Small Business – SEO Basics – Where Do You Begin Promoting Your Business Online?

Many small business make the mistake of beginning with their website when they want to begin promoting their business online. For those who are inexperienced, this would seem the logical place to start. Unfortunately, just having a website is not enough. You must be able to get traffic to the website in order to do business online.

Ideally, you would have consulted with an SEO specialist before having your site built. For most, that is not the case. There is a great deal to learn when it comes to how search engines work and how to get buying traffic to your website. You do not have that kind of time to spend. The logical solution is to hire someone with experience to help you along the way. It does not have to cost a great deal but you do need to spend money on your website to get the full potential from it and to bring your website in front of your prospective buyers.

One of the first things your web consultant will want to do is define who your target market is. This is done through keyword research and market analysis. Once your market is clearly defined and the choice keywords selected, you will be able to make the little changes to your website and all of your promotion materials that will bring traffic to your website. More traffic means more sales.

In a few months, once your website begins to build traffic, your consultant will be able to help you monitor the progress of your success. She will take the time to put together a monthly report so you will be able to see what is working and what is not. Once you see trends of success, you can then tailor your efforts and streamline them into spending more time on what is working and less time on what is not.

Because search engines and traffic trends are ever changing, your SEO consultant will be a valuable asset to your business. Their business depends on staying on top of these trends so you can be sure your website promotion campaigns are as current and effective today as they were in the past. You are busy running your business. You do not have time to spend staying on top of another industry, namely SEO.

Your SEO consultant will take the time to work with you to find a solution within your budget. Even small business, or should I say, especially small business, can benefit from a helping hand when it comes to SEO. This service is not reserved for big businesses. Who knows, when you start getting enough traffic to your website, your small business may just turn into a big business.

Steps to Starting a Small Business – Market Research

Getting enough information on your target market of potential customers is vital to starting a business that will produce income. Making guesses on what the customer really wants will not bring you very far, so it’s important to do some digging and get the answers directly from them through market research which is an important steps to starting a small business.

Some of the following questions to ask in order to device effective strategies:

  • Who is going to buy your product or service?
  • What kind of people are they? (buyer, influencer or end user)
  • How big is the market? (Competitor’s annual sales would give you an estimate)
  • How will market trends going to affect your business?
  • Does your business has any unique selling point?
  • Is the need for your product or service currently not being met?
  • Is the market already saturated?

Why do it?

You will not be able to sell something or services that has no demand. Knowing what the market is looking for and so that you can present it in a new twist, drives the need for a market research. The advantage of small businesses is that they are close to their customer and can easily get information on their purchasing habits.

How to do it?

Most of the big companies spend huge amounts of money on elaborate surveys from renowned researchers to determine if their products or services will appeal to customers at a price they are willing to pay. But for small business owners on a tight budget, there are other means to collect the key data needed without having to spend a fortune.

3 ways to collect information:

  • Get business school students to collect data at the mall.
  • Look for financial data and statistics in local library.
  • Join trade association not only to access market research they have conducted but do the networking there as well.

Do I need any ongoing market research while running the business?

Yes, this is how you gather information to evolve and adapt to the changes in market trends.

3 types of methods:

  • Keep a close watch on what your competitor is doing.
  • Install point-of-sales software to track sales or services trend.
  • Put up customer suggestion box where they can write suggestions.

Every business needs to conduct market research, it is a crucial steps to starting a small business, and tight budgets are no excuse for omitting a research plan. By starting out with some easily accessible resources, you can begin to develop better marketing strategies that can position you for market growth.

Small Business Tip: Get Off the Bandwagon

If you run a small business, it is increasingly important to stay ‘ahead of the game’ instead of just being a player. It would not be a smart business decision to open up a small food market on the adjacent corner of a Loblaws, Walmart Supercentre, Whole Foods and Costco. It doesn’t make sense. You would quickly become part of the small business graveyard.

Your business needs to stand out from the crowd, and since the world is a growing every day, you’re going to need to get creative!

Don’t jump on a bandwagon as it’s barreling through, be a member of the construction team that BUILDS the bandwagon to reap the most benefit as it picks up speed.

Easier said than done – a very select few thought that a micro-blogging platform that only allowed users to speak 140 characters at a time would amass into the social media giant Twitter is today. Ashton Kutcher was a bandwagon builder, and was the first to reach 1 million followers. How many followers do you have?

Not to say that Twitter is dead or dying soon, but if you don’t have a large Twitter following by now… perhaps it’s time to look for a new way of building your online reach and conversation. A new idea is emerging every second of every day, do some research and become an early adopter!

Here are a few leads to get you started:

Group Buying – is on the cusp of becoming huge, and it has been for a few years. Do some research and get involved with sites that give away daily deals- it might actually help promote your business/products. Best case scenario? The site becomes huge in your area/industry and sales skyrocket as a result.

QR Codes– Smartphone barcodes that are starting to pop up everywhere (heck, I even sit on one in the subway every morning). Since 1 in every 2 people will have a Smartphone by Christmas (it’s true!) this might just be the next massive trend in technology and advertising. “Social scanning” includes tools like Stickybits and SCVNGR that incorporate the new location ‘checking in’ fad that might also be on the brink of social domination.

Q/A Platforms – Millions of people are starting to ask questions on sites like Quora and Linked In. Pick a platform that speaks directly to your audience, and start answering some questions. Get in on the conversations; build a reputation as an expert and you’ll start to stand out from the rest of the social media crowd.

Find an alternative to the ‘biggies’ – use Statusnet instead of Twitter, use Aardvark instead of Linked In Answers, use Brightkite instead of Foursquare. Try to hit the bigtime with an emerging trend rather than trying to scream over the noise of the crowd.

Be proactive and set yourself up for success!