7 ways to promote your local business

"Patience, my young padawan!"
“Patience you must have, my young padawan!”*

Small business owners who contact me about creating or updating their website often ask, “Can you get my site on the first page of Google results?”

Business owners often get so focused on the supposed holy grail of “first page Google results” that they forget the purpose of Google results: to get more traffic to their website. So, even though my answer to the above question is “no” (and here’s why), this is no reason to despair. Here are a number of things any small business owner can do for free or minimal cost to get more traffic to their website — which is the real thing they’re after:

Connect with local bloggers. Look for bloggers who are already placing high in search results related to your business and area, and consider how you might partner with them. Offer your product or service for them to feature in a giveaway, or offer to contribute a guest post (IF your writing skills are up to the task).

Get your business on the map. Be sure to claim your business in online directories such as Google+ BusinessYelp and Yahoo. Free listings are available for all three. (Source: Biz Journals)

Get your website listed in specialty directories. Many business and industry associations allow you to list your business on their Web site. In addition, there are individuals who maintain popular lists of resources; use Web search engines to find these lists, and then create an entry for your business. (Source: Verio)

Sponsor an event. Look for charity events in your area, and inquire how to be a sponsor in said event. Ask if sponsorship includes a link from their website. You’ll get exposure to a larger, more diverse audience — and exposure that puts you in a positive light.  (Source: Chron)

Speak up! Organizations are often looking for qualified, subject-matter experts who can present to their groups. Take a deep breath and volunteer. You don’t have to be a pro at speaking, as long as the information you share is helpful to the audience. And it gets easier the more you do it. Plus, it positions you as a credible authority in your field.

Freebies of your product or service. Give a free trial or sample. People are usually more comfortable purchasing something they’ve been able to experience first, at little or no cost to themselves. But use this option with caution: you don’t want to create an audience who doesn’t value what you offer at regular price because it’s so often discounted.

Encourage your happy customers to be walking ads. Give away t-shirts that promote your brand, but are also cool, humorous, or unique. (Just slapping your logo on a shirt? Doesn’t qualify as cool.) Also, reward word-of-mouth by giving a substantial thank-you to those who bring a friend: a gift card to a local restaurant or coffee shop; home-baked cookies; or even just a sincere, handwritten thank-you note. That’s pretty rare, these days, and may help your happy customer connect with you even more.

*One last caveat: Patience you must have, young padawan. Don’t fall prey to the thinking that you have to find THE ONE thing that will drive immediate, impressive amounts of web traffic your way. View promotion as an ongoing endeavor, made up of various strategic elements, and you can expect to see results add up — snowball, if you will — over time.

And time is one of Google’s algorithm factors — the one that absolutely can’t be faked.

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Image use based on advice here and here.

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