By Jill Nagy
Companies that want search engines to notice their website should be sure it is included in local business listings, using the same language every time, advised Frank Davis, owner of Media Pillars, an e-commerce service provider in Saratoga Springs.
“I live inside Google,” he said, but admitted that the selection algorithm is not a secret.
James Curley of Mountain Media in Saratoga Springs emphasized the need to make websites “search-engine friendly.” He said compliance with security standards. One of the services Mountain Media provides is hosting websites that are compliant with the security standards of major credit card companies.
The compliant website hosting appears to have been successful. His company has been hosting websites for 20 years and they currently have about 200 clients. So far, no one has been hacked, he said. Security is not a concern looking forward, he said. But innovation and changing devices are the big issues.
Once a website is contacted, it is important to have a live person ready to follow up, Liza Viana, CEO of CMK Marketing in Clifton Park, said. The website can be “a living, breathing sales-generation tool,” she said. One way to keep it living and breathing, she advised, is to constantly update it.
“You have to add fresh content in order to attract Google, Bing and the others,” she said.
Viana said a website should be only one tool in a company’s online marketing strategy. Social media is at least equally important. She particularly recommended advertising on Facebook as an effective and relatively low-cost option. Social media allows a company to “hone in on who may be the warmest audience for your product.”
If this sounds like a lot of time and work for someone trying to run a business, it is, but any of these companies can do it or teach a business how to do it effectively. “A lot of people who do it themselves, don’t do it well,” Viana said. But her company can train the company’s employees, and “set them up for success on their own.”
E-commerce service providers perform a variety of services. Mountain Media, for example, builds websites, provides a platform to host them, and provides custom graphic design. They also provide what Curley calls “responsive web design,” a design that adapts to the different sizes and shapes of different devices.
Google prefers one address for a given page and content that adapts to mobile devices, tablets, desktops or other platforms. The company also provides web payment software similar to PayPal but at half the cost, Curley said.
Davis advises different strategies for brick-and-mortar stores, trying to attract local traffic and companies that sell online and seek a national clientele. For a local business, he said local business listings, “the more the better,” are critical. Old strategies of opening a store, placing an ad in the local newspaper, and then waiting for customers to arrive are now “null and void.”
His approach is typical. First, someone from Media Pillars will take some time to evaluate the current status of a business. Then, they can advise them of the “building blocks of what they have to do.” Generally, the first step is to develop a website. Then, they develop a campaign using social media. What clients do themselves and what they hire the service provider to do for them depends largely on the size of their budget.
Once things are up and running, Davis said it is critical to check the various outlets and respond to reviews and comments. “A lot of companies spend a ton of money on a website and social media and then don’t look at or answer their reviews,” he noted.
Viana said it is important to be responsive to people who come to a website or media listing. It can be time-consuming, she admitted, until the ads are set up and the target audience is identified. After that, “it can run on autopilot,” but it is still important to check on things from time to time.