Running a web-based business has many significant advantages over a brick and mortar shop, but it’s not, as many suspect, the holy grail of business success. Brick and mortar stores have been around for millennia vs. an online market place which is barely over a decade old. Unfortunately, many online businesses plunge ahead in the new young digital marketplace without first realizing that the old brick and mortars might have some wisdom to dispense regarding being successful.
I don’t run a brick and mortar shop so my knowledge there is extremely limited. But after helping businesses succeed online for almost a decade I’ve seen a thing or two that I think is relevant to how online businesses operate online.
Achieving top search engine placement is the B&M (brick and mortar) equivalent of choosing your store’s location. We’ve all heard it, when setting up your store, location is everything: location, location, location. Unlike B&Ms, however, websites can’t just buy or rent their location on the organic search results. When you set up a B&M, you can choose your location based on the demographics of the area and your customer. You obviously want to go where your target audience is most likely to shop.
This is similar to the process of keyword research and selection. You want to choose the keywords that your target audience is using in the search results, in hopes that you can achieve the top search engine rankings for those phrases. Unlike B&Ms however, knowing where your target demographic shops (or searches), you can’t just sign a lease agreement and start getting foot traffic. Search engine optimization is a long-term process that requires you to finesse and “earn” your way into the prime locations, i.e. top rankings for your targeted keyword phrases.
Once you’re there, great! But is that enough?
The answer to that is a solid “maybe.” The reality is that it may be enough for you to reach your goals, increase sales, and maybe even put you on the fast track to a new level of stress, if you don’t operate your business properly; but at the same time, it might be considerably less than the even greater level of success that you can still achieve.
Many B&Ms operate their stores in prime locations. Maybe they are next to the new Super Wal-Mart or located right off the freeway or next to the movie theater. You get the picture; setting up your business next to a prime high-traffic area can be wondrous for your business. But while many of these B&Ms could sit back and operate a profit solely on the foot traffic they receive due to their location, you’ll notice that quite often they take the next logical step in growing their business: Advertising.
Even businesses with a prime location are seen advertising on the TV, radio, billboards and newspapers. You might even notice some that advertise in other stores with coupons and discount fliers. All this is aimed for the goal of bringing in even more traffic than the location itself allows. And it’s good business sense that many online business owners forget about.
While location has its benefits, as do top search engine rankings, it’s not always feasible for a B&M to get the ideal location. The same is true for online stores always being able to achieve top 3 positions for their targeted keyword phrases, regardless of how skilled their SEO is. (Face it, if you get five highly skilled SEOs all targeting the top three positions, two are going to lose.)
So what does this mean for the web-based business? Simple: good marketing employs more than one avenue for achieving success. Don’t rely completely on your location. Especially newer businesses because 1) you won’t get those top positions for many months, and 2) top positions can be lost overnight with a dramatic algorithm change (even if just temporarily). These are the things that online businesses often have to fight against.
Expanding your marketing efforts to include many of the same avenues employed by the B&Ms is a start. Web based businesses can also employ pay per click (PPC) marketing campaigns to achieve visibility in those high-traffic keyword targeted areas. Also, similarly to off-line businesses, you can establish strategic partnerships with other online businesses. This can be done via customer referral deals, affiliate partnerships or giving each other a plug in the form of a quality link.
While location is important, and it certainly helps improve the odds of success, I’ve seen many businesses in great locations still go under. There is more to success than location, location, location. While SEO will help you get that better location, don’t neglect other important avenues of marketing that might tip the scales toward even greater online success.