Are you feeling tempted to take Cousin Olaf up on his offer to build a quick website for you in his spare time? Skip it; politely decline. A website that isn’t optimized won’t show up on Search Engine Result Pages – so new visitors won’t be able to find it unless they’re searching for your business name directly. If they do manage to get to your website, it’s a fair bet they’ll be uninspired. New visitors are potential customers; this might be their first impression of your business.
However, you can start building your online presence on a low (and sometimes zero) budget – and without a website. There are several other avenues you can start to develop that will serve your business well in the short term, and that you can build on over time.
USE A GOOGLE+ PAGE AS A STARTER HOMEPAGE
Instead of a commonplace template webpage, use Google My Business and Google+ pages to get things going for you online. Visitors won’t be expecting a cutting edge design (and so won’t feel any disappointment), you can quickly share important information and interact with customers, and it’s…. Google. Google loves Google. Want to be displayed on Google Search Result Pages? This is a great place to start.
You don’t need to be tech-savvy to set up a Google+ page for your business. But before you jump in, here are the top things to consider:
1. Decide on an appropriate business Gmail Account. This is for your business, so you don’t want to use your personal gmail account. Instead, choose (or create) one that others in your company can use to keep the content on the Google+ page current.
2. Set up Google My Business. Don’t dive down the Google rabbit hole trying to determine if you need Google Places for Business, a Google+ Profile, a Google+ Brand page, a Google+ Local business page… Google My Business is where you should start. This will be your business’s online Dashboard for all things Google, and will automatically create a new Google+ page for your business so you don’t technically need to set up a separate Google+ Local or Google+ Brand page.
Note: If you already had Google+ pages for your business, Google My Business is still worth your time, and you can connect all your pages to your new dashboard.
3. Set up your Profile. Use appropriate keywords in the Business Info section to describe your business. Choose words you think customers looking for your product or services would use when performing an online search.
· Don’t cram in too many keywords or it will look unnatural or even deceptive to customers (and to Search Engines).
· Do include a call to action that legitimately speaks to your business’s value.
· Add your Contact Information (Hours, Address, and Phone Number), and verify your location with Google. This makes your business eligible for display on the Google local search results Map.
4. Add content, and then add more content, and then keep adding content. This is what makes your page valuable to potential customers.
· Publish Posts, Photos, and Videos; use relevant keywords in your title and content that visitors and search engines should associate with your business.
· Solicit and Accept Reviews; this gives you insight into your business’s strengths and weaknesses, and allows you the opportunity to build lasting relationships with customers.
· Update regularly to keep your content fresh; it keeps your customers coming back for more, and it keeps you relevant with search engines.
5. Use the Google+ Partner Playbook to get the most out of your new online home.
CONNECT WITH MORE CUSTOMERS THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS
While Google+ is the best place to start building an online presence, you shouldn’t discount the value of other Social Media channels for your business. Don’t create more than you can keep current though, or your channels will look outdated and stale – which can reflect on your business as a whole.
When prioritizing other Social Media channels to set up, make sure you target the right one(s) for your services and how you might expect online customers to find and interact with you. Then focus your efforts on creating impactful customer channel(s).
One way to do this is to check out what similar, popular business in your same industry are using. Of course, also consider the content you might post, and align that with the channel best suited for the content and the customers the channel attracts.
§ LinkedIn: for customers that believe your credentials are important
§ Yelp: for customers looking for reviews
§ Facebook: for customers that want personal referrals
§ Twitter: for customers interested in real-time updates on news or events, or timely offers and deals
§ Instagram or Pinterest: for customers that will connect with your brand based on visual appeal
(Don’t think these sites can provide real business value? Check out some innovate ways companies are using Instagram and Pinterest and see for yourself.)
UNIFY AND EVOLVE YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE
If you create a Google+ page and one or more of the other Social Media outlets, cross link and reference all of your channels. This will help reduce the temptation to post the same content on multiple channels, something which can turn customers off quickly and ignores the value each channel can bring to your business’s online presence. Keep each one focused, publish content regularly to ensure your channels stay fresh and inviting, and pull through your brand colors, logo and identity across each to unify your online presence.
All these things will begin building your business online, without costing you a lot (if any) money up front. However, don’t disregard the time involved to set each channel up correctly – and especially the time it takes to maintain all the content that’s needed. Start slow; you can add channels incrementally.
When you start to see the results of your efforts, well then you can decide if it makes sense to invest in a responsive, optimized website that will really impress your visitors regardless of the device they’re using, and push you up in Search Results. And by following this strategy, when you have the funds to take that plunge you won’t have to break the news to Cousin Olaf that you’re scrapping all his work.