We all know that people begin their purchase with a search. We want our businesses to be visible when someone is at that point in the buyer’s journey. But exactly how does a small business increase their online presence so that potential buyers can find you at this most opportune time? With so many small businesses competing for attention, it is critical that every small business create a highly visible, powerful online presence.
What is an online presence?
Your online presence (also referred to as web presence) is the complete digital footprint that helps your business build visibility and credibility to those looking for what you offer. It is made up of your website, social media profiles, citation sites, directories and other websites that provide links to your website. But it also includes activity and content that is attributed to your business that may be created by someone else. In other words, it is everything about your business that people can find online, whether you create it or not.
So having a complete digital footprint that makes it easy to find your business in search is important but it isn’t the complete picture. It also comes down to what people see when your business comes up in the search results. Your brand and your reputation are also important factors of your online presence. An unprofessional brand and a less than stellar reputation is the kiss of death for your online presence. You must have the full package, otherwise, your efforts will be wasted.
How to assess your online presence
Does your business exist?
If you are a new business, you’ll be able to build your web presence starting with a clean slate so you can do it right from the beginning. But if your business has been around for a few years, there should be some information about your business online that you should review and correct where necessary.
Start with a simple assessment. This can give you a baseline of what appears in the search results. You need to know what others see when your business comes up in the search engine results.
For a simple assessment, do a Google search for your business. What do you see?
- Does your business look professional and trustworthy?
- Is your company name, logo and brand colors consistent across all platforms?
- Do people get a good first impression of your business?
- Is there enough information so that potential customers know what you do and how you can help them?
Next review your website analytics to see where your traffic comes from. If you don’t have much traffic, it helps you understand where you may need to increase your activity.
If you need more than a simple assessment, you can do a complete web presence analysis.
Benefits of a powerful online presence
The top benefit of a strong web presence is that it helps your potential clients discover your business. If you ensure that your web properties lead people back to your website, it becomes your 24 hour sales person. It’s job is to help generate quality leads.
Other benefits are to help build your brand awareness and expertise in your field. If your brand is professional, your content valuable and your reputation sound, you will build trust with your audience, increase your leads and improve your sales.
7 ways to improve your online presence
So you’ve done an assessment and realized that your online presence needs some help. Here are some activities that can help improve the visibility of your business. Keep in mind that you can implement them over time and not rush to get them all done at once.
Create a professional website
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to your website, beauty isn’t enough. You need to have a website that provides a quality user experience.
The goal is to ensure your website lives up to your visitor’s expectations. They must also find value in what you provide them. You want to make the time your visitor spends on your website as meaningful and valuable as possible.
Therefore, your website needs to be attractive, load quickly and make it easy for the visitor to get the information they need without a lot of digging.
We all know how important it is to find quality information when we are researching something. In fact, most people start their buyer’s journey with a search to research a product, service or business before making a decision. Therefore, optimizing your website to be found in search results is critical to your online presence.
Start with on-page SEO for your website content. This simple task helps both the search engine and the human. It helps the search engine better understand the content and context of your web pages. It helps the human to know what your web page is about when it appears in the search engine results. This helps drive more relevant traffic to your website.
Track the results and make changes if your website isn’t gaining rank.
Develop a consistent brand image
Branding your small business involves projecting a strong, consistent image throughout all of your marketing regardless of whether you are using online or traditional media. However a consistent online brand helps you maximize your brand presence and enables potential customers to understand the value you provide to your clients.
With all the tools and applications hitting us regularly, it is very common for our brand identity to get out of alignment and become inconsistent from one social network to the next. Maybe you wrote your profiles from scratch each time rather than create one document from which to pull all your information. Be planful with how you set up your social media profiles and citation properties. Write the About section of your website and then use that information to populate the rest of the platforms. Get organized so you don’t end up with several disjoint properties confuses their audience.
Build an email list
Email is still the most effective way to communicate online. It continues to work for many small businesses because people get your message in their inbox where it stays until they are ready to read it. And since opting into your list is voluntary, there is a much better chance that your subscribers will read your material. Your emails keep reminding them of what you can do for them.
So even though building social media profiles and engaging with your audience is important, remember that people need to be on social media to see your posts. And if you ever violate one of the platforms’ terms of service or if your account gets hacked, you can lose all of your followers, your content and your ability to communicate with your audience.
So although there are many benefits of building an email list, the one small businesses should embrace is that the list is yours regardless of what happens on social media.
Create and distribute quality content
Creating consistent and valuable content will help you gain credibility and authority in your industry or niche. Whether you create it yourself or have an agency work with you to do it, it’s what people are looking for when they search.
Before diving into creating content, you need a content strategy. And your content strategy is needed before you can implement a content marketing strategy.
Whether you distribute this valuable content via your website, an online community, your podcast, a YouTube channel or social media, it should be something your audience wants and needs. But, you should always create the majority of your content on your website first. Like your email list, your website is yours to own and control. If you post content directly on social media, keep a backup in case you lose your account.
Optimize your Google Business Profile
Every small business can benefit from having a verified Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) listing. It is an important step in your local SEO strategy because a complete, verified and optimized Google Business Profile increases your chances of being found.
When you optimize your Google Business Profile, you make it more likely that your target audience will see your business rather than your competition.
Invest in the right social media presence
Social media is an important part of your online presence. And although not all social media channels will be relevant to your business, you should invest in a few that can expand your reach. Picking the right channels depends on your industry, but do some research as to which platforms your competitors use. Done right, you can provide customers and prospects a way to engage with your business.
Once you’ve decided which social media channels will work for you, create a strategy for the type of content you will share. You want to provide content that will encourage your followers to like, comment and share. It is harder today to get organic reach on social media platforms, but having a couple active platforms can help drive some visitors to your website. And social media profiles also appear in search engine results, so they expand your digital footprint a bit more.
Marketing is a process
Building a powerful online presence for your business is a journey but done right, it has the ability to get you and your business known through various online channels. So begin this journey now.
- Develop your highly visible digital footprint.
- Know what your customers need.
- Create content in the format they want it.
- Optimize your content so they can find it and help them solve a problem.
Plan to monitor your web presence regularly so you can see how your web presence improves. See what people are saying and where your name is showing up. This is one area you don’t want any surprises.
Will you find your next client or will they find you?
Your next client is probably searching to find the solutions your company offers. Without a great online presence, you are going to miss out on this opportunity. But if your business stands out and can be found, you are sure to attract new prospects that can result in increased sales for your company.