Consumers don't care if you've been in business for years or are just starting out, they expect (and often demand) that you have a strong online presence. As a business owner, you will enjoy many short and long-term benefits. It will allow your business to be found, attract new customers, encourage them to become loyal advocates and offer them an exceptional customer experience. It should build your brand awareness, establish credibility and ultimately increase your revenue.
However, there are many factors that are necessary to achieve the results you want. All are important and inter-connected. It doesn't happen overnight. It requires careful planning, good design, a willingness to learn something new and a little patience. In this Learning Lab Lesson, we will explore what you'll need to establish a successful online presence.
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An experienced web consultant can help you develop the strategies necessary to build a foundation for a strong online presence and a talented design team can help you build it. Schedule a phone consultation to begin the process.
WHAT IS AN ONLINE PRESENCE?
You may exist online but that doesn't mean you have an effective "presence." Your presence paints a picture of your business because it is tied to your visibility, credibility, and reputation. It is a crowded and noisy world on the Internet. Without a strong presence, you won't get noticed.
Your presence is determined by three factors:
YOU - The content you produce/distribute and the actions you take.
INTERNET - Where your business places in search engine and social media algorithms. In other words, can people find you easily?
PUBLIC PERCEPTION - What people say about your business in testimonials and online reviews.
WHY YOU NEED A STRONG ONE
Your business will benefit if you can reach your target audience. Consumers are tech-savvy and expect a lot from you. There are many benefits to having a strong online presence.
Customers will find you. Most people search online for products and services these days. You want to make it easy for consumers to find you. More importantly, you want your ideal customers to find you. A strong presence will help target your audience allowing them to find you when they are searching and in some cases even when they are not.
Raise your credibility and be seen as a legitimate business. Studies show that consumers judge your credibility based on your online presence or lack of a presence. Without having multiple online channels you might be dismissed by consumers and it could also negatively impact your search engine results.
Market your business 24/7. Consumers can learn about and engage with your business when it is convenient for them.
Control your marketing budget. All of the online platforms have analytics that tell what is working and what isn't so you can make informed decisions when developing marketing strategies.
Convert visitors into customers. Studies show that it takes multiple encounters with a business before a consumer buys a product or service. Therefore, having multiple online channels creates more opportunities for engagement with your potential customers.
Google will trust you. Google's search algorithms are complex and they take more than just your website into account when ranking search results.
Improve your customer experience and buyer journey. Over 60 percent of buyers' journeys begin online. With a strong presence, you can be available on multiple devices and engage with consumers at various points in the buying journey.
There is strength in multiple online channels. Your online presence should be comprehensive and cohesive. Each channel should support each other and will perform better in concert with others than they would individually.
HOW YOUR WEBSITE CAN HELP
Your website is crucial to establishing an effective online presence. It can either build a strong online presence or it can ruin it. Here are a few tips for building a website that will deliver the results you want.
Good design makes a powerful difference. Consumers have high expectations of websites these days both in terms of design and functionality. They often judge your credibility based on your website. If you don't have a well-designed site, you're probably better off not having one at all.
A few words about Do It Yourself websites
Many business owners feel that hiring a professional web designer is a luxury they can't afford. There are many online website builders that offer templates and make it "easy" for everyone to use. Templates are very helpful and can offer a site that looks good. However, there is so much more to building a site than just populating a template. Effective web design is more than just an aesthetically pleasing website. Professional web designers factor in all design aspects, from the psychology of color and screen resolution to accessibility requirements and typography, in order to engage, excite and inspire.
If you have no experience at all, the learning curve can still be steep and you will spend a lot of time trying to get it just right. What's your time worth? It's also important to note that a website is only one part of the overall online presence. Just having a site on the Internet is not enough. For example, how will people find you? Do you know how to optimize your site for search engines? Will your design look good and function on all devices, including computers, tablets, and smartphones?
Content is very important to your website. This cannot be stressed enough! It is important to your target audience, as well as search engines. Engaging content is what sets your website (and your online presence) apart from the competition and delivers the right messages into the hearts and minds of your customers. Design itself does not sell. Content wins the wallets of your customers. Keyword-rich content should target your audience, engage them and persuade them to take action.
What are keywords? A keyword is a word that describes the content on your page. It's the search term that helps you rank high in search results. Your keywords should always focus on your target audience. You want them to land on your website if they search for a certain word or phrase. Using the right keywords is essential to having your customers find your site. Keyword research is a necessary step in the planning phase of a website project.
Content Marketing is crucial to achieving a strong online presence. It involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers. This information can be presented in a variety of formats, including blog posts, news, videos, white papers, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, photos, etc. Content Marketing is one of the best methodologies for marketing your website and your business. Posting relevant, valuable and frequently updated information on your website will boost search engine optimization (SEO), help position you as an expert, and allow you to build relationships with your audience.
HOW SOCIAL MEDIA CAN HELP
Social media isn't just a trend. It's an effective way to reach audiences and it should be an integral part of your online presence and marketing strategies. Studies show that the majority of consumers will visit websites after following a brand on social media, will buy from that brand and will recommend it to a family or friend.
Social media is effective because consumers habitually log onto it daily. However, it can present huge challenges for business owners because it's an ever-changing and very crowded space. It can be difficult to create and post original and engaging content all of the time. It can also be challenging to keep up with the trends. The biggest challenges with social media are not having enough human and financial resources and lacking a formal strategy to build a community of loyal followers.
Having a strategy is essential and although it may take time it will be worth it the end for your business. The strategy is a summary of everything you plan to do, the tactics you will use to achieve your goals and metrics you will use to track your progress.
Here are a few tips when designing a social media strategy:
Quality over quantity. It's not necessary to be on all platforms. Choose platforms that your audience is using. That means you'll need to have a good understanding of your target audience. You're not Amazon. You can't sell to everyone. A targeted approach will yield better results than trying to appeal to larger, more general audiences.
