Marketing your small business website: Build it and they will come?

Technically Speaking
By Tamara Nicola
//www.visitgrandbend.com

When it comes to your website, is it enough to simply build it and wait for customers to come? The answer is a resounding no and this is great news. How could this be good news? Most small business owners build a website and forget about it. Those that take proactive marketing steps will soon understand what all of this internet excitement is about.
The first step is to build a professional, attractive website that discusses your service or product. Update the content frequently with the goal of adding value for the potential reader. Avoid common design mistakes (see my previous column). Once satisfied, spread the word.
Include Your URL on Stationery, Business Cards, and Print Advertising.
This is a no-brainer that is sometimes overlooked. Make sure that all of your cards, stationery, brochures, and literature contain your company’s web address (URL). Continue to leverage print advertising that has proven successful, capture the reader’s attention, and then refer them to your URL for more information.
Free Business Listings
Add your website URL to popular online maps and free business directories. Here are just a few:
//www.maps.google.com
//www.listings.local.yahoo.com
//www.visitgrandbend.com – a site managed by yours truly
//www.kayak.com – travel site
//www.hotfrog.ca
//www.tourismpartners.com – Official Ontario Travel Guide

Search Engines
Submit your site – Submit your site to all of the major search engines. Simply type in this term “Submit my site” into Google, Yahoo and MSN. Include a submission to open source engines such as DMOZ.org as well.
Create a sitemap – A sitemap is a list of web pages that make up your website usually presented in a hierarchical format. With a sitemap you can tell search engines about all of your web pages, not just your homepage. For more information check out www.sitemaps.org
Optimization – Perhaps you have heard that you need special skills to “code” web pages with keywords, metadata, alt tags, etc. to improve your website rankings. If you have these skills, excellent! Go forth and build code. For the rest, here is the big secret to search engine ranking. Drum roll please…
#1 – Build a professional, attractive website that discusses your service or product. Update your content frequently with the goal of adding value for the potential reader. Sound familiar? Attempts to fast track your search engine ranking with the latest scheme can be hazardous. Google and the others are very smart and may even penalize you for trickery.
#2 – Have patience.
Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising – Your website listing appears as featured link to the right of “natural” search engine results. Your position in the list is determined by how much you’ve bid for a particular search word compared to other businesses. This can be a cost-effective way to get targeted traffic, since you only pay when someone actually clicks on the link. For more information check out //www.adwords.google.com
Resources – One of the best sources of information for both the novice and advanced web designer comes from search engines themselves.
Check out //www.google.com/webmasters/