More and more small businesses are diving into the world of online media. It’s because business owners are now starting to understand the importance of having an online presence in today’s marketplace. Not only are customers more connected, they are now more engaged than ever before. Their opinions and voices carry more weight today than they did 20 years ago. This is the very reason why local review sites like Yelp and social networking sites like Facebook are so popular: Like it or not, the Internet controls popular opinion.
Building an online presence can be time consuming and often frustrating, especially if you don’t know where to start. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you are well informed and equipped with just the right tools, you will be participating in online activities with your customers in no time.
An online presence for your small business requires several tools to achieve massive success. There is no one tool that fits all, but rather the right mix of these five basic online tools.
1. Build a good website
Building a website is almost always the first step to having an online presence. It is considered a “home” for your business in the World Wide Web where people can visit to know about your business. When building a website, it is important to have one that is highly functional while also aesthetically pleasing. You absolutely cannot have just one or the other, because once people land on your page, you only have a few seconds to convince them to stay and explore your site instead of moving on to your competition.
2. Submit your business to local listings
Local listing sites play a critical role in establishing your small business on the World Wide Web. When consumers create generic searches such as “restaurants,” most search engines return results that are near the searcher’s location, and review sites like Yelp or Yellow Pages are at the top. Local listings allow your business information to be viewed on these sites.
3. Optimize through SEO
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of making your website rank well on search engines. There’s a long debate on the proper and ethical way to perform SEO, a topic that merits its own discussion, but one thing is clear: You need to rank on the top page of search engine results or you won’t be seen. If you’re not seen on the first page of a search result, it won’t matter if you’ve created a fantastic website or not because it won’t be seen.
4. Engage through social media
There’s a reason why social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are so popular. It gives power to consumers to be engaged, in a business sense, on the product or service they purchased. Social media gives consumers a way to communicate with the business and with other customers. When done right, social media can be your most powerful online presence because it connects you directly to your customers, and it’s free! The trick is developing content that will actually attract customers to your page and keep them coming back.
5. Promote on coupon sites
Need a cheaper way to make your marketing promotions work? Offering coupons seems to be a right move. But where are you distributing your coupons? Email marketing works, but only for the customers you already have. If you need to reach further for new customers then you need to put your coupons on the right websites—coupon sites that feature almost every coupon you can think of with tons of web visits from many potential customers—your potential customers.