Jump Starting a Small Business Presence Online

The traffic statistics page for Robert’s new small business web site starts to load. He scrolls down the page, dismayed. Just one or two visitors daily. Robert sits back and sighs. Most were probably curious friends and family.

When his internet-savvy nephew suggested promoting his small business on the Internet, Robert designed a simple but attractive five-page small business web site. He added meta-tags and keywords, and waited for the search engines.

Robert wonders, “What now?”

Robert’s experience is common among small businesses getting started on the Internet. He has just faced the first big lesson for a small business web site: the web site is not enough. Unlike the weekly advertisement Robert places in the local paper, he needs to promote the web site itself. In a sense, he needs to advertise the advertisement.

What Robert doesn’t realize is that he already has the most valuable asset a small business can leverage online — knowledge and experience. Anyone who runs a small business off-line is an expert on something that other people would like to know about. Writing articles can turn that knowledge into targeted traffic. Article writing is the ideal free method for a small business to promote itself on the Internet.

Every small business has expertise it can share in 500-1,000 word bites. A landscaper could write about the uses for different kinds of turf grass. A window installer can describe new types of energy-efficient windows. A home cleaning service can provide cleaning tips.

Customers ask Robert five questions repeatedly. He can easily write five simple articles to answer them. Then, he just needs to add a “resource box” which advertises and links to his web site.

Robert can also include a few of his web site’s keywords in each article, and, if possible, in his resource box. Robert’s business depends on local customers. Including his city’s name in anecdotes within the articles, or in the resource box, can help his articles to appear in local searches for that city.

Robert would start by uploading his article to a new web page. This gives visitors more to read — and starts to establish Robert as an expert. More importantly, the article becomes “spider bait” for the content-loving search engines to find and index.

He could stop there, but his new article gives him a more valuable opportunity to promote his site.

Next, Robert can offer his article to other web sites. Most article directories accept submissions of articles. They offer those articles for others to use in newsletters or on web sites. A quick search for “article directory” will yield a sizable list of sites that accept article submissions.

Prepared, with a simple text file ready to copy and paste, it takes just minutes to submit an article to an article directory site. Once posted, the article provides a link to Robert’s site. Other webmasters may reprint his article, also linking to his site.

Article marketing is viral, multiplying the links — and visitors — to the author’s site each time an article is republished. Just one popular article can attract a growing number of information-hungry visitors as the article spreads across the Internet.

Many article directories also include new articles in RSS feeds and e-mail announcements to their lists. Robert doesn’t even need his own e-mail list or feed to advertise his web site to readers of his article.

Finally, if Robert has more time, he can search for “ezine directories” to find newsletters that accept articles and offer his article directly to them. If he is willing to spend some money, he could use article submission services.

Over time, the growing number of links to a web site can improve its “link popularity” and Page Rank. As the site rises in the search engine rankings, it attracts even more visitors.

Articles spread those all-important links across the Internet without the tedious process of sending out link exchange requests (often declined or ignored). Better still, webmasters who reprint articles rarely ask for reciprocal links back to their own sites.

The benefit of writing an article builds over time, yet articles require no ongoing maintenance once they are written and submitted. Other options like newsletters, blogs, and forums can demand more upkeep than a small business can afford.

Best of all, articles can remain up on web sites indefinitely, driving free traffic immediately — and long-term. Most other kinds of advertising stay posted only as long as they are paid for. An article’s “views,” “reprints,” and “click-throughs” can increase — without increasing advertising costs.

Writing articles is a powerful way to leverage a small business’ expertise, transforming it into traffic. The currency of the Internet, information, makes advertising a small business web site affordable. Promoting with articles can jump-start the online presence of a small business and continue to market it for a long time to come.

(c) 2006 Wendy MakiMay be reprinted in email newsletters and on web sites. Must be unedited and include the resource box. All other rights reserved.