It’s hard to believe that in 2015, with the web over 20 years old, there are still some businesses that aren’t online or which barely seem to make an effort. It’s critical that you don’t let yourself fall behind like this. People are searching for local and small businesses – just like yours – online. If they can’t find you easily, you’re missing out on these customers – it’s like having a “Closed” sign on your door when customers show up. Here are some things every business should do to build their online presence.
Get Your Own Domain Name
You can get online in plenty of different ways, including with free services like WordPress or Tumblr. You can get a website with their domain (i.e. yourbusinessname.tumblr.com), but many services will also allow you to use your own domain name, if you have one. Get one, and use it. You can buy a domain through a variety of services, like GoDaddy or Namecheap.
You would never use an extension of someone else’s phone number for your business, you have your own phone number. So why would you use someone else’s domain name. When you use someone else’s domain name, you’re committing your future to them. If you move off their publishing platform, you can’t as easily take all your visitors with you. If the platform closes suddenly, you lose your address and traffic.
So get your own domain name, or ensure that whoever builds your website understands this is a requirement. It’s the best thing for your brand – and it’s cheap.
List Your Business on Yelp, Google and Elsewhere
Like it or not, whether you know it or not, there are local search engines already listing your business, allowing others to gain information about it or leave reviews.
You should claim those listings for your business. You won’t be able to prevent bad reviews, but you’ll be able to respond to these reviews and join the conversation. You’ll also be able to thank the customers who give you good reviews. It also means you can make sure the information provided is more accurate and up to date. While it doesn’t mean you can prevent bad reviews, it does mean you can improve the other information they provide and join the conversation. You may also discover things that you’ll want to improve about your business, things that customers may be too shy to comment on in person.
Have a Blog
Content, as they say, is king or queen. Consumers want more than price lists, menus, hours and product offerings from businesses. They appreciate expertise. If you offer this, they benefit directly, plus they may share your expertise with others—potential new customers.
So consider writing a blog about things you think are of interest to your customers. It could be as simple as new special deals you’re offering. It could be a recipe from your restaurant’s menu. It could be your take on a change happening in an industry. For example, if you sell insurance, you might want to give tips on dealing with a new law or advice on reducing premiums. This helps establish you as an expert while getting more eyes on your website.
56% of Malaysia’s population are active on social media. If you’re not on social media with them, you’re missing out on a large section of the market. Get a Twitter account. Start a Facebook account. Start a Google+ account. These sites either have big audiences that may be seeking you on social media or offer benefits that help you rank higher in search results.
If they make sense for your business, also consider Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram or other social services. You don’t have to do them all at once. It’s enough just to establish an account as a placeholder. Do that, and you can watch to see if people naturally start to follow your business or reach out to it. That can help you understand if you should begin to be more active on a social network.
You don’t have to immediately jump in and try to be the best social participant out there. Most new business owners don’t have enough time to devote to all social media networks. It’s okay to ramp up slowly, get practice and spend time where it makes the most sense. But ignoring social media is like ignoring other types of marketing channels, such as print, radio, TV or outdoors. You should at least experiment, especially since this channel is growing so much.
Get Familiar With SEO.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is an important marketing tactic that you should consider. If you want to get more familiar, both Google and Search Engine Land offer free guides to improving your SEO.
For a local business, perhaps the best SEO tip might be this: Have your full address in a standard format somewhere on your site, and it’s even better if you make use of options to also embed it on your site in a machine-readable format commonly called Schema.org. This will help immensely when people search for businesses near a given location.
One study recently found that about half of the small and midsized businesses surveyed lack a website. If you think the other half are somehow ahead of the game for having a website, think again. Only about 6% of them had a site optimized for mobile.
It’s not just about being online these days. You also need to ensure you’re online in a way that captures people on mobile devices, especially considering 40% of Malaysia’s web traffic comes from mobile devices, and that keeps increasing. (It’s more than doubled in the past year.)
The Work Is Worth the Payoff
Not all the above suggestions are easy, but running a business isn’t easy either. Part of running a business is finding new customers as well as keeping your existing ones happy. Almost all of those customers are online, so reaching out to them on the web shouldn’t just be something extra you do when you find the time. It’s a fundamental business practice you need to be doing now.