These days, it is more important than ever to invest time, effort, and resources into building an online presence for your small business. In April 2020, almost 4.57 billion people were active internet users—that’s 59% of the global population. An online presence, if executed properly, can be the difference between small business success and failure.
Many businesses mistakenly think that building a website, plugging in the lead generation forms, and having profiles on all of the social media networks is enough to maintain a decent online presence—but there’s more to it! You need to work to stay relevant to your customers and continually adapt to the times.
Here, we are going to look at some of the things that you can do to help you to build up your small business online presence from scratch.
Have a website…
This is the most important first step. Since most people are online, nowadays your business can’t afford not to have a website. Even if your small business is not an online or eCommerce business—a coffee shop or a beauty salon, for example—you still need a website as the main way to establish your online presence. Your own website allows you to provide customers with important information such as prices and opening hours, and you can begin to establish yourself as an industry expert or thought leader by publishing content through a blog.
Your website can also be used as a means to get more people through the door in your brick and mortar business. For example, you could use email automation tools (like Sendinblue, ActiveCampaign, or Outfunnel) to generate leads and build a relationship with prospective customers by sending them emails.
…but make sure it is a good one.
While having no website is damaging for your small business, having a really bad one can be even worse. Remember that first impressions matter and if your site is cluttered, difficult to navigate, slow to load, and generally has poor UX, customers will leave in a matter of clicks. Make sure that you have up to date and relevant content, strong visual imagery, and fast loading times. Ensure that your contact information is correct and visible, as this may be the first point of contact for many new customers.
If you are stuck on how to design your website from scratch, try using free website builders such as WordPress or Wix — or if all you need is a simple landing page with a form for customer inquiries and the like, opt for a form builder like Paperform instead.
Run social media accounts – but be choosy.
Around 79% of US adults are on at least one social media channel. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to create an account for every single one of them.
Too big a social media presence, and you may find that you have bitten off more than you can chew if you don’t have the time or means to support these channels. It’s much better to focus on one or two and to do them well, rather than spend time creating accounts that are neglected or don’t receive as much traffic. Spend time finding out which platform is most popular with your target demographic—which of your customer demographics, for example, can be found on Instagram and Facebook? Likely you will find older demographics on the latter, and younger audiences on the former.
You also need to consider the type of content that you post. For example, Instagram and Pinterest are more visual, whereas Twitter is perfect for short, attention-grabbing text. Don’t fall into the trap of sharing the same content across all of the social media platforms that you are active on. You won’t be successful in targeting specific customer segments and will end up with bored and disengaged followers.
Focus on search engine optimization.
If you have done your research into setting up a business website, you will undoubtedly have come across the term search engine optimization (SEO). This is one of the most important things that you can do for your business’ online presence. In its most basic form, SEO is the steps you take towards getting your website ranked as high as possible on search engines such as Google. The higher you are on a search engine, the more traffic you will get to your site.
There are plenty of tutorials and tools online to help you optimize your online content, or you can do as many small business owners do and outsource this task to the professionals. However you do it, make sure that you do it because, without it, your website will struggle to gain any traction.
As a new small business, you simply cannot afford not to be active and visible online. However, it is important that you focus on the things that will drive sales, help you build relationships with customers, and increase awareness of your brand. Think very carefully about the content that you post and remember that for many customers, your online presence is their very first interaction with you – make sure that you make it count.
What are your top tips for building up a small business’s online presence from scratch?
Vlad Shvets is a growth marketer and content writer at Paperform. He loves writing about product marketing, technology, and workplace productivity.