How to Build an Online Presence: Actionable Steps for Small Business Owners

Small business owners must have a strong online presence to succeed in any market. Begin by selecting a unique domain name and setting up a professional website. Optimize your site for search engines and establish a consistent social media presence. Don’t worry—this article outlines practical steps to boost your visibility and grow your business online. Follow these steps to help your business stand out and attract new customers.

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1. Purchase a Domain Name

A memorable domain name is your first step to establishing an online presence. Choose one that reflects your business and is easy to remember. Check availability and ensure it’s easy to remember and spell. You may also want to secure multiple domain variations to protect your brand.

  • Choose a Domain Name: To determine whether or not your preferred business name is available, you can use Siteground’s domain registration and domain name check or other registration services like GoDaddy, Namecheap, or Google Domains.
  • Secure Multiple Variations: Protect your brand by purchasing common misspellings and variations of your domain. You may also want to secure domain variations like .com, .net, or .biz if needed.

2. Create a Professional Website

Your website is the cornerstone of your online presence. Use platforms like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace to build a professional site. Ensure it’s mobile-friendly (when choosing a template look for keywords like “responsive” + “mobile friendly.” Be sure to include essential pages such as Home, About, Services, Contact, and Blog. For WordPress, you can utilize templates that are customizable to fit your brand’s unique look and feel. If you sell physical products online, you may also choose an e-commerce platform like Shopify. Both WordPress and Shopify will require more upfront work but offer greater flexibility and scalability. Alternatively, platforms like Wix and Squarespace provide more out-of-the-box solutions based on pre-built designs, making them quicker and easier to set up.

  • Select the Right Platform: Evaluate your business needs and technical skills to choose between WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, or Shopify.
  • Customize Your Design: For WordPress, select and customize a template that aligns with your brand’s aesthetics. If you’re using Wix and Squarespace, select from one of the many pre-built options.
  • Set Up E-commerce: If selling products, integrate Shopify with your site or use WooCommerce for WordPress.
  • Add Essential Pages: Ensure your website includes key pages such as Home, About, Services, Contact, and Blog to provide comprehensive information to visitors.
  • Optimize for Mobile: Use responsive design techniques to ensure your site looks great on mobile devices. Many of the pre-built templates include a mobile-friendly design. Look for keywords like “responsive” and/or “mobile friendly” in the template descriptions.

3. Verify and Optimize Your Google Business Profile

IMPORTANT: Your Google Business Profile may drive more visibility than your website, especially in the early months. Do NOT skip this important step.

Start by claiming your Google Business Profile at support.google.com/business. Ensure every section is filled out accurately, including your business name, address, phone number, and hours of operation. Enhance your profile by uploading professional photos that showcase your storefront, products, and team. Encourage your satisfied customers to leave positive reviews, and make it a habit to respond to all reviews promptly to build trust and engage with your audience. Be sure to complete all of the below:

  • Verification Process: Visit support.google.com/business and follow the steps to verify your business profile.
  • Accurate Information: Ensure all details, such as your business name, address, phone number, and hours of operation, are correct and up to date.
  • Business Description: Write a compelling business description that highlights your unique selling points and includes relevant keywords.
  • High-Quality Visuals: Upload professional photos showcasing your storefront, products, and team to make your profile visually appealing.
  • Review Requests: Proactively ask satisfied customers to leave positive reviews to enhance your online reputation.
  • Review Engagement: Actively respond to both positive and negative reviews to show you value customer feedback and build trust.
  • Q&A Sections: Monitor and answer questions in the Q&A section of your profile to provide helpful information to potential customers. You can also post commonly asked questions on behalf of the business.
  • Optimize for GBP Categories: Select the most relevant categories for your business to help Google understand what you offer and to improve search visibility. For a complete list of categories and secondary categories for GBP check out pleper.com.
  • Products and Services: List your key products and services with detailed descriptions to inform potential customers about what you offer, for products, you can even include links to pages on your website.
  • Amenities: To attract more customers, add information about your amenities, such as free Wi-Fi, parking, or outdoor seating.
  • Accessibility: To accommodate all customers, ensure your profile includes details about accessibility features, such as spoken languages, wheelchair access, or accessible restrooms.

If you get stuck during this process, please see the Google documentation on how to edit your Google Business Profile.

4. Set Up Social Media Accounts

Determine where your target audience spends their time online, such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Start by creating accounts on these platforms and ensure your branding is consistent by using the same logo and business name across all profiles. Establish a content calendar to maintain a regular posting schedule. Actively engage with your followers by responding to their comments and messages. Additionally, research and utilize relevant hashtags or groups to increase your reach on each platform.

