Guys, we spend eight hours a day doing digital activities. That’s more than half the day. More than most of us sleep. And we have different identities online—we’re hobbyists (gaming), alter egos (Reddit), social butterflies (Facebook), professionals (LinkedIn), and consumers (what we’re focusing on in this post).
So whether you’re a service-based, brick-and-mortar, or online business, a strong online presence is everything today. And this does not pertain to just ecommerce. While ecommerce growth has been accelerated by the pandemic, so, too has support for local businesses. And the fact remains that 97% of consumers go online to find and research local businesses.
But as the internet evolves, so, too, does the definition of a strong online presence. In this definitive, data-backed guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know, including:
By the end, you’ll be ready to fill every nook and cranny on the internet.
Online presence is, and isn’t, exactly what you may think. You can very well exist online, but that doesn’t equate to having a presence. Your presence is a deeper layer that paints the full picture of your business, according to:
So while an online existence may get you on the map, an online presence is tied to your visibility, credibility, and reputation.
Without a strong online presence, you really don’t have one at all. It’s all or nothing in the noisy world of cyberspace.
But before we get into the tactics and strategies, let’s back up that bold statement.
The more ways you can place your business in front of your target audience with quality experiences, the more opportunities you have to build brand awareness and improve your reputation. But there are other ways a strong online presence benefits your business.
Finally, flock mentality. Each of your online assets and identities gives power to one another. Each channel performs better in concert with the others than it would on its own.
No matter how someone finds out about your business—whether through social media, an ad, a listing, direct mail, a friend, or even seeing it in their travels—their first inclination is to go to your website. Going into the business or calling is far less appealing than browsing your site on their own terms and gathering the information they want, quickly. Which is why 56% of consumers won’t consider a business without a website.
56% of consumers won’t consider a business without a website.
And that’s a stat from 2017, so the percentage has most likely grown and been further accelerated by the pandemic.
So with that being said, here’s how to use your website for an optimal online presence.
Consumers have high expectations these days—to the point where if you don’t have a good website, you’re almost better off not having one at all. In fact, 75% of consumers have admitted to judging a company’s credibility based on their website design.
And truth be told, I would highly suggest hiring an expert to set up your site. DIY builders are awesome in theory, but in my own experience, people end up spending hours on them and experiencing endless glitches—oftentimes to the point of eventually spending more to hire someone. Having a lead-generating website that looks and functions exactly the way you want it to without losing hours of your time or hairs on your head is, to me, worth every penny.
Plus, you can save money in other ways, such as through free website hosting services (check out HubSpot’s, for example).
Did you know that only 49% of small businesses invest in SEO? Or that only 18% of small businesses do not plan to ever pursue targeted SEO efforts like link building, content creation, or keyword research?
SEO is a free way to get on the first page of Google—the hallmark of online presence.
It takes time, but when done right, it is the gift that just keeps on giving.
Here’s how to use SEO to increase your online presence:
The core pages of your website (homepage, about, pricing, products/services, contact) are relatively limited in terms of optimizing for keywords other than your service and location. You don’t have much text to work with and the goal is to distill the information down to the essentials visitors are looking for.
With a business blog, each post you publish can dive deep into a relevant keyword and be individually optimized to rank for that keyword, allowing you the opportunity to appear in search results for tons of searches your target customers are performing at various stages in their journey. More first-page appearances doesn’t just mean stronger web presence; it also equates to more traffic to your conversion-optimized site and greater credibility.
In fact, businesses that publish blogs four times a week get 3.5x more traffic and 4.5x more leads than businesses that only blog once a week.
Plus, this is where you can demonstrate your expertise and let your brand personality shine through—both of which play into the reputation component of your online presence.
When blogging for online presence, make sure to:
Using social media to increase your online presence is a no-brainer, as its vast user bases and sharing capabilities make it an amplification tool. We also know that social signals can impact your SEO.
Plus, according to Sprout Social, after following a brand on social media, 91% of consumers will visit its website, 89% will buy from the brand, and 85% will recommend the brand to a family or friend.
Here’s how to improve your social media presence.
