May 6, 2019 en_US Want to make a profitable first impression? Here’s how to clean up your business’ online presence—from your website to social media to security and more. How to clean up your small business online presence and make a sparkling first impression

How to clean up your small business online presence and make a sparkling first impression

By Kat Boogaard May 6, 2019

Here’s an important question: How are your potential customers finding you?

Even if you own a brick and mortar storefront, they’re probably not window shopping or spotting your advertisement in the local paper. No. Instead, they’re looking for you online. One study indicates that 97% of all consumers research products and services online before buying locally.

Unfortunately, your small business online presence can get unwieldy and messy. As business owners, technical glitches happen, algorithms change, and information quickly becomes outdated. Worse, customer experience suffers without you even knowing it.

Staying on top of all of it feels like too much to manage, particularly when you have so many other crucial duties on your plate. Fortunately, you don’t need to invest a huge amount of time in order to clean your business online presence.

Here are a few steps you can take to create a strong online presence.

Claim your Google business listing

Imagine that a prospective customer wants to learn more about the kinds of products and services you sell. Where’s the first place they’ll turn? Google.

Google’s market share of desktop search engines fluctuates slightly, but it’s always near 90%—meaning if you haven’t taken steps to make yourself available and visible there, you’re losing out on a lot of potential business.

While search engine optimization can be overwhelming, claiming your Google My Business listing is the easiest and most impactful step you can take. Once you do, your information shows up automatically in Maps, Search, and other Google Properties.

How do you do that? Google provides detailed instructions (for both desktop and mobile) right here.

Spiff up your social media accounts

Research shows that more than one in three users turns to social media platforms when looking for information about a brand or product. Love it or hate it, your small business needs an active social presence.

Does this mean you need social media profiles everywhere? Absolutely not. Rather than trying to keep up with every network, it’s far better to pick the platforms that are:

  • Manageable for you to keep up with
  • Most popular with your target customers

For the accounts that you are active on, take a look to ensure that your contact information is still accurate, your bios and branding are up-to-date, and your access and permissions are current.

In fact, we’ve even put together a guide to clean up your social media presence.

Test your contact form

We’ve all had it happen. We navigate to a business’ “contact us” page, fill out one of those generic forms, and then are overcome with frustration when we receive an error message. What happens then? We click away from that website—never to return again.

There’s likely never a need for you to contact your own business, which means details like these can easily slip through the cracks. But investing the time in reaching out only to be unsuccessful can be a major pain point for your prospective customers.

Head to your own “contact” page to double-check that any displayed contact information is still accurate. Then actually fill out and submit your own contact form to ensure that it’s working correctly and that the response is delivered to the appropriate place.

In fact, set a calendar reminder to check this on a monthly basis. The last thing you want is for interested customers to not be able to get in touch.

Update your copyright date

Your copyright notice is in the fine print in your website footer (at least, it should be), which means it’s far too easy to overlook—and many brands and businesses do just that.

Take a look at your own website footer and confirm that it has been updated to include the current year. If not, make that change or ask your website developer to do so. That’s all you need to do—there’s no other legal paperwork or process involved.

The good news is that all of your content is still copyrighted (even if the displayed date isn’t current). However, failing to update the current date does make you look like you lack attention to detail.

Change your passwords

This last step isn’t all that flashy—in fact, it’s not even visible to anyone else. But security should be a major concern, particularly when 58% of malware attack victims are categorized as small businesses.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely prevent all hacks and malicious activity, but it’s important that you control what you can—especially when the entire reputation of your small business is potentially on the line.

The easiest step to take? Change your passwords regularly, and make sure that they’re all strong (meaning they contain at least one capital letter, lowercase letter, number, and special character) and unique from one another.

Worried about how you’ll remember all of those jumbled characters? Use a tool like LastPass or1Password to keep your passwords organized and your accounts secure—without a ton of hassle.

Optimize your website for mobile

Take one look around a restaurant, a waiting room, or even a line at the pharmacy and you’ll quickly realize that we’re all obsessed with our phones.

These devices not only keep us connected, but they also make it easy for us to shop and search for businesses while we’re on the go. Believe it or not, use of the web while on mobile has actually surpassed usage on desktops.

This means that, without a doubt, customers are looking at your business website on their smartphones. Yet one recent survey found that only 17% of small businesses have a website that’s mobile-friendly.

That’s bad news, especially when you consider that 57% of internet users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly-designed website on mobile, and almost eight in 10 customers will stop engaging with that business’ content altogether if it doesn’t display well on their device.

Unless you’re a web developer, optimizing your own site for mobile is probably a little more than you can tackle on your own. So reach out to whoever designed your existing website (or look at this as an opportunity to start from scratch) to tell them you want your site to display properly across all devices.

A sparkling small business online presence

For the majority of your customers, their first impression of your business isn’t going to happen when they shake your hand or step into your shop. It’s going to happen when they search for your business online or look at online reviews.

The tone you set there needs to be a good one, which means your digital presence requires consistent attention and upkeep. Thankfully—with this simple cheatsheet meets checklist—you can tackle in all in under a few hours and only have to revisit each one once or twice a year.

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Kat Boogaard is a freelance writer specializing in career, self-development, and entrepreneurship topics. Her work has been published by outlets including Forbes, Fast Company, Business Insider, TIME, Inc., Mashable, and The Muse. Read more