Launching a new business is hard enough in and of itself, but in today's digitally-driven marketplace, building an online presence is just as important as your general branding, what you're offering, and your customer service.
Creating a strong online presence isn't just a necessity for Internet-based businesses. Even if you're a small business operating in a storefront in just one town or city, you still need that presence to be successful in most instances.
Local SEO and online marketing practices are two of the biggest focus areas for businesses, because even if you're a brick-and-mortar only targeting local consumers, you still need to be online in a significant way.
When you think about creating an online brand and presence, it can be almost as daunting as the launch of the business itself. The best approach is to go step-by-step, starting with the essentials.
Define Your Message
Before you can build your online existence, you need to know what it is you want to say. Clearly define your objectives and your messaging before doing anything else. The more specific, the better. You should also identify your targeted audience, and even create personas that will allow you to work on building a presence to specifically target these markets.
It's not enough to say your goal is to sell a lot of stuff. Everyone wants to do that, and that isn't an objective that's going to drive your business forward on the foundation of a thriving web presence.
Web Content Matters
As you launch a new business, you probably already have too much on your plate. You may have spent an time and money creating your website, but what about the words that will go on it? Everything you do regarding online marketing and social media is likely to lead back to your website or landing pages, so take the time and if necessary, outsource to work to ensure you get professional content.
This isn't just valuable for search engines--having smart, error-free and top-quality writing is going to set the tone for you to become an authority in your niche. Nothing is going to lose you credibility more quickly than having poorly written or subpar web content.
With the pervasiveness of mobile devices, you can't skip this step. If you think you're a small, local business, and you don't need mobile, you're wrong. Think about it this way: your targeted customers are looking for someone who does what you do. They're driving around town. How are they going to find you? Chances are, through their mobile device. According to ReachLocal, 3 out of 5 consumers use their smartphones to search for local business.
Be Selective with Social Media
You're already starting a new business, and there's obviously quite a lot that comes with that. A significant part of building your online presence is about using social media, but you need to start small. Choose a few platforms that are most conducive to your goals. Think about where your audience is most likely to be and where your message will resonate most. If you try to jump into social media and do too much at once, you're probably not going to be doing any of it particularly well.
Once you build a profile on one or two platforms, you can then expand your social media. In the beginning, it isn't about quantity, but instead about quality. You want to be consistently engaging your customers, not trying to juggle every social media platform without an eye toward quality or genuine customer engagement.
Create Helpful Evergreen Guides
Evergreen content refers to those blog posts, whitepapers and other forms of content that are always relevant. When you're just starting to build online visibility for your new business, develop a couple of high-quality pieces of evergreen content, such as how-to posts that are specific to your niche.
You can not only put these on your site to build your authority and credibility, but you can also use them when you reach out to influencers as you start working on link building. Having a store of really good, timeless content is a good start.
Monitor Your Competitors
When you first start a business and you feel like you're lost as to how to make yourself relevant in an online setting, a good place to start is by assessing your competition. Monitor what they're doing not only on their website, but also their blog, their social media profiles and anywhere they seem to be engaging users and building a following. Don't be afraid to look at competitors--you don't have to replicate their exact strategies, but it can just give you a definite starting point when you're starting out.
Don't Just Write For Your Own Blog
Yes, blogging is a good start to launch your online presence, but it's not the only way. You need to start writing content and posting it as many places as you can. Get to know influencers in your industry and reach out to them to inquire about guest posting.
Post your content on industry-centric websites, on LinkedIn, or anywhere you feel like your targeted audience might be part of the community. Your goal should always be creating value. Don't just put together sloppy content to distribute through other channels and keep your good stuff for your own blog.
Think about PPC Advertising
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a good way to start getting yourself out there when you're launching a new business. You'll have to do some initial keyword research and make sure your pages are set up properly, but once you do that you can invest in some online advertising to expand your reach.
What's great about PPC advertising, aside from the obvious, is that you can do things like A/B testing to see what resonates best with your targeted audience. This is valuable information that can be translated to offline advertising and marketing as well.
Starting a new business is not likely to ever be easy, but with the above tips, you can at least position yourself for success in terms of your online and social strategies.