Kody Wirth is a content writer and SEO specialist for Palo Alto Software—the creator's of Bplans and LivePlan. He has 3+ years experience covering small business topics and runs a part-time content writing service in his spare time.
11 min. read
Updated February 21, 2024
Being online is expected. If your business does not have a digital footprint, you will miss opportunities to foster trust and engage with your customers.
Even if you run a physical storefront, potential customers will likely get their first impression of your business through a Google search, social media, or reviews. If you don’t own how your business is represented, you’re putting your online reputation in everyone else’s hands.
For how important being online is, getting set up isn’t all that difficult. Here are four ways to start showing up online.
Being online is no longer an option for small businesses; it’s a necessity. In today’s digital-centric world, an online presence is the primary touchpoint between a business and its potential customers and leads to:
Around 72% of businesses have a website.
Depending on your competition—having a website is either the bare minimum to compete or a potential competitive advantage. A website will make your business look more professional, increase visibility, and provide a direct touchpoint for your customer’s purchasing journey.
You can sell products or services, encourage customers to contact you, visit a physical location, or showcase your brand. And unlike the rest of the options on this list, your website is something you fully own.
Creating a website to best represent your business does take time and effort to get right. But setting it up is fairly simple:
Choose a memorable and relevant domain name representing your business. You need to determine that the name isn’t already taken and matches your business or brand name.
Select a reliable web hosting provider to ensure your website is accessible at all times.
Determine how much control you want over the design of your website. WordPress is a far more versatile and customizable platform, but it requires more work to get up and running. Platforms like Wix or Shopify are far more limited but can help you design and manage your website without deep technical knowledge.
Ensure your website is mobile-friendly, as many users may access it via smartphones or tablets. Depending on the tool you choose to build your website, this may already be handled.
Include an easily accessible contact page with details like phone numbers, email addresses, and possibly a contact form.
Add quality content that describes your products or services, including text, images, and videos. Include alt titles and descriptions for visual media to ensure you follow web accessibility standards.
Install SSL certificates and ensure regular backups to protect your website and user data.
Weigh the pros and cons of using an out-of-the-box website solution over creating your own WordPress site.
With more consumers on their phones, does it make more sense to invest in developing an app? That decision fully depends on your target audience and business model.
You may not need to launch with a fully functioning website. Instead, stake your claim and build hype around your business with a coming soon website that helps you build an initial audience.
Web analytics and metrics can be overwhelming. The key to avoid drowning in the sea of numbers is to start with six key metrics for measuring how your website is doing.
If you go the build-it-yourself route, you may still want to work with a web designer to get the design, functionality, and security right. Learn how to craft an initial proposal for a smooth collaboration.
Ensure that your business website is legally compliant and features the right security and disclaimers to keep you and your customers safe.
Finding an affordable and reliable hosting service is just as important as having a well-designed website. Learn what factors to consider when exploring your web hosting options.
Are you struggling with the functionality and design elements of your website? Check out these expert tips to help you nail your final website design.
Ensure that you launch your website on the right foot by understanding and avoiding these common pitfalls.
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At least 82% of internet users in the US are on social media. 76% of these users use social platforms to conduct product research.
Social media has become an active part of the buyer’s journey. People turn to influencers for insight, follow brand accounts they resonate with, and even purchase directly from social posts and ads.
For business owners, having a social media presence is often the most direct way to engage and build customer relationships.
Through regular posts, stories, and interactions—you can foster a sense of community, build brand loyalty, and stay top-of-mind for your audience. Moreover, social media’s real-time nature allows you to tap into current trends, receive instant feedback, and immediately address customer concerns.
The catch? You need to maintain an active presence to see any growth. Regular updates and genuine interactions can drive traffic and increase conversions. But a barely managed account will experience little momentum or engagement.
So, before you go all in on creating social profiles, consider the following:
If you’re committed to using social media, start with one or two platforms. Be sure your customers use them, understand how they work, and commit some time and resources to creating content. If you see traction, ideally in the form of social-generated sales, then decide if you should invest more into your social efforts.
To help you get started, check out our guides for setting up different social media business profiles:
Learn what it takes to create a working Facebook account for your business.
Get insight into what it takes to create an Instagram profile and show off your business.
LinkedIn can be a great way to directly connect with customers and potential business partners. You just need to make your business (and personal) profile appealing and easy to find.
Virtually everyone reads reviews when shopping online. 49% of consumers trust reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family. 60% equate the number of reviews with the trustworthiness of a business.
TLDR: Reviews greatly impact purchasing decisions and your business reputation.
Reviews are everywhere. They’re presented in search results, eCommerce listings, editorial writeups, and review aggregator sites. And of course, you can feature the best reviews and testimonials directly on your business website.
The amount, recency, and quality of reviews will impact your online visibility. The more regularly you receive positive reviews, the more likely search engines will reward you with better search results.
However, like social media, to truly get the most from reviews, you need to engage with them. That means responding to both positive and negative comments with thoughtful answers. The more promptly you address this feedback, the more you demonstrate commitment and responsiveness to customer concerns.
Being online means that positive and negative opinions, reviews, and news are constant. While you may not be able to control what’s said about your business, you can develop a way to manage the bad and elevate the good…
It’s not always easy to generate positive reviews. Learn how to set up a virtual word-of-mouth system that collects the best statements to help you promote your business.
Online communication can be a slippery slope if not handled correctly. Learn how to engage with happy and unhappy customers and show off the values of your business in the process.
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool provided by Google that allows you to manage and optimize your business profile across the search engine and its associated services. Your profile gives you control over your business listing, which helps you appear in relevant Google Maps and local search results (i.e., searches like “coffee shop near me”).
The reason this is necessary is that anyone can create a business profile. All you need is a name, location, and category. Once the business is verified by Google, a listing will be generated—allowing reviews, photos, and questions to be submitted.
If you weren’t the one to create your business profile, then you would not be able to manage the information being shown. This is why you need to get ahead of the issue and create a Google My Business account.
Go to the Google My Business website and click on “Manage Now” or “Start Now.”
If your business doesn’t appear in the dropdown menu, click on “Add your business to Google.”
Select a category that best describes your business. This helps Google decide which searches your local listing belongs in.
Provide the physical address of your business. You can list the areas you serve if you don’t have a physical location (e.g., you’re a service business).
Add your business phone number and website URL. If you don’t have a website, Google offers a tool to create a simple one based on your GMB information.
To ensure the accuracy of the business information, Google requires verification. You can verify your business through various methods like a postcard, phone, email, or instant verification (for certain businesses).
Once verified, fill out the remaining profile details, such as business hours, photos, and any other relevant information.
Regularly update your profile, respond to reviews, and post updates or offers to engage with your audience and keep your profile active.
Once you have you’re GMB profile set up, you will be able to:
You’ll also be able to optimize your listing to increase its visibility in local searches. While a lot can go into optimization, the basics are:
Small business owners must be online. However, to be successful, your online presence needs to work with your other marketing efforts. A positive review, active social accounts, and an informative website will only work if people see them and have a specific action to take afterward.
Check out our other startup marketing guides to learn more and create a marketing strategy that helps your business succeed.