Like building an empire, building an online presence requires effort, time and money. Not only will you need to have somewhere for customers to land (i.e. a website), but you’ll also need to create multiple pathways to lead them there and convince them that your business is worth their time. So how do you do it?
How to Build an Online Presence
The secret to having a strong online presence is to show up on several key kinds of platforms and make positive and consistent contributions. As your audience sees your engagement online, they are more likely to think of you as a credible, reputable and—most importantly—legitimate business.
According to marketing expert Dr Jeffrey Lant, a potential customer needs seven exposures to your brand in 18 months before they’ll consider making a purchase. Find out which sites your target customers browse and be there.
Build a Website
Your business website is your online “home”—the place where you define your business, communicate your values, showcase your products and welcome potential customers. All of your other online channels should lead people back to your website, where you will invite them to join your rewards program, subscribe to emails or make a purchase.
There are several options for building a website that also functions as an online store. For example, you can:
- Build a website and integrate a payment gateway through a plug-and-play API module that comes with a merchant account and merchant services
- Build a website using a beginner’s platform like Wix that comes with optional online store facilities
- Build your website using a dedicated shopping platform like Shopify or BigCommerce
Whichever option you choose, your website should be easy to navigate, have beautiful, professional product images and have clear call-to-action buttons like “sign up” and “buy now”. Include trust badges to show that you use fraud prevention tools and social proof such as customer testimonials and reviews.
List Your Products in Online Marketplaces
Once you have an online store, remember that you can also sell your products on mega-markets like Amazon, eBay, Google Shopping, Alibaba and Etsy. Many customers start their product searches directly in Amazon or Google Shopping. Having listings there will help them find you.
When selling through mega-markets such as the ones mentioned above, be sure to provide a link back to your website in the product description. If the customer is happy with their purchase, they might come directly to your website to purchase next time—resulting in higher profit margins on subsequent sales.
Open Social Media Accounts
A social media presence is a great way to build brand awareness and connect with your audience in a more lighthearted way. On social media, you’ll typically post fun, short, personality-filled posts, eye-catching images, videos, competitions and sales. Your customers can interact with you in a more relaxed setting, provide feedback and share with their friends.
To begin, you’ll need to develop a social media strategy that identifies:
- The social media platforms that your target audience uses (such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok and Pinterest)
- The days and times your target audience is most likely to be online
- The kinds of posts that are the most effective for each social media platform
If you’re using Facebook, for example, you’ll want to use a mix of:
- One-third of posts that relate directly to your products and promotions
- One-third of posts that share industry insights and statistics
- One-third of posts that invite audience participation and feedback
If you’re using other platforms, find out which strategies work best. For example, Stories tend to work best on Instagram and short demonstrational videos work well on YouTube. Facebook native videos work better than links to YouTube and square images give you more visual real estate compared to rectangles.
When using social media to build your online presence, it’s important to post regularly and respond to comments and messages. You can create a content calendar for each upcoming month to make sure you have a good mix of highly engaging content types.
Include Your Brand in Online Directories
If you’re a local business, online directories are an important tool for boosting your online presence. It’s even possible that listings have been made for you, but might be inaccurate or incomplete.
At a minimum, claim your business on Google My Business (GMB) and add a short business description and a link to your website. Then, create listings for the top directories for your region. For Europe, consider:
- UK Small Business Directory
- Europe Business Directory Online
Once your business is listed, make sure to keep your address, contact details and website URL up-to-date. This is important for customer trust and credibility.
Build Your Reputation through Online Reviews
Consumers rely heavily on online reviews for making decisions about a purchase. In fact, 95% of customers read reviews online before they even go into a store. While some potential customers will read reviews indiscriminately, others look for reviews from the past month as they understand this gives the most up-to-date picture of your current product quality and customer service.
In addition to asking customers to leave testimonials, ratings and reviews on your website, it’s a good idea to invite customers to leave reviews on third-party sites like Google Reviews. In both cases, make sure you respond to customer feedback and reviews (both positive and negative) to show that you’re monitoring feedback and genuinely care about your customers.
Write Guest Posts for High-Authority Blogs
Guest posting is a great way to increase the visibility of your online business through the creation of backlinks to your site. Look for popular blogs in your niche and pitch relevant content ideas to the editor. Sometimes you’ll need to pay for the post (referred to as a “sponsored article”) and other times they’ll include approved articles for free.