Online presence is about quality, not quantity. Choose the platforms that your audience is using, and limit the number you choose based on your bandwidth. Having just one or two accounts with solid engagement is better than having several accounts with weak activity.
Platforms to consider include:
Speaking of being able to handle social media, check out our free social media marketing course!
Your online presence doesn’t improve with more followers. Rather, your following improves with a stronger presence. So work on cultivating a quality, niche audience of individuals who are interested in and can benefit from what you have to offer. This will translate into more likes and comments with your posts and more user-generated content. And if you didn’t already know, marketing campaigns with user-generated content result in 29% higher conversions than campaigns or without it.
It’s better to have fewer followers with a vibrant page than to have lots of followers and not much value to offer.
Quality posts that get engagement are important if you want social algorithms to display your posts in users’ feeds. But quality isn’t really enough. You want your followers to feel something when they consume your content—so much so, that they feel compelled to share it with others. Use emotional words and phrases in your captions. Add emojis. Use compelling stats and evocative images.
And speaking of shareability, pay attention to small nuances in your captions to see if you can find any patterns. We recently found that leading off with a key stat in the caption resulted in more shares. Another approach is to create link-free posts that followers can consume quickly. They don’t always want to read a long post or go to a link, and they’re more likely to share something that isn’t a big ask for their followers either.
Facebook receives over 2 billion searches per day. And in 2020, Instagram announced that it now supports general keyword searches (as opposed to just accounts, hashtags, and people). So just like with your website, you should include popular keywords in your profiles and posts. You can use many of the same keywords as you do with your site, but perhaps with a bias toward idea-oriented and lighter-hearted queries. Social media platforms are more of the browsing and inspirational types. But it all depends on your business. The first result for the query “how to clean a sink” on Facebook is a video with almost a million views.
You should also still be using hashtags in your posts to improve your social media presence, but treat them as you would keywords. Use broad hashtags sparingly and focus more on location-based and niche terms so that you can increase your visibility to the right audience.
You’ve heard this a million times, and now, for the million-and-oneth time: If you’re going to make social media a part of your online presence, you need to have an active account. So that means publishing quality posts regularly, responding to likes and comments on those posts, liking and commenting on your followers’ posts, answering direct messages, sharing content from other sources, and more. And it means doing this consistently. This is the difference between a profile and a presence.
If being able to have this type of engagement means only having one profile, then so be it. Better to have one vibrant profile than to have three that are subpar. And precisely why it’s important to only take on the number of profiles you can manage.
Plus, if you want to find and connect with influencers, you need to be active in your niche so you can identify who is realistic to reach out to and gradually build your relationship with them.
With thousands of online directories out there, creating listings for your business can help you show up in more places online. In addition, links to your site from popular directories serve as citations for your business, which Google takes into consideration when ranking your site. Finally, curated “Top 10” lists from popular directories can dominate the SERP, so if you’re ranking in their top 10, you can achieve that much more exposure.
But reaping these benefits takes more than just throwing your NAP out there and then kicking back. Let’s cover the steps for using online listings to properly boost your online presence.
Many of the smaller directories out there aggregate information from the biggest ones. So take the time to perfect your listings on the following sites:
Google My Business (If you only do one of the suggestions in this post, let it be this one!)
Your Google My Business Profile is arguably the new homepage for your business. It provides all of the essential details of your business, directly in the SERP for Search and Maps.
Yelp gets 178 million visits every month. Plus, Yelp customer reviews appear on Apple Maps and play into the Yelp curated lists that you see in search engine results. Finally, Siri and Alexa use Yelp information to provide answers, especially for local searches.
Change the category on your business page to “Local business or place” so you can then add your location and collect reviews. Also, get listed on Facebook Places by attempting to check in at your location and then adding your business there.
The fact that an HVAC business can show up on a Facebook search speaks to its validity as a directory.
We know that Google is the leading search engine, by far. But that doesn’t mean Bing is to be ignored. Here are some stats that prove it’s worth being present on:
Small businesses, in particular, can benefit from a presence on Bing because there is less competition and the older audience may be ideal.
