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creating your own online presence or digital footprint

When talking about an online presence, think about what you do when you’re looking for a product or service. Once upon a time, you would have checked your local store to see what was on hand. You might have asked others for recommendations. Nowadays, though, this process has completely changed.

Today you hop on your computer or phone to search for what you want. You may visit websites and social media to get more information before deciding what to buy.

What’s central to all of this?

Your online presence.

That’s why it surprises me when companies often leave their digital footprint undeveloped.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Read on to learn why you need a digital presence and how to develop one.

What is an Online Presence?

An online presence, or digital footprint, is how audiences find brands and companies on the internet. With a digital footprint, small businesses can build brand reputation, brand awareness, and overall visibility — giving them as much power as larger companies.

This strategy spans several online platforms, including…

  • Websites
  • Social media
  • Wikipedia pages
  • Online stores, such as Amazon
  • And more

A solid online presence not only helps your audience to find you, but also helps them to learn about you on their terms. As they discover more about your small business, their trust in you will grow, eventually turning them into a prospect and customer.

Why Your Small Business Needs an Online Presence

Whether you are a small business with products or an entrepreneur building your personal brand, an online presence is vital to your work.

Not only does it increase your brand awareness and visibility, but it also legitimizes your business. The more people see you online, the more they will see you as a trusted brand.

Consider a recent study that found that a staggering 97% of consumers use the internet to find a business.

So this is not just a matter of personal preference. It’s absolutely critical that your small business has a digital presence.

So you know you need a digital presence…now what?

Let’s look at 10 powerful ways that you can build your very own online presence and supercharge your small business strategy

10 Brilliant Ways to Build Your Own Online Presence

1. Find Your Audience

To make sure you are showing up online, you need to be where your audience is.

In other words, focus your strategic energy on platforms and forums where your audience will see it. This is where good research comes into play. Explore what networks your audience uses and focus your content creation and promotional efforts there.

The more your audience sees you, the more of an impression you will make on them. But it all starts with being present where they are.

2. Create a Website

Your website is the foundation of your online presence. No matter what comes after — social media, online forums, and other online platforms — it begins with your having an effective website.

I want to emphasize the importance of investing in a productive website. Audiences nowadays have high standards for websites. You want a website with seamless functionality and aesthetics that match those of your competitors.

There are countless DIY, budget-friendly options to build websites. But if you’re new to website building, it might be worth hiring a professional. Professionals will ensure that your website not only looks great, but also that it functions properly — plus, it means less headache sfor you.

3. Understand SEO

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the strategic use of keywords and phrases to rank on popular search engines like Gooogle. With a solid SEO strategy in place, your brand has the chance to show up on Google when customers search for certain keywords related to your business.

To do this, you need to pay attentiont o two aspect of SEO: on-site SEO and off-site SEO.

On-site SEO includes all the content on your website. You need to ensure the pages of your site are properly optimized for the right keywords, including using internal and external links. Well-written, educational content is a great way to improve your on-site SEO.

Off-site SEO, sometimes called technical SEO, is the use of site structure to improve visibility on search engines. This includes easy-to-read URLs, quick loading speeds, and overall good site structure. An off-site SEO strategy also includes backlinking, which means guest posting on other websites to get powerful links back to your site.

Of course, this is just a brief overview. The more you can understand and use SEO on your website, the more visible and powerful your brand will be.

4. Develop a Social Media Presence

Next to your website, social media is where your audience will expect to find you.

Not too sure that social media is for you? Here are some pretty convincing statistics from Sprout Social

  • 91% of people who follow a brand on social media will visit the brand’s website.
  • 89% will purchase from the brand.
  • 85% will recommend the brand to others.

As you can see, social media is about more than just vanity. It’s where your brand can meet and engage new audiences and convert them into customers.

To make the most of social media, take full advantage of the bio and about sections, and post and engage regularly. Every time your audience sees you on social media is another opportunity for you to build a relationship with them.

But remember not to bite off more than you can chew — which is easy to do with social media. Focus on a handful of platforms (ideally, two or three) where you know your audience is active and where you’ll be comfortable posting.

