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Small Businesses: You Need an Online Presence

Getting a steady flow of qualified leads allows businesses to always have new customers in the pipeline.

These days, the world of business comes with many buzz words: Search engine optimization (or SEO as it is more commonly known), social media marketing, and blogging/ vlogging are just some of the words that the modern businessperson should know. Unfortunately, if a business owner isn’t familiar with these terms, then the chances are good that that business owner doesn’t have much of an online presence.

The bad news is, this presents a problem for those who want to remain competitive in their small business promotion efforts. The good news is if these business leaders concentrate on building up their company’s online presence and concentrate on local SEO – more on that in a bit – their businesses will ultimately generate more leads. They will also remain more competitive in their local markets in the process. Here’s what small business owners need to know about creating a presence online and about website SEO.

Why Don’t More Businesses Have Websites?

Small business owners have myriad reasons why they don’t have enough of an online presence. Some of them believe that they don’t need it, given the hyperlocal nature of their businesses. Local coffee shops are good examples of this phenomenon.

According to an article on CNBC.com, others feel intimidated by the technical demands to run a website and learn about website SEO. Still, others don’t want to be bothered with the need to keep track of their social media accounts.

Why It’s Problematic to Not Be Online

However, in all cases, this approach to business in the modern world is short-sighted for several reasons. First, as the year 2020 taught us, an abundance of foot traffic – the thing that keeps some business owners from having an online presence – could turn on a dime. Again, coffee shops represent a prime example of this.

Additionally, technology is here to stay. So while it’s understandable that the uninitiated feel some trepidation when it comes to learning new technologies, it’s a fear that they must overcome if they want to stay competitive in the market. This is true whether we’re talking about building a website, creating a blog, or running a social media account. These online business resources have become as crucial to a business’s success as its brick-and-mortar location, perhaps even more so.

Indeed, some of these tech-related jobs can be hired if the business owner has no online commerce skills. Websites like Fiverr help to connect those who need skills with those who have them. This can be critical because, again, as 2020 showed us, the small business promotion has moved to the web out of necessity. Additionally, Fiverr and other sites allow business owners to buy goods and services they need at very affordable prices.

Local businesses who were already on top of getting their business’s site geared toward local SEO and social media promotion were often the businesses that got the customers during the early days of the pandemic, even if their business wasn’t the one that best-suited customer needs. However, these businesses were the businesses that customers could find online while they were stuck at home. The business owner who relied on foot traffic to get more customers was ill-prepared to adapt to the new business climate.

The problem became compounded because even as many businesses struggled to catch up, those already established a presence online were already in the arena. As a result, they were able to generate more leads from their online content than their offline-only competitors could get: Which pushed them even farther ahead of their competitors in their local markets.

How to Correct This Issue

According to HubSpot, business owners who need to catch up should take a multi-pronged approach to the problem. When implemented, these solutions will eventually allow local business owners to be found on a Google search, generate more leads, and garner a following on social media sites like Instagram, Twitter, and more.

Below are some suggestions for what business leaders can do to accomplish this goal.

1. Build a Business Website

For many small business owners, developing a presence online and tapping into the power of search engine optimization starts with having a website. Having a professional-looking website these days is like having a friendly storefront. It’s often the first look at a business that some people will get.

It’s also the place where a business can show off its branding through elements like imagery, video and animation, fonts, color schemes, and of course, textual content. Additionally, it’s easier than ever to build a website without a web designer because of drag-and-drop technologies. Technologies like WordPress, Wix, and others allow even the most beginning techies to build a website with enough patience.

2. Develop Content for the Website and Social Media Sites

Most businesses attract attention on the web by creating content like blog posts or video posts and content for Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites. Like the ones used for a business’s website and social media sites like Pinterest, some technologies also allow for search engine optimization.

This is an essential point because SEO taps into people’s search intent. When people are searching the web, they use specific search terms. So, for example, if they’re looking for pizza delivery, they might type (or voice) something into the search engines like “pizza delivery near me” or “pizza delivery in [name of their city].”

Business owners can then use these phrases in their content to attract more traffic to their websites and social media properties. That is, if they run a local pizza restaurant, then their blog can contain words like “pizza delivery in [name of their city]” or “pizza delivery near me.”

Doing this tells search engines like Google that this business’s content matches the searchers’ intent and will thus, direct the searcher to that business’s website. There’s a bit more to it, of course, but that’s the basic gist of it. It’s an easy sell, too. That is to say, and it’s easier to sell to someone who is already looking for what a business is offering rather than trying to sell to a completely cold audience.

People’s search terms when looking for goods and services on the web reflect their buying patterns and even what stage of the buying process they’re in. Content that aligns with their search intent signals to these web searchers. They know that they can get their buying needs met by purchasing from this business (the business whose website or social media account they land on during their search).

There’s another reason why these technologies are so critical to a small business’s success, which is covered in the next section.

3. A Web Presence Generates More Leads

Getting a steady flow of qualified leads allows businesses to always have new customers in the pipeline. It also allows a business owner to develop an email list of customers who buy from them again and again. This is particularly true if the customer has already bought something from the business.

Most websites have features that allow the webmaster to capture the site’s visitors’ names, email addresses, and other important information. Once a business owner has a list of names on their mailing list, they can send out regular newsletters and product or services offers. While this method of attracting customers may take longer to build momentum than by other means, like traditional advertising, its return on investment is often higher in the long run.

That said, online advertising does have its place for savvy modern business owners.

4. Advertise Online to Attract More Customers

Nowadays, it’s possible to advertise on Facebook, Google, Pinterest, and other online sites. Doing this allows a business that’s short on fresh leads to get their business in front of new audiences and possibly add more names to the mailing list. Such a practice also helps a business build awareness for its brand.

While traditional media advertising like TV or radio still gets its share of the advertising pie, more and more businesses have turned to online advertising. They do so for two reasons: It works, and it’s where their customers are.

It’s also difficult to talk about online advertising without at least mentioning influencer advertising. Influencer marketing allows a business to reach a large audience in his/ her niche by asking the “celebrities” of that niche if he/ she can advertise on the influencer’s social media accounts or website.

There are thought leaders in just about every industry who have an online presence on sites like Twitter and Instagram and who have ardent followers to match. Participating in influencer marketing allows a business owner to reach that influencer’s audience and eventually develop a relationship with that audience.

Final Thoughts on Developing a Presence Online

The success of small businesses today hinges upon how connected they are to the worldwide web. Unfortunately, many small business leaders feel reluctant to enter the fray, so to speak. Their trepidation stems from a number of sources from fear of tech to believing that foot traffic alone will be enough to sustain their business. However, as events of the last year have shown, it’s the businesses who know how to reach customers on the web who survive in the modern business world.

Fortunately, a number of resources exist that allow small business leaders to put their toe in the water. There are technologies that allow even the most inexperienced person to build websites or even to help them build a following on their social media sites.

Although this may require some work and even some capital to get the ball rolling, it’s ultimately worth it in the end. Business leaders who adopt this stance enjoy having a robust online presence. This allows them to generate more leads, take advantage of local SEO, and develop a solid foundation for their business to grow.