Jim Hobart and his wife, Kelley, built a business selling yarn, socks and clothing made out of alpaca fibers.
Alpaca Direct LLC is based in Hayden, but its 100,000 customers are spread across 30 countries. More than 90 percent of the company’s sales are online.
“We use social media to reach knitting and sock enthusiasts,” Jim Hobart told a crowd of small-business professionals Monday at Google’s “Grow Your Business Online” event in Coeur d’Alene.
Google holds the seminars nationwide, teaching small businesses how to optimize Google search results for their companies. Some of the advice included tips for advertising with Google, but other tools are free.
“We live in this time when you have the ability to create a powerful presence online and grow your business,” Google presenter Corissa Saint Laurent said.
When Google’s algorithms“understand your website,” she said, the company gets better exposure from the search engine. Many of Google’s tips are available online at gybo.com/business.
Saint Laurent walked conference attendees through how to update phone numbers and addresses for their companies’ Google listings. For good exposure from the search engine, website basics are important, too, she said.
Half of all Google searches are done on smartphones, so the site should be easy to navigate on a mobile device. Compelling photos are important, but so is the site’s load time. It should be 4 seconds or less, Saint Laurent said.
In the past year, Google searches with the term “near me” have exploded, she said. People are using their phones to solve problems, such as plumbing emergencies or last-minute shopping needs. Companies whose websites load quickly have an advantage, she said.
Social media and online reviews can be a powerful marketing tool for companies, Saint Laurent said. “Think about asking your happy customers to write reviews,” she said.
Google owns YouTube, which is another powerful online tool for engaging customers, she said. Short videos can be used for online tours and product demonstrations.
At Alpaca Direct, the Hobarts hired a videographer to create a 60-second video on their company. It features Kelley Hobart talking about the company, which grew out of their daughter’s 4-H project. Links to the YouTube video are provided on Alpaca Direct’s sales receipts and emails.
When customers visit the Hayden store, they want to meet Kelley Hobart. “They feel like they know her,” Jim Hobart said.
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