If you want your small business to grow beyond a local audience, you need to cultivate a web presence that helps customers find you no matter where they are. But where do you start if you don’t have a website at all and don’t have any idea how to create one?
These five tips will help you establish a consistent brand image across the web so you can promote your business and give potential customers confidence that you’re the best choice for their needs.
What do you want to be able to do online? You may just want to start a conversation with prospective customers or let them know how to reach you. You may want to offer products for sale. Perhaps you want to establish yourself as a trusted authority in your industry by creating a blog or recording a podcast. Or maybe you want to engage with your target audience on social media.
Whatever your reason for creating a web presence, start by defining those goals. They’ll guide your efforts and keep you from getting sidetracked by techniques that won’t serve you well.
Based on your goals, you probably want to build your own website so that customers can get information about you and your business. Start by choosing a domain name that’s clear, simple and memorable. The right search engine optimization (SEO) solution will help you ensure that search engines like Google can find your page and direct potential customers to you. Network Solutions can help you get there with tailored assistance that takes both on- and off-page SEO into account.
Of course, SEO isn’t everything. Your website also needs to be designed for people. Be sure that visitors can find your contact information, engage with you through a call to action and, if applicable, find your physical office or storefront. Design your site to have a consistent brand image so that customers will recognize your business in advertisements and on social media or other online channels.
A word of caution: websites aren’t one-size-fits-all. You can include any functions that will help you meet your goals (and, conversely, exclude functions that won’t serve you well). If you don’t think you can manage a regular blogging schedule and don’t think your customers want to read a blog, leave it out. If you need an online store, include it. The more complex your website, the longer it will take to build and the more expensive it will be—but those investments can be repaid substantially when your website is up and running.
One function that you should include is the ability to analyze data about your visitors. Google Analytics, for example, will tell you how many people visit your site, how they find you, how long they stay and more. With analytics, you’ll be able to tell what’s working for you—and what’s not.
To ensure you reach more prospective customers, you need to go where they are. Turn back to your goals for establishing a web presence and make a list of places where your audience is likely to be. Your business should be visible wherever your potential customers are active.
According to the Pew Research Center, more than 70% of Americans regularly use social media. That’s why most businesses have a basic presence on the biggest social media platforms, particularly Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These channels require a commitment to build social media engagement, but they can pay huge dividends, especially when combined with an email marketing or retargeting campaign.
Wherever you are, give some thought to how your customers can engage with you or share feedback about you. Will you allow comments on your blog or website? On your social media? Monitor reviews on sites like Google Maps, Yelp and Angie’s List, and engage with customers, whether it’s to thank them for their positive comments or address their complaints. Your online reputation can make or break your business; make sure you invest in monitoring and managing it.
Pay-per-click (PPC) is the fastest-growing format for advertising in the eCommerce industry, largely because it generates qualified leads quickly and builds brand awareness. It’s especially valuable for small businesses looking to target local web traffic.
PPC advertising helps you reach new audiences by prominently placing an ad that appears as a sponsored link in search engine results. If you target the right keywords with your ad, your customers will see your ad at the top of their results page. When a user clicks on the ad, you pay the search engine a small fee. The better your PPC strategy and the more relevant your advertisement, the lower your fee will be, and the more you’ll earn from your PPC ads.
One of the greatest benefits of paid search advertising is that it’s data driven. You can gain insights into users who are clicking on your ads and fine-tune your campaign, making it more effective over time.
Wherever you’ve established a web presence, you need to commit to keeping up with it. Businesses should follow a social media strategy that sets a standard posting frequency, from once or twice a day for Facebook and Instagram to as much as 15 times a day for Twitter. These can be shares, retweets and other less-intensive posts, but you should engage with your audience regularly.
Keep track of your website analytics too: how is your site performing? Measure your results against your goals and experiment until you find an approach that works.
Don’t limit your business to the people you can meet and engage with locally. With a well-designed web presence targeted to your prospective customers and their needs, you can expand your business around the world. These five tips will help you get started building an effective online presence.