“If 80 percent of consumers are searching for businesses online, why do a third of small businesses not even have a website?”
For Court Cunningham, CEO of Yodle, the number one independent provider of online marketing services to local businesses in the United States, this is the question he would like to ask every small business owner on the planet.
“On top of that, 72 percent of businesses don’t even have a phone number listed on their website,” continues Cunningham. “It’s like buying a retail store on Main Street and having the main entrance in the back alley – you have to have an inviting storefront on the web just as you do in the real world.”
For many small business owners, including owners of franchises, the thought of building a robust internet presence is a secondary one. But at a time when more and more people are turning to the internet to find local companies and the services they provide, it’s more important than ever to establish your business on the internet. What holds most small business owners back is not knowing where to start.
“A lot of people don’t know how to get started building their web presence, so they work with a company like us, where we can build them a website, a mobile site and clean directory listings across multiple sites like City Search, Yelp and Yellowpages.com,” says Cunningham. “Depending on the business segment you are in, having this sort of presence can generate a significant number of leads a month.”
Rich Stark, president and CEO of Stark Logic, a marketing agency that specializes in franchise advertising, development and franchise lead development, agrees with Cunningham.
“Being online is a necessity for businesses to generate leads,” says Stark. “Next to that, it’s also a necessity for building brand loyalty. If you don’t have a website, you’re missing out on millions and millions of people that are searching for your business.”
Once you’ve set up your website, you need to make sure the information that pops up about you and your business in Google searches is correct. It’s also important to pay attention to what people are saying about your business and the service they received on review sites like Yelp and others.
“When someone uses Google to search for your business, they will see reviews, including business reviews and possibly negative comments about your business,” says Stark. “If you realize that the Yelp and Google Directory reviews are listed at the top when you search your own business, it makes it very important to understand what people are writing about you.”
To influence what items pop up at the top of internet searches involving your business, many owners turn to companies that provide Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a way of influencing which sites are listed at the top of searches.
“SEO is extremely important – if you’re not listed at the top, or if negative comments are the first results that appear, you won’t get business,” Stark says.
However, Cunningham believes that the best way to make sure the results that appear about you and your business are positive is being clear and transparent with your customers and responding to negative comments quickly.
“The best way to combat a negative review is to get good reviews and reply to negative reviews in a measured way,” says Cunningham. “We have seen that just the act of responding at all is viewed as positive by consumers – it shows that you care about them and your business.”
Providing meaningful content on your website in the first place is another way to boost your business to the top of Google searches.
“Have interesting content,” continues Cunningham. “The content of your website should matter more.”
If applicable to your business, social media is another great way to increase your internet footprint, but it has to be done tactfully.
“The goal with social media is to connect with people to help build brand loyalty,” says Stark. “If you’re out there (on social media) and you connect with people and talk about what you do in a social setting, you have better business. If you’re not connecting and you’re just blasting people with meaningless content, it won’t be as effective of a tool.”
Finally, Stark says having a website and an online presence is a great way to streamline your business operations, with options like online payment and scheduling becoming standard for many businesses.
“The easier or faster you can make it for someone to buy something from you, the better you can maximize and organize your business through the web.”
As CEO of Yodle, Court oversees all aspects of operations and strategy, including technology, product development and sales and marketing. Court joined Yodle as CEO in 2007 when it had 10 employees and 200 customers. Today, Yodle has over 800 employees in five offices serving more than 30,000 local businesses across the United States.
Rich Stark founded Stark Logic 15 years ago with the idea of growing a team that would show businesses how to navigate the exciting, ever-changing landscape of internet marketing. He understands that if companies aren’t at the forefront of new marketing strategies, they’ll get left behind – that’s where Stark Logic comes in – with ideas and solutions to digital marketing needs.