Online presence

Getting found on the web

An online presence is as essential today as a business phone number, or signage on a storefront. Unlike those items, however, an online presence is made up of a numerous pieces that each require some continuing attention.

Domain name / URL

A domain name is the online equivalent of a company name. It is more important than a main phone number. It should be displayed on all of your literature, and included in all of your advertising. It should be a part of every email address associated with your business. A domain name should be as short as possible, easy to spell and remember, and easy to say over the phone.

Website

Your website is your online headquarters. Every other spoke of your online presence is anchored to it. Your website is your online receptionist, your online storefront, your online customer service representative, your online public relations face. It should be regularly updated and expanded. Each addition to your website increases its equity value over time.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Search Engine Optimization helps your website get found when people search for the things you offer. Much of it depends on keywords and phrases. Do you do business primarily in Kenosha and Racine, Wisconsin? Then those keywords should appear frequently on your website. Is your restaurant known for a particular dish? You might want to devote a whole page to that dish, and link to its name throughout your website. In short, you should always be thinking of keywords and phrases that a person searching for your products or services might type into Google or Bing, and keep a running list. You can also research these words and phrases using a keyword tool to compare popularity and discover variations. Google Trends is simple and free, others are more powerful and expensive.

These keywords and phrases should be used in the page URLs, titles, and meta descriptions that show up in search results, They should be used in headlines, subheadlines, and body text — especially in the first paragraph. Keywords should be used in the invisible descriptions of photos, and as a photo’s filename. Keywords should be used as links to direct attention to specific pages.

Google My Business

You know how sometimes when you Google something, businesses will appear in your search results, along with maps, operating hours, phone numbers, and other information? You can include your own business in the mix by joining Google My Business and filling out a complete profile. Include your website’s URL, phone number, photos, hours — as much as possible. Once it’s verified and active, it can help if some of your happy customers visit your business’s Google profile and leave a positive review.

Yelp

A well-maintained Yelp profile and positive reviews can also bring traffic to your website and customers to your business.

Social media

Social media is a complicated subject, and each channel has its own peculiarities, but one thing to keep in mind is the “social” part of the equation. Far too many businesses think of their Facebook or Twitter timeline as some sort of advertising megaphone and only use it to endlessly repeat marketing messages. Imagine someone showing up at a social event like a party and just endlessly repeating that he’s having a sale on floor tiles.

Misunderstood by many business people, social media is not about direct selling.

Instead, social media should be used to create a consistent and favorable impression. You do this when share helpful, interesting, inspiring, or entertaining material (or “content”). Not all of it has to come from you. If you read a great article on a newspaper’s site, go ahead and share it. Content that you do create yourself — your own articles and images — should be posted to your own website whenever possible, and shared from there, inviting people to visit and explore.

Listening is important too. Twitter, for example, lets you do an Advanced Search for words and phrases, hashtags, locations and more. Simply liking a tweet by someone in your town can make them aware of your business’s existence. You can also gain insight by paying attention to what people with a particular interest are talking about.

Online advertising

Online advertising adds some exciting capabilities to traditional methods — like more ability to target an audience demographically and geographically. Facebook Ads are very easy to set up and manage, while the Google AdWords system is more complex (and potentially more powerful).

At its simplest level, pay per click (PPC) advertising works by displaying a text or graphic ad that people can click. When they do, they are taken to a landing page. This ad is only an enticement. The real selling is done by the landing page, which hopefully gets someone to buy, or sign up, or otherwise “convert.” Typically, the landing page will be a page on your own website which is devoted to this sales pitch and free of most other distractions.

With an easily-editable website — such as a website built in WordPress — you can quickly design a landing page for just about any ad, then tweak it as needed to improve its performance. The standard method for doing this is known as A/B testing, which involves making two different versions of your landing page, then showing one or the other at random. When enough results have determined which version performs better, a new test on some other variation can begin, and the landing page improved yet again.

Email marketing

Sending periodic emails or a sequence of autoresponder emails can be a powerful way to bring visitors back to you or guide them toward a purchase. A custom website offers a perfect opportunity to present offers and collect email addresses. Excellent email services like MailChimp can be integrated with your website to automate the opt-in process, and even automatically send emails whenever you publish a new blog post.

Start with your website

Since your website is the home base for all of your other online presence-building activities, it’s the best place to start. Your website should be modern, responsive (automatically adapting to mobile phones and tablets), and easy to edit. If you need help building a brand new website, remodeling an old one, or just making a few improvements, I’d be happy to discuss it with you.

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