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According to Forbes, 3.8 million Google searches are conducted each minute. If you create a strong online presence for your small business, you can unlock the ability to connect with customers without geographical constraints, increase your sales and further contribute to the socioeconomic health of your community. HubSpot defines an online presence by “how easy it is to find a brand or company online.” This presence is “important for building your brand's reputation, increasing brand awareness and providing visibility to your products or services when users are searching for related keywords.”
But building an online presence is not easy for many small-business owners. It’s a technical skill that must be developed and refined continually.
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The first step in building an online presence is to define your brand’s principles. A brand must realize where to show up, how frequently, what to say and, most importantly, understand the “why.” Without an ethos in place, brands run the risk of derailing their messaging, confusing customers and losing opportunities. Similarly, a brand that interacts with customers only to make the sale — without a sense of connection — can come off as disingenuous and cold.
To effectively build trust over time, some marketing specialists advocate for the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of online content should inform, educate and connect with your audience, and the other 20 percent should focus on selling your business. But Tanya Hall, CEO of Greenleaf Book Group, like some other experts, asserts that “the standard 80/20 rule isn't wrong and works for some brands, but the key word is some.” Hall writes that every social media page will have a different target audience, different demographics and a different overall strategy. For this reason, she explains, upholding a standard ratio as a guideline for every business can be constricting. Small-business owners should remain authentic to their brand principles, target audience and products/services in order to gauge the most effective methods of online communication.
Strategies for building your business's online presence
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to building your brand’s online presence. Entrepreneurs must continually test and analyze tactics before heavily investing in a direction. Product-based businesses may employ different platforms and principles than service-based ones.
But there are a number of options available. Consider these six approaches to identify which ones may be appropriate for your brand.
1. Mailing list
Growing an email list is one of the most effective direct-to-consumer marketing strategies. Unlike some forms of social media and advertising, a mailing list holds contact information and enables you to build relationships with the same audience over time.
A mailing list also can yield a higher return on investment more quickly. Campaign Monitor reports that “for every $1 spent, email marketing can generate $44 in ROI. The ability to segment the target subscriber list, personalize messaging and trigger communications makes email newsletters the most effective digital marketing tool around.”
Search engine optimization directs traffic to your website when people seek information on sites such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. SEO can improve the quality and quantity of website traffic from prospective customers.