Marketing Your Design Firm On the Internet

Marketing your kitchen and bath firm on the Internet can be a daunting task. But any savvy business owner knows that it’s something they must do. So where do you start? One of the many social networks? How about Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Houzz or Pinterest?

Well, I could go through each of these sites and explain all the ins and outs of each of them, but that’s not going to really answer your question.

Making the right decision about where you should be on the Internet and social media is about having the right frame of mind. Let’s start with some history.

 

The AOL days

Back when the Internet first started getting really popular, there were “portals” to get on the Internet. AOL had a very popular portal, as did Yahoo, Altavista and even Google. What these portals did was try to organize information you wanted to see. Aside from the items that were organized for you, like news, sports and weather, you could search for things you wanted with keywords.

When these services were popular, the Internet wasn’t “social.” It was, in fact, a very anonymous place. So when someone searched for “kitchen design showroom,” the results were returned in a very mathematical way. The search engine would search the Internet for the site with the most relevant words, and deliver that as the top result.

The operators of these portals would charge people money to be ranked higher in these search results. So, if you wanted traffic to your Web site, you had to either pay for particular keywords, or have your site optimized to show up for those particular keywords. This search is good if you’re selling widgets to everyone in the world, but not good if a customer finds your kitchen design showroom from across the country. This method is commonly referred to as SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization.”

 

The social web

Things have changed a lot since the AOL days. Today, Google is the dominant force in Internet search. Its mission is to “organize the world’s information.” Google is pretty darn smart about this. When you search for “kitchen designer,” it wants to give you the best result.

And Google has realized over the years that the best result isn’t the highest paid, or the best “mathematical” result.

Let me ask you this: If a consumer is out shopping for cabinetry and they need advice, are they going to trust the biggest billboard, a tip from a friend or recommendations from several local people about the best brand of cabinets? The latter two answers almost always win.

Google knows this. So how does Google get computers to deliver personal search results? It canvasses the Internet for any bit of information that can “humanize” data. To put this in easier to understand terms, Google will catalog things like comments that are made about a restaurant, or a review that was left for a movie. The next time someone is searching for dinner and a movie online, the results for movies and places to eat that have been favorably reviewed may be delivered over just search results that match keywords.

Google is trying to deliver the most relevant and personal results to every searcher. When you need advice, you go to someone you think is an expert, right? Google is trying to be that expert.

So let’s circle back to the original question: How do I get Google to recommend me or my business as an expert? The answer is: Just be that expert and Google will figure it out. Below are some tips on how to get noticed:

Get a Web site. This should go without saying. Your Web site should have your name, address, phone number, hours, photos, credentials and lines sold. Your Web site should be built on a Content Management System (CMS). In a nutshell, a CMS is a prebuilt Web site that allows you to edit it yourself. A Web developer can do the initial setup, and then leave it to you to edit it. A good CMS should be as easy to edit as a Word document; anything more complicated and you’re dealing with the wrong developer.

• Houzz. Another great way to show your expertise is to utilize a site like Houzz. Houzz is essentially Facebook for designers, remodelers and architects. What you do as a designer or kitchen business is create a profile. There you share the details about your business. You also upload pictures of your projects. When you do this, Houzz asks you many detailed questions about the pictures. If it’s a kitchen, for example, they may ask you the style, whether it’s a new construction or a remodel, and sometimes even the types of cabinetry. What this does is make the information you provide very searchable to consumers.

Houzz invites consumers looking for designers, remodelers and architects to their site to find people just like you. Because you’ve provided detailed information to Houzz, consumers can find local designers for their projects.

In addition to your profile, Houzz also has a discussion forum. There the site encourages consumers to ask questions, and for you to answer those questions. Doing this can go a long way toward proving to consumers that you’re an expert.

• Other Sites. Google actually has a social network of its own called Google+. You can have a personal profile on Google+ in a very similar way you have one on Facebook. In fact, Google pretty much makes you have one of these when you have any kind of a Google account. While a personal G+ account isn’t that relevant to a local kitchen and bath dealer, the Google+ Local Page is. This page is essentially a digital business card for your business. It shows where you’re located, your hours, your phone number and any pictures you have of your showroom. It will also pull in any reviews that Google finds about your place of business from other sites.

So, while Google uses many methods to gather information about your business, giving Google that information directly through a Google+ page is the easiest way to get that information directly to them.

So here’s the big takeaway here: If you want to get noticed on the Internet, show what you can do. Share pictures of completed projects, prove your knowledge by answering questions about design and remodeling. Share information on your Web site about best practices for kitchen and bath design. Do everything that you would do to prove yourself in person digitally. Whether you do that on Houzz, Facebook, Google+ or any other social network is up to you, you just need to find the one that best fits how you want to show yourself off.

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