To boost your website even more, try to get backlinks to your site from high-authority domains like news sites and those ending in .edu and .gov. The best way to do this is to conduct original research and market surveys and publish the results.
Create a Wikipedia Entry
This strategy is most relevant to franchises and individuals, but creating a Wikipedia entry boosts your perceived authority—if you’re on Wikipedia, you must be someone. All you need to do to write a Wikipedia entry about your business is create an account, provide your basic information and write interesting facts about your company’s history and achievements.
If you decide to appear on Wikipedia, it’s important to provide high-authority sources for your information, stay objective (not self-promoting) and be honest if there have been any controversies in your company’s history. It’s much better to be up-front and show how you’ve improved rather than wait for someone else to disclose your shortcomings.
Increase Traffic with Marketing
Once you’ve created your website and social media profiles, written a Wikipedia entry (if relevant) and are listed on all of the relevant directories, all that’s left to do is boost your pages and business with marketing. There are several digital marketing strategies you should use in addition to paid marketing to push your listings higher on the SERPs.
Content marketing involves creating keyword-optimised content to show search engines the relevance of your website to users. Keywords are the word pairs and phrases that internet users enter in a Bing or Google search. By matching your content closely to these phrases and queries, your website is more likely to make it onto the results list.
To begin with, you’ll want to make your website search-engine-friendly with search engine optimisation (SEO). Perform keyword research and include the relevant keywords in your URLs, meta-data, titles, headings, file names and alt tags. Then, start creating content regularly in the form of blog articles and videos. The more relevant articles you have, the more opportunities there will be for interested customers to find your site.
Influencer marketing describes collaborations between businesses and online celebrities in which the celebrities (aka influencers) promote your products to their audience. This is a bit like the old system of endorsements, except that these aren’t traditional athletes or pop stars—they’re self-made social media celebrities with a highly developed niche.
To promote your products with influencer marketing, find influencers in your region and niche and approach them to see whether your products might be of interest to their audience. Then, provide your website address and social media handles so that the influencer can link to you in their posts.
Paid online advertising shouldn’t be your only or necessarily even a long-term strategy, but it can go a long way to boosting your visibility while you work on your organic rankings.
- Google, Bing and Yahoo all have pay-per-click advertising programs, which means that you only pay when someone clicks on the ad. When you sign up for Google Ads, you’ll get access to Google AdWords, which can be a great source of keyword research for your content marketing as well.
- On social media, you’re looking at paid ads that are usually priced according to the frequency and reach of the ad. Social media ads should always come with an eye-catching “call-to-action” button that takes customers to your main business website.
Rich Snippets, Featured Snippets, Related Queries and Links
You’ve got a great website, high-quality content, a strong social media presence and hundreds of positive reviews. Now, bring it all together with strategies that display your success to the world.
On each page of your website—especially top-selling products pages—add schema markup to tell search engines where to locate the product name, product image, price, ratings and stock availability on the page. This information will display to interested customers, helping them compare similar products without having to click into each website. They can then go to your website with a firm intention to buy.
Featured snippets display at the top of Google search results (for free) and provide concise answers to questions that internet users ask. To be selected for featured snippets, try to provide highly relevant statements near the top of each article. For example, in an interior design article about red vs blue for walls, include a sentence like: “red walls create a feeling of warmth whereas blue walls create a feeling of calm”.
Google’s “people also ask” or “related queries” is driven by algorithms that analyse subheadings (H2s) in blog posts. You have a higher chance of being featured if you structure your H2s as questions and answer several related queries in each post.
Internal and external links in posts show search engines which pages are related and which ones are considered the most valuable. The more links that lead to a given target page, the higher its assigned score. You can increase the visibility of two pages at once by including internal links with anchor text that’s relevant both to the source and target page.
Building a Strong Online Presence Can Do Wonders for Your Brand
Establishing and maintaining an easy-to-navigate website, running impacting social media campaigns and keeping all your listings up to date takes work, but will help you build a strong online presence and boost your credibility with customers.
To get started, conduct market research, develop a winning strategy and partner with individuals and companies who can help to implement your ideas. Being consistent with content creation and showing customers that you care about their experience (by responding to comments and reviews) will not only improve your visibility but strengthen your reputation as well.