As a new startup or an existing brick and mortar business, building an online presence for yourself is important, yet it can also be very time-consuming. It can be frustrating at times since it is not something that will happen overnight.
However, building an online presence is crucial to your success because it enables people to find you, get to know you, interact with you and trust you. You can make the process less frustrating and time consuming when you know the steps you should take.
For most entrepreneurs and small businesses, a business website is the foundation of your online presence. It is your central hub where people will go to contact you, learn about your products or services, and engage and interact with your content.
Your website should include a clear message about the core essentials of your business: easy-to-use navigation, an about page, a contact page, and, of course, valuable content. You should also include an opt-in incentive for building a subscriber list.
Once your website is up and running, your next step is to optimize it for search engines. According to a report from Fleishman-Hillard, 89 percent of consumers use search engines for researching products, services or businesses before coming to a decision.
To benefit from this, it is essential to implement SEO strategies for your website. This will allow search engines to easily find your site and list it in their organic results. Websites that are displayed higher up in the search results tend to get more traffic because they are more visible and people trust search engines.
Some ways to optimize your site include:
- Use keyword tools like WordTracker or Google's Keyword Tool to find potential keywords relevant to your business.
- Come up with themes to drive your content strategy. The number of themes should be broad enough to provide some variety in your content, but narrow enough to relate to your business.
- Start a blog and make the commitment to post to it and address your themes and consumer questions at least a few times a week.
- Share your blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and StumbleUpon.
- Create short videos that follow the themes of your blog posts and share the videos on YouTube.
Remember, similar to building your online presence, SEO will not happen overnight; it is an ongoing process. Search engines love blogs with steady, fresh content, so stay consistent.
Being social does not mean you need to create a profile on every social channel. What it does mean is you need to pick a few channels, create profiles, and regularly engage and post on them. Start up a Facebook business page, for instance, and join in and engage in local Facebook groups. Again, be consistent. You will not be able to build a following if you are not posting regularly and engaging with the online community. Social media is a powerful marketing tool useful to build a huge following, and will allow you to reach out to people who know you and trust you.
Once you have your social media presence established, you can then move on to creating landing pages that you can use to drive people to your offers or a specific call to action. For instance, you can create landing pages for promoting a newsletter or eBook, or you can create landing pages for welcoming people to your Google+, Facebook, or LinkedIn profiles. No matter what you use landing pages for, you have created opportunities to build your subscriber and potential customer list. You can use tools like Optimizely or Unbounce to track and test your pages.
Online Local Advertising
Businesses used to advertise in the Yellow Pages to create advertising awareness of their business in their local community. Not anymore. Those days have come and gone and have been replaced by online offerings. For consumers to find your local business today, you are going to have to rely on online listings to generate that local traffic. Start with Google, Bing and Yahoo! as places to get your business listed. Move on to other sites such as Yelp, Angie's List and some of the online replacements for yesterday's old printed Yellow Pages.
In your listings, make it simple for consumers to contact you. Include contact information, such as your email address, physical address, phone number, and any social media channels you are on. Include this information in every listing. Many of these sites can also help or hinder your business because they feature customer review sections. Make sure you are monitoring what is being said in these reviews and adjust your customer service strategies accordingly.
In today’s eCommerce world, your online presence is a huge factor in your success and your business growth. It will take some time to establish yourself, so patience is key here. When you can create a strong foundation, establish a social media presence, consistently share valuable content and build strong relationships, the momentum of it all will work in your favor.