Geeky reader Allison from St. Paul wrote to ask, “My uncle, a retired lawyer, is thinking of offering his services to students, helping them get into law school (and figure out if it’s even what they want). 2 questions: 1. any suggestions on how to build a simple website, and more importantly, optimize it so it shows up in google searches? 2. if he were to try some grassroots Facebook marketing, would you suggest a Group or a Fan page?”
Great questions! Sometimes, when you’re just getting started on a new idea, you have to do things yourself for little to no cost. Here are some thoughts:
For a quick and simple site, my favorite tool is Weebly — even for the least tech-savvy person, it’s a great tool. Your uncle could easily build a small site himself; they have some excellent templates to start with. If he likes it after playing with it a bit, he can upgrade to a Pro account and use his own URL (www.hisname.com instead of hisname.weebly.com). That’s a great place to start, especially if his business is just starting out. If things really start to take off, he can invest in a custom web design. (He can have someone create and install custom design templates into Weebly.)
Here’s a post that Nancy did about inexpensive sites (including Weebly) in ’08.
As long as he’s creating a clean HTML site (which Weebly does) he’ll get indexed by Google. He may want or need to just figure out which keywords to focus on. Google has a keyword research tool; using that, he can check to see how many searches are done with particular words or phrases. The more searches are done on a given word, the more competition there will be to be a top result for that word.
Getting ranked by Google in organic search results takes time; the algorithm considers how long a site has been around and how many other sites link to that site in addition to how relevant the site is to what the user is searching for (which is where the keyword stuff comes in). So, you either have to be patient or consider buying AdWords if you want to show up in search results right away.
Here’s a post Nina Hale wrote for us in ’08 on Pay-Per-Click advertising.
Facebook: Pages vs. Groups
For Facebook marketing, there’s a few things he might consider: first, Facebook Ads are pretty cheap and he could test them out to drive traffic to his website and see if he gets leads from it.
As far as a Page vs. a Group, for what he’s doing I’d suggest a Page. (There is talk that Groups will start to act more like Pages in the future — meaning activity will be more visible, but for right now Pages are the way to go. Especially for a business; a Group is really more appropriate if you want to create a community.)
Your uncle may even want to consider just doing a Page and skipping the “real” web site — as soon as he’s got 25 Fans (which could be friends and family to start) he create a custom URL (like www.facebook.com/hisname) and he could just refer people directly there to contact him. To set up a custom URL for a Page, visit www.facebook.com/username.
I’d think that referrals would be a big source of business for him at first so, honestly, I think starting with a Facebook page and building referrals from there (and maybe also supplementing with some Facebook ads that drive traffic to that Page) would be a great, very low investment place to start!