ManagingOnlineProfile

TIME REQUIRED15 Minutes

essential previous learningNone

Free Article – Managing Your Online Profile

Build a pro-active online strategy

Key learning outcomes:

  • Acknowledge that your business needs an effective physical and online presence.
  • Conclude that the more effort and money that is invested in your business’s website, the more customers will want to do business with you.
  • Learn about the importance of search engine optimisation in maximising your business opportunities.
  • Develop a social media strategy that is active and adds value.

Article:

Nowadays, how your business looks online is equally important as how your business looks physically when a customer walks in the front door. If you are a small business, you might not think it really matters, or you do not have the time or money to think about it. This is, however, dangerous thinking given that consumers today almost always starts their search for a product or service online. In this article we will take you through some of the key areas you need to need to consider to ensure you look as good as you can to potential customers online.

Your website

Your website’s home page is your virtual front door. It is important to consider a potential customer’s first impression. Some of the key things to think about are:

  • How quickly does the page load? – This is one of the most common issues when consumers use websites. It really is a matter of “the quick or the dead”!
  • How easy is it for the customer to navigate to the information they want? – For example, most people looking at a restaurant’s website want to look at the menu. If it is not easy to find and access, the potential customer is likely to start looking for an alternative restaurant.
  • Is it easy for the customer to contact you? – A common complaint from consumers about websites is that they cannot find a contact number or address. If they have to fill out an email form to contact you, they are likely to instead click the close button.
  • Is it up to date? – People expect that you will keep information up to date on your website. If you cannot keep it up to date, we recommend that you don’t post seasonal information. Focus instead on making it look attractive and more generic. If a potential customer goes to your website only to find out-of-date content, they are likely to make assumptions about your business’s ability to produce a high-quality level of product or service.
  • Does it reflect your brand? – It is easy these days to produce high-quality websites for a minimal outlay. If your website was developed more than a couple of years ago, it is likely that it could do with a makeover.
  • Are you mobile friendly? – These days more than 50 per cent of your potential customers are likely to be viewing your website on their mobile device. It is essential that your website is optimised for mobile viewing.

The key to a great website is to make it easy for the customer to do business with you.

SEO

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is all about ensuring you are easy to find online. The first step is to Google yourself and your company. It is important when you do this that you sign out of your Google account, as Google will alter the results if you are signed in. Think about how potential customers might search for you, and carry out the search in a few different ways. You can then assess what comes up.

Remember that no one generally searches beyond the first page of results, so it is all about that first-page ranking. Ideally, you will find the first few results are all about you, your company page and perhaps links to some of your content pages. If you do not come up at all, or another business with a similar name comes up, you will need to work on building your SEO profile. One of the things to be mindful of is your Google rank is influenced by your overall online presence, so having great content across more than one online medium such as social media, a blog or You Tube is going to help.  You may wish to secure the services of an SEO specialist to help in this area.

Social media

Often we will hear a business owner say that they do not do Facebook or Twitter. While this might be the case, the reality is that over 75 per cent of online adults have a Facebook account and almost 30 per cent are on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. This means that if you are not on social media, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to engage with your customers and to promote your brand. There are a couple of key things to consider before starting a social media strategy:

  • It is all about adding value – Social media is about engaging with your potential customers and not selling to them. You need to create content that adds value to the customer relationship. When you have built up engagement, it is then appropriate to add some content that promotes your business.
  • It needs to be up to date – Being up to date is even more important on social media than on your website. People expect that you will post content on a regular basis. If someone searches your business on Facebook only to find that the last post was weeks or months prior, they will disengage very quickly.
  • Try to keep your personal and business accounts separate – It can be hard to control what your friends and family post on your personal social media pages, and you would not generally want to share this information with your customers. By keeping the pages separate, you can control the amount of personal information you share via your professional page.
  • Be visual – On most social media sites a great image will help to build engagement with your target audience.
  • Be active – It is important that you check and monitor your social media sites on a regular basis. Ensure that you respond to comments, and return messages promptly to ensure that people keep coming back to see what is new with you and your business.

When things go wrong

The thing about technology today is that the difference between a good and bad reputation is only a few clicks away. It is important that you spend time monitoring your online reputation. Research suggests that over 80 per cent of consumers are influenced by online reviews. This means that you need to ensure your reviews are as positive as possible. Here are a few quick tips on how to manage your online reputation:

  • Own your first page search results – You should complete the Google search on a regular basis so you are aware of what a potential customer is likely to see when they search for you for the first time. Don’t forget to search for “your business name” and add the word reviews to the search to see what a potential customer will find.
  • Deal with bad reviews – It is essential that you do not ignore a bad review. It is also essential that you do not get into an online argument. It can be hard to remove bad reviews; therefore, how you are seen to deal with bad reviews is very important. Always respond in a calm and professional manner, and where possible offer a solution online. Often people have gone online to simply vent, and once you deal with the situation they will often agree to remove the poor review.
  • Ask for reviews – One of the best ways to build up a good online reputation is to ask your customers to review you as soon as possible after their experience. It is becoming more and more important for all businesses to have a strong online reputation, not just restaurants and hotels.

Summary

Even if you are not an online business, your online profile is becoming a significant part of your brand awareness and reputation. Any business that is not prepared to create an online profile is likely to get left behind. The more proactive you are in your approach to new technologies, the more bulletproof your business will be.

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