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Online Marketing for Main Street

There is a renewed interest in using the internet to market local main street "brick and mortar" type businesses. And for good reason. There is a tremendous potential, that has gone unnoticed for far too long.

Now don't get me wrong. About half of all businesses have web sites and of these a good many are using pay per click advertising to drive customers to their offerings. So it's fair to say that main street has already adapted the internet as part of their marketing outreach. Or has it?

Over the past several years I have reviewed hundreds of web sites and to my dismay have concluded that for the most part, they are poor imitations of what they could and should be. For the most part, the typical small business web site is little more than an electronic brochure hidden away on a back alley of the internet.

That spells opportunity for those businesses who take action and take the steps necessary to transform their static web sites into marketing tools.

First let's discuss some of the short comings of most web sites. By and large the content on them is about the company and not the customer. While it may be nice to know that your business is family owned, or that you are a "Certified" something, a better approach is to answer the potential customers questions, rather than talking about yourself.

When a prospective customer is typing in something in their search engine of their computer, they are doing so because they have a question or need. If that question or need relates to something you sell or provide, you want to answer that question or need in the first few seconds of their landing on your web site. If you don't, they may well click on to the next site rather than scrolling down to find it elsewhere on your page. Most people spend less than 10 seconds on most web sites they visit.

This reality requires the marketing savvy business to focus on the customers needs in the space internet marketers refer to as "above the fold." This is that portion of the web site immediately visible without doing any scrolling. This is precious real estate on your web site and it is imperative that you develop it to maximum effect.

Your first obligation is to let the visitor know that they have landed on an appropriate site that may well have the answer to their needs. If you only have a single product that may be easy. If however, you offer a range of products or services you want not one but many landing pages catering to each of these multiple prospective inquiries.

Now this takes more work on the design end, but once done you will get a lot more future customers to spend some time on your site to learn more.

The side benefit of doing this is that more of your prospective customers will actually find you. If you are a plumber for example, you will be one of millions of plumbers with web sites in the US, and one of hundreds in any sizable metropolitan area. To help winnow the field a bit so you get found you want to make sure that the city your serve is prominently indicated not only on your page, but in the title tag for your page and ideally in the URL itself. That will help people in your community find you rather than someone two states over.

But more than that, if your prospect needs a new hot water heater because theirs just sprung a leak, the odds are that they may search for "hot water heaters" rather than plumbers. If your web site isn't set up to be found for the term "hot water heater" they may never find you... even if you have the lowest prices and best service.

Now this gets a little more complicated because some will search for "hotwater heater," others for "replacement water heaters" or "fix water heater." There may be hundreds of combinations and alternate terms your prospect may actually type in for their search.

Your objective as a business owner is to be found for as many of these variations as possible. This requires what is known as "keyword research." A properly done keyword analysis will identify key central themes like "hot water heater," and identify those additional terms most frequently used by the general population when they are search for help.

This family of terms can often be incorporated into a single page so that your particular page shows up when someone searches for any of them.

Now just where your page shows up is vitally important. Ideally you want it to be where the greatest number of potential customers will click. On average 42% of all search engine searchers click on the top organic listing on Google Searches. About 18% will click on one of the paid pay per click ads on the site, and all but about 1-2% will click on any of the other 9 free listings on the page.

As a business owner, your first objective is to be on the first page of Google listings. Your second priority is to get ranked as high as possible, ideally in the number one slot. Your third priority is to get listed two or more times on the first page of Google results.

All of this is possible in most markets for most small businesses serving a local market today. But it won't be for too long. The tools tips and tricks that have been used to make millions in the "make money" and "get rich quick" niches of internet marketing are beginning to trickle down to main street.

It's hard to rank at the top of the search engines for very highly competitive terms globally, but it's also very lucrative. As such a lot of time and attention have been paid to ranking high online, and what it takes to be "liked" by Google. The net result is that a lot is known that can be directly applied to virtually any business. The more specific the niche, and defined the market area the easier it is to use these techniques for local based businesses.

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About the Author

Earl Netwal, Minneapolis Internet Marketing Consultant
5344 36th Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55417

Contact Author: request info

If you would like to re-print this article, please contact the author.
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