A 2014 study by Google found that a little over half of small businesses have a website, though it’s likely that number has gone up since the survey was done. Still, the fact that a little under half of small businesses don’t even have a website it appalling – without one you are losing customers every day. Over 50% of people surveyed said they look up a business online before making a purchase, and that same study found local searches are twice as likely to lead to a purchase. Creating a solid web presence, though, is more than just parking a site under ‘yourbusiness.com’ – you’re going to have to put in a bit more effort to see any real returns.
Domains and Websites
This is step one – buy your company’s related domain name and publish a site. The site doesn’t have to be fantastic, and there are plenty of services online that’ll help someone with little to no web experience publish a decent looking website. When designing it, though, remember that over 60% of all web traffic is now mobile, so at this stage use eye-catching graphics and write short, easy to read content. Your business’s name, address, phone number, and services offered should all be front and center. As a side-note, don’t ignore other top-level domain variants like ‘yourbusiness.net’ or ‘yourbusiness.biz.’ They aren’t as important as a .com, but it’s never a bad idea to buy as many reasonable tld variants as you can.
Social marketing is more than Facebook, though having an active profile there is important. You’ll want to register your business on every major site – Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Instagram or Pinterest if you think you can market your product visually. Google+ needs to be on your list as well. Recently the site has been making moves to separate + from the more important ‘Local Listings,’ but that hasn’t happened yet. So grab a ‘Google My Business’ page while you can, and make sure your listing is up to date and looks nice. Then when Google inevitably separates their local/business section from Plus, you’ll be in a good spot to adapt to whatever changes Google implements.
Content marketing is how you turn your web presence from good to great. 70% of consumers now say they prefer to get to know a company through articles over ads, so producing good, well-written content is a must, especially if you’re based online or do business with people you do not personally see. The idea behind blogging is to foster trust in, and recognition of, your brand, so don’t just throw 800-word ads up every week and think that’ll do. Rather, you need to identify good topics about which you can write knowledgeably. When you’re first starting out, try focusing on common questions or sources of customer frustration. Then, as you get some experience, you can venture into advising on industry-specific issues. And, once you’re seen as something as a thought-leader, you can try cross-blogging with other companies and outlets. The more links into your site you have, the better your search engine ranking.
Creating a web presence requires much more than a website, though it’s a good place to start. The majority of your target market browse the internet, and a strong web presence makes it much more likely they’ll recognize, trust, and eventually patronize your company. Different business will have different needs, but at the very least make sure your business has a presence with its own site and on the major social networks. Then, as you grow, you can work on expanding that presence through content marketing. Before you know it your own small business will be popping up all over the internet!
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation.