Are you thinking about starting your own company? If you are, then you may have already seen how some of the biggest and most successful companies in the world today have gotten a tremendous marketing boost because they invested in having their own website built. Since the invention of the internet, businesses have seen how powerful having a strong online presence can be in terms of advertising and increasing brand recognition, as well as broadening their commercial reach.
So of course, being the aspiring entrepreneur that you are, you would like to follow the examples set by these successful companies, and establish a strong web presence of your own. But what do you do when you have as much knowledge about building your own website as you do about rocket science, and the idea of hiring a web professional to build one for you just isn’t in the budget?
Website vs. Web Presence
Let’s get one thing straight. Before you think about trying to learn CSS and HTML in order to make a feeble attempt at carving your very own space on the web, you must first understand that even though the terms are often used interchangeably, “website” and “web presence” are two completely different things.
If you think that having your own website means you have some form of web presence, you are absolutely correct. But when you say you have web presence, it doesn’t always follow that you need to have your own website. Confused? Your website is generally the one place on the internet that people can visit when they want to find out more about your company, buy your product online, or thank you for the services that you provided.
Your web presence, on the other hand, is essentially your collective existence on the internet. These could include your social media pages, your listings in various business rating and review websites, and yes, your company website. In other words, a website is just an example of what could constitute your web presence. While having your own website built may be your go-to option right now, know that there are other equally effective ways to establish a web presence for your company without breaking your budget.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to build online presence without having to invest in your own website is to be on social media. There are plenty of social media networks out there, and even though they were intended to be a way for people to connect with each other online, businesses have found that social networks also present a new online environment brimming with market potential.
Most of the more popular social networks today such as Facebook and Twitter allow you to sign up for free, and some of them allow you to create profiles specifically designed for businesses. Create an account for your company on any number of social networks, just make sure that you complete your profile. People are less likely to click the back button on their browser if they see exactly what type of business you have, what products or services you offer, and how interested parties can get in touch with you.
More importantly, interact with users who engage you on your social media page. If your page is complete and interesting enough, you will have a number of followers who can comment on your page or ask you questions about the products or services that your company offers. As much as you can, respond to them through comments or private messages. Users are more likely to like or follow you online if they see you responding to inquiries and addressing customer concerns online.
You might also want to consider investing in social media marketing suites such as FollowerWonk, Sprout Social, or Spredfast. These tools allow you manage your profiles across multiple networks, monitor clients, measure yourself against competitors, and more. If you are not ready to pay for social media software yet, look into free social media tools such as TweetDeck, EdgeRank Checker, and Social Crawlytics, and see how they can help bolster your online marketing efforts.
Search Engine Optimization
Once you have built your social media presence across multiple networks, take your internet marketing efforts a step further with SEO, or search engine optimization. SEO is an internet marketing strategy that considers how search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing gather their results, what internet users search for, and how you can funnel user searches towards your web presence.
One particular aspect of SEO that you will want to utilize is local SEO. This often overlooked, but highly targeted internet marketing strategy incorporates your geographic location in optimizing your business. Since most search engines nowadays are collecting information about user locations and search histories, local SEO is quickly becoming a very useful tool for business that may not rank high on national scale, but places near the top of search engine results page because of their proximity to local internet users.
Making use of local SEO also means also having to deal with less competition. If you try to compete for a particular set of keywords or search phrases on a national scale, you will be going up against every similar company in the country. On the other hand, if the search is localized, you will only need to compete with businesses that are similar to yours and are within the same geographic region.
Put Your Business on The Map
In some way, the internet today has more or less replaced the telephone directory. When people need to know where the nearest Chinese restaurant is, or what number to call if they have a hankering for spicy chicken wings at three in the morning, the first thing they do is go online and run a search. One way to get more visibility for your business is put it on the map, specifically, Google Maps. With its integration with Google+ and My Business product, Maps allows users to easily search for and locate your business.
Signing up for Google My Business gives you the ability to update your business information on Google Search, Google Maps, and Google+ all from one location. It lets you add photos of your business to help users see what makes you unique, and connect directly with your customers. You even have the benefit of being able to manage business information on the go with the use of the handy Google My Business app for both Android and iOS.
As your business begins to attract a bigger following, you will likely find more of your customers sharing their thoughts about the products and services that you provided on some of today’s more popular review sites. These sites are specifically designed to let internet users share their insights and post reviews about businesses, products, and services. Popular examples include the following:
- Yelp – Established in 2004, Yelp has grown to become one of, if not the, most popular review sites today. Signing up for an account is free, and posting photos of your business and communicating with your customers is very easy. Having positive reviews on Yelp is a great way to get more users to notice you, and potentially expand your customer base. Regardless of what type of business you run, positive reviews on Yelp can really get you off the ground.
- Glassdoor – With over six million company reviews in its continually growing database, Glassdoor has become a highly reliable career resource community that helps people find jobs and companies recruit the best available talent. The company reviews found on Glassdoor often discuss employee experiences, salary expectations, interviews, work environment, and management, thus providing job applicants with enough information to make a determination on how they want to move forward with their careers.
- TripAdvisor – Consisting mostly of user-generated content, TripAdvisor is an American travel site where users can share their experiences and post travel-related reviews. Free to use, TripAdvisor provides prospective travelers with useful information, travel tips, and reviews regarding hotels, resorts, restaurants, flights, vacation rentals, travel packages, destinations, and more. Having your business reviewed on TripAdvisor is a great way to reach out to internet users that are outside your geographic location.
As you can see, creating a strong online presence need not start with having your own website built. Sure, having an official company website is an important part of the business. But if you are just starting out, and you currently do not have the means to put up your own “.com”, then look into your other options. There are plenty of ways to go about establishing yourself on the web.
There is always more than one way to solve a problem. If you are looking to establish yourself on the web, but you’re a little bit short on the resources, there really is no need to fret. With a strong social media presence, coupled with effective local SEO strategies and positive customer reviews, your business will be taking off soon enough.