5. Find New Forums

Forums are another online arena where your brand can stand out. New websites and platforms emerge in every space. By being among the first to join such forums, your brand’s voice will shine brighter and get heard.

Not only is there less competition on these newer platforms, but you’ll also enter on the ground floor. This often means free and low-cost features, as well as a highly engaged audience you won’t find elsewhere.

6. Be Active in Your Online Presence

Whatever platforms you decide to use online — be it social media, your website, forums, or other platforms — remember is to stay active.

Use new posts and content to keep your audience engaged and coming back. Stay current and relevant by joining conversations on the latest industry topics. This kind of activity not only keeps your audience’s attention but also ensures that your brand appeals to new audiences.

7. Create Content

Content is what keeps your online presence alive. And it comes in many forms depending on what your audience enjoys — blog posts, social media posts, videos, ebooks…the list goes on.

How do you make your content valuable?

One of the best ways to add value is to make your content educational. The more you can teach your audience, the more trust you will build. Adapt your content for every platform you’re on. On Instagram, for example, focus on visual posts and short videos. On your website, concentrate on creating blog posts or showcasing your expertise with an in-depth ebook.

8. Build Relationships

Developing relationships, especially with others in your industry, can be a strategic move in growing your online presence.

For instance, you might reach out and get to know bloggers in your industry. As your friendship grows, they will be more likely to think of your brand as they write related articles and include you in those articles. The more this happens, the better your online reputation will be and the bigger your online presence.

A friendship with another industry expert in your space could also lead to a key collaboration — pairing your names together on a project, such as an ebook or webinar. And these kinds of collaborations often lead to more brand exposure — attracting your blogger’s audience to your brand.

Keep building these relationships with a variety of industry experts. You never know where these could lead and how they could benefit your brand.

9. Know Your Competition

The more you know about your competitors, the better your online presence can be.

For starters, look at areas where your competitors are killing it. Pay attention to what tactics they are using to effectively engage their audience. Then, you can work those very same tactics into your strategy.

Another benefit to competitor analysis is being able to see gaps in their strategy. Key in on what they’re missing and be ready to swoop in and capitalize on that gap.

And this isn’t a one-and-done process. Pay frequent attention to your competitors’ activities to make sure you are keeping pace.

10. Analyze & Readjust

So now you have a website, you’re active on social media, and you’re rocking your content creation — are you done? Not so fast!

Now, it’s time to analyze your results. From your website to your social media accounts, you have access to analytics data. This data will show you the health of your digital presence — what’s working and what’s not.

To do this effectively, decide what you want to measure.

For example, if you want to work on your social media presence, track your new followers, views, likes, and comments. Take note of what kinds of posts get the most engagement.

As another example, if you want to work on your SEO, track your website visitors. Where are they coming from? The more visits come from Google, the healthier your SEO. You may even use an SEO monitoring tool like SEMRush or Ubersuggest to get the most relevant SEO-related data.

Whatever goals you have for your digital footprint, analytics are an essential way to stay on top of them. Measuring and changing course every now and then is part of the process.

Concluding Thoughts on Building Your Own Awesome Online Presence

A robust online presence is not just important — it’s crucial to your small business’s growth and success. And its importance will only grow as the years go by.

So don’t put it off.

Follow the steps in this article and look for ways to expand your digital footprint. And don’t let it grow stagnant. Seek new ways to improve and grow your presence. After all, we’ve seen a lot of changes to the digital landscape and we can absolutely expect changes and additions in the future.

I hope this article energizes you to work on your digital footprint. I promise, it’s worth the effort.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

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Wendy Marx

Wendy Marx

Wendy Marx, author, coach and marketing and branding authority is the founder of Thriving at 50 Plus, a coaching program that helps baby boomers find more purpose and meaning in life. Wendy over the last 30 years has helped many business owners and executives become well-known, going from Anonymity to Industry Icon™. Her business articles have appeared in The New York Times, InformationWeek, Inc., Advertising Age, & Fast Company, among other outlets.

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