You’ve got your place on the web. Now… how do you get people to go there? Using smart search-engine optimization (SEO) techniques, such as using common keywords, and updating your site are two good places to start.
When it was time to get a manicure in my new Manhattan neighborhood, I hopped onto my favorite search engine and typed in “nail salon” and my ’hood. Was it a coincidence that the one I chose was the first one that popped up? Probably not. More than two-thirds of online consumers use the Internet as their primary source of local business information, according to a 2007 study by comScore Networks and TMP Directional Marketing. That same study showed 60% of online searchers looking for local businesses think the top results are most relevant, and 25% don’t want to scroll down.
So are these online searchers finding you? Here’s how to make sure you’re getting the most out of your place on the web:
First thing’s first. Ask yourself what your site is supposed to do. “I am in a military-based community,” says Sheila DeLorenzo, owner of Serenity Springs Salon and Spa in Colorado Springs, Colo. “Our website has been a great tool for helping our deployed servicemen and women do great things for their loved ones.” Every page of the site mentions that gift certificates make “the perfect gift” and are available for almost any value.
What is the main thing you want site visitors to do after landing there: Buy a gift certificate? Make an appointment? Buy retail products?
Next up. See where your site is now. Really look at your site and see if it helps you sell gift certificates, get new customers, or sell products.
Take a few minutes and visit Google, Yahoo!, and MSN (the three most-popular search engines) and type in your city/neighborhood name and “nail salon.” Then use “nail spa,” “manicure,” “pedicure,” or any other items people may be using to find you. Figure out where your site is in all these searches.
Make sure you’re tracking all your website traffic, too, recommends Joseph Franklyn McElroy, a search artist at Gigapixel Creative. If you had a pro create your site, they should have helped you set up a web-tracking tool. If you did your site yourself, though, there are free and easy tools available. Sites like www.statcounter.com allow you to monitor multiple bits of information about your site: number of visitors, visitors’ location, search words that led them there, paths they took around your site, and users’ screen size.
Finally. Make necessary changes. Remember, the pace of the Internet is fast. A site that looked good two years ago may need updating today, or a site that was high in the search engines six months ago may have fallen to the bottom of the pile. Although Studio 24 SalonSpa owner Kathy Brown originally launched www.mystudio24.com when the Portage, Mich.-based business was new to the area, she knows better than to let it sit around. “We want to have the best, up-to-date information available to present our services in the most inviting way possible,” says Brown. They’ve recently hired a design and technology company to re-launch the site.
Other things you need to do now (in order of importance):
1. Make sure your salon/spa and its website are appearing in Google, Yahoo!, and MSN’s local search pages, emphasizes McElroy. These appear when consumers search for local things or if they’re searching from their mobile devices. If you’re not on these sites, sign yourself up ASAP. It’s free and easy. Just follow the directions at: > Google: http://www.google.com/local/add/businesscenter > Yahoo!: http://listings.local.yahoo.com/csubmit/index.php > MSN: https://ssl.search.live.com/listings/listingcenter.aspx
This is something anyone — even those without a website — can do!
2. Make your site is as search engine-friendly as possible. That means making sure that what you want to be known for is showing up. It also means making sure you’re checking industry-speak at the door. Yes, you may like to call yourself a “nailist” or a “nail tech,” but the word “manicurist” gets more than three times as many searches as “nail tech,” according to keyword tracker Wordtracker. “Nail salon” gets more than five times as many searches compared to “nail spa.” Think like a consumer when writing the words for your website.
You also must link to others every chance you get — and get others to link to your site. This, too, helps your credibility in the search engines’ rankings.
3. Use your traffic-stalking tool to create new, improved services. Lots of hits from people with low-level screen resolution (like 320x240) mean people are looking you up from their BlackBerry or other PDA device. Add a PDA mani to your menu — with the extra-long thumb massage and nails shaped for itty-bitty typing.
Or do you notice you’re getting a lot of hits from the office park across the street (yes, these tracking tools let you see the business names of those searching from work) but still haven’t done any services for anyone from there? Launch a targeted marketing campaign there.