  • Audience Research: Conduct surveys, analyze website analytics, and review social media insights to identify which platforms your target audience prefers. Tailor your content and approach to fit the unique features and audience of each platform.
  • Profile Optimization: Fill out all profile sections with detailed business information and accurate contact details.
  • Visual Consistency: Design cover photos and profile pictures that align with your brand identity and ensure they are used consistently across all profiles.
  • Content Planning: Create a schedule for your posts to keep your content organized. Engage with your audience regularly.
  • Engagement Strategy: Dedicate specific times each day to interact with followers, respond to comments, and join relevant conversations.
  • Hashtag Research: Investigate and track effective hashtags for your industry to boost visibility and reach.
  • Performance Analysis: Regularly review analytics provided by each platform to understand which types of content perform best and adjust your strategy accordingly.

5. Implement SEO Strategies

Optimize your website for search engines to improve visibility and attract more visitors. Conduct thorough keyword research to find relevant terms for your business (there are a variety of free tools, which we will explore in a future post). Incorporate these keywords into your content naturally.

IMPORTANT: The most important thing you can do to improve your SEO is to produce high-quality content that actually solves a problem. Try to be actionable and go beyond the obvious when discussing the types of problems your business solves. And please stay in your lane. By that I mean, if you’re selling bananas, you shouldn’t produce content about bicycles. While this may seem obvious, you’d be surprised by how many businesses chase keywords that are NOT appropriate for them. Write about what you know and do best, that’s it.

  • Keyword Research: Identify relevant keywords through comprehensive research to target your audience effectively.
  • Content Optimization: Embed selected keywords naturally into your website’s titles, meta descriptions, headers, and body content.
  • Internal Linking: Create internal links to guide visitors to important pages and improve site navigation (using descriptive and relevant anchor text).
  • Local SEO: Enhance local search visibility by including your city and region in your keywords and creating location-specific content that resonates with local audiences AKA writing for your customers.
  • Image Optimization: Use descriptive filenames and alt text for images to help users with visual impairments. This should not be an SEO play. Write descriptive alt text with your customers in mind, not for SEO.
  • Regular Updates: Keep your content fresh and relevant by regularly updating your website with new information and blog posts. Don’t produce more junk; produce high-quality content that serves a distinct purpose.
  • Analytics Review: Monitor your website’s performance through analytics to understand visitor behavior and adjust your SEO strategy as needed. You may also notice certain keywords have moved to page 2 or 3 of Google, these are good candidates to further optimize as you climb to page 1.

6. Start a Blog

Creating a blog is a powerful way to share useful information, tips, and insights related to your Business. Regularly posting can keep your audience engaged and attract new visitors. Promote your blog posts on social media and through email marketing to maximize reach.

IMPORTANT: I said it before, but I’ll say it again – When researching and selecting blog topics, think about the types of questions your customers are asking. Help solve your customer’s problems by producing high-quality content that goes beyond the obvious. Everything you produce should be actionable. Don’t write for keywords, write for substance.

  • Topic Research: Identify trending and relevant topics in your business to write about. Help solve your customers’ problems.
  • Content Calendar: Create a content calendar to plan your blog posts in advance. To maintain consistency, aim to publish at least one post per week.
  • SEO Optimization: Naturally incorporate keywords into your blog posts. Use internal and external links to enhance SEO and provide additional value to readers. If you’re writing with customers in mind, you’ll do most of this naturally. Don’t force it or abuse your keyword choices.
  • Engaging Titles: Craft compelling titles to attract readers and encourage clicks, but more so, be honest. There’s nothing more discouraging than clicking on a misleading title. Don’t do that to your readers for the sake of incorporating keywords. 
  • Visual Content: Include images, infographics, and videos to make your posts more engaging and shareable.
  • Content Promotion: To drive additional traffic, share your blog posts across all your social media platforms and include them in your email marketing efforts.
  • Analytics Monitoring: Track your blog’s performance using Google Analytics or equivalent platforms to understand what content resonates most with your audience and refine your strategy accordingly.

7. Utilize Email Marketing

Email marketing is a powerful way to engage your audience and promote the types of problems you solve. Start by collecting email addresses through your website or storefront and use email marketing tools to send valuable content to your readers. Keep in mind what you deem valuable may be considered spam by some. Your email campaigns should be incredibly thoughtful, the goal is to engage, not to end up in a junk folder. How many businesses do this effectively? Very few..

  • Collect Email Addresses: Implement signup forms on your website. If your content is high-quality, you won’t even need to incentivize your readers; this will happen naturally. Do you see a theme here?
  • Audience Segmentation: Divide your subscribers into groups based on their interests or behavior to create targeted and relevant email campaigns.
  • Engaging Newsletters: Craft newsletters that provide valuable content, but ask yourself: Would your customers consider this value or more noise?
  • Email Automation: Use email marketing tools to automate various email campaigns, such as welcome emails or must-reads.
  • Personalization: Customize emails with the recipient’s name and tailor content based on their preferences to increase engagement.
  • Clear Call-to-Actions: Include clear and compelling call-to-actions in your emails to guide subscribers towards desired actions, such as visiting your website or making a purchase. Everything you do should be actionable.
  • Performance Analysis: Track metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and conversions to assess the effectiveness of your email campaigns and refine your strategy accordingly.
  • A/B Testing: Conduct A/B tests on different email elements such as subject lines, content, and visuals to determine what resonates best with your audience.
  • Compliance: To maintain trust and avoid penalties, ensure your email marketing practices comply with relevant laws and regulations, such as GDPR or CAN-SPAM.

