Recently I had an interesting conversation with customer relationship management guru Paul Greenberg about small businesses and their lack of corporate websites. According to a recent AMI Partners study of businesses with fewer than one hundred employees, only 56% had a website. With the growing dependence on Internet search as the primary means for information discovery, I think it's important for even the smallest of businesses to have some sort of web presence. But Paul brought up an interesting point - he doesn't have a web presence (meaning no website) but he has a whole lot of presence on the web based upon the 109,000 or so links returned by Google in a search on his name.
Now not everybody has written a best selling book in their field of expertise like Paul, but he was onto something. Your business doesn't necessarily need a website to pass "The Google Test" - meaning people can find you on the web when they are looking for products or services they require which you provide. You can make your presence felt in all sorts of ways. One quick way is by reviewing popular books in your field on Amazon.com. You’d be surprised at the contacts you can make be writing thoughtful, concise reviews to important books in your industry. Another proven tactic is to write a press release for newsworthy topics and distribute them on www.prweb.com or www.prnewswire.com. If written correctly news outlets and industry websites may include your release and generate a great deal of web exposure. Participating in popular industry forums and creating a profile on business networking sites like LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) and Spoke (www.spoke.com) can definitely help. Writing articles and submitting them to extremely popular sites like Digg (www.digg.com) where users vote on which articles get posted on the front page can make you a “star” overnight. You can also submit articles to the sites below to raise your GQ (Google Quotient) dramatically:
• Ezine Articles - http://ezinearticles.com
• SearchWarp -http://searchwarp.com
• Buzzle - http://www.buzzle.com
• IdeaMarketers - http://www.ideamarketers.com
• eBooks N’ Bytes - http://www.ebooksnbytes.com
• Article Central - http://thewhir.com/find/articlecentral/
These are all great ways to gain a degree of prominence on the web, but I believe the best way to begin building your presence on the web is to use a service like TypePad (www.typepad.com) or Blogger (www.blogger.com) to blog about what's going on in your industry and share your experience and knowledge. Because of the ease of getting started and adding new entries, you may even find using your blog as your corporate website will work for a while. Blogs really make sense if you are a consultant or need to bill yourself as a subject matter expert. There are even tools and services like Blurb (www.blurb.com) that make it possible to turn your blog into an actual printed book. Use free services like Slideshare (www.slideshare.net) and YouTube (www.youtube.com) to easily add slide presentations and video to your blog to create compelling content. And if you have enough of the right people commenting and linking to your blog, nothing can be better in terms of branding.
Blogs are great, but at some point you will probably need a fully functionalized corporate website to create a grander image for your company and to transact business. And nowadays it's easier than ever to do this. So I think Paul and I are both right. You will need both a web presence, and presence on the web to really make some headway. After all when it comes to the web, it's not just who you know, but who knows you AND what they know about you that makes the difference.