I remember a time, not that long ago, when road signs and billboards advertised a variety of products and encouraged drivers to stop or call and shop. Businesses also paid for a newspaper ad or a simple listing in the yellow pages (and many still do), and that was sufficient to get people to call or come to your brick-and-mortar place of business.
Boy, have times changed!
Today, the Internet has become, among other things, the marketplace where many of us do business and shop for needed products and services. The Internet also has become the main lifeline for much of the marketing industry, and, we are told, businesses that don’t dedicate the time and effort necessary to create a strong online presence are losing customers and, yes, becoming invisible.
Therefore, to remain visible and viable, owners of today’s businesses — large and small — must change everything, from the way they advertise their products and/or services, to the way they do business.
Technologically speaking, having an attractive website is just not enough anymore. Consumers expect much more in the way of user -friendliness when they search for what they want.
Recent statistics show 97 percent of Americans do research online before they make purchases at businesses. So, to be successful, businesses also need to give a considerable amount of attention to search-engine optimization and website optimization.
Without getting too technical, SEO is simply a way of making your website appear as often — and as high up — as possible in online search results (Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc.). Researchers say about 70 percent of searchers do not go beyond the first page of listed results. Therefore, if your website doesn’t make that first page, chances are, your business website goes unseen, even though it may have the information or products for which searchers are looking.
Most of the chamber members I’ve talked with about SEO say they have outsourced the work to other member businesses that have the expertise to improve their search results and are generally happy with the results that were achieved.
It’s important to remember, however, that it takes time to see the benefits of SEO. Popularity rankings are updated, usually quarterly, and new sites take longer to get recognized. You could be looking at a year or more before you see maximum results for your efforts.
The other area that shouldn’t be overlooked is web optimization. Almost half of the Internet users in the United States today surf with a mobile device, i.e., a smartphone or tablet. If your website is not optimized, it will not function properly on mobile Internet devices. That forces consumers to move on to the next website in the search results and loses potential customers.
A website that is not attractive or easy to navigate will also aggravate potential customers and compel them to move on to the next website and company. The bottom line is that Internet marketing is more than where you show up on search results, it is also how your site looks and operates.
If you want to stay on the leading edge for your website marketing and SEO ranking, I encourage you to contact one of several chamber member businesses that specialize in website development and optimization. Go to www.gigharborchamber.com, click on Find a Business and search by Category for “web design” or “web development.”
Alternatively, attend one of the chamber’s Building a Better Business workshops from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at The Lodge at Mallard’s Landing. The workshops are open to the public and cover many helpful subjects on computer technology, from social media to search engine optimization, and how to use it to your business’ advantage.
Having a better understanding of the workings of websites can help you decide what needs to be done and put you on track to better satisfying your customers and improving your bottom line.Warren Zimmerman is the president of the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce, which is located at 3125 Judson St. For more information, call 253-851-6865 or visit www.gigharborchamber.com.