A strong Web presence is a must

Building your business: a strong Web presence is a must

Tennille M. Robinson

“HAVING A PRESENCE ONLINE IS LIKE BEING IN THE PHONE book,” says Maisha Walker. But, as with a telephone directory, not every company on the Internet is prominent enough. Many small businesses have an inadequate Web presence, says Walker, 34, president and founder of Message Medium (www.messagemedium.com), a New York-based marketing firm that helps small businesses increase exposure and profits through the Internet. For business owners, communicating the value of their products and services via the Web is vital to building customer base, bottom line, and brand awareness.

Whether a company’s Website is set up to provide information or to sell merchandise, the site must offer what Walker says is a call to action: “Make sure you clearly tell your customers what you want them to do, where you want them to click, and how to take the next step. And tell them often.”

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Common mistakes business owners make with their Websites:

Assuming cheaper is better. “A one- to two-page professional Website will usually work better for you than a 10-page site created by [someone] inexperienced,” says Walker.

Not focusing on clients’ needs. Walker recommends finding out what customers’ most pressing issues are when they visit your site and addressing those head-on.

Obsessing over search engines. “The most important ranking is when someone types your company name or your name into a search engine; you should be at or near the top of the list.” However, you should be realistic about your placement as a startup.

Not following up. Don’t let visitors leave your site without giving them a chance to be added to your mailing list.

Overspending on search engine advertising. “The key to generating revenue is choosing the right keywords–lots of them,” says Walker.

Check out these Websites for more information:

MessageMedium.com offers advice, articles, classes, and Website training for entrepreneurs.

ClickZ.com offers great articles from industry experts on a wide variety of interactive marketing topics.

SearchEngineWatch.com provides a wealth of information about getting the most out of search engines and search traffic.

For more information on building an online business, including a printable Website launch checklist, log on to www.blackenterprise.com.

Looking to build a booming Website? Here are some tips:

Informational Website: E-Commerce Website:

Your info, please: Make sure site What it takes: “Learn the features

visitors can get in touch with you and costs involved,” says Walker,

(i.e., a “Contact Us” form). in building a Website with

Prominently invite them to contact purchase capabilities. You’ll need

you for information or to offer an SSL certificate, a merchant

comments. account, shopping cart software,

and a payment gateway.

Let it flow: Avoid long blocks of Look the part: “People are still

text. “Reading on the Web is very nervous about using credit

different from reading paper,” cards over the Internet at sites

warns Walker. She recommends they don’t know,” Walker concedes.

making your text easy to scan Make sure your Website is

with the eyes. professionally designed to help

them trust you.”

What visitors want: Focus on Keep an eye on things. Analyze

addressing your customers’ your traffic statistics;

questions and needs. If necessary, understand which products buyers

trim the company’s philosophy, are most interested in and where

history, or mission statement. they fall in the ordering process.

COPYRIGHT 2007 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group