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5 essential steps to build an online presence from nothing

educational | business | internet-marketing

Every business needs an online presence. Why? Because otherwise customers just won’t find you. There was a time when an organisation’s advertising budget was spent on advertising in newspapers, radio and the Yellow Pages, but now the main ‘conversation’ is online. While people still use the traditional media, most people’s first interaction with a business comes in the online space.

Even small-scale operations that survive on word of mouth and don’t think they ‘need’ new leads from the online sphere need to have an online presence. A sole-trading painter & decorator might be doing perfectly well from personal recommendations around his/her local community, but what if a new lead wants to find out more information beyond the original recommendation they heard? Or worse, what if the personal recommendations dry up someday?

This article will explain how to futureproof your business with an online presence in the quickest and cheapest possible fashion. As a web agency ourselves we’re used to working on large and time-consuming projects but we understand that certain businesses only require the bare minimum. We’re big fans of the Pareto Principle, where 20% of the input is said to create 80% of the result. Think of these steps as that all-important 20%...

Pareto Principle

Buy a domain name

Your domain name may well become the most memorable aspect of your brand so it’s important you take the time to get this right. When a customer types “www.[yourdomain].com”, this might well be their first interaction with your business. These are the main factors to consider when choosing a domain name:

  • Is your preferred domain name actually available?
  • Is it memorable?
  • Is it easy to spell?
  • Is it SEO friendly?
  • Is it similar to an existing brand?

Ideally, your domain name should contain the name of your business, and for the purposes of SEO, the service you provide. The next factor to consider is the ‘domain extension’ (i.e. “.com”, “.org”, “.co.uk”). As a rule of them purchase the local extension (.co.uk if you’re based in UK) and .com where available. Read more about domain extensions here.

A domain name should be viewed in the same terms as a company name, i.e. it’s preferable to avoid changing it. To ensure the longevity of your brand, it might be a good idea to purchase similar-sounding domain names to ensure no one else is able to use them. This will guard against deliberate theft of your brand identity, and the accidental confusion that can occur when a new company starts up in your marketplace. The cost of a domain name is so low that it really is worth acquiring multiple names in order to effectively ‘insure’ your own brand.

Having bought the domain, the next step is to create email accounts to go with it. We really don’t recommend any client uses an existing personal email address to conduct business. It comes across as unprofessional to prospective customers, and it will also make day-to-day admin more difficult. We recommend clients use GSuite offered by Google. This will give access to useful facilities such as email, calendars, shareable docs and cloud storage - all linked to your original business domain. Using Gsuite also has the added benefit of easy user management which comes in handy as the company evolves.

Set up social media

The key here is to only use the social networks that can definitely deliver results for your company, and only create accounts that you are capable maintaining. A social media account that is poorly maintained can be worse for the image of a company than if the account didn’t exist at all, but some social presence is definitely needed as a minimum.

Did you know?

The number of social network users worldwide in 2017 hit 2.46 billion

There are many free or inexpensive tools you can use to assist with the maintenance of social media (i.e. Buffer and Hootsuite). By creating multiple posts in advance, inline with a content marketing strategy, the task of social media management becomes a lot easier. While we recommend to clients that social media output should be a combination of pre-planned and more reactive, ‘live’ posts; a lot of the heavy lifting can be done with the right software and the right plan.

One social channel that is often overlooked is Google+. Although there is generally less activity on Google+ than other social media, it can increase the prominence of your company in Google searches.

Register with Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool which helps business owners manage their online presence across all the Google services. Although often overlooked, this is essential to any local SEO strategy. Google verifies your location as part of the business-registration process, which improves your chances of being found in location-specific searches, i.e. “plumber Newcastle Upon Tyne”. Registering with GMB not only guarantees your place on Google Maps and boosts your local search visibility but also ensures that customers can easily;

  • View your business in the knowledge box
  • Call you
  • Visit your website
  • Read reviews
  • View photos
  • Request directions

For more information & tips on GMB check out Moz’ great guide.

Google Knowledge box example - Yama Solutions
Yama Solutions knowledge box automatically created by Google Business Listing

Create your website

If you’re on a tight budget and your business isn’t looking to generate online leads, it can be tempting to skip the website altogether and just settle for a Facebook company page or even nothing at all. We strongly advise against this. Even the most basic of websites offers credibility to a business, and if the business grows to a decent size, it’s a lot easier to grow the website gradually inline with the growth of the business than it is to build an extensive site from scratch. The longer you leave it, the harder it becomes.

It has never been easier to create your own website from a template. The likes of Squarespace, Wordpress and Wix are designed specifically to help people create an online presence for the minimum of cost. But be warned: the difficulty of changing a template to suit a specific business can cost clients a lot more in time than they originally bargained for. For more information, read our article comparing the benefits of a professional website with a template solution.

Create a content marketing strategy

If you have an online presence you must have a coherent strategy to go with it. Without this you simply can’t capitalise on the online presence you’ve spent time and money building up. A strategy with minimal content really is a lot better than no strategy at all.

Your content marketing schedule can integrate seamlessly with the social-media planning tools we mentioned above. Taking the time to create a strategy will save you a lot of time in your day-to-day work. For more information read out guide on creating a content marketing strategy.

In summary

It’s possible to create a useful online presence without spending too much time and money on it. If you want some expert help in doing this we will be more than happy to lend a hand. Check out our internet marketing services or contact us to get started.

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