No matter what type of small business you have, it’s really important to be online and have a strong online presence. Having a website is a good start, but that’s only the beginning of building your online presence.
In this online presence guide for small businesses, we’ll talk you through why your online presence matters so much and how to build an online presence for your own business to create a solid reputation and attract your ideal customers.
What is an online presence?
Your online presence isn’t made up of a single thing, such as your website. It’s not even just about social media or blogging. Your online presence is about the whole of everything you do online.
It is built from your own actions and the content you produce, from your values, what you say and do, and how you come across. However, it also matters where you are in the search engine results and your social media algorithms. Finally, the last piece that makes up your online presence is your audience. It matters what people say about you, how they think you present yourself online, what your reviews say, and how much and how well people engage with you, and vice versa.
What you want ultimately, is to have a widespread presence online, with your website, review sites, Google Business Profile, business directories, social media, and your ranking in the search engines.
You’re aiming to build not just a presence, but a solid online reputation, where you are known for your excellence. That’s when you start getting people coming straight to you instead of the competition.
Benefits of having an online presence
No doubt you can see that building and maintaining your online presence isn’t just a one-and-done task, but a list of things you need to keep up with as part of your marketing. We can’t tell you it’s not a lot of work, because it is. But the benefits truly outweigh the effort. And if you stick around to the end of the article, we’ll even tell you how we can help you make it a whole lot easier.
1. Get discovered more easily
Obviously, the more places you can be found online, the easier it is for you to be discovered. Once you have your website, social media, business directories, and more all set up, optimized, and polished, you will find your small business looks highly attractive to potential customers.
Not only that but as you grow your online presence and reputation, you will find that other people start to post content about you. They may post reviews, talk about your service in posts, or even share before and after images, where relevant. All of this adds to your online presence and provides important social proof.
While you’ll never reach a point where you can stop marketing your business completely, you will get to a point where more and more people just come to you, without you having to go out and get them.
2. Be seen as a legitimate business
As you build your online presence, you are also building your online reputation. The more high-quality, educational content you have online, showing just how much of an expert you are at what you do, the more people are likely to trust you and be reassured that you really are running a genuine and legitimate business.
As we said above, this will then get added to as people create their own content about your business and write reviews for you.
3. Promote your business around the clock
While you can’t physically be there yourself to promote your business 24/7, all of those assets you’ve built online, like your website and your social media, will be there to educate and help your potential customers night and day. While you won’t (hopefully!) be there personally attending to customers at 3 a.m., the content and excellent educational information you’ve already created will do that for you to a great extent, especially when you have great customer reviews to back it up and speak for you.
And you can automate some of this, with chatbots, automatic email responses, FAQs, and more to help your customers find what they need while you focus on running and building your business.
4. Save money while attracting new customers
Once you’ve established your online presence to a certain point, you will find you don’t have to push as hard and market as hard to gain visibility and attract and convert new customers.
This won’t be instant and it will take some work, but once you have built your online reputation to the point where it works and sells for you, you’ll be able to reduce your marketing budget and focus on maintaining your reputation and working on your conversion rates.
5. Earn Google’s trust
When you are building your business online, there are several things you will do that will help you to gain Google’s trust:
Providing great, educational content that answers your audience’s questions is one of them. You can’t get around that, but it not only means that Google is more likely to your answers in their results, but it also helps establish you as an expert in your field.
When you sign up for Google Business Profile, you have to verify your business and prove that it’s real. Doing this shows Google that they can trust you are a genuine business and again, helps them lift you higher in the rankings.
Finally, entering your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) consistently right across the internet helps establish that you are a real business. Take care with this, because even the smallest errors and inconsistencies can have not only your potential customers wondering if both of those entries are for the same business, but Google too, and if they can’t be sure, they may lower your rankings.
6. Nurture customer relationships
Every piece of content you post online, every answer you give to someone’s question, and every response you give to their comments and reviews helps to nurture your relationship not only with that individual, but also with anyone else who visits your pages, your website, and everything else that makes up your online presence.
In effect, you’re building a community of people who want to hear from you, who trust you, and who see you as the expert they can rely on.
How to increase your online presence
You’re probably starting to see now what’s involved in building your online presence, but rather than leave you wondering how to go about it, read on for our top tips on building and increasing your online presence:
If you haven’t updated your website in a while, it’s time to take a good look at it and see if it needs a refresh.
You can’t get away with a site that looks like it was built when the internet began. It has to be modern, highly attractive, and well-branded to reflect your business. Unless you have any design experience yourself, you’re going to have to dip into your budget here and get the professionals in. Because not only does your site have to look good, but it also has to be fast-loading and work beautifully on every browser and every device, especially including mobile.
It should be clear what you want people to do next, with great, well-keyworded copy, and clear calls to action, and your navigation should be easy to use so that people can easily find what they need.
