Tips for Making Your Storefront More Visible Online
Being found on the web is a whole different problem from being found physically. A physical storefront depends on things like curb appeal and location. But what happens when your location is the amorphous web, and being found means manipulating several variables that all have to work together so prospects can find you?
Online retailers have to be experts in far more than just the merchandise they're selling. They need to be connoisseurs of search engine optimization, application programming interfaces, marketing and website performance monitoring. So what does it mean to get "on the map" in cyberspace, and how do you stay there? Here are three areas where you want to focus your efforts:
1. Search engines: Your most important challenge online is to be found by search engines. Consumers initiate the search, but they aren't really the ones finding you; you need to cater to the search engines so your storefront can be seen by consumers. The best way to do that is to adopt a robust SEO strategy and stay current with changing SEO algorithms. Know thy keywords and make sure your website draws people in who search for those keywords.
2. Online maps: If your website is a complement to a physical storefront, make sure that visitors can find you physically, even if you have an online shopping cart. Despite the increase in e-commerce sales, the majority of shoppers purchase in a physical store. Depending on what you sell, you may find that your online storefront helps consumers decide, but they still want to come to your physical store to close the deal. Make sure your storefront address is clearly visible on your website so map sites can find you. Some map sites (e.g., MapQuest) allow you to enter your business in their directory, which ensures that you'll be referenced when someone looks for you.
3. Smartphone applications: There's nothing more powerful than having someone find you online while right in your backyard. That's the power of apps like foursquare and Yelp, which can put your company name and info in front of someone while they're within easy reach of your storefront. It's the perfect blend of online and physical, allowing you to promote your business immediately and directly, then interact personally with the customer and close the sale.
So, you've done all the right things to be found … now what?
The web isn't a static environment. It's important to monitor your site to make sure that the hard work you've done to make yourself visible isn't undone. Setting up monitors in your production environment lets you keep an eye on the most important aspects of your site, like how easily your information can be found. If you've registered your business on Yelp, for example, you should set up an API Monitor to send your business name into Yelp's API and make sure your business page comes back successfully. Likewise, pick your most relevant keyword and send that into Google's search API to make sure your website's homepage is returned as part of the search results.
You can even use a recording tool to conduct a product search on your site, then use the recording as a production site monitor. This ensures that visitors to your site can do the most important activity on it — namely, find what they're looking for and purchase it.
Lorinda Brandon is the technical evangelist at SmartBear Software, a software company that provides tools for software developers, quality assurance engineers and IT professionals. Lorinda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.