7 Questions Small Businesses Should Be Asking

Filed in Featured, MY BEST POSTS, Small Biz Marketing by Matt McGee on August 19, 2010 19 Comments

questionMost articles on SEO and marketing blogs are all about answers. This one’s all about questions — seven questions that all small business owners should be asking about their online marketing strategies, tactics, and results. If I missed an important question or two, help me make this article better by adding it in the comments.

7 Questions All Small Businesses Should Be Asking

1.) How do the search results look for my company name?

Why it matters: You may be ranking well for your main keywords, but are you ranking well for your company name? Your president’s name? Many customers will type your company name into Google and learn as much as they can before doing business with you. Reputation management is more important now than ever; one angry customer with an authoritative blog can do a lot of damage.

Recommendations:

  1. At least monthly, type your company name into Google and Bing. Weekly would be better, and do it daily if your company has a lot of visibility.
  2. Also type in the name of your company president and any other visible, public-facing employees.
  3. Set up Google Alerts, Yahoo Alerts, and/or Bing Alerts for your company name.

2.) Have I put all my marketing eggs in one basket, or am I getting traffic/sales/revenue from a variety of sources?

Why it matters: Relying on one source of traffic, customers, or whatever is dangerous. Go back and read this story of a small business owner who had to layoff staff because Google traffic dropped 50%-70%. It’s imperative to have a variety of sources that send you traffic/customers.

Recommendations:

  1. If you don’t already use PPC advertising, be smart enough about it to know how to in case the need arises.
  2. Use appropriate social media sites to develop an audience of followers/friends/etc.
  3. Don’t assume that SEO alone will always send you enough customers/traffic. Diversify.

3.) Have I claimed my local business listings?

Why it matters: Because stats suggest that consumers are increasingly using the web to find local businesses. And because local business listings are an easy way to potentially put your name in front of locals when they’re searching online. Google, Yahoo, Bing, and several other local sites/directories offer free listings for small/local businesses.

Recommendations:

  1. Claim your free business listings on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. And don’t forget about the major local directories like Yelp, Citysearch, InsiderPages, etc. You can learn more about all these in my Local Search Marketing Guide.
  2. Wherever it’s possible, build out your profile with as much business information as you can: business hours, payments accepted, parking details, directions, and so forth. Add photos and/or videos if possible.
  3. Consider attending a local search marketing workshop like GetListed Local University. The next one is in Denver on October 21, and if you use this registration code, it only costs $89. Can’t beat that.

4.) How do my reviews look on Google Maps? Yahoo? Bing? Yelp?

Why it matters: Consumers rely on reviews and ratings when making purchasing decisions. A Nielsen study last year suggested that 90% of us trust recommendations from people we know, and 70% trust recommendations posted online by total strangers (i.e., online reviews).

bad reviews

Recommendations:

  1. As with No. 1 above, make a habit to check your reviews on popular sites at least once a month. The more reviews your business gets, the more often you should monitor this.
  2. Don’t panic if you get a negative review; they can actually be good for business. The occasional negative review makes your overall “review profile” more trustworthy because it’s hard to believe that any business always provides 5-star service.

  3. If possible, respond politely and professionally to anyone leaving a negative review. Google Places recently added this capability, and businesses that have claimed their Yelp profile can also communicate with reviewers. (See that reputation management article I linked to earlier for tips on how to respond to negative reviews.)

5.) Am I using social media wisely?

Why it matters: Social media is only getting more popular, and with all segments of society. Nielsen says 75% of online consumers around the world visit social media sites/blogs, and 22% of all time online is spent on social media sites. The average visitor spends 66% more time on social media sites than they did a year ago. Done right, social media is a great way to connect with consumers.

Recommendations:

  1. If nothing else, at least claim your social media site profiles and hold them until you’re ready to use them. KnowEm is a great tool for securing your company name/accounts across multiple social networking sites.
  2. If you’re not sure which social networks are right for you, ask your customers which ones they use. Seriously. Just ask.
  3. Look for authoritative blogs in your industry. Start reading them. When you have something intelligent to say, leave comments. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a smart blog comment.
  4. If you want your blog or web site to be liked by social media crowds, be sure to take steps to make it social media-friendly and do your best to create content that gets noticed by social media users.
focus

6.) Am I focusing on metrics that matter?

