Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Maximizing Your Web Presence Is Key To Building Your Small Business

Maximizing Your Web Presence Is Key To Building Your Small Business

Q: Hi Steve! I listened and watched a webinar you did today and have a question: Do I really need to use Web 2.0 tools on my site? It is a simple site that explains my business and not much more. I don't see the need. — Todd

A: I think that any small business that is not maximizing its Web presence is missing a golden opportunity.

First, let's make sure we are on the same page. When discussing Web 2.0, what we are talking about is an era where websites are more interactive, engaging, and interesting than before. They are not static, as they were, say, 10 years ago, where all you could do was read. Instead, a Web 2.0 site is one where visitors can engage with you, your business, and your site by:

• Posting comments on your blog, or articles, or chatting in a forum.

• Re-tweeting your content, sharing it on Facebook, or Digging it.

• Watching a video, listening to a podcast, or participating in a webinar.

• Taking a quiz or responding to a poll.

The essence of Web 2.0 is that it is collaborative and interactive. By creating a site that engages and interacts with people, that makes them want to stick around (hence the term "sticky site") you give people more of a chance to create a connection with your business.

So there are many reasons to have a great Web 2.0 website, but here are three main ones:

1. Credibility: These days, people judge you by your website. Don't you do the same? Don't you often check out a company's site before deciding to use them? A great website levels the playing field; you can look every bit as big and professional as your biggest competitor. Your website is your sign to the world. It says a lot about your business. Play big.

2. Marketing and branding: Similarly, your website is an incredible opportunity to market your business and brand it accordingly. Sure, simple sites are fine – but who wants to be fine? By creating a more robust, interactive site you are creating a bigger and better image for your business.

3. Additional profit center: Ideally, your site should be more than just an e-sign, it should be another way to create business. Either it is so good and impressive that it almost forces people to seek you out, or it actually sells goods and services and makes you money directly. Either way, a Web 2.0 site has a much better chance of becoming a new profit center than does a static, boring, 
Web 1.0 sort of site.

OK, so if this makes sense, what sort of functionality should you be looking at adding to your site? Here are some easy ones to start with:

Video: Video is probably the top Web 2.0 tool out there right now, and for good reason. For instance, it is estimated that if you have video on your homepage, upwards of 80% of your visitors will click on it first (so it better be good!)

Your video addition can be as simple as uploading some content onto YouTube and then posting it and a YouTube player on your site, or as "complicated" as creating professional video and search engine optimizing it for high Google rankings. Either way, video will make your site friendlier and stickier.

User created content: Adding forums, polls, and comments is a fairly easy thing to do these days (depending, of course, on what platform was used to build your site.)
And consider adding a blog. It is a great SEO (search optimization engine) tool. Your posts are fresh content, the comments are fresh content, and search engines like fresh content.

Written content:  "Content is king" is an important phrase. Creating short, interesting articles is not that hard and yet they still engage the visitor. Or what about creating a free e-book? It need not be long, but it is a nice perk, and again, means that a visitor will have more of a connection with your business. And don't forget about your free e-newsletter.

When you get real good at this Web 2.0 stuff, what will happen? People will share it – via email links, tweets, whatever, and that's the ticket.

It is what I call word of mouth advertising 2.0.

Today's Tip: It feels like things are getting better out there economically, but is it really? Apparently so. According to a new survey commissioned by Capital One Small Business Banking:

• 47% of the small businesses surveyed said that the economic conditions for their businesses have stayed the same this past year, but

• 26% reported improving conditions, and

• 28% said that business is definitely better than it was at the same time last year.

Ask an Expert appears Mondays. You can e-mail Steve Strauss at: sstrauss@mrallbiz.com.And you can click here to see previous columns. Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer, author and speaker who specializes in small business and entrepreneurship. His latest book is The Small Business Bible. You can sign up for his free newsletter, "Small Business Success Secrets!" at his website —www.mrallbiz.com.

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