The Importance of Total Online Presence for Small Businesses
Your online presence can make or break your business. With 97% of people learning more about local companies through online searches, it’s critical to have a comprehensive online presence to stand out and attract potential customers. And this trend is only going to continue.
The concept of an online presence for small businesses doesn’t have to be vague anymore. In fact, it’s time for small business owners to have a clear understanding of what this means and how they can do it well, so they can achieve tangible success in the digital world.
Part 1: Understanding the Components of Total Online Presence for a Small Business
10 years ago, having an ‘online presence’ could mean just having a website or a social media account. Fast forward to today, and the success of your marketing efforts requires far more than that, both in terms of quantity and quality.
That’s why we’re making the clear distinction between ‘online presence’ and ‘total online presence’ for small businesses. Total online presence is an integrated system that encompasses a defined set of essential components, which includes your website, social media platforms, online listings, reviews and blogs. This cohesive approach to online presence ensures that all elements work together in harmony, driving visibility and engagement, which are the keys to growth and success.
The term ‘online presence’ has been often misunderstood and misused, with many businesses failing to see the benefits of a holistic approach. Total online presence is a system with quantifiable results that offers a clear scope and synergy.
The elements of a total online presence are interdependent on all of the other pieces. When one or more of the elements are weak, they can be like crabs in a bucket, dragging the rest down. When all of the elements are strong, it has the opposite effect, essentially making the whole much greater than the sum of its parts.
Essential Elements of a Total Online Presence
- Website: A professional, mobile-responsive website that showcases your business, products or services. Your site also has to have certain structural elements to be properly indexed and found by search engines. It takes more than just a good-looking website to do this well.
- Social media profiles & management: Actively posting valuable content and engaging with your customers and prospects on popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
- Online business listings: Accurate and up-to-date business information on local directories, search engines and review sites.
- Customer reviews & reputation management: Encouraging and managing customer feedback on platforms like Google Reviews and Yelp. (98% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business…)
- Content marketing: Creating and sharing valuable content that showcases your expertise and engages your target audience.
- Local SEO: Optimizing your website for search engines to improve visibility in local searches.
Part 2: The Impact of a Poor Online Presence on Small Businesses
When a small business has a poor online presence, i.e. having stale social media pages or an outdated website, it harms their overall image. The potential negative effects of not having a strong and coherent Online Presence include losing out on potential customers, appearing unprofessional and potentially having a sub-par service offering.
Consider a local bakery that has a highly optimized website, active social media accounts and many glowing customer reviews. Now compare that to another bakery with an outdated website, sparse social media presence and few customer reviews.
The first bakery is likely to attract more customers and build a stronger reputation in the community.
That may be obvious. But consider this: The second bakery, now with just as optimized of a website and active social media — but that has no customer reviews. Or they have customer reviews, but the website is confusing and difficult to navigate.
In 2023, the results are nearly the same. Those weak links are just too much to overcome in the eyes of savvier consumers.
You get a small window to gain trust with new prospects, and you simply can’t do it with a flawed or incomplete online presence.
This is crucial because 88% of consumers will either call or visit a business within 24 hours after searching for it via a mobile device. Furthermore, 77% of searches on mobile devices are followed up by an action within an hour. If your business doesn’t meet the criteria when searched for, you’re losing out, and potential customers will likely move on to a competitor.
A Total Online Presence is essential to tap into the growing number of people who rely on the internet for their purchasing decisions. Consumers are becoming increasingly reliant on online information, and businesses that don’t adapt risk losing out on valuable opportunities and market share.
Part 3: Building a Powerful Total Online Presence for Your Small Business
Building a strong Total Online Presence for your small business can seem daunting. And yes, the most thorough online presence treatment can be very in depth (our Total Online Presence Audit includes a 95-point inspection). But there are several areas that you can improve upon simply by being aware and attentive to them.
Practical Tips and Strategies for a Strong Total Online Presence
- Develop a consistent brand voice: Ensure that your brand messaging is consistent across all online channels. This includes your website, social media, online listings, and customer reviews.
- Invest in a professional website: Your website is often the first point of contact between your business and potential customers. Make sure it’s visually appealing, easy to navigate, and mobile-responsive.
- Engage on social media: Regularly post updates, share valuable content, and interact with your followers to build a strong connection with your audience.
- Claim and update online listings: Ensure that your business information is accurate and consistent across all online directories, search engines, and review sites.
- Encourage customer reviews: Ask satisfied customers to leave reviews on Google, Yelp, or other relevant platforms. Respond to both positive and negative feedback to show your commitment to customer satisfaction.
- Create and share valuable content: Publish blog posts, articles, videos, and other content that showcases your expertise and provides value to your audience.
- Optimize for local SEO: Implement on-page and off-page SEO techniques to improve your website’s visibility in local search results.
Balancing DIY and Finding a Marketing Agency For Your Total Online Presence
Developing a Total Online Presence involves an array of strategies and tactics. While some aspects can be managed with a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach, others may require the expertise of a marketing consultant or a marketing agency. While it’s understandable for a small business owner to want to take care of some of these things themselves, it’s important that they recognize what and when to look for an expert (like finding a marketing agency or marketing consultant).
Should You Hire a Marketing Agency?
For small businesses, the answer is often not if, it’s when. But the ‘when’ can really vary a lot from situation to situation. It will depend on your budget, your (or your staff’s) skillset, and what’s the best use of your time.
Engaging with your audience on social media platforms, simple content creation, and updating your website’s information can be managed with minimal expertise.
What you don’t need to do is take the ‘I’ll just do those things and that’ll be enough’ approach. That’s a good way to waste a lot of your time and money, and cost you who-knows-how-much opportunity.
Certain aspects of your Total Online Presence demand specialized knowledge and experience. These elements may include local SEO, Google Business Profile optimization, and advanced content marketing strategies. A marketing consultant or agency can help navigate the complexities of these areas, ensuring your efforts yield the desired results.
Hiring — or even just talking to — a marketing consultant or marketing agency can provide invaluable insights, helping you avoid pitfalls and make informed decisions. A good marketing agency or marketing consultant will be able to ascertain your specific needs and tell you if they are truly able to help you. When they do that, having an expert like a marketing agency or consultant in your corner gives you a competitive edge in the ever-evolving digital landscape.
That all said, ultimately it’s up to you to determine when it’s time for you to look for outside expertise. We recommend at least starting to have conversations with those experts sooner than later, so you’re gaining knowledge in the meantime, and preparing yourself to be able to make a decision if/when the time comes.
Unlocking the Potential of a Total Online Presence for Small Business Success
Poor online presence doesn’t have to undermine a small business’s marketing efforts. Recognizing the risks associated with an ineffective online presence can help businesses utilize proven strategies and practical tips to create a Total Online Presence. This cohesive approach ensures that all aspects of your online presence work together in harmony, driving visibility and engagement. By doing so, you’ll position your business for success and tap into the growing number of people who rely on the internet for their purchasing decisions.