The internet is a huge platform, crammed full of information on almost any subject you can think of. It is easy for anyone to become their own publisher; to own their own corner of the internet – that’s the beauty of the internet – but it’s also a curse.
With millions of new pages and content expanding the internet every single day, it’s getting harder and harder for new and small businesses to make themselves heard.
Let’s say you’ve just launched an online store selling hand-made jewellery. A simple Google search for “hand-made jewellery” will produce millions of results. In fact, 58,700,000 results according to my latest search:
How do you, as someone completely new to the hand-made jewellery market, make yourself heard amongst the hundreds of thousands of other jewellery makers?
Back to Basics
To have an online presence, you first need to understand what an online presence is. It’s a pretty simple and obvious explanation - however I find it useful to fully understand the theory behind a concept before putting it in practice.
Having an online presence simply refers to how your business is represented online.
The 2 key questions you want to ask yourself about your online presence are
- Is it easy for people to find me?
- Do people know who we are/what we do when they do find us?
So you've got yourself a website (you have got yourself a website, right?!). It can be basic, but a website dedicated to your business is VITAL for creating an online presence.
So, as I was saying, you’ve got yourself a website. You might have spent quite a bit of money/time getting it quite right – and might even be under the assumption that the hard part is over and it’s going to be a smoother ride from here on.
Sorry, but it’s only going to get harder.
Building an online presence is no easy feat, and it takes a lot of hard work to get the ball in motion.
To begin, you’ll want to make sure your on-page SEO (SEO = Search Engine Optimisation) is optimised to the best of your ability. This is important because it makes it easier for you to be discovered on search engines. This is how we answer question number 1: Is it easy for people to find me?
On-page SEO makes it easy for people to find you, by telling search engines like Google, exactly who you are and what you do. Good on-page SEO will help your site rank well (although it's not the only factor - it will give your website the best possible start):
Optimising your site can be a bit of a complicated task if you’re new to SEO. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some great guides to help you through the process:
Remember, a fully-optimised website does not guarantee that you will show up in the search results (which relies on a whole host of things, click here for a full list). But what it does do, is give you the best possible chance to be discovered by people looking for your services/product/etc.
Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past year, you’ll have heard that blogging has become an essential website feature for all serious online businesses.
Believe everything you have heard; a blog is an absolute must-have - especially for a start-up like yourself.
You see, you’re new to the game. People have never heard of you, and before they even consider buying your products/services or associating themselves with you, they want to suss you out.
They want to know who you are, what you do, and why they should trust you. They want to know what makes you better than all your competitors.
You can answer these questions in your blog, and establish yourself as an expert in your field. This is how we answer question 2: Do people know who we are/what we do when they do find us?
Again, I’m going to give you the harsh reality about blogging – it’s hard. You need to know your audience inside out, to know what information they’re looking for.
PRO TIP: Every time you write a new blog post, think about what the audience is getting out of it. They need to be rewarded for taking the time to read your post; it needs to answer the questions they crave and provide them with information they can’t easily find anywhere else.
If we refer back to the hand-made jewellery example, here are some example post titles for a new blog:
- Behind the Scenes at [insert company name here]
- Say Goodbye to Green Marks: Learn to Recognise Quality Jewellery
- Jewellery Aftercare: How to Keep Your Sparkle
I’ve just made these up (I don’t know anything about hand-made jewellery!), but you get the idea.
As a start-up, to give yourself the best possible chance, you’ll want to optimise each blog post so it can achieve the best online visibility. Check out these guides for optimising blog posts:
But you’ll also want to promote your blog posts, and that’s where Social Media comes into play…
A social media presence is essential for any start-up looking to establish an online presence. But first, I think I better debunk a huge myth floating around out there:
DON’T SIGN YOURSELF UP TO EVERY SINGLE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM GOING
Managing social media is a 24/7 job – don’t go making it any harder by creating an account with each and every social media platform going or you’ll find yourself completely overrun. It’s better to have one social media account and do it well then have multiple accounts that you end up neglecting.
Remember, your social media account should be treated as an extension of your website – you don’t want to mess it up.
As for which social media platform you choose, that’s a decision that is personal to your business. You want to choose a platform used regularly by your target audience, but you also need to think about how much time/money you can dedicate to your social media efforts.
I think here, I also need to debunk another myth:
DON’T JUST MAKE A BEELINE FOR FACEBOOK BECAUSE IT’S THE BIGGEST SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM
Trust me on this one, and do your research. Facebook usually isn't a great place to start if you haven’t already established an online presence (here’s why).
I recently wrote a blog post which aims to help businesses decide which social media platform to use, which you can read here.
Build Connections & Relationships
You might have heard the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that counts”, and although I hate to admit it – it does ring some truth.
As a start-up, it’s in your best interest to connect with influencers who can introduce you to important contacts, and help to spread the word about you.
An influencer is an individual, brand or business that is well-established as a source of authority in their field. When said influencer has something to say, everyone listens – and people usually act on their advice and trust what they say.
That is why it is important to get yourself noticed by an influencer. They can be extremely useful in helping you to get noticed and to spread positive brand awareness.
But be sure to exercise caution, the last thing you want is to have an influencer give you a negative review – it will be extremely difficult to recover at this early and crucial stage in your start-up.
There are influencers in every niche, use these guides to help discover yours:
Your Final Checklist For Building Your Online Presence
This should be enough to get you started, and if you follow these steps and continue to build upon their foundations, then your online presence will begin to grow.
Step 1: Optimise your website
Use on-page SEO to give your website the best possible chance of begin found.
Step 2: Keep a blog
Use a blog to help explain who you are, what you do and establish yourself as an expert. Publish regularly and write about what your audience wants to hear, not about what you think they want to hear (which is usually wrong).
Optimise your blog posts for greater success.
Step 3: Use social media
Choose a social media platform that your target audience is using and that also works for your business.
Promote your blog posts on your social media site and interact with your audience and other members in your industry.
Step 4: Build Relationships & Connections
Use social media to help you build relationships and connections, with your audiences and with your influencers.
If you have anything to add to this guide, or are confused about something I have mentioned, please comment below and I will be happy to answer your questions.