Twenty years and a few generations ago, people had very few places to go to find someone to fix their roof or patch a leaking pipe in their basement. The options were either a newspaper or the phone book. If you owned a business, you might get fancy and run ads on the local television or radio show, and people would know your name and where to find you. But those options just don’t work anymore (unless your target market is over 60).
Some of the “Greatest Generation” is still using those search methods, but most of the world is now using online search engines to find service providers and products. If you’re one who searches online, you’re who I’m talking about. If you want new music, you aren’t going to the phone book to find a record store. You’re going to Amazon or eBay or one of a million different websites. If you have a problem you need solved “NOW,” you aren’t waiting for tomorrow’s paper to be delivered to possibly find an ad for a plumber. You are visiting Google ® or Yahoo ® to find someone immediately.
That’s great for the consumer, but what about you, the small business owner? If you are paying for that phone book ad and running a weekly special in the local paper, you probably aren’t getting a lot of results. People may look in the paper for a used car or real estate advertisements, but they don’t look there to find plumbers, roofers or washing machine repair people. If they need a fast fix, the internet — and more specifically search engines — are the service provider of choice.
So you jump into the fray. You find someone who can build you a nice website, you tell them all the bells and whistles that you want, and they build a lovely platform that represents all that is good in the world.
But this is no “Field of Dreams.” This is real life. If you build it, they won’t come unless someone holds up a huge sign pointing to your location. In real life, you might get a billboard announcing the grand opening of “Rob’s Rake Store” or whatever, and people driving by might see it and pay you a visit.
On the internet, the billboard is mostly internal to your site. You may have heard the term “SEO” (search engine optimization) and wondered what that was about. Or you might have been told at a party “You need keywords. That’s what will drive the traffic,” or “Links, lots of links, that’s the ticket.”
Those are all partially true. You would be wise to investigate all of those avenues, because this isn’t 1950, and no one is going to the phone book to find your business.