Foursquare has fizzled out as a social platform, but its Places technology powers location data for Apple, Uber, Twitter, Microsoft, Samsung, and 120,000 other developers. When your business is listed on Foursquare, it’s automatically included in thousands of local apps and services.
For a more complete list of listing sites, check out LOCALiQ’s 10 Best Free Business Listing Sites.
Like social media feeds and search engine results pages, listing results are determined by an algorithm. This means that the quality of your listing matters. Make sure that for each listing, you populate every section available, such as:
As much as possible, make sure the information you provide is identical across listing sites. We’re talking St vs street, [Business name] vs [Business name], LLC, and other tiny details. This is because Google looks at consistency of information about you across the web when determining your credibility and ranking; and also because auto-populated listings risk inaccuracies, so you can keep deviations to a minimum with identical listings to begin with.
Reviews have perhaps the most powerful influence over how high you show up in directory results. Not to mention the fact that they are one of the top ranking factors for Google local search. Simply providing review-worthy service will not do it. You need to have a proactive strategy in place to keep a steady stream of reviews coming in. Here are some ways to obtain and ask for reviews:
With the thousands of directories across the web that pull information from one another, your listings can develop inconsistencies or inaccuracies over time. And 80% of consumers lose trust in local businesses if they see incorrect or inconsistent information. You don’t have control over all of these profiles, but take the time to keep the ones you do have control over updated and consistent. Another option is to use a listing service provider who can stay on top of everything for you.
Monitoring your reviews on these directories is also crucial, for obvious reasons.
Paid advertising is a fast way to show up prominently on search engines, social media feeds, and websites your ideal customers frequent. With SEO, you can really only target your audience with keywords, but with PPC, you can layer audiences onto your targeting based on a number of criteria. Here are some of many the different ad options you can use to increase your online presence.
It’s worth investing in paid search ads because not only do they land you at the top of the SERP, but they also reach your target customers when they have the highest intent. And if you can get your site to rank in both organic and paid results for a keyword, the chances of getting a click on one or the other are higher.
And although Google is the most popular search engine, there are still many advantages of advertising on Bing.
Social media ads can be used to improve your online presence because ads have higher reach and engagement rates than organic posts. And while social media users have less intent than on search engines, social ads come with stronger targeting capabilities and more creative freedom. Plus, you can leverage the power of video ads.
Here are tips for advertising on:
Display ads put your business in front of custom audiences based on their interests, behaviors, types of websites and apps they frequent, and even places they’ve visited. Though display ads have lower engagement rates than search ads, they will earn you lots of impressions and like social media ads, you have more options for branding, color, and creative.
Retargeting ads appear in front of users who have previously expressed interest in your business, such as by interacting with a previous ad or visiting your website. This is a great way to maintain a presence with prospects as they engage elsewhere on the web.
Google Local Service Ads also show up at the top of the SERP in card form. If you go through the application process, you can appear with a green “Google Guaranteed” badge under your name, which makes for a stronger presence in this section of results.
This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. There’s podcast advertising, Google Shopping Ads, Reddit ads, and more.
Your online presence isn’t just limited to your website, social media profiles, online listings, and ads. Here are eight more ways to increase your visibility online.
The advantage that email marketing has over other channels is that your recipients have opted in to receive your emails. Yes, your social media followers have opted to follow you, but feeds are infinitely more crowded and competitive than email inboxes. Plus, while 79% of Facebook users check Facebook once a day, 99% of email users check their email every day, some as much as 20 times a day. Lots of opportunity to get exposure.
99% of email users check their email every day, some as much as 20 times a day
The email marketing best practices are pretty evergreen, but if there’s three to focus on with regard to your online presence, it would be these:
Do you know of any complementary businesses or local media outlets that have a strong online presence? See if they’ll accept a guest post from you. Not only can you get your business in front of their audience, but a link to your site from theirs can help to improve your SEO.
You can also accept guest posts on your own blog. Writers are always eager to share their publications with their audiences.
