First Things First.
You might be surprised to learn that a majority of businesses, large and small, are negatively impacted by improperly maintaining some fundamentals of their online presence. In some cases, companies have the dubious distinction of actually having an offline presence. It’s a serious threat to your business and something every marketer, manager, and executive should be aware of and mitigate wherever possible.
So, what is an offline presence? It’s the occurrence of a brand or company having little record of its existence online or a very ineffective web presence. For small businesses with physical locations, this means customers can only find them through foot traffic and word-of-mouth. Even mild cases can be very serious. For instance, take the Serbian Crown Google Maps scandal that occurred just last summer. A lack of presence on their Google+ account left them vulnerable to saboteurs who changed their hours to “Closed” for half of the week. That’s all it takes for your competition to swoop in and collect the traffic....not being present.
But the problem isn't limited to small shops who serve the general public. Organizations of all sizes in all industries, regardless of whether they are B2C or B2B, frequently fail to take the necessary steps to bolster their brand online or ensure they are even being found in the first place. Most companies don't realize the multitude of factors that:
a) impact how, or if, they are being found online and
b) determine how they are perceived by their audience.
Everything from SEO techniques and proper coding of your website to social media activity and optimization of your content for mobile devices has a dramatic impact on your web presence and search engine rankings. Failure in any of these areas could mean your web presence is already falling asleep. The key to staying awake isn't more caffeine, but rather effective marketing and monitoring of your web presence. These processes work together to help define your brand, build an audience, and in turn, establish and grow your online presence. It can be a lot to manage so we’ve gathered a list of the top best practices to keep your presence awake and healthy.
Maintain your web properties
Most brands have at least one web property - their company website. The primary vehicle for marketing a brand online, a company's website is the largest and most important web presence it has. The basic purpose of this property is to inform users about a company's product/service offerings but of course many sites offer e-commerce capabilities and the ability to engage directly with customers. Because a website is such a integral vehicle for reaching prospects and customers, it is vital that it not only provides a seamless user experience for your audience but that it be programmed correctly in order for it to be properly indexed in search engines and accessible to site users. Sloppy code, broken links, missing tags, and a host of other problems weaken your web presence and can even lower your search engine rankings. Employing best practices in web development, adopting the latest web standards and technologies, and performing rigorous site testing and audits go a long way in ensuring you have a properly coded website. Unfortunately, most companies lack the resources to do so or don't think they have any problems with their sites in the first place. However, did you know our recent survey found that over 84% of websites tested had significant problems, often times having thousands of errors on a single website?
Fixing website errors is an important first step to maintaining your web properties....but it's not the only step. Remember to keep your site current and relevant to your target audience. Frequently update your company news and events and consider integrating a dedicated blog to interact with prospects and customers alike. In addition, an engaging website also presents “fresh content” to its users to create variety and grow readership. This can range from informative white papers to promotional videos or webinars that demonstrate thought-leadership. Above all, it’s most important to maintain a great user experience for your customers. There is no sense in marketing a site if users can’t understand how to get from Point A to Point B.
Monitor your search engine ranking
Humans do not decide where your website gets placed in the search engines for a specific keyword. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance that you clearly communicate your page’s topic by using appropriate HTML tags and metadata that clearly describe your page’s content. Advanced markup such as Schema.org can enhance your search engine listing even further by annotating the content of your tags. Relevancy is the key to a great search engine ranking. If your content is unique and relevant, your hard work will start to pay off by people naturally sharing your content and an increase of organic backlinks should naturally form. Beware bad practices that can actually get you removed from a search engine’s results. If it sounds to good to be true, do some research before you spend too much time. You’ll be glad you did.
Socialize with your community
Establishing your company on social media extends your presence beyond your website by humanizing your brand and providing a channel to directly interact with your audience. Being active on social media exponentially increases your reach and improves your search results (see our blog on Social Lab for more info.) Choosing the right social networks is unique to every business so make sure you are establishing your social presence on the networks that are most applicable to your business, industry, audience, and even type of content; however some with pre-populated accounts should always be configured. For instance, businesses with a physical location are, by default, given a Google Maps listing. It’s highly recommended to claim this listing and merge it with your Google+ account. This social integration gives you more control on how users are introduced to your business. Also important, especially for B2C businesses, is engaging with review sites such as Yelp which can help notify you of disgruntled customers and help mediate situations before they turn into a social media disasters.
Pay for clicks
While e-mail marketing is still a great way to stay in front of your existing audience, this tactic does not typically reach out to new customers that have never heard of your company before. Keywords placements on Bing or Google Adwords can connect your brand with new customers searching for exact topics relevant to your business. Social media ad placements allow you to further deliver your messages to the precise demographics of your target audience. Newer ad technologies such as "re-marketing" can even allow you the opportunity to serve ads to users who are in your current pipeline and have already engaged with you online. Delivering a powerful message and getting the click is only half the problem. While ad placements can be directed towards your company website, a custom landing page can create a unique interactive experience that encourages users to perform specific tasks such as sharing or signing up. Ad impressions may create awareness for your brand, but an engagement is the best measurable indicator that your investment in your web presence is actually paying off.
Measure your footprint
An online presence cannot be quantified into a single score, however the growth of your site traffic and social audience will tell you a lot. Site metrics services such as Google Analytics feature powerful tools to set up conversion goals on your web properties and measure the performance of all your online traffic sources. In addition, Google Analytics also provides user data such as gender and age by assessing a user's web history. Social networks provide brands with even more user data by diving into the engagement of your posts and media to show how your content is being consumed and shared. This data empowers your brand to refine your audience targeting and design better content that will create the most engagement.
While a static online presence can be created as a one-time setup with a website and social media account, you can’t guarantee that this presence will generate any activity. In fact, an unmonitored online presence can actually be dangerous for your brand. Users can be misled by out-of-date content, or worse, unresolved public complaints on social media. Brands that actively publish good quality content, and promote it to their audience of prospective customers, will capture a greater share of traffic and be found much more seamlessly. After all, you can’t make new friends if you aren’t present to say hello.
Be everywhere your customers are
Maintaining a static website designed only for a user sitting at their desk is a major strategic blunder that greatly limits the online reach of most companies and reflects a significant misunderstanding by these companies of how content is being consumed by today's modern, mobile, and increasingly tech-savvy consumers (see our blog on NewView for more info.) Though only a small percentage of websites are actually optimized for mobile devices, fully 65% of business interactions begin on a smartphone meaning many companies are missing out on a huge opportunity to engage with their audience. Last year alone, US adults spent nearly 2.5 hours PER DAY on mobile devices! Ensuring your website is optimized for use on smartphones, iPads, and other mobile devices is vital to capturing new business in our mobile-first world.
Set your alarm clock
Is your web presence sleepy or has it already fallen asleep? Not sure where your web presence even stands? Don't worry....We will let you know, for free! And if it is sleeping or maybe just a little groggy, our solutions team can help you wake it up and get you back online.
Contact us today for a complimentary assessment and free summary report that answers the following questions:
- Is my website effectively communicating with search engines?
- Are there errors on my site that affect performance and search results?
- How does my site rank for my keywords?
- What are people saying about my business on social networks?
- Is Google Analytics collecting data on my site’s traffic?
- Is my site optimized for mobile devices?