Let’s face it. You can’t just put up an ad on a billboard or set up a booth in a mall for your business to make money. Not in today’s world of Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. People nowadays hear about and spread news on social media, look up stores and restaurants on search engines, and watch and listen to TV shows and music on their smartphones and tablets wirelessly connected to the Internet.
If you want your business to survive in this digital information age, you absolutely need to have an online presence. But to actually get their attention, you need a powerful online presence.
Build Your Website
The very first step is, of course, to put up a website for your business. It will be the information hub for all of your customers, clients and potential partners. It can even be the online equivalent of a brick-and-mortar store where you directly sell your products/services since it’s so much cheaper to maintain a website than a physical shop. It’s also always going to be “open” no matter the time, and anyone around the world with Internet access can visit it.
Because of the fact that it’s cheap to have a website, you’re gonna have plenty of competition right off the bat with so many businesses having websites of their own. So you can’t be content with just having a run-of-the-mill website. You have to aim high. Being in the top 10 in your industry would be a good beginning goal.
To do that, you have to become an authority.
Netizens suffer from short attention spans, to be frank. Of course, they can’t solely be blamed for that since there are around 8.32 billion webpages and Internet speeds average around 6.7Mbps in the US. There’s just so much information out there, and it all comes in incredibly fast.
Naturally, the websites that people believe will give them exactly what they want will be the websites that get the most attention. Being an authority website is just that. It’s a combination of having awesome content and a ton of credibility. There are definitely other important factors, but those two are the keys to success.
Tips on Building Authority
As one of the two keys to success, awesome content is the more important one. It’s what people want, and it’s also what search engines want since their job is to help people get what they want. The best way to start creating awesome content is to create a blog for your business.
Writing a lot of quality content about topics in your industry will get both people and search engines noticing your website. Once the people see that your blogs are informative and/or entertaining, they’ll begin to trust you which results in a higher probability of them actually buying your products. And because they read your blog, they’ll be more educated about your industry as well as your products, which again lead to more conversions.
Having to keep a blog means constant publishing of articles and that means you’ll get to hone your writing skills. You get better at it, you get more readers, you get more potential sales. And what’s a blog without comments? Engage your readers there, and they’ll feel that you personally care for their concerns. That’s more trust and credibility. In end, you could be looking at more closed deals and sales for your company.
Of course, it’s not enough to keep churning out awesome content. You have to take care of that content, and one way of doing that is by claiming authorship.
Google now includes the name and the profile picture of a piece of content’s author when its link shows up in the search results page. This isn’t automatic, because you need to have a Google+ account and an email address for the domain where you have your content. Go to the Authorship page on Google+ and enter your email address. It’ll work for every article that has your byline on the domain registered.
Authorship serves as a marker for Google that your name equates to quality content especially when it gets read, shared, and linked to a lot. It also boosts your own personal brand as someone important in your industry. When people see your name after searching for something and they’ve read good stuff you’ve written before, they’re more likely to click on your content’s link knowing it’s you who created it.
Developing Your Website’s User Experience
Besides your content, you have to develop everything else in your website visitors interact with one way or another.
The first thing is having a design that clearly expresses your business’ message. This means having a look and feel to your website that manages to connect to your target audience’s sensibilities without being distracting. If you’re aiming for professional clients, go with a no-nonsense style that exudes class. If you want the attention of the youth, add a dash of fun and trendiness to your website.
Another important aspect is the navigation system of your website. You want to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to find the exact pages they’re looking for. Start by having all your top level pages (home page, about page, blog page, etc.) linked to on your main navigation. Use dropdown menus for those pages’ categories and the subcategories. Dropdown menus are easier to modify when you need to add more pages and thus more links to your navigation system.
One more critical facet that ties into the website’s appearance is having trust signals. Internet users are much more aware now of suspicious websites that can be harmful to their computers, swindle them out of their cash and personal information, or just be useless websites.
Get them on your side immediately by having a concise and professional sounding domain name, social media badges that show people have actually read your content and shared them, and trust seals from business accreditations and established brands. Make your “About” page visible, and provide your contact details. Create a page for your business’ Terms and Conditions if you’re directly selling products on the website.
All these little things combine to help establish your website’s credibility.
Marketing Your Website
Although you can start building credibility with what you have on your website, most of the process is done by reaching out or marketing your website.
One of the best ways to do just that is to implement SEO or search engine optimization. Remember that fact about 8.32 billion webpages? It’d be a mind-numbingly colossal hassle if you had to go through each one just to look for one or two things you want to read about. Thankfully, there are search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing that make it so much easier for us. They list down webpages according to quality in descending order so we get the best content for the search terms we use.
A lot of people use search engines to find about stuff. Because of the aforementioned fact that plenty of them have short attention spans, they won’t bother going past the second or third search engine results pages (SERPs). So it pays to rank high.
SEO is basically making a website’s pages rank higher on SERPs. It’s done through on-page stuff such as content and website structure (which we already briefly tackled in the previous sections so you’re already doing a bit of SEO!), and off-page stuff like having quality websites link back to particular webpages.
An excellent method of off-page SEO is guest blogging. Look for quality websites that are relevant to your industry. See if they have a blog and if they accept guest posts. Email whoever is in charge of such matters, and pitch an article that you think will benefit their website. More often than not, you’ll be allowed to link back to your website on the post you’re writing for the other website.
This helps immensely as you get to build relationships, get the attention of a whole new audience, establish yourself as a credible influencer and authority in the industry and yes, increase your webpages’ rankings on Google because of inbound links from other websites.
Signing up for social media should be a no-brainer considering the billions of people your business could reach on such platforms. You just have to utilize your social media account effectively for it to make a difference.
Just like your blog, keep your social media accounts active and updated. Start small contests where you give away merchandise, promos or discounts, ask questions to your followers and reply to their answers, and link to your website’s blog.
Although social media has taken over the Internet, that doesn’t mean more traditional online marketing avenues should be disregarded. Email marketing is one such method that still has its uses. It’s much more targeted and personal than social media since it’s a one-on-one conversation allowing for better interactions for higher conversions. It’s also pretty fast and easy to start, and tracking data is simple.
You just have to put in the effort to send a lot of emails but giving each one something different so that your targets don’t instantly send them to the trash or spam folders. It can be a big success just having a person actually click on your email, so you have to immediately grab their attention by telling them what you’re all about as soon as possible.
One final piece of advice to build your online presence as an authority is to be everywhere. Go to all the famous blogs, forums and other such communities that are connected to your industry and show off your knowledge. Question the industry leaders, participate in polite and meaningful discussions, and just don’t stop being active in all these places.
People will take notice especially if you’re providing a lot of good insight, and they’ll start to show interest on what you and your business can offer.
In the end, it all boils down to a couple of things: Have a well-designed website that publishes a lot of awesome content regularly. Promote the hell out of it on social media, online communities relevant in your industry, and good old fashioned email. Interact with everyone, whether it’s a thought leader or a follower, and do it everywhere.