There used to be a time when the best way to find a business was to take a stroll down the street or flip through the Yellow Pages. But with the advent of the internet, these days are long gone. Today, when a potential customer needs a service or product, they go online to find businesses and collect information before making a decision. If you’re not online yet, chances are, potential customers dismiss your business and go to the next guy.
An online presence gives your business credibility. It allows people to take a quick look at what your business offers, what people are saying about it, and other information they deem necessary. To stand out from the crowd, you need to start setting up an effective online presence. It sounds intimidating but it’s easier than you think. Here are some simple ways to take your business online:
A 2017 study reports that 29% of small businesses still lack a website. At the bare minimum, your small business should have a website. Your website is your home base and the first thing people will look for when they hear about your business. This is the place where potential customers can learn more about you, your products or services, and reach out for inquiries. In fact, 92% of shoppers begin their buying journey online by typing queries into Google. 97% of small business owners also agree that a website has made it easier for customers to find their business.
Simply put, if your website isn’t in the search results, you’re losing out on a lot of customers.
Your website should contain the following:
- Information about your products and services
- About us page
- Contact page
- Opt-in lead magnet
If you’re just starting out and funds are an issue, WordPress or Squarespace are great options for putting together a small website.
Optimize for local search
Customers instinctively turn to the internet when they seek for information about the businesses in their area. In fact, “near me” searches have also seen a dramatic surge, with 73% of all online activity related to local searches.
Start small by listing your business in popular online directories such as Google MyBusiness, Yelp, and Yellow Pages. Google places high value on consistency on your local listings so regularly check them if there are any changes to your business information. If your business has informative videos, don’t forget to upload them on your YouTube channel. (Fun trivia: YouTube is the second biggest search engine after Google!)
After listing your business in directories, the next step is to start setting up your social media accounts. With almost 2.8 billion active users, a social media presence gives your business greater exposure and allow you to connect with customers instantly.
Your social media accounts are spaces for you to be create and respond to customer inquiries. Make it a point to provide informative, quality content, share updates, special offers, and behind-the-scenes photos of your business. This helps your business remain authentic, relevant, and engaging.
That being said, you don’t have to be on every platform. If you don’t have a dedicated social media manager yet, it’s best to stick to one platform where you can regularly post and engage with customers. Facebook is the best platform to begin since it has the most users and is the easiest to use. Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn are also major platforms worth considering. Set up a posting schedule (once a day is recommended) and make sure to check your channels for inquiries and comments.
Ask for customer reviews
Customers trust online reviews that come from other customers. According to Nielsen, 92% of customers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. Having good reviews encourages people to click and speaks volumes about the quality of your products or services.
Worried about negative reviews? While you can’t avoid them entirely, consider them as feedback to improve your process. Some popular places online to get reviews include Google Business Listings, Yelp, and your Facebook page.
In the world of internet marketing, content is king. It’s what visitors want from you. Great content attracts search engine traffic, increases site traffic, and strengthens your reputation. It takes a few tries to get your content marketing strategy right but it’s worth the investment.
To get ideas, study your main competitors’ online content. Try to observe the SEO (search engine optimization) keywords they use, what social media platforms they use, what type of content they publish.
Consider adding the following content formats to your strategy:
- Blog posts
- White papers
- Press releases
- Social media posts
- Live videos
Explore paid ads
If your goal is to rank first in Google, it’s going to take a few years…or more for that to happen. Building your presence organically takes a long time and the most effective way to increase your visibility is to explore paid ads in social platforms you use. Run ads in a variety of formats (brand awareness, lead generation) to test which works best with your target audience. As you start gathering more data, you can start spending more time and money to expand your online presence. If you’re a bit unsure how to go about paid ads, you can consider hiring a digital marketing agency to handle them for you.
Running a small business is a lot of work. With everything on your plate, it’s easy to ignore your online presence. But if you want to set up your business for success, it’s critical that you start building an online presence now. All successful businesses and brands are online so why shouldn’t you be?