FREE ONLINE LISTINGS
Submit your company to free listings sites. Most of these will require you to register with a valid email address, and some may require you to call a phone number from your company number to prove that you work there.
Well, it's free. And easy (to a point... see below). Reputable listing site results will appear in search engine results, so if someone types your company name in Google, the pages for your free listings showing your company name should appear.
Submitting your information to the "wrong" sites is a waste of time and can do more harm than good. And unless you're somewhat web savvy, you can't always tell which sites are reputable and which are not. Listing sites that get very little traffic will never show up in search engine results. And search engines may penalize your website for having links that come from non-reputable sites such as "link farms". In addition, submitting contact information to some listing sites can put you on junk mail or telemarketing lists.
Your company is appearing along with thousands of others on these free listings sites, and someone searching for the services you provide in your geographical area will see your listing as well as your competitors. If you already have a website, this is not a problem because the online listings are just a supplement to your website and you're not depending entirely on the listings.
And finally, submitting your company information to all of these listings takes time. Some are simple – just your company name and phone number. Others have lots of options and preferences and you could spend a great deal of time entering your mission statement, services, hours, payment types, photos, etc. on all of these sites. If you're lucky, the site will have an intuitive interface that's easy to use. If not, you'll end up frustrated trying to navigate the site and get your information to appear the way you want it to. Still others have lengthy and complicated verification procedures that may involve sending codes to your phone or postcards to your address.
There are services that can submit the listings for you, but many of these services are useless or, at the worst, scams (read my article entitled "Online Marketing Scams"). If a company promises to put you on 100 or more listing sites, that's a red flag. There are only 20 or so high ranking, reputable listing sites out there. You don't need to pay to get added to a bunch of other sites that nobody will ever see. And many of these listing services use an automated process that often gets your information wrong. So you may be a roofer, but you're accidentally put into a healthcare category, or your phone number is wrong, or company name is misspelled. Need to make changes? You can't, because these services won't give you your login information to make changes. You'll have to pay them to make the changes, and if they go out of business, you're out of luck. At T. Brooks Web Design, I offer an online listings service where I put you on 10 of the highest ranking, most reputable listing sites. I do this manually, so your information is correct. And I give you your usernames and passwords to all listing sites so you can make changes in the future.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are also free, and fairly easy to use. Creating accounts on social media sites is a step above free listings sites in terms of personalization and the content you can provide.
Social media is all about networking, so you can ask everyone you know (friends, family, etc.) to like, follow, repost, etc. Since many of the people you know will be from your geographical area, this increases the chances that a friend of a friend will mention your company to one of their friends.
Maintaining your social media accounts takes a good deal of time. The idea of networking is that you have to network! With free listings, generally you post your listings and then you're done. With social networking, you need to post as often as possible, at least twice a week or more.
Social media works hand in hand with a website because ultimately you want potential customers to go to your website and find out more information about your company and the services you offer. Although social media on its own is better than nothing, without a website you're going to be spending a lot of time with very little, if any, reward.
And finally, consumers don't look for local products and services on social media sites. This is why social media is used in addition to a website.
The biggest negative with using online listings and/or social media to create an online presence for your company without a website is... you don't have a website. People expect a reputable company to have a website, or it raises a red flag. They may assume that your company is unreliable, temporary, part-time, or not legitimate.
Any sized website, even one page, is better than none, as long as it's developed and designed properly. But any website at all is not necessarily better than not having a site. What that means is, an awful looking website, with misspellings and slow-loading pictures, is worse than not having a website at all. Your website reflects your company, and people will assume that you will provide them with the same level of care that you've put into your website. If your site is full of errors, how do think customers will perceive your level of work?
If you're dead set on starting out without a website, and are not computer savvy, consider having a professional online marketing firm set up your online listings and social media.