Time and money are two things, none of us, especially business owners, can afford to waste. But after consulting with hundreds of businesses, I have found enormous amounts of time and money wasted which erodes productivity (usually of their best employees), and adversely affects their bottom which limits the possibility of future growth.
I have defined the Top 3 Reasons Most Business Owners Fail Online to help businesses avoid these common mistakes. This information is really tailored to brick-and-mortar “offline” businesses, but can be applied to online businesses, too.
Before you start creating a website, the goal must be defined and the competitive landscape analyzed. It is critical you know what needs to be done to achieve your goal in terms of website site, SEO, link building and social media.
Many businesses feel they need a website but are not quite sure what to expect. The website gets created so their customers can see they are online, but without a roadmap or plan, the goal is never achieved.
For example, let’s say you have a pool service company (or alarm monitoring, IT support, etc.) with 70 clients that pay you for a weekly or monthly service. Your goal is to build the business to a point where you can retire someday, and you and your accountant figured your business needs to be three times as big. So our goal for the first year is to double the business, or gain 70 new clients in one year. Once a prospect calls, you know you have a 30% conversion rate, so you need 210 prospects to call you. But the business is seasonal so we only have 7 months or 140 work days, so you need 1.5 good qualified leads to call you per day. Now we know what needs to be done, and we track and measure our progress based on the roadmap we created and make adjustments as necessary.
Businesses often pay thousands of dollars for website that looks good, has their branding, logo, phone number, email address and maybe a contact form, and even some good content and a strong call to action. Most would think they are done. After all, the website designer said it was SEO optimized. What more could possibly be needed?
No offense intended, but I have yet to meet a website designer who was proficient at optimizing a site for the search engines. In my experience, website designers are creative people who make beautiful graphics, appealing layouts and have the technical skills to but it all in a website format. But SEO requires data and detailed analysis, things not very interesting to the more creative mind.
The result is your website is online, but you guessed at the target keywords (instead of using data to choose the keywords) and really don’t know if that keyword is far too competitive or if anyone is really searching for that particular term or phrase. And nobody is tracking the website statistics to determine how visitors found your site and then using that information to make adjustments. It is just a website on the internet.
To have a presence online means when someone types a phrase into Google that is relevant to you business, you are the first, or at least one of the top listings, in the “natural” search area of the search engine results page. Basically, this is the area where listings are shown, not ads or paid listings.
To get that top listing requires not only on-site SEO, but also off-site SEO which includes other sites linking to your site, geo-targeting with Google Places, and social media sites. For more, see our blog post on advanced integrated marketing here. Here again, the road map comes into play. We need to know what kind and how much off-site SEO is needed to rank higher than the competition for your targeted keyword. Without all of this information, you may as well be shooting in the dark.
Spending advertising dollars in the wrong places is not only a waste of money, but it is also a huge waste of time since it can take months before you realize your mistake. Those months could have been spent on effective online promotion. Signing a contract guarantees you will spend your money in the wrong place for a long time and allows your competitors to gain an advantage in the market.
Offline directories, such as the phone book yellow pages, are all but dead. Almost everyone searches online when looking for just about anything. So the phone books have moved online. Listings here mostly result in solicitations from other businesses. I’ve conducted informal surveys and have yet to meet anyone that went to an online phone book to search for a business. To make matters worse, the phone book listings generally are not shown in the search engine results.
Lead providers for service companies often provide the same lead to multiple businesses. Business owners have told me the quality of their leads has deteriorated over time, but the quality of leads to their own sites have increased dramatically. There was a time when these companies provided an invaluable service, but it seems their time has passed.
Local online directories can be tempting to a local business owner. It seems like being in a local directory would eliminate the need for SEO, social media and the rest since the local directory will create plenty of exposure to your target market, right? The truth is local directories pose no competition to a company with a goal, a road map, a plan that is being executed. A local directory listing is along side all the other local companies, and more importantly, nobody uses local online directories.
Here is the market share for the popular search engines according to hitwise.com. It equals nearly 100%, meaning local directories are largely ignored.
- Google.com 72%
- Yahoo.com 14.96%
- Bing.com 9.43%
- Ask.com 2.18%
If your company is in a local directory, the listing for your company, and not your competitors, would have to show up in the search engines and rank higher than a highly optimized website. This rarely, if ever happens. Signing a long term contract for thousands of dollars with a local directory is one of the biggest wastes of time and money a local business owner could make.
To summarize, businesses that are successful online have a clear roadmap, we call it the Market Research Report, an online presence that includes effective SEO and Social Media marketing, and spend their marketing dollars where the ROI can be measured, adjustments can be made, all without expensive long term contracts.