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Growing a Business Online

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Growing a Business Online

By Karen Mills, Former SBA Administrator
Published: January 10, 2011 Updated: May 16, 2011

Part of the reason we rolled out the new SBA.gov and our new SBA social media tools is that we know that small business owners themselves are going online in order to grow their business. These days, a strong online presence is a “must,” even for the smallest shops on Main Street.

That’s why SBA recently partnered with Google to put more online tools in the hands of small business owners.

In fact, one-fifth of Google searches are related to location. That means people often go to their computer or smartphone first when making decisions about where to go, what to do, and which products and services to buy.

With that in mind, we rolled out a series of tutorials, video testimonials, and tips from savvy small business people who have used the web to become more efficient, more cost-effective, and more successful. Here’s the Tools for Online Success site, and I’m embedding the first testimonial, which is about a salon that needed to take the first step to establish their presence online:

I’ll leave you with four quick tips for small business owners looking to leverage the web:

  • Establish your online presence. Most local online listings like Yelp and Google Places are free. If your business doesn’t have a website, there are ready-made templates and free hosting services that make establishing an online presence easy.

  • Use free marketing to reach customers. You can build a fan base with free services like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter that keep your customers in-the-know about new products, specials, and promotions. This is the modern day version of “word-of-mouth.”

  • Know your customers. Easy-to-use analytics tools can tell you a lot about why people go to your website and which of your web pages they like the most. This can help you make smart decisions about what you feature on your site and which search terms you should emphasize if and when you buy online ads.

  • Keep an eye on the latest trends. The growing popularity of smartphones means that more and more customers are searching for local information on-the-go. It’s important that your online presence is accurate and up-to-date. You can give users driving directions and even post digital coupons.

We at the SBA look forward to growing our own online presence as you grow yours.

About the Author:

Karen Mills

Former SBA Administrator

Karen Gordon Mills is the Former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA helps both Main Street and high-growth small businesses get access to capital, counseling, federal contracts, disaster assistance and more.

Comments:

It's never easy to drive traffic to your website, which is my preferred method of growing my online business. I try to post regular blog updates that people might find interesting to read but I'm yet to reach my desired level of clients through this method. Any other ideas?
I'm just starting out with my online accounting business but I have already had some success with Twitter which helped me build a community of business owners who could be potential customers. You have to commit the time needed to be active on Twitter and other social networks but it can pay off in the long run.
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Nice!! Great Ifo. Great People. Great Blog. Thank you for all the great sharing that is being done here.
Panda changed the rules for local businesses. Some of our keyword terms jumped after Panda and some dropped. What most people don't realize is the old rules just don't work any longer. Two big things happened to change this: The sheer number of pages on the web and technology advances in local search. Never forget each search is worth 70-cents to Google and in the time it takes you to read this, Google will have made a few million dollars. They average $500-million each day! One of our state level pages that decreased after panda was Texas Department of Public Service. We realized it was because our competitors pages had more local search terms. We can fix that by adding content with those terms. States that did better in local searches were Arizona DMV and North Carolina DMV. We think they did better because competitors spammed Google with junk pages. Those junk pages worked against them with Panda. Local businesses don't need to get intimidated because monster competitors have 20,000 pages in the Google index. These pages did well even though the site has less than 200 pages in Google! Remember, it is all about useful content!
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SBA.gov has given more than enough information I need for my business. It also increase my online presence thus I was able to rank well on search engines. Tips and guides given was so useful, where in fact it helped my discover new stuffs, like cloud computing and cold calling and many more! Small online businesses like mine was very benefit and very thankful to SBA. Apartment for Rent in the Philippines
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I started out with a blog, using my ISP provider several years ago. The web space was included in my subscription. I can purchase more space. I created several websites with Google Sites which Google doesn't charge for small companies. One of the Google Sites is a literary promotional site, and you can visit it at: http://www.sites.google.com/site/sublimeflashfiction/. I have several videos on the site of me reading my poetry. I'm thinking of starting a site inwhich I will sell computers. I haven't decided whether I will use Google Sites or some other host. I don't charge for any of my services currently on the internet. I will charge for computers on whatever site I build, but I anticipate continuing to maintain my other websites. Matt West Boston, Mass. Maven West Computer and Marketing Company

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