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Effective online marketing techniques by business type.

Online marketing is a critical component of making your business successful in this day and age where 97% of internet-connected consumers go online to research services and products. But with so many ways to market yourself online, you may be suffering from analysis paralysis… so to get you started, here is the top action item I recommend depending on your type of business.

If you’re a local business and you see your customers face-to-face, either when they walk into your location, or because you go and see them at theirs, the #1 thing to do is take control over your listing in online directories. That means claiming your Local listing with all the big search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. Once you’ve claimed your listing, here are the top things you should do:

  • Pick the business category closest to what you do. If they don’t provide exactly the category you wanted, just pick the one that is closest rather than creating a new one. That’s because a custom category may not be part of the search algorithm or site navigation so while it may seem more relevant, you may end up not getting found at all.
  • Fill out your profile as completely as possible and include the services you provide or the brands your store carries.
  • Include images and videos to make your business look its best.

If you’re a service business, reviews will play a significant role in the decision-making process for consumers. Make sure you know where your business is getting reviewed and monitor these sites regularly so you can respond when there is a new review.

  • When there’s a happy review, acknowledge it and say thanks.
  • When there’s a negative review, apologize and offer to make it right… the author of the review may even replace their unhappy review with a positive one.

If you are a pure-play online business, building a great website with lots of useful content should be your top priority so you can get a high ranking in the search engines. There are many straightforward best practices that make your site easier to index by the search engines, so make sure you’re doing at least the following:

  • Give every page a useful and unique title and meta description since this is what Google uses when they show your website in the search results. Do a search on Google for (where you replace with your website address) and see what the results look like. If the titles and descriptions don’t look great, go and update your page titles and meta description tags.
  • Make sure that and are seen as one and the same website, otherwise you’re splitting your ranking between the two. A simple 301 permanent redirect from one site to the other takes care of this. Do a search for “301 redirect” in your hosting company’s help center to look up how to do this.
  • Make it easy for people to share your content on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ by adding social sharing buttons on every page. The easier it is for users to recommend your content to their friends, the more referrals you may get.

Frederick (“Fred”) Vallaeys joined Google in 2002 to help AdWords grow into a leading online marketing platform and he served as the AdWords Evangelist until 2012. Now he runs his own marketing business, Top Tier, to make online marketing more accessible to small businesses through education, tools and services. He speaks at numerous events, including the annual America’s SBDC conference, helping companies get their business online and grow through online marketing and technology. Follow Frederick on Twitter and Facebook.

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