The days of the brick-and-mortar business are far from over, but with so many people making purchasing decisions online, it’s becoming increasingly important to have a strong Internet presence.
Having a strong online presence means more than cobbling together a website, though. You need the right web hosting service and the kind of website design and functionality that keeps visitors engaged – and, ideally, makes them want to come back. You should also use social media as a way to increase lead generation and customer loyalty.
Following are some important points to consider, if you’re hoping to ramp-up your online presence.
Are you on a budget, or does your small business have deep pockets? Regardless of the answer to that question, you shouldn’t skimp on the budget you allow for web hosting. While free web hosting sounds ideal for the budget-conscience individual, its capabilities are limited. You get a domain name, but you have little opportunity to make changes. Paid web hosting services offer more flexibility.
Free services also offer limited amounts of storage. If you are considering expanding your presence online in the future, consider a plan that offers expandable or unlimited storage. You’ll find web hosting services that offer 200GB or more of storage for a nominal monthly fee.
Look for a company that offers 24/7 customer support by phone, email, live chat or a combination of the three.
Integrate Social Media
If you are not active on social media, you’re missing an opportunity to connect with potential customers. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr have millions of daily visitors with a wide range of interests. Think about where your target demographic might be; for instance, young people account for the largest percentage of Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter users, whereas mid-career professionals may spend more time on LinkedIn.
Make it easy for visitors to your site to share information about your products or services on social media, by including quick-share buttons on your website. And include more than just product descriptions on your site – develop a blog section and include content that visitors will want to share with their networks.
Use analytical tools to learn more about your website traffic – like who’s visiting your website and where they came from. If you find that 80 percent of your customers who come to your site through Facebook make purchases more often than other visitors, you might want to focus more energy on your Facebook profile. You can also look at where visitors spend the most time, which will help you decide whether you need to change your approach. For example, if visitors spend a lot of time reading your blog, you should update content frequently and announce new blog posts via Twitter.
Small businesses need an online presence in the 21st century. Without the right web hosting service, social media integration service and analytical tools, you may fall short of achieving your objectives online. Decide what goals you want to achieve, and begin creating an online presence that will help you get there.