Why it matters: Because it’s easy to get wrapped up in numbers that don’t matter. It’s nice to have a lot of Twitter followers or Facebook fans. It’s great to have a ton of RSS subscribers, but sometimes those numbers just don’t matter. Sure, the attention is nice. But, as Lee Odden once said, it’s “tough to pay the bills with a wallet full of famous.” The metrics that matter are the ones that drive your bottom line: leads, conversions, revenue, profits, etc.

Recommendations:

  1. Make sure you have analytics setup on your site in the first place.
  2. Put down your Google ranking reports and spend more time in your analytics data. Make sure you know how many leads/sales/revenues you’re driving from all of your efforts — SEO, PPC, social media, etc.

7.) Am I earning trust with everything I do online?

Why it matters: Because trust is the number one factor in your business’s long-term success. None of us like to do business with companies we don’t trust. But we’re all willing to spend a couple extra dollars with companies that we trust. Amazon doesn’t always have the lowest prices online, but they do have our trust. If people don’t trust you, they won’t do business with you.

Recommendations:

  1. Just one thing. Now that you’re done here, read this article: Why Trust Matters & How To Earn It. I asked three dozen of the smartest, most trustworthy marketers I know to talk about trust and they absolutely nailed it.

Your turn: What other questions should small business owners be asking about their online marketing tactics, strategies, and results?

(top image courtesy The U.S. Army via Creative Commons; final image via sxc.hu)

Comments (19)

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  1. Thanks for the mention of KnowEm, Matt!

  2. Excellent, easy to read points for the business layman. Thanks – I am going to regurgitate this on our blog!

  3. Kevin says:

    Great write up Matt. I’m a big follower of yours. Keep up the great information. I’m actually doing a webinar next week to our clients and part of what I am discussing is what you wrote.

  4. Lisa Bishop says:

    Hi there. I would add to your #2 answer simply by suggesting a listing on the city.com website. If your business is located in albany, ny … get a listing on albany.com. If your business is located in chicago, il … get a listing on chicago.com. These geodomains pack a punch when it comes to referral traffic.

  5. Jim Rudnick says:

    Spot-on, Matt! Like all 7 of them and I’m carefully monitoring #4….the Review process with respect to LOCAL! And this piece helped me focus too!
    :-)

    Jim

  6. Thanks for the emphasis on local business listings, people still aren’t regarding them as something to concentrate on. And yes, it’s true – diversify your online marketing campaign! Great post – cheers, Matt!

  7. Great tips. On #2 I think if you’re running a great business, having the local search engines could be a great way to get started with the eventual goal of having enough referrals to do well even without it.

  8. Christina says:

    what an awesome article, I have to admit, the first one strikes me, ranking on keywords but do I really know the results for my company name. Claiming local listing is another thing, it’s good I revisited your blog, I have to say, this is one of the best advice I received for the year. Thanks a lot.

  9. Keir says:

    Thanks Matt, was unaware of the Nielsen stats on levels of trust for comments posted by strangers.

    Blogs used well are an awsesome tool for small business.

    Do you ever see a time when sme’s turn their back on organic results completly and seek to build traffic networks instead through social media sites?

  10. ronika says:

    Excellent, well thought out post. Further to point # 2, some businesses benefit more than others from an online presence. As the owner of an accounting services business, I find that word of mouth has been my largest source of revenue. That being said, my website has generated business especially among younger business owners. Also, I’m having a lot of fun with my (newly created0 blog.

  11. Steve Dresel says:

    Great Tips! I have been overlooking my company name and its PR on google. Once you have quality links to your site and a high PR for keywords, dont always expect repeat viewers to use those keywords to find your site. I will continue to keep business name in mind

  12. Lily says:

    This is a great article. It’s really important to look at review websites because in many cases that’s what the person searching for your company will find first. I don’t know about the rest of you but I definitely rely on sites like Yelp! before going out to a restaurant, etc.

  13. Sam says:

    I think for #4, Soliciting revues at the point of sale goes along way to providing “social proof” of a good service. More and more businesses are including “bribes on their receipts. These types of revues are also a lot more manageable as far as content.

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