2009 is almost here, and I hope small business owners have already been thinking long and hard about their plan of attack for the new year. Those who have are ahead of the game. If you haven’t given the new year much thought, start now.
Successful online marketing is about developing the right combination of strategies (thinking) and tactics (doing). In this column, I’m going to focus on a short list of the latter — quick things you can do now to help set the stage for a successful 2009. Since the holidays are upon us, and you’re probably busier than normal, I’ll do my best to keep it short, simple, and sweet.
1. Claim your Google Maps listing
It doesn’t take long to do. Go to Google Maps and search for yourself (such as by business name and city name]). If your business is there, click the EDIT link, and then click CLAIM YOUR BUSINESS. If you’re not listed, use the Google Local Business Center and follow the directions to add your business.
We’ve written extensively here on Search Engine Land about the problems that often befall small businesses that don’t claim their listings; don’t let that happen to you.
2. Do the same at Yahoo Local and Microsoft Live Search Maps
The steps are pretty similar. Search for your business on Yahoo Local and Microsoft Live Search Maps. Yahoo specifically asks, “Own this business?” with a link to claim it. Live Search has a link that says “Change Your Business Listing.” If you need to create listings, use these links: Yahoo Local and Microsoft Live Maps.
3. Claim your social media name/profiles
You may not be active in social media right now, but chances are good that you will be at some point. When you do, you’ll want to make sure you own your own profile on the important social media sites. With that in mind, create accounts for your business — using your company name — on sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace. Complete the profiles and be sure to link to your primary web site when possible. Even if you never use these social media profiles, at least you’ll know that no one else will be using your name.
4. Do basic online reputation management
What other people say about you online matters a lot. Bad business or product reviews can spread quickly, hurting your bottom line. At minimum, use Google Alerts to keep track of what people are saying. Use it to monitor your company name, your own name, and the names of important people in your company. Choose the “Comprehensive” alerts and get alerts at least once a day.
Extra Credit: Learn how to use RSS, and subscribe to RSS feeds of your company name and important staff names. You can do this at Yahoo News, Technorati, and Google Blog Search (among others). These make an excellent supplement to what you’ll get from Google Alerts.
5. Check your foundational links
Make sure you’re listed in the Yahoo Directory, Open Directory, Business.com, and Best of the Web directories. Open Directory is the only one that’s free, but it can also be the hardest listing to get. (Submit and forget is the rule there.) Directory listings aren’t a golden ticket to high search engine visibility, but they do represent the foundation of a link building effort.
Extra Credit: Review the internal links on your web site. Make sure you use keywords in anchor text whenever possible. If you have links that say “click here,” change those so that they describe the content on the page you’re linking to; i.e., “red widgets” is better anchor text than “click here.”
6. Get involved with your analytics
Don’t have web analytics? Gotta fix that. Google Analytics is more than adequate for many small businesses, and it’s free. Once you have analytics installed, pay attention to what the data tells you. Look at what keywords are sending natural search traffic to your site. Look at what other sites are referring traffic to you. There are usually new marketing opportunities to be found in both of those data sets.
Extra Credit: Since it’s easy to forget analytics and maybe a bit of a hassle to visit Google Analytics every day or every week, use the Email function to have Google Analytics send the data directly to your In box. Huge time saver, and it forces you to be aware of how your site is doing.
There’s obviously much more to online marketing success than what’s listed here, but this checklist of quick marketing tips can still lead to substantial gains with your online marketing. Work on them now and you’ll be better prepared for success in 2009.
On a related note…
Last year at this time, I wrote a Small Business Year-End Web Site Checklist. That was about cleaning up your web site more than marketing it, but I think that list is worth adding to this post:
- Review your company information
- Review your contact information
- Review your email routing
- Review and test your contact forms
- Review your automated outgoing messages
- Test all outgoing links on your web site
- Review the hidden sections of your web site
- Review your domain record
- Do an overall review of your web site
Read the full article from last year for more information on each of those items.
Happy Holidays to you, and best wishes for a marvelous 2009!