collection of questions and answers created, edited and organized by everyone using it. Quora has the power to connect to Tumblr, WordPress, Twitter and Facebook, and will create a great digital footprint for your business. If you’re looking at ways to become a subject-matter expert, and build traffic and leads, Quora just might be what you are looking for.
The number of backlinks to a site is an indication of the popularity or importance of the particular website to which it is linking. Backlinks are extremely important for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) because search engines use them as one of many methods to decide whether a website is worthy of first-page results, or as I say, placement on “The Golden Page.” When finding backlinks, you should only use sources that have a high Google Page Rank and get high traffic. Having a few links from good quality sites versus thousands from low quality sites makes all the difference. Go for quality, not quantity.
Yahoo Local (USA)
This local system works much like Google Local. However, Yahoo Local offers a free basic listing system and enhanced listings. The free listing system will get you listed in Yahoo, but will not allow you to upload company logos, photos or gather reporting statistics. Yahoo Local tightly integrates with the Yahoo search engine and is highly recommend for all businesses. If your business is located in the UK or Ireland, you can use Infoserve.
As Bing grows with market share, it is important for your business to have a presence where your customers are located. Microsoft has created a free system called Bing Local. When you register with Bing Local you will be able to put in your address, phone, website, email address, hours, payment methods, up to 10 photos, and additional information about your business. With Windows and Internet Explorer (IE) being the dominant Operating System (OS) and browser, respectively, and with Windows Mobile 7 on the verge of deployment, Bing Local needs to be on your to-do list.
Websites are using more and more social networking integrated tools, so it is extremely important to use an email signature whenever you post a response to a topic within your realm of expertise. Not only will this help build backlinks, but it will allow users to have easy access to your contact information wherever you leave a digital footprint. This also goes along with adding a great email signature on the bottom of every email. You can also add a call to action in your signature—just don’t overdo it.
Yelp is a way to build exposure, monitor public opinion of your brand, and research what your local community wants from a business in your industry. Yelp is free to use, making it one of the most popular review sites on the web. There are currently 9 million local reviews in Yelp and 85% of them have a rating of 3 stars or more. Yelp is a great way for businesses to share information and build credibility in the local area.
We all have heard of LinkedIn and, chances are, if you are reading this blog, I can almost guarantee you are part of LinkedIn. LinkedIn has well over 10 million users and, of those, half are comprised of unique business users. Chances are if you Google your name or company name, LinkedIn will show on the first page of the search results. Take the time to update your personal profile along with your business profile. If you are a Twitter user, connect Twitter to LinkedIn to help syndicate your news.
Is your company doing something that is newsworthy? More importantly, when you send out this newsworthy information online, are you using SEO keywords that may drive traffic to your site? Businesses should always submit press releases to companies like PRWeb.com and PRLeap.com. Be sure to use great headlines and teasers to help drive traffic and readership. Also, make sure you put a link to your site and your local address to help with localizing your content.
YellowPages.com (AT&T Advertising Solutions) has a strong brand name and recognition in the United States. Many people still use YellowPages.com as a primary source to filter service-based companies and read reviews. They offer a few levels of listings for free, but you may want to read about their paid options as well. Many of our clients use this service to generate local traffic and it usually is one of the top 5 referrer sites.
When you’re finished, don’t stop!
Using the site promotion resources above is an ongoing process. Once you have made your initial submissions, check back monthly. You may find that some of your edits did not take or that you may have new information to add about your company. You may have to resubmit your site data to some of the items above. Most importantly, always be on the lookout for new sites that offer promotional opportunities. As I wrote this article, I was introduced to the new Google Hotpot. You never know what the future has in store for online promotions!