Once it’s set up and running, you then need to publish blogs and add photos to your website consistently to provide quality, fresh content on a regular basis. It’s also really important to optimize your website and your blog with SEO best practices to ensure, after all that work, that you can easily be found on the search engines.
2. Social Media
You absolutely have to be active on social media, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend your entire life on it. Play it smart with a content schedule planned out in advance and scheduled posts designed to show up on your social platforms at the times when your audience is most engaged. This can keep you looking consistent with content, while also saving you time.
However, it’s far better to be brilliant on one or two social media platforms than to be average over several platforms. Find your audience and where they hang out, and use that platform exclusively at first. You can always add another platform later, once you get used to it.
The important word, as so often with marketing, is consistency. You need to consistently post, but also to physically be there to regularly interact with the people looking at your page. Responding to comments, enjoying a joke where appropriate, and saying “thank you” can make a huge difference in building engagement and enhancing the first impression you create.
Share educational content to show your expertise, rather than focusing on selling. You’ll attract customers who are genuinely interested and gain better leads when you show what you can do rather than trying to push your services onto people. In line with that, it’s important to be authentic with what you post and how you write as people want to work with genuine, honest, and ethical businesses.
Finally, don’t forget your SEO on your social media and optimize your social media with SEO best practices.
3. Directory Listings
As part of building your online presence, you need to claim your business on the largest and most important business directories, such as Facebook, Yelp, and Bing. You also need to claim your Google Business Profile too.
What you’ll then need to do is to fill in every part of your Google Business Profile, including your categories, Q&A, posts, services, and about section. Ensure your listings are all optimized and fully filled in as this not only gives potential customers all the information they could want, but it also means you’ll potentially be listed in Google’s Map Pack for even greater visibility.
You’ll also need to fill in every part of your other directory listings and make your listings attractive, interesting, and educational. Check your NAP for consistency on every site too.
Your job isn’t done once you’ve done that, however, as you will need to maintain your profiles and watch for questions so you can answer them. You can also respond to any reviews, and post and put up special offers, just like you would on your social media. As always, it’s about creating an excellent impression of your business, wherever people find you.
Reviews are highly important wherever you can get them, so you need to have a plan to keep getting new reviews regularly and responding to them as people only tend to pay attention to the most recent ones.
4. Online Advertising
When you first start building your online presence, you won’t necessarily be anywhere near the top of the search engine results and you might only have a few sites where your business is listed and a couple of social media platforms. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t gain visibility and build your presence straightaway. What you need to do is invest in online advertising to get attention and leads now, while you organically build your online presence. Here are some of the ad types you might want to use:
You’ll be familiar with search ads as these are the ads placed at the top, and sometimes the bottom, of the search results. Also known as pay-per-click ads, you only pay when someone clicks through on your ad, so they can be a cost-effective way of getting attention.
These ads, unsurprisingly, appear on your social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. They tend to appear in the middle of people’s feeds and are relatively subtle compared to some types of ads, but they are also highly effective. You can target your audience via demographics, and ensure you’re aiming at the right people.
These ads are designed to stand out. They are highly visual and can use images, GIFs, and video to catch attention. You have a lot of options on colors, fonts, and design with these, making them highly brandable. You choose a platform such as Facebook or Google Ads Network and set up your ads. You can then choose the sites they will appear on, or let your platform do that for you.
With retargeting ads, you can follow anyone who’s visited your site across their social media platforms and some websites to remind them of their visit and get a second chance at persuading them to buy.
5. Email marketing
Building your email list is a vital part of your marketing. Once people sign up, you can get found in your patients’ inbox and market to them as often as you like. Of course, you still have to provide great content and not just the hard sell. Here too, you’re still aiming to build a relationship with people and establish trust.
Email marketing is highly effective, and it also gives you an important safety net in that you already have your customers’ contact information and you can continue to market to them even if social media goes away tomorrow.
Attend a Surefire Local Marketing Platform demo
We did say that there’s a lot of work involved in building your online presence. We also said that Surefire Local could help you and take some of the work off you.
We offer business intelligence marketing software that can help you manage the most important parts of your online marketing.
Instead of having to update each directory listing yourself, you can use our platform and with just a few clicks, you can update over 80 directories, including your Google Business Profile. Imagine how much time that alone can save you!
Not only that, but you can plan, create, and schedule content, social media posts, and email campaigns, without having to do everything manually. You can manage your paid ads too, and manage and request reviews, with automatic reminders.
You can also post on your directories, social platforms, and your reviews right from your dashboard, without having to log in to individual sites.
You’ll also get highly detailed statistics and analysis, with reports covering each aspect of your marketing individually, or you can get an overview of all of your marketing, showing you what’s going well and what can be improved.
Our software really is a huge time and effort saver, so why not book a demo and see what you think your small business can save?