The First Steps of Building an Online Presence

For every business or brand, a strong online presence can be a powerful tool for building customer awareness and advancing customer relationships. In an interconnected world, online promotion presents highly scaleable opportunity. Before exploring the best practices to grow online presence, it should be clearly defined.

Online Presence: The cumulative representation of a brand’s identity presented through various online media platforms.

Your Website is Your Mothership

The most important part of developing online presence is the website. Before the website is up and running, the right domain name must be chosen. The domain name is important for several reasons and gives multiple benefits to the owner.

Owning a domain name that is the same as the name of the business can help the website be easier to find, more memorable, and be more likely to rank highly in search results for those who are searching for your business. Additionally, the owner of a domain has the right to the corresponding branded email address.

For example, the only way to get an @myfreelanceteam.com address is to own www.myfreelanceteam.com. It is important to know that even without a website, owning the domain is enough to claim the branded email address.

Location, Location, Location

From a financial perspective, a professionally crafted website is one of the the best investments that can be made, especially in comparison to the physical counterpart.

When investing in a brick and mortar location, the business’s growth and activities are very limited. The business is committed to one location, a certain capacity, and a limited number of working hours. When visitors come in, their activities can be difficult to track, so it is difficult to always ensure that strategic decisions are being made correctly.

When investing in a website, reach is only limited by the scope of the site. The site can be accessed by anyone in the world at any time and can support a massive number of visitors simultaneously. If the design is out of style or obsolete, it can be changed in the same day. When customers are browsing for products, every move can be tracked and intelligent decisions can be made accordingly.

When comparing the two options, remember that the goal is to increase exposure to target market. In the physical world, positioning your store close to the target market can be extremely expensive. Online, the target market can be drawn to the site as a result of running good advertisements. While ad campaigns can still be costly, they produce much cheaper, immediate, and more effective exposure.

Website Content

Each business website needs to provide various types of information to the customer. The core of the website should include information about the business’s background, purpose, location, operating hours, phone number, email, and so on.

Once this foundation is established, it’s time to move on to activities that give customers an intimate view of the business’s experience, activities, and intentions.

The Blog

You have probably noticed that most business websites contain blogs that are frequently updated. This provides multiple benefits to the business as well as the customer.

Business benefits:

  1. Reputability and authority are indicated by writing skillfully about the subject matter
  2. More text helps search engines accurately categorise the website and bring higher quality traffic
  3. Blog posts are easily promoted and shareable by nature

Customer benefits:

  1. Increased understanding of the product
  2. Questions about the business or product can be answered by reading blog posts
  3. Businesses can be compared by personality, not just by what is being sold

Testimonials

Short success stories or praises from former customers can go a long way when prospective customers are on the edge of a purchase. Once you have established reputability, competence, and authority, anecdotal proof is all it takes to make an emotional and ideological connection with the buyer.

Off-Site Web Presence

We just went over the benefits and recommended uses of a business website. Now it’s time to discuss promotion through third party channels.

Reviews

Much like testimonials, reviews offer some extent of social proof and provide an emotional connection to the reader by describing a particular customer’s interaction with the business. Reviews can be more effective than testimonials, as they are usually unprompted and provide an honest opinion from a customer’s perspective.

Business review sources vary depending on the industry, but common sources include the following:

  • Google +
  • Yahoo! Local Listings
  • Bing
  • Yelp!
  • Angie’s List
  • MerchantCircle
  • CitySearch
  • Insider Pages

Social Media

Social Media presence is a crucial part of gaining customer trust through social proof. Number of likes, +1s, shares, etc., show that you are well liked and relatable . Additionally, positive feedback helps the brand be seen by more people for free.

It is important to choose the most fitting social media and develop it well. Social media strategy is out of the scope of this post, but you can read more about it here.

Indirect Presence

Online presence can be developed In subtle ways. In addition to maintaining a website and social media accounts, the brand must be promoted effectively through PPC (pay per click) advertising, native advertising, discussion board presence, and email advertisements.

PPC ads are typically done through a service like Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook,or Reddit. This sort of advertising is effective because clicks are guaranteed, not just encouraged.

Native advertising is a type of ad that appears to be part of the website that it appears on. Sometimes, this takes place when a website features a brand in exchange for money. This method of advertising is especially effective to those who are new in a market and are looking to get noticed.

Discussion board presence is tricky, but it can be done. If a business owner is able to find discussion boards where the business is likely to be talked about, they can appear and help direct concerns. Because there are so many platforms for discussion, this is best done with software assistance.

Email ads are one of the most effective ways to make sales online, but there are several different ways in which they can be done. The best way is to have customers sign up to your mailing list, and send an email update about once per month using a service like MailChimp.

Another option is to identify a need in the client, and contact them without being prompted – this is called a cold email.