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Internet Boater Safety Course
Written By: Wendy Ogryzek, June Bachman and Teresa Mitchell ~ 11/9/2010

As a reasonable land-based human who saw Titanic a few years ago, before you left the dock you would probably run through a little boater safety checklist that the US Coast Guard provides. You might even take a boater safety training course that covered topics like inflatable rafts and surviving at sea. Here is our simplified boater safety course for small businesses who are floating aimlessly on the internet waiting for their customers to find them.

Inflatable Raft (Website)

Your small business website is your fluorescent orange inflatable life raft. You designed it, built it and launched into the ocean, the internet. It is the single most powerful marketing tool at your disposal. You knew that to compete with the big fish you needed a website. Yet perhaps what you chose to not fully understand is that having a website is not enough. Your website needs to be seaworthy and you need to take control of the paddle and propel your way to the top of the rankin gs if you truly want to compete.

Determining Your Website’s Seaworthiness

Your website is deemed seaworthy when it has a contemporary design, it is expandable as your small business needs expand, it has thoughtful content that includes video, images and keyword dense text. While template websites do give you a presence on the internet, they are generally not seaworthy enough to take you to the top of a Google, Bing or Yahoo keyword search.

Your website needs to be found by your customers. Building a Facebook fan page and linking up with Linked In and networking with Biznik are like sending up social media flares for your customers to find you. Social media sites give you added exposure in search results, give you a presence in places your customers hang out and it’s FREE!

Lost at Sea

Your website is a tiny speck floating in a sea of competition – that is, until it is optimized. If your raft, your website is lost at sea, how will your customers or the US Coast Guard find you? It’s time to chart a course!

  • Will you use your intellectual prowess and share your industry knowledge with your customers in your blog like signaling devices (mirrors, flares, international distress signals) to optimize your site organically?
  • Will you use a strobe light and pay-per click advertising?
  • How will you paddle your small business website up the search engine rankings?

There are simple, proven steps every small business owner can take to be found on the internet – refreshing text with keywords, regular blog posts with keyword rich text and tagged images, eNewsletters that share your industry knowledge with your customers . . . .

Surviving at Sea

Think of your competition on the internet as trawlers with bigger boats, better equipment, and more deck hands. If they have resources unavailable to you, you can still compete directly with them though you will need a plan to work smarter, to be increasingly strategic and to be diligent in working your small business website survival plan.

  • How often will you update your website?
  • How much time will you devote to creating fresh, original content?
  • How will you measure the success of your internet marketing plan?
  • How will you define and target your specific niche market?
  • How will you objectively critique the content of your website and that of your competition?

Think of the answers to these questions as your survival suit.

Target Market

If the internet is an ocean full of fish, which fish do you want to catch? Make time to identify who you are trying to attract to your website.

  • Who are your customers?
  • How old are they?
  • What are their goals?
  • What is their level of education?
  • What are their questions?
  • How can you solve their problems?

Social Media

You can think of social media platforms as easily accessible schools of fish. Places where you can broadcast who you are, what you do and how you can solve other fishes’ problems.

  • When will you join the biggest school of fish on the internet? Facebook has 500 million users and some of those users are your customers.
  • How will you leverage social media platforms – big schools of fish -- to build a community around your small business? Be present where your customers are present, build a Facebook Fan Page today!

We’ve had a little fun with our lost at sea metaphor. That said, it is a really good metaphor for small business websites that are either being ignored or are not making or saving you money.

Send up some social media flares, study your competition and their bigger boats, better equipment and more deck hands so you can out wit, out smart and out rank them. Set your depth finder on your niche client and target them with the right bait.


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