Help      |      Chebucto Home      |      News      |      Contact Us     

105. Local business on the web

By Andrew D. Wright

It's a good idea for small businesses, including those that only sell to locals, to have a website. Even a simple "placecard" site with just address and contact information that can be put up cheaply by someone with no previous experience will help to bring in customers.

People looking for what you are selling are likely to search for it online. The trouble with online searches has been the results are usually for websites all over the world when you are just looking for that pizza place down the street.

Search engines work by collecting information from web pages then organizing that information so it can be quickly sorted. "Spiders" are the programs that gather the information. They read the title of the web page, the headlines and the page content as well as the page's META tags, pick out the key words from all that for indexing then follow any links off of the page. They then do the same for all linked pages before scooting off home to report what they have found.

META tags are like comments left in the hidden head part of the web page. Typically there is a description of the site - a short sentence less than 20 words saying what the site is about, and a listing of keywords - words that someone searching for the site might look for.

Different search engines index the information different ways. In general good information is information that is repeated through the page. If the spider sees a term in the META tags, and the same term is also repeated in the content of the page, then it is more likely this is a valid term to index.

Some people try to game the system by putting in lots of keywords that don't apply so that their pages will come up more often on different searches. Search engines work hard to correct for this sort of trick since it makes their searches less reliable.

One of the fastest growing areas of online searching is local business searching. Last year industry leader Google started letting businesses add their own information for inclusion with the Google Earth and Google Maps services.

A local business owner can list their website, their location and business hours, what category of business they are and even offer online coupons. Just last week Google added the ability to modify the business location on the map as well as adding a photograph to the listing.

Someone can go to Google Maps, search for your business and town and get a map showing your location (regular map, satellite photo or mix of the two) while they read your business info and get directions. They can click on a link to your business website. It's free to them to search and the listing is free to you as the business owner. You don't even need to have a GMail address to register your business.

This is not without its downside though. Google is so big that updating information can take weeks, months or even years.

Halifax Regional Municipality Businesses on the Web:

Google Maps (Link on page to Add/Edit Your Business):

The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, email or click here. If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


The Mousepad Index


Originally published 25 March 2007


Our community is online here!


A feature of the Halifax Herald