For many small business owners, 2020 has brought with it a mixed bag of blessings and horror. A downturn (or in some cases a complete cessation) of business activity and growth is something which really stings when you’ve spent years pouring your energy into building up your business.
The silver lining for business owners is that this downturn has, for many, created more unscripted hours for us to relax, take up hobbies and connect with loved ones. It has also generated fresh reserves of time and headspace which we can use to address long overdue tasks. You know the ones – they’ve lurked on your mental to-do list for years, always important but never quite urgent?
For many small business owners, optimizing and improving their online presence is at the top of this list. Whether your website isn’t performing brilliantly in search engine results or you’re haunted by a pile of reviews or messages that you never find time to respond to, there is a multitude of options when it comes to improving your businesses digital presence.
The problem is in knowing which tasks – realistically – can be tackled by someone who is not a digital marketer, and which require paid help… and which improvements will have the biggest positive impact?
I’ve pulled together a list of the most powerful ways small business owners can use their downtime to improve their online presence. All these tasks require is an internet connection, a laptop, and some free time. Which – let’s face it – most of us have right now. If any of them seem challenging or unclear, search up a YouTube tutorial or a blog and you’ll usually find clarification.
Our Top Tips to Strengthen Your Online Presence
1) Add backlinks to strengthen your SEO
Backlinks are simply links which lead from someone else’s website back to your own website. A classic example is a listing in a relevant business directory (paid or unpaid) or a link in a by-line on a testimonial, guest blog or similar. Each of these links is gold for your website, and the more robust and highly trafficked the original site, the better the backlink.
Reach out to people you’ve bought goods and services for in the past and offer a testimonial to place on their website, under the proviso they add a link to your URL. Or add your business to relevant industry directories online! The more the merrier – you can never have too many backlinks.
2) Engage on social media
Simply posting – even pretty frequently – is not enough to succeed on Facebook or Instagram. You need to also spend time in the platform, engaging with other accounts and participating as your page or handle. This will increase the likelihood of your unpaid posts being seen by your followers, as the system ‘rewards’ you for being an active member of the community. So like, comment, share, follow and otherwise engage with other accounts while you’re on these platforms, and track how your reach (impressions) grow.
3) Prepare and schedule social media posts for the future
Whether you use a scheduling software like Hootsuite, Facebook’s native scheduled publishing tool or an Instagram delayed publishing tool like Laterly, get ahead while you have the time and schedule in posts for the next month or longer! If you create a mix of general (non time-sensitive) posts which are about you, your business and products, as well as sharing great content you’ve come across or which you’ve been tagged in, you’ll take the pressure off yourself to post once your business picks up and you’re busy again!
4) Audit and analyse your website as a customer
Take a slow walk through your website and look for what we call ‘barriers to buy’ – even if you don’t have an eCommerce site (i.e. a site from which it’s possible to actually buy something), you’re selling visitors on your business, and your brand or service.
Imagine you’ve never visited the site before and look for points at which you ‘get lost’ or aren’t sure where you’re supposed to go next. Imagine the perfect route you’d like people to take through your site, from homepage to checkout or to contacting you, and identify if there are any hurdles along that journey. Then, if you have the skill set, go ahead and knock those hurdles down! Even if you can’t fix them yourself (or afford someone to fix them for you) it’s great to be prepared with what exactly you’d like to have fixed, once your cashflow allows it to happen.
5) Connect and network
Get onto LinkedIn, or Facebook Groups, or any other online forum you’re comfortable with, and connect with people who may be potential collaborators, suppliers or customers. Look through old business cards and emails and connect with people you dealt with once or twice a while back. And when I say connect, I don’t just mean add as a contact. I mean send along a short, genuine message and begin a conversation! You never know where it could take you.
Look for opportunities to ‘swap links’ or content (i.e. to guest blog, or have a link to your website placed in someone else’s blog or site) with relevant businesses, as this can help to strengthen your online presence and your authority in your field.