There are tons of video marketing stats that highlight the importance of this medium for growing your business, but in terms of online presence, you should know these three:
Here are some ways to use video to improve your online presence:
According to Linkedin, employees have a network that is 10X larger than its company’s follower base. And Social Media Today tells us that content shared by employees receives 8X more engagement than content shared by brand channels.
Take advantage of this! Share your blog posts with your company employees and encourage them to share it on their networks. The added bonus is that your sales and support teams can stay on top of content that can be of use to them.
And don’t forget that your online presence is also made up of what others say about you online. Get listed on Glassdoor, treat your employees well, and let them play a part in building your reputation.
Building your online presence is a lot of work. But who says you have to do it alone? Those with whom you have a strong relationship can help you in a number of ways.
Plus, these immediate connections can introduce you to their connections. Maybe you connect with a developer that can help you with your website, or a young videographer offering inexpensive work to gain experience. But as always, networking and building relationships should not be self-seeking. The goal is to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships from which organic opportunities can arise.
Make your website pages and emails accessible to people with disabilities. Not only does one in four adults have a disability in the US, but also, the assistive technology industry is growing. With those with disabilities having more access to online content, you have the opportunity to expand your online presence to the 61 million adults in the US who have one—not to mention demonstrating values that matter to consumers today.
With the antiracisim and inclusivity movement that began in 2020, incorporating diversity into your workplace and marketing material is more important than ever. Plus, people are attracted to material—whether visual or written—that represents them. This is partly due to the familiarity principle (more on marketing psychology here), but also because it conveys to them the message that they are heard and seen. By representing the diverse range of people within your audience in your online assets, you can get noticed by more people while also demonstrating social responsibility.
As mentioned earlier, Google is now using mobile-first indexing for all sites on the web, so having a responsive site and enhancing performance with tactics like lazy loading is essential. Plus, with more than half (60%) of internet searches being performed on mobile devices, you really do need to prioritize your mobile online presence. This means making sure your website pages and emails render properly on tablets and phones, but also leveraging mobile-specific strategies, such as:
And for local businesses in particular, local SEO is crucial for mobile marketing. According to Google, 76% of consumers who search for a local business on their smartphone end up visiting the business within a day, and 28% of them make a purchase.
With so many online channels, building and maintaining your online presence is a big undertaking, but with big returns. Here are some free tools that can help you with your efforts.
With LOCALiQ’s free Online Presence Grader, you can enter your website and you’ll get an overall online presence score, made up of three different scores on your website quality, social and local presence, and digital advertising performance.
Google yourself. See what shows up on the SERP. Hopefully your website is the first result and your Google My Business profile appears on the right. It’s likely that the rest of the results will be directory sites that have you in their database. Take a gander through them to make sure each listing is complete and accurate, and that reviews are accounted for.
Simply Google “mobile friendly test” and enter your website into the search result.
Hopefully you won’t get the dreaded red text…
Set up Google Alerts so you can be notified when new results for a topic show up in Google Search—i.e. your business.
BrightLocal’s research has found that businesses with more than 100 images in their Google My Business listing get 520% more calls, 2,717% more direction requests, and 1,065% more website clicks than the average business. This is just one of the many small tweaks you can make to your profile to get big results. WordStream’s free Google My Business Grader identifies what’s missing in your profile and exactly what you need to do to improve it.
Our free Google Ads Grader and Facebook Ads Grader tools perform a thorough audit of your accounts and provide a detailed report on optimizations you can make to increase the visibility of your ads, prevent wasted spend, and get more conversions.
You can only exist in one place in the physical world, but with the internet, you can be in multiple places at once, places your current and potential customers are spending most of their time. Whether you’ve been around awhile or are just starting a business, having a strong online presence allows your business to get discovered by new customers, and the more touchpoints you have with your audience, the more you can build your reputation, increase brand awareness, make data-driven optimizations, and ultimately increase revenue.
There were many strategies mentioned in this post for improving your online presence, so let’s recap:
Kristen is the Senior Managing Editor at WordStream, where she helps businesses to make sense of their online marketing and advertising. She specializes in SEO and copywriting and finds life to be exponentially more delightful on a bicycle.
See other posts by Kristen McCormick
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.