Whether your business is 100% online, or if your website and online presence plays a critical supporting role in your business, making an impact online is a fundamental goal for any business in 2021, regardless of your industry sector. But when you face so much competition, and when the online battlefield can seem so daunting, it is easy to feel helpless and confused.
Building a strong digital footprint isn’t easy, but there are many techniques that you can develop and put in place to do the hard work for you. And with some planning and strategising, these can be true to you and the values of your business and project an image that is progressive, challenging and ultimately successful.
1. Good branding
While of course this is important for any business, when developing an online presence this is crucial. A strong brand needs to be visible, appealing and engaging, but for success online it also needs to be ‘shareable’. By this we mean that technically, you need to have it in digital formats that can be used on various different platforms, and in various different ways – headers, banners, thumbnails, icons etc – but it also needs to be a name or logo that is instantly recognisable. Your brand needs to talk to your audience, be true to you and be able to communicate your ethos and message without you having to say anything. Get that right and your online message can spread rapidly.
2. Good website
A poor website can look outdated, be visually unappealing, be slow and unresponsive, can be hard to navigate and will be a turn-off for potential customers. It is critical you get this right and it shouldn’t be too expensive to build a website that is user-friendly, attractive and not over-complicated. You need a site that is mobile-optimised so that users on smartphones or tablets have the same experience as someone on a laptop, and you need a site that doesn’t involve endlessly scrolling down a screen, as this quickly loses someone’s attention and patience. Essentially, you want a website where the key information is easy to find and people can easily see where to contact you or to make a booking/sale; in other words, a website that generates leads and sales.
3. Social media
There are so many social media platforms to choose from now, and you can try and embrace several with a co-ordinated approach or, depending on the nature of your business, target what is most appropriate to you and your customer-base. Your social media presence is your public face, an extension to your business where it can come alive and show a more visual, human character and personality. You can target your customers, be creative with your message and your product/service and you can communicate and engage with your audience. Social media allows you to show you care about and understand your audience, and that you are likeable and worth investing in. This can quickly gain you some momentum and drive traffic to your website, particularly if you stay active and have a consistent, targeted strategy.
4. Show your USP
Every business needs a USP, and online is where you can show it best. This might not be your product or service necessarily, but can be you yourself, or how you perform or deliver your product/service. You can show this through video or photography or a podcast; all ways that you can stand apart from your competition. Or you can commit to content marketing and produce engaging, insightful and useful written content on your area of business. Crowdfunding is another way you can be unique and make your mark online. Think of a way you can build a community who can contribute to your success. This can build loyalty, but also, people will see something happening and want to be a part of it. Pretty quickly you have some online momentum.
Search engine optimisation is fundamentally the use of various techniques to generate organic traffic towards your website and to boost your site in search engine rankings. Basic techniques include using keywords, outbound and inbound links to and from other sites, optimising title tags and meta tags and providing unique, valuable content such as blog articles or videos. These could all see your site on the first page of Google search results, and with some specialist help, there are plenty of other advanced techniques also.
Having a strong online presence is still about communication, and it demonstrates the power of communication, but to make a mark online you ultimately need to co-ordinate all these different strands to project yourself, be authentic and consistent and perhaps most of all, to be creative.