You have a business. You have customers. But like any entrepreneur, you could use more.
You can do so by designing your website to satisfy your ideal customer.
That was one of the many key takeaways at a recent Google-sponsored event in Allentown to give digital advice to small and mid-sized businesses. Up-to-date listings, easily searchable websites and the use of ads and analytics also can help boost commerce for a business.
“One of the best ways to grow your business is to be connected,” Bryan Caplan, a Boston-based branding expert and keynote speaker, said at Google’s “Get Your Business Online” event at the Brew Works in Allentown.
Much of the advice involved using Google and other services – many of them free – to drive traffic to a business’ website and through its doors.
“During a search, you’re connecting with customers at moments that matter … when they want something,” Caplan said.
The first thing a business owner will want to look for is the basic Google listing that probably was automatically set up based on publicly available information.
Most people have seen this listing, even if they haven’t realized it.
Search Lehigh Valley Business, for example, and you’ll not only be directed to www.lvb.com in the search results, but the Google listing for Lehigh Valley Business will appear in a box in the upper right of the search results page.
This listing will probably have basic information that’s more or less accurate, but a business owner can add and or correct information so that people searching for that type of business can find out what they need to know quickly and efficiently by going to www.google.com/business.
There, by following relatively simple steps, a business can add information, pictures and other relevant information. A business also can verify the account so that people who come across the listing will know that the information is accurate and comes from the owner.
INFO TO SHOW
Google advises that businesses make sure information such as phone numbers, hours of operation – remember holiday hours – and phone numbers are complete.
It also suggests adding pictures of such things as the building, staff, happy customers or products on the shelves.
Google recommends five pictures. It tells the story without slowing the site for people on mobile devices or with slower internet service.
Other things a business can add include useful original content and links to relevant information and events. Just make sure all of the titles and descriptions are clear so people looking at your listing can navigate it easily.
What should be included?
“Close your eyes and picture what your ideal customer is,” he said. “Design the website toward them.”
A few tips: Keep it simple without too many links.
In other words, “Make it easy for people with big fingers to click the links,” Caplan quipped.
Try not to use more than three to five fields to provide information.
“Every click risks losing interest,” Caplan warned.
WORTH THE EFFORT
There are quirks to deal with, one being the limited number of search terms.
A dog biscuit bakery might have to choose between listing itself as a bakery or as a pet store, because there is no individual category for dog bakery.
That can be overcome with key words and further descriptions.
And Google’s message is that the effort is worth it.
ONLINE IS WHERE IT’S AT
Only about 50 percent of Pennsylvania businesses have an online presence.
So there’s enormous potential for growth – both for the business and the completeness of Google’s search effectiveness.
Being online benefits the business, Caplan said, because it is capturing the attention of a potential customer at a moment of potential need, when he is looking for something to eat, do or buy.
In fact, he said, 76 percent of people search for products, venues or services online before they buy.
REVENUE MACHINE FOR GOOGLE
Google benefits, as well, because when more businesses and services provide complete information, it can offer more robust search results to its users.
Better service means, in turn, more users and more advertising revenue for Google.
Google, through its AdWords platform,
sells ads for businesses to appear when a search is done by a user.
MORE THAN LISTINGS
For businesses that don’t have a website, Google can help with that too.
It offers a simple website that a business can set up through www.google/business.
It can even get a domain name through Google for an annual fee.
“Use useful, original content,” Caplan said. “Don’t steal; Google knows.”
Too much unoriginal content will lower your search ranking.
If a business is going to put all that effort into making a better website, it also should be tracking how its efforts are paying off.
There are plenty of analytical tools, including Google Analytics, which tracks who, how and when potential customers view a website, including how those users interact with the site.
Google Alerts can notify a business if it’s mentioned anywhere online or if a competitor or industry-related story may be posted online.
There are plenty of ways for a business to get connected and make sure it stays connected by keeping an eye online.