Maintaining Web sites will aid in small-business growth

//July 24, 2009

Maintaining Web sites will aid in small-business growth

//July 24, 2009

Consultants say online advertising and marketing is most successfulAfter shutting down its Web site, Nonna’s Tuscan Restaurant, in Cherry Hill, found its advertising and other forms of marketing itself weren’t as successful.

When Sylvia K. Dombrowski and Lisa J. Eiler, of 7th Stream Marketing, in Haddon Township, approached the business about building a new site, restaurant manager Kathy Wise said she knew it would be a new way to reach customers.

“People don’t go to the phone book as much as they used to,” Wise said, adding that “we were bowled over by their professionalism and their creativity.”

Nonna’s now has a simple, straightforward Web site, NonnasCherryHillNJ.com, and is no longer one of the many small businesses that have been ignored on the Web.

The simple approach is advocated by Web consultants across New Jersey, who said it doesn’t take a major investment to have a successful site that will aid a business. Only 44 percent of small businesses maintain Web sites, according to research released in February by Nielsen Online and WebVisible Inc.

Bradley Giddens, owner of Stitch Marketing, in Hoboken, recommends business owners follow a simple plan in starting their site: ensure it represents their brand with specific information and without technological gimmicks, and concentrate on optimizing how search engines like Google pick up their site.

Web sites offer an excellent return on investment, while costing a fraction of many advertising budgets, Giddens said.

In addition, there are some opportunities to use social networking tools, such as “putting a promotional video on YouTube,” he said.

The hottest social network tool of the moment, Twitter, received mixed reviews from business Web consultants, with several saying it may not be worth the effort.

But if business owners do make use of social networking tools, Srinivas Patibanda, owner of ReviseSoft, in Montgomery, in Somerset County, recommends they use their own names — and be upfront about themselves and what kinds of services their business provides.

It’s far more important for small-business owners to pay attention to their sites once they are established, he said.

“Small businesses still are failing to put up Web sites that have current information and details” about their businesses, Patibanda said. Depending on the type of business, feedback forms, chat sessions and directly selling products can be helpful, he said.

Dombrowski said most businesses are well served by maintaining a single page.

And like other Web consultants, she said it is important to keep the message conveyed through an uncluttered page, allowing customers to use the Web to locate the business and to contact it.

Dombrowski added that periodically updating the page allows the site to continue to show up in Web searches.

While Dombrowski is a fan of print publications, she said a Web site can become a permanent investment.

“That digital ink is equity that lives forever,” she said.

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