It’s not an option for your small businesses to have a digital presence, it’s an absolute necessity. Consumers are in control and the competitive landscape is wider and more challenging in almost every category. A solid, effective digital presence is fundamental for your business.
Let’s go through the basic elements of your digital presence:
Rock your website
Arguably the most important piece of the puzzle, your website is the digital hub. It’s likely where people will land when they search for you, it’s your best opportunity to share your most important messages and where you’ll work to convert passive shoppers to active customers. Your website has to be your solid, effective digital foundation. There are key aspects of your site that need to be addressed:
Design – Simply put, does your site look good? Does it look professional, like a legitimate, well-established business or does it look like the result of a weekend effort by an amateur. Consumers expectations are high, even for small businesses.
Mobile-friendly – A significant volume of search and web traffic is initiated from mobile devices. Your website has to work well for those who find you through their smartphone or tablet.
Quality images – Related to the importance of design in general, the images you use on your site should be the right size, the right resolution and ideally customized to your business. There are many, many stock photo sources and even shots taken from a smartphone can work well.
Copy – The words on your site are the voice of your brand. How you choose to convey key messages through your site copy says a lot about your company both in content and style. Often copy is a last minute consideration with more focus on website design. Make sure your copy is as strong as your design.
Keep it current – If your site still has “copyright 2003” in the footer or your copy references events from years ago, it may send the wrong message to customers. Be sure expired promotions are removed and obvious date-sensitive content is current.
Social media is now an essential element of the overall digital marketing mix for every small business. Doing it right requires much more than just propping up a Facebook page or setting up a Twitter account. It can be overwhelming, but doing just a handful of things properly can go a long way for your business.
Pick the right channels – There are a lot of “places” you can be in the social media universe and not all of them make sense for every business. Directing your focus to the right channels is important. Businesses with more visual product or service may do better on Pinterest and Instagram. Businesses with B2B service offerings may get more value from blogging and Linkedin. There’s a lot of great information available out there on which social channels make the most sense for your business, the primary point here is don’t attempt to be everywhere, find the right channels and concentrate your energies.
Stay active – One of the biggest challenges with social media is keeping things up to date, relevant and interesting. You’ll find a great many opinions about the style and frequency of social media updates, but an easy way to look at it is simply assessing what would seem like the minimum activity threshold a consumer might expect for a company in your category? Benchmark other companies, look at what they’re doing and think about what you can apply to your business. While social media is “free” in most cases, the time, resources and energy to maintain an effective social presence is not. Focus your efforts and be sure to keep things buzzing.
Watch your stars
90% of consumer say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. That’s an amazing number! Ignore review sites at your peril. Your business doesn’t control review sites so what should you actually do? First, monitor the key review sites for your category or industry. Most have alerts that can be set up whenever new reviews are posted so it’s easy to stay on top of what people are saying about you. Most importantly, respond where you can to both acknowledge positive reviews and address negative reviews. If you can, try to take exchanges about negative reviews offline into direct communication with customers to remedy any problems. It’s not always possible to make everyone happy, but do what you can to engage and always be professional and helpful.
“94% of consumers begin researching potential purchases on Google.” – AYTM Market Research. Consumers rarely enter into the buying process for anything without at least a basic search. Showing up well in search results is critically important. The mechanics of search engine optimization can be complex and certainly not something that can be detailed in a portion of a blog post, but search success can be broken down into two basic areas:
Content – Google, and other search engines, focuses heavily on the quality, relevance and frequency of your content. Related to previous suggestions, spending the time to develop and refresh content is essential for search success. A macro trend in search is the evolution away from building content explicitly for the purpose of search engines, instead writing interesting, engaging and topical content designed for humans. Invest in good content.
Mechanics – There are basic website design structures and conventions that can have a real impact on search success. This includes how you name pages, inclusion of descriptions and a host of other components. Many WordPress themes come with features that will provide recommendations for improvement as you build pages and there are a host of third-party plug-ins and tools that provide more detailed guidelines and suggestions.
There is much more to read in all the areas mentioned above, some will continue to be covered here on the HostUSA blog, others can be explored around the Web. Regardless, remember your digital presence is an essential part of your business success, invest the time to get it right.