The best way to make your businesses stand out from thousands of other businesses online is by having a strong online presence. This means that you should invest in building a professional looking website, take the time to verify your business online, and make as many impressions as possible. If you don’t do it right, then you are missing out on a lot of potential customers, and no business owner wants to miss out on profit potential!
In fact, if you don’t have an online presence at all, then you are at risk of failure! I have seen a nearby business go bankrupt while I was working at an automotive shop, which I explain below.
The Importance of Having an Online Presence
Below are two examples that I have experienced of why it’s so important to have an online presence:
Having an online presence: When I worked for a repair shop, I helped them verify their business online with the above mentioned websites, and I updated their social media pages regularly. We also encouraged our customers to write reviews on multiple websites. Their online presence greatly increased in search engines and in other directories after everything was verified. The reason for this is due to search engines.
Once search engines, such as Google and Bing, find a detailed listing about your business in directories such as Yellow Pages, especially if there are positive reviews, then your business will be listed on top of other businesses that don’t have a detailed listing or positive reviews. Keep in mind that some businesses pay to have their business located at the top of search engines and directories. If you don’t pay for advertising, then your business will be listed below the paid advertisements, no matter how much better your business is.
Not having an online (or any) presence: There was another repair shop right next door to our repair shop. The owner and sole employee was a great mechanic, and from what I understand, he was good to his customers. Unfortunately, he went out of business not too long ago, and it’s easy to see why.
His business was located behind a small shopping complex, so people couldn’t see his shop from the street. He didn’t even have a sign on the street, so how would anyone passing by know that his business existed? What’s worse was that he had absolutely no online presence. He was an older gentleman, so he didn’t bother with taking the time to create a website, verify his business on search engines and directories, and he didn’t ask his customers to write positive reviews about their experience. He had absolutely no online presence, either!
His failure was not being visible to the public for two reasons. People couldn’t see his business from the street, and people couldn’t find his business online because the search engines ranked him so low for not having an online presence. If you combine the two of being visible from the street and being visible online, then you have a good chance at being successful.
However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg! See my article The Modern Consumer Shopping Process to see how consumers are using the internet to search for buying items, what they are looking for, and why they ultimately choose to buy from one company instead of the other. Since it’s crucial for any business to have an online presence, below are 3 lengthy tips for getting your online presence started!
Design and Maintain a Professional Website
Having a website is an affordable way to bring in nearly all your new customers. The majority of people are now using the internet to find everything, including businesses, which is why you need a strong online presence! This means that you might have to hire someone to create your website for you, or you can build a website yourself and save a ton of money by using website builders such as WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix.
Maintaining a website will at least cost $10 per year for your domain name and $5 or more per month for hosting, but the cost of hosting will vary depending on which hosting company and their package you choose. Some of the best known hosting providers are Hostgator, Bluehost, and GoDaddy.
Regardless of who makes your website, you will need to make it look good. This includes:
- Choosing a font that is easy to read by anyone.
- Have either a light or clear background. Having a dark background will not only make it difficult for people to read your text, but it will also make it difficult for people to adjust their eyes to your website considering how many websites only use a white background today. However, some websites pull off using a dark background.
- Have a good color scheme. It is good to have a color scheme that is easy on the eyes. Don’t add colors that are too bright or, especially if they blend in with the background. Keep it simple and consistent.
- Use high definition media. If you don’t have any high definition photos, then consider using stock images from Getty Images or other similar websites.
- It should be functional! Links should work correctly, pages should load quickly, and everything should be easy to use.
- The website should be responsive on all devices. A good website loads and correctly displays its content on all devices including desktops, tablets, and mobile devices.
- Include a main page, content page, about us page, and a contact us page. Your customers should be drawn in by your main page, easily see which services you provide, find out who you are or what your company’s background is, and they should also be able to contact you or know where your business is located (if applicable).
- Display any licenses, certifications, good reviews, and anything else you can think of that will make your business stand out from your competitors.
- Choose fast and reputable hosting. Shared hosting is slower than dedicated hosting, but it costs a lot more. According to Soasta, if it takes more than 2.5 seconds to load your website, then people will start to leave your website before it gets a chance to fully load. The faster your website loads, the better! The easiest way to get faster load times is by purchasing better hosting.
Verify Your Business Online
Verifying your business online allows you to confirm your business details and allows your customers to see your business information in search engines such as Google. By using Google My Business, you can post your contact information, have a short description of your business, and provide a link to your website. If consumers go online and can’t see your basic contact information, such as your business phone number, store hours, or address, then how will they be able to contact you? Verifying your business is a free and crucial way to get your business noticed by consumers online, especially when they search for products or services that you provide.
You should take the time to verify (or create) your business on these websites:
- Search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing)
- Directories (Yellow Pages, Mapquest, Manta, MerchantCircle, Superpages, etc.)
- Review websites (Angie’s List, Yelp, etc. The more positives reviews you have, the better)
- Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google+, etc.)
You will need to either have a valid email address, mailing address, or phone number in order to verify your business on these websites. Check with each provider for a guide on verifying your business. However, and this is important, do NOT waste money by hiring a third party to do it for you. They will charge up to $1,000 per year to verify your business on multiple search engines and directories, and they could delete everything they’ve done if you don’t renew. It’s ridiculous. I had to handle quite a few harassing phone calls on why we didn’t need them to list our business online when I could do it within a day’s work. The process shouldn’t take any longer than 30 minutes to verify your business with each website, so why spend that much money on something that you can do yourself?
Make More Impressions
Another way to get your business noticed by consumers is by registering your business on BBB (Better Business Bureau) and other websites that can verify you and your business. No one wants to be scammed! However, you may have to pay a fee to become registered. Why should you register your business and website on BBB? A lot of people turn to BBB to see if your business is credited and trusted.
In fact, you should display any licenses and certifications that either you or your business have earned, and show them off on your website and place them in your office so that customers can see them. This will give them the impression that they can trust you and your brand and view you as a professional. Also, make sure that your office is clean, organized, looks good, and is inviting. You might not think it’s important, but a lot of consumers do! Would you want to sit in an office that smells like a troll and looks like someone from hoarders moved in? I wouldn’t! Also, it’s a good idea to adhere to your city’s fire code.
In addition, consider advertising your business on third party websites. For example, if you are selling used cars, then register and advertise your business on websites such as Cars.com, Autotrader.com, and Carfax.com. The more websites you are on, the more impressions you will make. If you are on a budget, then register for only one third partythat will help you the most. You could even try to advertise your business on free listings such as Craigslist or Backpage.
Another way to create more online impressions is to have a social media page such as Facebook or Twitter. It’s also an excellent idea to link your social media pages to your website, directories, and other third party websites that allow you to link your social media accounts. Constantly reaching out to your fans and potential customers is a good way to interact with them to see what they like about your business. You can use social media to ask them questions, post coupons, or just to wish them a happy holiday. You can also use social media pages as a back link to your website. The more websites that a search engine sees linking to your website, the higher your website (and business) will rank.
Let’s Hear From You!
Have you just started a business online? How was your online presence when you first started? How many directories and search engines did you list your business on? Did you notice an increase in traffic to your business, or did you notice a lot more phone calls from random numbers? Which website builder did you choose to create your own website, or did you hire someone to do it for you? Was it worth it? What advice would you give to business owners for having an online presence?