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It's Like Moving the Needle in a Haystack

The "Clicking on all Cylinders," series is designed to help small businesses run more efficiently by making the most of their high-speed business Internet connectionand digital efforts. In this piece, we look at several tactics you can use to increase your online presence – from online directories to targeting advertising efforts. As we hope to illustrate, maximizing your online and digital efforts isn't difficult – it just takes a willingness to look at all the possibilities.

If you think of the worldwide web as a haystack, then your business website is a needle just waiting to be found. Here are several simple ways to "move the needle" from the bottom of the stack to a space that's clearly visible.

Leverage Online Listings

Before the days of fiber internet and websites, businesses appeared in printed trade directories and catalogs to stay on prospect's radar. While searchable online directories, such as yellowpages and to a growing degree,LinkedIn, have largely largely replaced these, their purpose is similar: to expose your business to prospects actively seeking your services. If you're not appearing here, you're missing out.

Target Your Ads

Make the most of every ad dollar you spend online with a rifle approach to placement. Run banner ads only on sites prospects visit. Use online trade newsletters – delivered directly to your target market's inbox – to pinpoint offers or invite prospects to trade shows your business will be at. A media placement firm with experience in your field can be a helpful ally when deciding where to place ads.

Join the Discussion

Social sites such as LinkedIn, and Facebook give you easy access to an instant audience. If you're simply checking into social sites to see what competitors or customers are saying, take the next big step: Respond to posts or blogs with your perspective – or start a discussion of your own. Not only does it give you name recognition, it also it gives your brand voice a chance to emerge.

Publish for Position

Sharing your white papers and technical articles online has a twofold advantage. It positions your business as a leader to prospects and sends a clear signal to online publishers that you're accessible. Do you have content a site might value? Reaching out can establish your business as a sought-after industry expert.

Use Your Associations

Trade associations typically include member listings. The more associations you belong to, the higher the awareness. Listings that click through to a web page should be considered with care. Reward those who click with more than a dump-off to your home page. Consider a click through to an offer for a free white paper or a discounted offer for first-time visitors.

Key In

If you use keyword ads, choose phrases that selectively target your audience. For instance, if your law firm specializes in breaking non compete agreements "non compete attorneys" will attract more viable prospects than the keyword "attorneys." This way, you won't drive unnecessary traffic to your site or waste time with prospects that don't pan out.

Lead the Search

When you type "lawn mowers" into your web browser, the results you see don't happen by accident. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) improves your website's chances of coming up when prospects search for services. There are a variety of tactics you can use to increase your chances of appearing higher up in the results chain. A reputable SEO consultant or firm can explain them.

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