8. Engage in Online Communities

Participating in online communities can help you build relationships and establish yourself as an authority in your field. Join forums and social media groups relevant to your industry, and actively participate in discussions. Dedicate specific times each day to interact with followers, respond to comments, and join relevant conversations. Make this part of your routine/process.

IMPORTANT: Engaging in online communities requires genuine effort and cannot be faked. Businesses that consistently participate in these communities often excel in customer service because they listen to their customer’s needs and feedback. Can you confidently say your business truly listens to its customers? Do you know which online communities are applicable to your business?

  • Join Relevant Groups: Identify and join forums, social media groups, and online communities related to your business, or go where your target audience is active.
  • Provide Value: Contribute to discussions by offering helpful advice, insights, and solutions without overly promoting your business. Most of all, provide value and go beyond the obvious.
  • Build Relationships: Network with other business owners, industry professionals, and potential customers to create meaningful connections and collaborations.
  • Active Participation: Regularly engage in conversations, answer questions, and share your expertise to stay visible and relevant in the community.
  • Host Webinars and Q&A Sessions: Establish yourself as an authority by hosting webinars, live Q&A sessions, or online workshops. This way, you can share your knowledge and interact with your audience in real-time.
  • Share Relevant Content: Post and share valuable content such as articles, blog posts, and resources that are beneficial to the community members.
  • Listen and Learn: Listen to the community’s concerns and needs to gain insights that can help you improve your products or services.
  • Follow-Up: After participating in discussions, follow up with individuals who showed interest in your advice or services to build deeper connections.
  • Track Engagement: Monitor your interactions and engagement in these communities to understand their impact and refine your approach as needed.

9. Monitor Your Online Reputation

Keeping an eye on your online reputation is necessary when running a business. Respond to customer feedback and reviews. Address any negative feedback professionally and constructively to turn potential issues into opportunities for improvement. According to Power Reviews 9 out of 10 online shoppers regularly read reviews.

  • Encourage Reviews: Regularly invite satisfied customers to leave reviews to continuously build a positive online presence.
  • Set Up Alerts: Use tracking tools like Google Alerts to monitor mentions of your business across Google and receive notifications about new mentions.
  • Quick Response: Prioritize responses to all customer feedback and reviews to show that you value their input and are attentive to their needs.
  • Professional Issue Resolution: When addressing negative feedback, take responsibility, offer solutions, and demonstrate a commitment to resolving issues.
  • Engage with Customers: Actively engage with your customers by thanking them for positive feedback and seeking further input on how you can improve your services.
  • Analyze Feedback Trends: Look for patterns in customer feedback to identify common issues or areas for improvement.
  • Transparency and Honesty: To build trust with your audience, be transparent about any changes or improvements you make in response to feedback.

10. Analyze and Adjust

Use analytics tools to track your website’s performance, monitor key metrics, and adjust your strategies based on the data available to you. Always make data-based decisions when possible.

  • Use Analytics Tools: Implement tools to track and analyze your website performance, gaining insights into visitor behavior. For instance, your website may use Google Analytics to better understand how organic traffic impacts monthly revenue.
  • Monitor Key Metrics: Regularly review important metrics such as traffic, bounce rate, conversion rate, and user engagement to understand how your site is performing.
  • A/B Testing: Conduct A/B tests on various elements of your website, such as headlines, images, and calls to action, to identify what drives the best results.
  • Goal Setting: Set clear, measurable goals based on your data analysis to guide your strategy adjustments.
  • Competitor Analysis: Analyze your competitors’ strategies and performance to identify opportunities and threats in your market.
  • Refine Strategies: Use the data you gather to refine and optimize your online strategies. Test different approaches and measure their effectiveness to determine what works best.

Now, It’s Your Turn

To truly succeed online, focus on producing high-quality content, posts, images, videos, etc. that solve real problems for your audience. Stick to your core expertise and avoid chasing irrelevant keywords and topics. This approach will help you build trust and demonstrate your deep understanding of your customers’ needs. By consistently providing value and staying true to what you do best, you’ll establish an online presence in good time.

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We are only successful if we are helping your small business succeed, and for us, that starts with high-quality content. If any of our content has not answered your initial search query, created a positive experience, or if the content has not met your expectations, please contact paul@smallbizsetup.org. We want to hear from you and are committed to improving our resources to better meet your needs. Like, actually!