How to Build an Online Presence
It’s no secret that if you want to be successful in business today you need to carefully build an online presence. It’s not even negotiable anymore. And I’m not talking about just a website. To really nail it you need a social media presence too, preferably one that has been crafted to work with your website to successfully connect you with your audience. Your social media activity is a critical aspect of your branding process. To overlook social media is to leave your brand at a distinct disadvantage, whether or not your competitors use social media. Remember that everyone is upgrading their online presence on a continuous basis, so you should aim to be the best you can possibly be at all times.
Stage 1: Plan Your Online Presence
Building an online presence is a process that is best approached with a little planning. There are three points you can start from, that will eventually converge as a successful website and social media profiles that work together to help you build community and brand.
Identify Your Niche
The first and most urgent task is to gather knowledge of your niche. You obviously know what you’re selling, but do you know who your target audience is? Do you know if your product or service is the best it can be to fit the needs of your target audience? The very first research you need to do should uncover exactly who would be interested in buying your products or services. This knowledge can be gathered while you are carrying out a competitive analysis, which is the third item on the list. It is amazing just how useful competitive analysis can be, as we will discover.
Local or Global?
Will your online presence target just your locality? Or are you going global? Of course this will depend largely on whether your product or service can be shipped or provided remotely, or whether it needs local distribution. If you opt for local, the first thing you need to do is get a Google Local Places listing, and of course, don’t overlook local telephone and print directories. Remember that if you want to serve the entire Middle East region, you should leave your website and social media settings at global because local means your immediate vicinity. This is one major problem with creating a website/social media presence for the Middle East, that is best left to experts.
Facebook can help your local presence too: try to team up with other local Facebook pages with products that are a good match for yours. You will often find that if you like their page and introduce them to your community, the page owner will reciprocate. You might also message him/her and mention that you think your businesses are a good match and that your communities might be compatible.
The importance of researching the right keywords is central to your online success. Do not underestimate its importance. If you have any doubts at all about how well you can do this, it is worth hiring professional help. Targeting the right keywords means that your audience has a chance of finding you if you do a good job of building your website. Get the keywords wrong and any effort at building your website will be wasted because you’re not targeting the correct audience. Remember that not everyone will use an exact match of your main keywords to search for you. For example, if you are selling ‘fresh juice,’ some people might be looking for juice, some might put in green juice, and still others might search for ‘bottled juice’ or ‘canned juice,’
One last point. While you’re not targeting people who want to buy ‘canned juice’ or bottled juice,’ I do consider it your task to convince them that your fresh juice is better than what they’re looking for. So you might have web pages that target those phrases so that you can tell them why they should be buying fresh juice!
Even if you don’t plan to use paid search, or Pay Per Click in the future, it is worth using it at this early stage to test the effectiveness of your keywords. Anything you shell out in PPC will be saved when you avoid spending time and money creating pages that optimize for the wrong keywords.
Next you need to know who is selling the same thing as you. How are they doing it? Do they target the same audience? Assessing your competition’s efficiency will give you a starting point for how efficient you need to be to get to the top of your market–yes the coveted #1 spot on Google. You need to be more efficient than they are for starters! As mentioned above, while carrying out a competitive analysis you can also uncover important information about the market and how successful you have been at creating a product that your target audience wants. For a more detailed look at this process and what you should be paying attention to, I recommend Glen Gabe’s excellent article on SEM Competitive Analysis.
Once you have gathered this vital basic information about your business you’re ready to go on to the next stage which is planning your website and social media presence. Don’t forget to sign up to our feed to get that article when it’s ready.