The online world presents a wealth of amazing opportunities to start a new business, making the whole process easier and cheaper than ever; in May 2015 the number of people online reached a massive 3 billion, proving there's a huge audience out there primed and ready to find your new business.
However, knowing where to get started and how to get noticed can seem like a daunting uphill battle – although once overcome, can prove hugely rewarding. Building an online presence can help with everything from creating brand awareness, boosting engagement with your business, to generating leads and new customers.
So where to begin?
Know Your Objectives
Setting out a plan for growing your online presence is always the best place to start. Here is where you can set out on which social platforms – relevant to your business – you wish to grow; there are a lot to choose from, each with its own style, with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest being a few of the biggest. Growing an audience on these platforms can take time and energy, but can return dividends if done properly.
Followers on Instagram will expect rich and well-shot photographs, whereas Facebook tends to favour more videos and memes. Social media can allow your business to keep customers up-to-date and also get your content shared, helping you to gain new followers. At this point list your end goals, from increasing website traffic to improving your conversion rate, as this will shape the content you put out there.
The All-Important Website
While it is true to say that there’s much more to building an online presence than just your website, it remains a crucial element – consider it the face of your business. Your website is a place where your potential customers can leave product reviews, live chat with those on your team, discover new products or services and ultimately make a purchase.
Your website is the place you want your audience to end up, so it’s best to make sure it is easily navigated and looks professional. There are a number of guides and platforms out there to help you get started. Fiverr is perfect for those looking for affordable freelancers to help them with anything from getting their site built to product photography and graphic design. Shopify and Wix are great for those wishing to build the sites themselves, offering many click and select templates and app add-ons to choose from.
Once you have your site off the ground, the next thing to consider is SEO.
The Importance of SEO
Once your website is up and running and you’ve got to grips with your social media platforms, you’re already on your way to creating that online presence. However, there is one key tool to really get your name out there and get found by your potential audience and that’s SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Chances are when someone is looking for content related to your business, they will search for it online – more than likely using Google; Google now accounts for 78% of desktop search traffic and 94% of mobile and tablet search traffic. It is for this very reason that being easily found on search engines for relevant keywords is so crucial. There are a number of ways to help your site boost its way up in the rankings on search engine results pages – with there even being a whole industry dedicated to it. However, there a few easy ways to help you get started.
Google should naturally find your website on its own, but there are ways to speed this process up and offer more content and information for your potential audience. Setting up with Google My Business is free and lets you tell Google everything from your opening hours to what your business actually does. Here you can also let Google and your potential audience know how to get in touch via email and phone along with your business location.
Another free tool you can utilise is Google Search Console, originally known as Google Webmaster Tools. Here you can register your site with Google and even submit a sitemap of all your website content to help the search engine crawl every page you wish your potential audience to find. Along with this you can monitor the number of visitors your site is receiving and also see which search terms your audience is using and where on the results pages you are ranking.
Get People Talking
There is no better way to get your business out there than through word-of-mouth. Studies show, time and time again, that people always trust business/product recommendations from friends over advertising, with 92% of people saying they would listen to friends over adverts. It is for this reason that it is important to get people talking online.
There are a few good ways to go about this such as encouraging your customers to leave reviews or share their purchases on social media in return for coupon codes or to have people share your content and/or tag their friends in competitions run by your business on your social media.
Make your business stand out from the competition by providing consistent value, great customer service and even enticing packaging and your customers will naturally wish to give you a glowing review on their own.
As you can see building your online presence is a hugely important part of growing your business, bringing in huge potential for a new audience and retaining your current customers. When starting out just know where you want to be and need to be online and work from there. A large audience is unlikely to show up overnight so patience is vital, but in time, if you follow these steps, an interested and engaged audience isn’t too far away.
Source: Business Matters Magazine