Repeat and referral clients probably already have seen your company's Web site. If not, it's easy to send them the URL. Ditto for leads that come in thanks to other marketing methods. Either your job signs and newsletters include the Web address, or else you can provide it to the people who are interested enough to call.
If you're growing your business by looking for new sources of leads, however, keep in mind that more homeowners are making the Internet an important part of their remodeling research, maybe even the starting point.
The likely place to begin online research is at an online search engine such as Google.com, Yahoo.com, or MSN.com. Imagine a homeowner living in San Francisco who is interested in having her kitchen remodeled. She sits down to her computer and uses the Internet to get some basic information. She starts by searching for a list of companies in her area who focus on kitchen remodels. She enters the phrase "Kitchen Remodeling San Francisco" into Google.
The result is a list of San Francisco-area companies that do kitchen renovations. Being well-positioned in search engines improves the odds of your company being selected from a search results page. The higher you appear on a results list, the better your odds of being selected.
You can submit your Web site to some search engines for free. Most of the time, however, where your site turns up depends on an ever-changing set of factors: the metatags and content on your site, the number of hits your site receives, plus other factors beyond your control. It's a never-ending battle to stay on top.
All top search engines offer paid placement services, also called sponsored links, in which users essentially pay for premium search engine real estate.
Remember our San Francisco kitchen remodeling example? The results page includes sponsored links at the top and right side of the page, which are the most-read and most-clicked upon areas. In an effort to differentiate paid placement from non-paid placement, Google highlights its sponsored links with labels and different background colors (see screenshot).
The paid-for links are displayed based on a bidding system. You agree to pay for each lead you receive. An online lead is defined as a clickthrough. The user actually clicks on your sponsored link and visits your Web site. The more you bid for each lead, the higher your site is placed on the results list. Clickthrough rates for these "ads" are exceptional, and many Web users don't differentiate between paid and non-paid links.
If you think you'd like to try paid placements, you can use a third party to manage the process for you or you can do it on your own. Start by reading up on the available services. Places to start include:
You will be asked to submit your URL and enter a bid for a clickthrough price. You will also be prompted to enter key words to describe your company. In selecting these words, think about the services you offer and how potential clients may try to find you. What phrases or words would they type into a search engine to find you? Keep in mind that the order of the search phrase is important. Thus, "Kitchen Remodeling San Francisco" is different than "San Francisco Kitchen Remodeling."
Some search engines offer the ability to narrow your target market by selecting the cities in which you want your company to appear. Some offer you the ability to pay to be a sponsor, which provides you with a spot along the right-hand side of a search results page.
Clearly, there's more to Internet marketing than having a Web site.
|Dave Taraboletti is chief operating officer of Montecito Property Company. Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.|