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Contributor : Business Development Bank of CanadaImagine you own a shoe store. It’s in a busy shopping mall and has an inviting storefront with an attractive sign and window displays.
You’re almost guaranteed traffic—and probably sales, too, if you’ve got halfway decent products and prices.
Now picture that same shoe store on an out-of-the way country road with a grimy window and a crooked sign.
It doesn’t matter how great your footwear is. You probably won’t have enough customers to stay in business.
Now ask yourself which of those two stores most resembles your company’s website. In today’s business world, your website is like your storefront. It could be the main way customers are finding you and forming an impression about you.
A properly designed site is especially important if your business is growing and you are trying to improve your profile.
But many small businesses don’t devote a lot of effort to optimizing their site to ensure it’s easily found via internet search engines and geared to help make sales.
“A well-designed site can help your company compete effectively with businesses that have deeper pockets and larger marketing budgets,” says Michel Bergeron, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Public Affairs at the Business Development Bank of Canada.
Ranking high in search engine results is vital for your visibility online, Bergeron says. People rarely venture beyond the first page of a Google search result. Indeed, research indicates that websites appearing on the first page attract 90% of the traffic.
Having a poorly optimized website can be a problem even if most of your sales don’t happen over the Internet, says Mark Evans, a leading Canadian digital marketing and startup consultant. “The Internet is the way most people discover new products and services.”
Happily, small businesses can use simple, inexpensive tools to help level the playing field with large businesses, Evans says. “A small, agile, creative company can be as effective online as a big company.”
Philip Murad has found a way to turn his website into a gold mine for his fast-growing business, Philip & Henry, which books magic shows for a network of magicians across North America.
Murad’s website accounts for three-quarters of his sales, which have been growing up to 30% annually for the past decade.
Visitors to Murad’s site are greeted with a clean, simple layout that’s easy to navigate without a lot of scrolling or clicking. The site prominently displays links allowing them to get a price quote or book a show in their area. There’s also a short YouTube video featuring happy customers, and contact information is easy to find at the top of the page.
The site also ranks phenomenally well in Google searches—showing up on the first page out of 150 million results for the term “magic shows.” A paid ad for Philip & Henry is the top result in a search for “magician.”
Murad credits years of experimentation with search engine optimization—the art of getting search engines like Google to rank your site near the top. He sprinkles his content with a few dozen keywords that describe his business and help him stand out from the competition.
He also works hard on attracting links to his site. That’s because such links are one of the main ways Google uses to determine search engine rankings. The more links to your site, the higher you’ll usually rank.
“There’s a saying: ‘Content is king and links are queen,’” Murad says. “The more people talk about you and share your content on Facebook, social sites and YouTube, the more it improves your ranking.”
All his online efforts have paid off with a payback higher than for any other kind of marketing, he says—worth up to $100 in returns for each $1 in costs for his best-yielding campaigns.
“If there was no Internet, we’d be finished. It’s huge for my business—absolutely huge.”
Do you have a business website but not sure if it’s doing your bottom line any favours? Keep these tips in mind.