Why Buy Locally? Research shows that:
Support local businesses!
All businesses need to have a website - even if you don't sell online. It's like having a telephone. Various studies show:
There are four essentials that you need to include:
Plus you need pictures or a video sharing your story.
Ready to go?
Get Your Business Online provides a free website and domain name for a year plus training to help small businesses get online. The program is sponsored by Intuit and Google, as well as non-profit business organizations across the US. You can get a free website and domain name for a year, but after that there will be a monthly charge. Because of that, you are asked to provide your credit card when you sign up for this program.
At the end of the year, you can move your domain and your website to any host that you choose. Most website hosts have design templates that you can use, so you can put a website together in a few hours. This is fine for just starting out, but after you use the website for a year and know how you want to use your website, consider hiring someone to customize your website and match the website to your other marketing materials.
You can also use the training on this website and set up your website and domain name with another company (for a fee).
We also have more resources to getting your business online in the Marketing and Selling section of the Tools.
Google Places is a free program that allows businesses to put their information online, including their location, pictures, and business hours. Businesses that participate in Google Places appear on Google searches at the top of the search engine results. People who have Google accounts are able to give feedback - both positive and negative - about your business.
Participating in Google Places is one of the key ways that you can be visible in your community.
Here is a link for information and to sign up: Google Places.
Sometimes we forget that search engines can't see - and they don't think very well either. Search engines can't see images and can only figure out what your website is about if you leave it the proper clues. These include:
University of Minnesota Extension has an online seminar to help you improve your ranking on Google search. Click here for Getting high on Google (Basics of SEO).
More than 25% of all online searches are on YouTube. Can people find you there? If not, you are missing a great source of free advertising. Google owns YouTube, so if you post videos on YouTube, your Google rankings will probably improve.
But before you go rushing to create a video and post it on YouTube:
Most popular videos on Facebook are not professionally done. But they are interesting, entertaining, unique, or informative. You can use a SmartPhone or video camera to create the video, and then edit it using your favorite video editor.
If you want to be found, your business must be on GPS products and software. There are three companies that provide services to GPS (Global positioning system) software and products: Reference USA, Navtek and Teleatlas. You can register your business in each of these for free.
Facebook has a LIKE program where you can add a button to your website OR to your Facebook page so customers or website visitors can recommend your business to their friends. The person who clicks on your LIKE button must have an account with Facebook.
+1 is a program from Google that lets people support your business. The person who adds a +1 to your website must have a Google account - such as a google email account - but these accounts are free. You (the business) must register with Google Place. Click here for more information about Google Place.
You can make it easy for people to support your business by providing a LIKE button and a +1 on your website.
Customers are talking about your business - and it is your job to help manage that conversation. Today, people can easily share their opinion about your business using Google Review and Yelp. Your goal is to make sure there are lots of positive opinions on both systems.
Google Review: Anyone can add a Google Review to a business that participates in the Google Places program. The reviewer must have a Google account - such as a gmail email account - but those accounts are free. Businesses that receive a review are free to respond to the reviewer - but getting reviews removed from Google is difficult, if not impossible.
Yelp is an independent review site where people can put negative or positive comments about a business.
Businesses with customer reviews generally are posted higher in the search engine results than businesses without customer reviews. So, it is important that you encourage your happy customers to give you good reviews - and that you respond to negative reviews with an explanation or indication that you have heard their concerns and are addressing them.