Last Updated Nov 23, 2010 3:30 PM EST
Whether or not your stock in trade is in the e-commerce realm, the first impression your company makes on customers is typically online. Brick and mortar businesses ignore their web presence at their own peril, since customers often shop for products or services online using Google, and then hop in the car based on what they see online. So how do you make sure that you're leveraging your website to its full marketing potential? Jim Elliston, the co-founder of Clover, a web design platform that enables small businesses to create and manage their own websites, recently shared five tips for increasing web traffic and converting viewers into foot traffic.Create a clean website. "People make the mistake of trying to say ten things on their home page when you really only need to say one," says Elliston. "If you're a retailer, you want traffic at your store, and if you're a contractor, you want to get a bid." So identify your particular need and eliminate content that doesn't revolve around it, Elliston suggests. Everything else is a distraction.Optimize your website. Of course, your site should be chock full of key words and phrases. But you should also be clever about driving traffic to your website from other sites by linking. Clover, says Elliston, has a blog called Speaking of Clover that drives traffic to the company's website not only through content about the company's offerings, but by serving as a source of general industry information. Recently, for instance, the blog ran a detailed article on understanding Google analytics. "The blog becomes a place where people come to learn," says Elliston. "And it help creates a true web for the company."Offer coupons on your site. "If your website can't post PDF files or documents, then you should get a new website," says Elliston. "It costs you next to nothing, but it will drive traffic to your site and then to your physical location." You don't need to offer big discounts or pricey incentives. All you need is a printable coupon with a special code that offers a little something extra - a small gift with purchase, for instance, or a free estimate for the service you provide.Create events. "People want to be a part of something," says Elliston. "A true, face-to-face community can't be achieved in cyberspace. Use your website as a springboard into these events." Consider events with local artists, djs, authors, etc. "You're creating another reason for people to be there other than your product, but then you end up selling them your product," says Elliston. "And you're creating relationships."Use the entire web. "Although your website may be your primary marketing vehicle, make sure you use the entire web to drive traffic to your shop using sites such as Facebook and Twitter," says Elliston. He suggests putting links to your company's Facebook and Twitter accounts on your web page to show customers that you're "socially connected." But you should also use social networking sites as marketing vehicles by posting special offers for your Facebook fans and your Twitter followers. Clover, for instance, has entered re-tweeters into a special drawing to win an iPad. You might also consider adding a philanthropic element to your social media presence over the holidays, offering, for example, to donate $1 to a specific not-for-profit for every re-tweet.What's the most effective way you've discovered to get your website visitors into your physical location? Tell us!
2010 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.