Bringing Your Web Presence Out Of The Past
Do you have a website? Of course you do. We all went to that distributor training back in 2003, and signed up to have them put up a website for a $500 fee. Of course, that website featured their products rather than our services, and it looked just like the website the distributor made for 12 other contractors in our county, but we felt better because we were “on the web.” We’d made it to the 21st century, right?
Flash forward to a world dominated by iPhone searches, Yelp anonymous reviews, social media, and a host of other players that didn’t exist when George W. Bush was President. The internet evolves quickly, and we need to try and keep up, or we risk the fate of the dinosaurs. So how do we stay on top of the latest trends?
My advice is to hire a professional. Most of us can’t afford the overhead of a full-time tech guru, but there are plenty of talented freelancers out there who can help you out. Visit some websites of local companies (not necessarily those in the HVAC industry), perhaps some auto repair shops, florists, restaurants, or others who rely on local homeowners for customers. If one of their websites catches your eye, call them to find out who they worked with. Interview a few designers by phone, and see if they might fit your needs.
Questions you can ask them:
Do you recommend WordPress? WordPress is a tool used by millions of websites, from goth teenagers to CNN to ACCA. It’s easy for you to update yourself, which is vital today. Pages need fresh content to score well in searches, so adding your latest customer testimonial or community service award is easy with WordPress.
What’s the difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)? SEO is the art of making your page score well in Google’s “Organic Search;” that’s the free listings that show up on a Google Search. SEM is paid advertising, the stuff that makes Google rich. You can do your own SEM using Google Adwords, or you can hire a provider to do it for you.
Will you manage my company Facebook page and Twitter feed? Facebook is the number one use of internet today; many people spend hours a day there, and others sneak a peek every 15 minutes or so. Twitter also has billions of users, and your “tweets” can reach thousands at no cost to you. But while these don’t cost much money for a presence, they are huge investments in time; time you probably don’t have.
What do I do about that nasty Yelp! review? Managing review sites is another headache. But as more and more people turn to Yelp, Angie’s List, or the like; an ugly posting there can damage your reputation for months
without you even being aware of it. Even worse than you ignoring a review is your bad-tempered reply. We all know that charm and a cool head are called for. If that’s not you, find someone who fits the bill and have them keep an eye on this for your company.
What’s “pinterest?” Why should I care? Pinterest is the latest and hottest social media website. It’s visual (people “pin” their favorite photos, either personal or found on the web), and it has a strong appeal with women. Have you been looking for a showcase for your work? It’s right here!
If there’s a bright side to all this, it’s that the old days of Yellow Page dependence are gone for good. Many companies have left the directories entirely, though I believe there are enough older customers who still grab the phone book that keeping a presence makes sense. One warning; don’t buy into their “integrated” plans, combining print directories with their online offerings. Yellowpages.com and yp.com get less than 1 percent of the traffic that Google sees. Your marketing dollars deserve a better home.
In short, the best way to make sure your internet presence is strong, fresh, and working hard for you is to find someone who thrives on all that upheaval and innovation. Find a few local professionals, look at their portfolio of work, and ask them some of the “hard” questions above. If they know their stuff (and their price is right ), you have your solution.
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