Why Online Visibility Matters
The consumer economy has changed drastically in the last 20 years from a “push model” to a “pull model.” Whereas businesses used to find success by “pushing” their products and services via directories and advertising, the Internet has empowered consumers to research and “pull” the business transactions they find most appealing. This new model requires businesses make themselves available to be found in as many ways as possible -- especially online.
In the past, small businesses invariably considered normal operating costs to include hanging a sign in front, getting listed in the phone book, and taking out some form of advertising. Now, most would include a website in that list as well. But in the internet-enabled pull model of consumer behavior, these actions often don’t show up on the radar because consumers are looking for validated information. They use third-party portals which include user reviews and vetted content, accessed at home and via smartphone.
What To Do about It
Small businesses can take advantage of these online information portals to promote their businesses if they know how to use appropriately. The best feature of these portals is that they are free for all the important functions: having your information listed, having it be discoverable via major search engines, and being able to update it whenever you want. The only required cost is in learning.
Where To Start
In order of priority, here’s what your business should be doing to ensure online visibility:
Google Places and Sites: Google has made it exceptionally easy to improve your online visibility through the Get Your Business Online Challenge. It includes a tutorial on Google Places, the biggest aggregator of local business information on the internet. Plus, since Mayor Greg Fisher has signed on to the challenge, Louisville businesses get a free Google website with hosting for a year. Click here for instructions on Google Places and click here for Google Sites setup instructions.
Yelp: Getting your business accurately represented on Yelp gives you a two-fold benefit: Not only do you appear on one of the web’s largest review sites, but you can also check off yous business appearing in Apple Maps. Apple Maps is the equivalent of Google Maps but for Apple products, and they pull directly from Yelp for their listings. Further instructions on how to set up a proper Yelp profile can be found by clicking here.
Better Business Bureau: You may only known the BBB for their membership or dispute resolution functions, but over the last few years they have built an impressive online directory of small businesses. Especially for homeowner services, their directory pages rank high in search results. Your business is likely already on there, and you can access and edit your profile free -- no need to be a BBB member to do so. Learn how to make the BBB work for you by clicking here.
Yahoo! Local: Yahoo’s local business pages still show up frequently in search results, often on the first page, so they are worth paying attention to. Thankfully, Yahoo! makes it easy to claim your business’ page online and add some valuable content for free. Click here for the Yahoo! Local guide.
Citysearch: As one of the first online review sites for consumers, Citysearch remains relevant today across most industries but especially with personal services like salons and chiropractors. They allow businesses to include many profile enhancements for free. Learn more on getting your Citysearch profile setup correctly by clicking here.
Menu and Hours: If you’re a restaurant in Louisville, you can benefit from having an accurate listing on this local-based mobile app. Menu and Hours is the fastest way to find restaurant information in Louisville. Getting set up is easy -- click here to get started.