Many of us would love to be invisible from time to time, but not so much when it comes to our online presence. And yet, finding that your website is invisible is a pretty common experience for small businesses.

You built a website, you got it hosted, and maybe you even used a pretty template. That’s a great start, but if you want your website to really work for your business, you need to make sure your potential customers can find it.

Ask your customers
Ask the next ten customers you talk to whether they know you have a website. If they say no, take a look around – is your website’s URL listed on your receipts, your invoices, your business card, your stationery, your posters? Is it listed on your coupons, newspaper ads, your yellow pages listing? If you’re wondering why you should bother telling current customers about your website, consider that these are your best sources for referrals. These days, when someone you know refers you to a business, if you’re like most people, the first thing you do is take a look at the website. If your current customers don’t know you have a website, they can’t offer that information to other prospects.

Use technology
There’s a lot of free technology out there to help you target the keywords, search patterns, and related websites that your potential customers are already using. Save time, energy and money by focusing your efforts on real prospects, and not just on getting more uninterested visitors.

  • Google Analytics is a free tool that helps you track the traffic, most popular content, and traffic sources for every page of your website.
  • Google also offers a free keyword search tool that will help you pinpoint keywords related to your existing website pages.
  • Target pay-per-click ads to websites your potential customers are already visiting. Internet marketing doesn’t have to be hard. For example, if you’re a hardware store, your customers may also be looking at do-it-yourself websites. Think in terms of the customer’s overall needs, rather than what you sell.
  • Your domain name can be an asset in and of itself, either as something memorable ( capitalizes on the host’s fame and persona), or generic ( gets a lot of traffic just with its name), or specific ( is a website for a utility company in Berkshire County, Massachusetts).

Local search
A decade or two ago, you could be assured that any local customers looking for your type of business would turn first to the yellow pages in their printed phone book. Today, they are much more likely to turn to a search engine. If you do business directly with local customers in a physical location, local search will be important. At the very least, your website needs to include your name and some way to contact you – a physical address, a phone number, email address, hours of operation, whatever is most relevant to your customers.

John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing, has a great blog post about getting your website ready for local search. His tips include customizing the page titles with local information (“YOURFIRMNAME Kansas City’s oldest bakery”), and using local terms in your internal links (links between pages on your website). Read the full post: Is Your Website Ready for Local Search Engine Traffic?

Keep it fresh
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a whole art unto itself, but if you want your website to appear within the first page of results for a particular query, adding fresh content to your website will help your rankings. Put a weekly or monthly to-do on your marketing list to write a new helpful tip for your customers, and post it on your website. You can archive these on the site to increase the information available, or keep them in rotation for seasonal variation, depending on your type of business. For example, a bakery might feature a recipe of the month using seasonal ingredients, or a retail clothing store could post a fashion advice article on pairing accessories. If you own a business, you have something to say – put it on your website!

Do something unexpected
This option is not for everyone, but if you have the creativity and the relevance, try offering something unexpected.

This may all sound like a lot of work, but you can take it a little bit at a time. Building up your website presence is not a one-time thing, but a steady effort that should be on your marketing list every month. Take a cue from another superhero, The Green Lantern, and know that with willpower and the right tools, you can do anything.

Sara Prentice Manela