The 5 Top Ways to Promote Your Website
“For the local MI retailer, the first task is to get people to walk in the door,” Ralph Wilson says. “The second is to keep them walking through the door.” While the Internet is “world-wide,” the local retailer needs to focus on his or her neighborhood. “You don’t have to market yourself nationally – the Guitar Centers of the world are doing a good job of that.”
So are you minding your p’s and q’s (or more accurately your s’s, your e’s, and your o’s) and growing your site’s traffic?
Wilson is an e-commerce consultant and editor of Web Marketing Today. He has been in the Internet marketing business since its breaking dawn, starting in 1995. “I could see the potential right away, so I started building small business websites for clients,” he says. He founded Web Marketing Today that same year. Conveniently for us, he also knows his way around a music store. Wilson is a guitar player, owning a Martin, a Baby Taylor, and he’s waiting on his new Taylor GS Mini to be delivered. (He’s also a minister, and can often be found strumming from the pulpit.)
He has boatloads of more information and tips, but I asked him to give just five points to promote your website and improve traffic. Some of these – as he is the first to admit – you’ve heard before. Then again, you didn’t keep cleaning up your room after the first time your Mom yelled at you about that. And believe me, the stakes are much higher when it comes to your store’s website…
1. Get on the map
As written about previously, Google, Yahoo, and Bing have all recently been restructured to emphasize local geography. So when someone searches for “Martin Guitar Chicago” the first non-ad that comes up are three local stores and a map of where they are. (The first pay-per-click ad is also a local store… more on this later.) “You want to make sure you show up on the map,” Wilson urges. The catch is that time needs to be taken to make sure all three of those resources have the information from your store to do that for you. This is free and done by going to google.com/places. After filling out the simple form, Google will confirm you are who you are and where you are. The other search engines are set up similarly. (For Yahoo, it’s Yahoo! Local: local.yahoo.com; for Bing, it’s Bing Local Listing Center: ssl.bing.com/listings.)
“The more information you can provide, the more instruments and services you specialize in, the better.”
2. Be there for people on the run.
Wilson also recommends you take into consideration how people are searching these days. “We’re seeing less searches from the desktop, and more searches from mobile devices like iPhones, Androids, and Blackberries. This is important because searches from mobile devices are usually done by people on the run trying to find something right away.”
Take a hard look at your website and make sure it’s easily viewed on these devices. “It may be that if your site was built three or five years ago, it doesn’t show up very well on these smaller devices and phones.” Make sure your home page isn’t too busy, the graphics aren’t overwhelming in size and take a long time to download, and your most basic information – phone number, hours, e-mail – are front and center.
Cramp your style too much with the fancy home page you now have?
“You or your designer can actually set up your site so that it senses if it’s being looked at on one of these devices, and shows a simplified version of it suitable for those smaller screens,” he says. “This isn’t a second website, just a second template. But making sure your site is mobile-friendly is very important.”
3. Pay-per-click ads
There was a time when pay-per-click ads were met with healthy skepticism, but Wilson feels that in today’s market it’s a critical way to get attention and move customers through your door. By thoroughly listing your key brands and services with the correct keywords, it can be cashier-ringing effective, especially when you include the area you want to reach like, say, a 50 mile radius of your store.
“Now we’re talking about a new advertising expense,” he admits, but gives a clue to where that money can come from: your Yellow Pages ad or other traditional ads in publications (if you’re even still there). “While you’ll be featured with mail order and Internet operations too, you have the advantage of being right there – they can drive over and get the instrument immediately. You just have to convince them that you have what they want and they can just walk in your door.”
4. Keep SEO at its peak
Search Engine Optimization is preached constantly, and for good reason. Wilson suggests having a professional go through the site and make sure its set up for titles, that the keywords are thought through carefully, and you’re consistently showing up high in the organic results. “Short term, it will cost a little money for a qualified consultant to set this up, but once that’s done, it’s easy for a store manager to learn,” he says. It’s important to learn it because it really needs to be updated often. “Ultimately long term its one of the least expensive things you can do.”
He adds that there is a big difference between “website builders who are great at making things look pretty,” and a SEO marketing consultant who understands the nuances. Make sure you know the differences too.
5. Keep building that e-mail list, and keep customers enticed
There’s no doubt that you have already gave your employees a pep talk about collecting e-mails, but it’s something we all need to be reminded of and stay vigilant with. Police this constantly.
A lot of times the gal buying that new set of strings will say “no” though. Wilson says you need to make it worth their while. Once or twice a month, deals need to be e-mailed out and it can’t just be blowing out unpopular stock – it needs to be worth their while and a real deal with mass appeal.
Programs like iContact and Constant Contact make it easy, and the cost is as little as $20 a month. And getting out the word about your workshops, visits from a manufacturer’s rep, it all builds loyalty.
Wilson makes the strong point that while the marketing buzz has been all about the social media, about the Facebook and the Twitter, that e-mail list should not be abandoned. I agree with him – on a personal level I’m so overwhelmed with the constant barrage of tweets from manufacturers and some retailers I find myself ignoring it. It becomes white noise. But I have a secondary e-mail account just for “junk” – as in things I’m kind of interested in, like signing up for details from companies and stores – and while I check it only once a day, I do check it and I do read e-mails from companies I’m interested in. I’m sure I’m not alone in that.
The days of setting up a website and forgetting about it are long over, so reminders of old ideas and encouragement to try new ones is critical to successful MI retailing today.