Every small business wants to be visible when someone is searching for what we offer. But exactly how does a small business build a successful web presence so that potential buyers can find you at this most opportune time?
Creating a web presence that attracts your ideal client and makes a great first impression is complex. Your website is just one component of a complex network of information about your business that must project your brand and expertise to those in search of a product or solution.
Developing and optimizing a successful web presence as part of your online marketing is an opportunity you can’t ignore. A well thought-out plan can help you gain visibility, develop an expert reputation and create a large digital footprint that attracts attention of your ideal prospects.
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, business directories, review sites and other websites that provide links to your website. 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 an extensive digital footprint that makes it easy to find your business in search is important. But your online presence also includes what people see when your business comes up in the search results – i.e. your brand and your reputation. An unprofessional brand and a less than stellar reputation is the kiss of death for maintaining a successful web presence. You must have the full package, otherwise, your efforts will be wasted.
How to create an effective web presence
There are many steps and tactics to make your web presence effective that will be different depending on your business model. But regardless of your tactics, there are 8 overarching elements that are required for successfully creating a powerful, optimized web presence.
1. Conduct a web presence audit
The best way to start is to do a simple search for your business name and your name to assess your visibility. Just because you may not have created social media profiles or directory entries for your business doesn’t mean that you don’t have a presence.
- What is your first impression?
- Is your brand consistent across all web properties?
- Were there any surprises? (i.e. negative reviews you didn’t know about)
- Where does your web presence need strengthening?
- Would you hire your company based on what you found?
Periodically review your web presence to be sure all listings are up to date. If something changes, update it across all properties. If you get a review on one of the review sites, be aware of it. You never want to be surprised by a good or bad review. Keep a spreadsheet of all the sites where you have claimed your listing so you can keep them updated when necessary.
A regular audit of your web presence is important to maintaining a successful online presence.
2. Create a strong coherent and consistent brand
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.
To establish a recognizable expert brand, be consistent everywhere you have a listing. This includes using the same design elements such as color, images and logos. It doesn’t matter whether they find you on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), LinkedIn, Google Business Profile, Better Business Bureau or any other directory. All occurrences of your business listing should have the same consistent information and brand identity.
It is very common for our brand identity to get out of alignment and become inconsistent. 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 that confuse your audience.
3. 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. As the hub of your online presence, your website is central to all your marketing efforts and it needs to create an amazing first impression. The goal of all your marketing activities is to send people to your website to learn more about you and provide them with valuable content. You want to make the time your visitor spends on your website as meaningful and valuable as possible.
- Build your website on on WordPress to make it easy to add content and update content.
- Install an SSL certificate to secure visitors information if they want to contact you.
- Create content that is easy to find and share on social networks.
- Optimize your website so your audience can find you when they are searching for a solution to their problem.
- Ensure that you develop your website using mobile-first design. If your website doesn’t provide a good user experience on mobile devices, you won’t be as visible as you would like.
Remember, 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.
4. Delve into Keyword Research and SEO
B2B buyers are now taking longer to research products and services. The buyer makes an average of 12 searches online and wants the same digital experience they encounter when making consumer purchases. This is primarily due to 46% of all B2B researchers and buyers are now millennials. By the time they reach out to a vendor, most buyers are 57% through the buying process.
If you are selling to consumers, 60% of consumers start their buying process with a search. Know what consumers are searching for and why is important to your marketing efforts. And if you are a local business, 76% of consumers who search for a local business on a smartphone visit the store within 24 hours.
In either case, understanding how people search for your products and services plays an important role in creating a powerful web presence.
- What problem are they trying to solve?
- Do you know what questions are they asking?
- What words are they using to search for the solution?
Once you understand the intent of their search, you can incorporate the words and phrases into your content to align it with your customers needs. When that happens, your content is more likely to gain in the search engine rankings.
Now use your keyword research to implement on-page SEO for your website content. This simple task helps:
- Search engines better understand the content and context of your web pages.
- Humans know what your web page is about when it appears in the search engine results.
This helps drive more relevant traffic to your website.
5. Develop a content marketing strategy
Creating consistent and valuable content with no strings attached helps the buyer move through the purchase process. This makes your business more credible, trustworthy and visible.
Before you start creating content, you need a content marketing strategy.
Content marketing focuses on creating and distributing valuable content to attract and retain your target audience. Rather than selling your products and services, you educate your audience through inspiring and relevant storytelling. In fact, the same research above indicates that 82% of B2B buyers viewed at least five pieces of content from the vendor prior to purchase.
- What content does your audience want or need?
- How does your audience want that content delivered (video, podcast, blog, eBook, infographic)?
- How often will you deliver content?
- What resources will you use to develop the content?
- How will you distribute this content so it will be found?
Creating the right content for your audience is difficult. Create a content strategy that defines what you are going to write that your audience wants.
Then develop a content marketing strategy to define how you will promote that great content to gain visibility. 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.
The right content at the right time will help you be found when your audience is searching for a solution. Get their attention and help them out of a problem. You will become a valuable resource they will keep going back to for advice.
Build an email list
Email is one of the most effective channels to use to distribute your content and should play a major role in your content marketing strategy. 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.
There are many benefits of building an email list, but the one small businesses should embrace is that the list is yours regardless of what happens on social media.
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. Plus your Google Business Profile is a very visible part of your successful web presence and you need to be sure it projects your business accurately.
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.
Ongoing web presence optimization
Now that you have created a successful web presence for your business, you need to maintain its consistency. To do this, you need to monitor and optimize it as necessary.
Web presence optimization extends search engine optimization to all of your web properties to create better visibility, awareness and brand recognition. By optimizing content across your entire web presence, including your website, social media, other blogs and press releases, you present a more unified, consistent image for your brand no matter where someone finds your business online.
Marketing is a process
Creating a successful web presence takes a commitment in time, effort and persistence, but the payoff is huge. It has the ability to get you and your business known through various online channels. If you want to be visible in the search engine results, it is important that all of your web properties work together to project the consistent image and professional reputation you want.
- 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 to see how it 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.