Focus on building a loyal audience, not just having a lot of followers. Your online presence doesn't necessarily improve with more followers. So, it's necessary to work on cultivating a quality target audience who is interested and can benefit from what you offer. That will increase engagement which will improve your online presence.
Engaging content is key. Quality content isn't really enough. You want to connect with your audience by posting content that will spark positive emotions. Followers who emotionally connect to your content will like it and share it with others.
Social media SEO is more important than ever. Consider that Facebook receives 2 billion searches per day and Instagram supports a general keyword search, not just accounts, hashtags and people. Using popular keywords in your social media is just as important as using them in your website. This is just another reason that keyword research is imperative when designing a strategy and creating content.
What about hashtags? A hashtag is a "clickable" combination of letters, numbers and/or emoji preceded by the # symbol. They are used to categorize content and make it more discoverable. There are many aspects to mastering the use of hashtags and it can be overwhelming at times. Research is important and having a social media marketing professional can be very helpful when creating hashtags.
You must be active and engage with your audience. You must consistently publish quality content often, respond to likes and comments, follow and engage with others, answer direct messages, share content from other sources. Being active on social media is a key element to establishing an effective online presence. This can be very time-consuming for a small business owner. There are a variety of options available to make it easier to stay active. A social media professional can advise you and help you with content creation.
Reputation management is often overlooked but it will improve your overall presence. The goal of reputation management is to shape the consumer's perception of your brand and business. It includes business review sites (like Yelp) and local online business directories where customers offer written reviews about their experience with your business, service and/or products. You should first make sure you're listed in the most relevant directories and that all of your business information is included and it is correct. It is important because Google looks for consistency across all of the platforms to determine your credibility and ranking in the search results.
Reviews are also a very important part of your online reputation management. Obviously, reviews have a powerful influence on customers, as well as your ranking in search results. You'll also want to make sure that you keep a steady stream of reviews coming in so they are kept up to date.
Paid advertising can be helpful for improving your online presence because you will show prominently on search engines, social media feeds and other platforms your customers frequent. Before you start spending your hard-earned dollars, make sure you understand your audience and have done your keyword research so you can strategically target potential customers based on a variety of criteria. There are many types of ads available to you. A social media professional can help you decide which ads are best for you.
Your online presence isn't limited to just your website, social media, directory listings, and ads. Here are a few more tips for increasing your online visibility:
Email marketing - The advantage to email marketing is your that your recipients have chosen to receive your emails. People check their emails multiple times a day so you'll have several opportunities to reach your audience. Email marketing campaigns can be tricky because you do not want to bombard your audience with a lot of emails that continuously ask them to buy something from you. If you do, you will surely lose a lot of subscribers. You'll want your campaigns to have more engaging, informative or entertaining content than sales pitches. There are many strategies for creating successful email campaigns such as writing irresistible subject lines or segmenting your email list. A professional content writer can help you create emails that your readers will open and then take action.
Blogging and guest posting. A blog with useful content shows your audience that you are a trusted source. It also allows for you to engage with your audience without making a sales pitch. Writing about interesting or helpful topics shows them that you are more than just a business selling a service or product. It establishes you as a subject matter expert and builds your credibility. It increases your online presence because you can post your content to your website as well as to social media feeds. Readers will often share the information with others if they find it useful or entertaining. Therefore, you'll be reaching a wider audience.
Guest posting allows you to reach an even greater audience. Search out complementary businesses or local media outlets who have a strong online presence and that accept guest posts. Not only will you reach a wider audience, but an accompanying link back to your website from theirs will improve your search ranking. You might also consider accepting guest posts on your blog.
USE VIDEOS OFTEN
Let's face it. Pictures are worth a thousand words ... and videos are even better. Consider using videos whenever you can. There are many online tools for generating videos that are relatively "easy" to use for a novice. However, they can be frustrating if you've had little or no experience with video production. Also, it's very important to present a consistent brand identity throughout all of your online presence including videos, so we will be need to incorporate your brand identity elements such as colors, fonts, messaging, images, etc. More and more experts are recommending including video production in your content strategy.
VIDEOS ARE WORTH THE TIME, EFFORT, AND EXPENSE WHEN YOU CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:
Was this video more interesting to watch than reading a long paragraph? Did you retain more of the message? Those were astounding statistics that make video production a necessity in any content strategy. We love creating videos for our clients that promote their business, strengthen their brand and provide engaging content for their audiences.
CONTENT FOR EVERYONE
Make your content accessible to all. One billion people around the world cannot access most of the internet's information or services due to disabilities. It is possible to expand your online presence and help remove some of the barriers individuals face when interacting with a website. Everyone deserves a great user experience. Improve brand loyalty by proving to visitors that you value inclusivity. Talk to your web designer about what steps can be taken to improve the usability of your site.
INCLUSIVITY AND DIVERSITY
Successful businesses are built on relationships. For more information on building relationships with your website, read the Learning Lab Lesson titled "So, You Want A Website?" It's no longer just about price, consumers become loyal advocates of authentic brands who have similar values, demonstrate social responsibility and have messages that resonate with them. People want to see themselves represented. They also want to be seen and heard. Successful brands listen to their customers. Not only is it the right thing to do; it makes good business sense. Make sure your content represents a diverse range of people within your target audience. You'll get noticed while also your demonstrating your commitment to social responsibility.
More than 60% of internet searches are performed on mobile devices and Google is now favoring "responsive" sites in search engine results. When designing a website and creating content, you should assume that most of your visitors will be accessing it from a mobile device. It's imperative to plan and design with that in mind. "Responsive" design means that your online presence will not only look good on all devices, but it should also have mobile-specific functionality.