Starting a new business can be an exciting moment in your life. There are tons of things to do and think about as you make the proper preparations to open for business. Yet, it’s easy to get caught up in all the things needed for the physical location that you forget the online tasks. Without addressing the online presence of your business, you won’t be easy to find in your local area. No customer or clients, no revenue.
Whether you just started a new business or in the process, here’s a checklist of 9 tasks you need to do to increase your online presence and visibility. You want to set up a strong online foundation to get your new business on the right path to grow.
1. Buy Your Domain Name or URL (www.yourbusiness.com)
One of the most important things you can do for your new small business is deciding what to name it. Before committing to a name, I suggest doing some research online to see if there are any other businesses with the same name. If you have a unique name, you may be able to claim the best version with the .com at the end. Just be sure to keep your domain name as simple and short as possible.
You may find out that there’s another business with the same name but maybe in another state. This means that the best domain option will most likely be taken. In that case, you can possibly use a different domain extension like .net or .biz but it won’t as memorable. Another option is to incorporate your geographical location into the domain name with the city or zip code.
Once you decide on the name, you’ll want to secure your domain name immediately and hold it through a web hosting company. If you don’t secure it, you increase the chances that someone else will buy it and try to sell it back to you for a higher price. Or worst, your local competitor will buy it and use it to steal direct traffic to their website. I seen that happen with a new business here in Sacramento. A competitor of a new body piercing shop purchased the domain name of the new shop with the .com months months before it first opened. How did this competitor know? Their businesses are only a block away and he saw a opening soon sign. This new business had to settle for the .net version, which is not the ideal one.
As for a web hosting company to secure your domain name, Go Daddy is a popular option but I personally use and suggest to my clients Inmotion Hosting. Once you are on the site, you should be able to do a search to see if your domain name is available.
2. Create Your Google Account / Set Up Google My Business
Google offers a variety of free products and services that your small business needs to to take advantage. One of the most important is Google My Business, which is their local directory. It helps customers find your business online when they search for a product or service you offer in their local area.
Google processes an average of 40,000 search queries every second, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day. As the most popular search engine on the planet, it will help with your online visibility to potential customers so make sure your profile is completely filled out.
Google My Business: https://www.google.com/business/
3. Add Your Business Listing to Bing Business
Similarly to Google My business, Microsoft’s search engine Bing also has their own local directory service. Although it doesn’t receive anything close to the number of searches that Google gets, it is still the second most popular search engine on the web (excluding Youtube). We recommend creating your listing there and fill out the profile as thoroughly as you can.
Bing Places For Business: https://www.bingplaces.com
4. Sign Up For Social Media Accounts
And of course, you have your social media accounts to claim. Although you may not use all of them, I highly recommend claiming at least the popular ones under your business name.
Helpful Tools: Ideally, you want to have the best domain name for your business name along with all the social media account names that match. Here’s a helpful tool you can use to help with that. These tools allow you to search a name and it will report if that name is available or already taken for domains and social media networks.
Know Em: http://knowem.com
5. Sign Up For Yelp
Along with your social media channels, you’ll want to create a new listing in Yelp. By having a place for customers to leave reviews, it can help to boost your credibility and trust. At the same time, it will provide another way for people to find you.
Not all types of small businesses gain the same benefits from Yelp but it doesn’t hurt to claim one anyways. Just like with any of the sites and listings mentioned earlier, it’s highly recommended that you fill out all profiles as complete and accurate as possible.
Yelp for Businesses: https://biz.yelp.com
6. Create Other Online Directory Listings (NAP Citations)
To improve your online visibility for local searches, you need to increase the number of NAP citations.
Simply put, NAP citations are your name, address and phone number listed on third party sites like Facebook, Yelp and Google My Business. The more you have, the more credible you are to search engines like Google, which increase your chances of your business to be seen for relevant searches.
There are tons of third party directory sites that you can add your business to create a NAP citation. However, there are also plenty of bad ones that can have a negative online effect on your business.
A great tool you can use to start this process off is Moz Local. It’s a free tool that will give you a report on your local business and show you variety of legitimate places for you to create NAP citations.
Keep in mind, all your NAP citations need to be consistent. This means that your business name, address and phone number should be typed exactly the same way for all your online profiles, listings and website. For example, if your business is on “123 Boardwalk Street,” don’t use “123 Boardwalk St.” Everything needs to be same including abbreviations and formatting.
Paid Tool: Creating NAP citations through directories can be a tedious task. There’s an automated service called Yext you can use that makes it much easier. I’ve never used it myself as I’ve been doing it manually, but it’s something to consider if you don’t have the time.
7. Build Your Website
The most important and fundamental piece of online property you can have on the Internet is a website.
There are some free options out there for those who may not have the budget right off the bat. There are limitations with free but it’s better than not having a website at all. The top two I am aware of are Wix and Weebly.
Make sure you have these things on your website:
- Contact information
- Business hours
- Product and service information (including pricing)
- Clickable phone number on mobile
- Don’t forget, about your NAP citation.
- High quality images
For more details on what you need on your small business website, check out this blog.
8. Setup Email Address
Aside from your online presence, you’ll need some way for potential customers to contact you. Be sure to set up an email address designated specifically for your business. Chances are If you already set up a Google account, you’ll have Gmail.
The advantage to using Gmail is that all the Google products and services are all linked to one Google account. This makes it easier to manage everything in one central account.
Depending on what web hosting package you pay for, you may be able to create free email accounts that have your domain name.
9. Install Web Traffic Data Tracker
A tool that tracks web traffic data is one of those things small business owners are not generally aware they need. One of the most popular free options is Google Analytics. It’s powerful tool that tracks tons of data for you to use in your marketing decisions.
It may not be easy to navigate so it’s ideal to have someone who knows their way around to sort through the data and create custom reports for you. The main idea is that you want to have it installed as soon as possible so it can continuously collect valuable data.
Although it’s relatively simple to install, it does require some technical understanding. If you have someone putting your website together, be sure to have them add Google Analytics for you.
Google Analytics: https://www.google.com/analytics/
Extra Free Tools: There are two other free tools that you should have for the website, Google and Bing Webmaster Tools. It does require technical knowledge, but hopefully your web developer should already know to have these installed.
Bonus: Establish Official Hashtag (#) For Your Business
Having an official hashtag that you promote and advertise for your small business is a great way to gain exposure through social media. This helps to centralize your customer’s post in one hashtag so that other people can easily see the collection of posts about your brand.
Not all types of businesses need this. It’s going to depend on what you are selling. Off the top of my head, restaurants, hair salons, food products, gyms and recreational activities are types of businesses that should have an official hashtag. Or if an Instagram account makes sense for your business, a hashtag should be established as well.
Establishing a hashtag (like #businessname) does not require any extra work like registering domain name. You just need to decide on something, usually your business name or slogan, and promote it in store. You can advertise it on signs, menus and print.