Have you Googled your business lately? If you haven’t, take a minute and do it now. Just type your business name right into that search bar. Does YOUR business show up? Are you surprised by the results? Is it better or worse than you thought it would be? Did you show up on page 1?
If you were pleasantly surprised by how well you did in this little exercise, than kudos to you. If you found that your business doesn’t have much presence online, don’t worry; you can change that.
Now just for grins, search for your business a different way. Type in the phrase that you think people would use if they were trying to find a product or service like yours. For example, “yoga classes, portland maine, ” or whatever would apply best to your business and location. Ask yourself the same questions as above.
There is a big difference in being found based on your business’s name and being found based on what you do. If someone doesn’t know you exist, will they still be able to find you online? It doesn’t matter if you are a local business or do business across the country, your ability to be found online is more important than ever before.
As a consumer, I use the internet 99% of the time to locate a product or service that I am interested in purchasing. The other 1% (which might be a generous number) I usually ask a friend or family member for a recommendation. Gone are the days of the Yellow Pages being our primary source of information. Nothing frustrates me more than knowing the name of a business and not being able to locate anything about them online. If they don’t have a website OR a Facebook page, I move on faster than you can say “click.” I may not represent 100% of your potential customers, but it’s likely that I represent the majority of them. Don’t miss out on opportunities to gain new clients and grow your business because you don’t exist online.
The most important thing you can do to have an online presence is have a website. And not just something that you throw up there with your name and contact information on it. For a website to be effective, you need to have a balance of aesthetics, content and user optimization. You know your business and the message you want to convey, but do your research to make sure that you are including all the elements that will make it go to work for you too.
Here are some tips for creating an effective website.
Peruse websites of your competitors or others in your arena
Pay attention to websites that you like personally and consider why you like them even if they are dissimilar to your own business
Make sure your site is content rich and incorporates key words and phrases pertinent to what you do and where you are located
Make it easy for the user to find information
Incorporate good imagery throughout your site that balances the text
Have calls to action throughout your site
Make it easy for people to contact you through your site
If you have external links, always have the link open in a new window – don’t take them away from your site without an easy way to get back
Don’t build your site and let it sit for years without any new content or updating – an outdated, static site can do more harm than good
If you can’t afford to have a professional website built, consider using a templated website that you can build yourself. There are some good solutions out there that will allow you to build a professional looking website for not a lot of money. But make it a goal to put a professional website in your budget down the road.
Besides a website, there are many other ways to grow your online presence. And the great thing about these is that they are inexpensive or free. They just take time to cultivate and grow.
Find one or two social media platforms that make sense for your business. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Google+ are the top social media platforms but there are lots of others that might make sense for you – determining your target demographic and the nature of your business can help you decide what the right platform is to have a presence on. Create a business page, develop a content strategy, identify who will manage it, and make the goal to post at least once a week.
Create a blog and write blog posts at least on a monthly basis. If your blog is on your website (which I highly recommend), this will not only help keep your website’s content fresh and dynamic, it will also send people to your site on a regular basis. Share your blog posts on your social media pages to ensure that you are hitting all of your target audience.
Sending monthly newsletters or promotional emails using a service like Mad Mimi, Mail Chimp or Constant Contact are not only a great way to keep your clients up to date on what’s going on with your business, they’ll help your online presence as well. Cross promote your newsletters on your social media pages and on your website.
Contributing articles to publications or other blogs will certainly give you credibility as an expert in your field and will also give you exposure online. Find publications that make sense for your business or blogs that are related to what you do. LinkedIn is also a great arena for writing and contributing articles.
Online Yellow Pages
If your business is listed in the Yellow Pages, it will automatically be listed on the online versions as well. Make sure your information is up to date and accurate.
Set up a Google+ page for your business and establish your Google Place so that your business location shows up on the map when people search for you. Google is a powerful tool and ensuring that “the Google” knows you exist will boost your online presence.
Joining your local chamber or other similar associations will ensure that your business is listed within your community. If your chamber has a website oftentimes they list all of their business members which will get you great exposure locally.
Many communities have additional local search websites that you can list your business on. Other platforms like Yelp, Tripadvisor, and FourSquare might make sense if you are a service provider or destination.
The more of these that you do, the better off you will be. Many of these aren’t time consuming or expensive in the long run, they just take an initial effort to get setup and established. The internet is dynamic, which means that there is always room to improve your presence. But the flip side is, if you do nothing, you can eventually end up getting lost in the shuffle.