If you’re a new company starting out or you’ve established yourself for some time now, there is always an opportunity to expand the reach of your business.
Every day, more and more searches for the services your business provides are occurring on a digital platform. These searches are also showing an increase in local intent as consumers are looking for businesses in their geographic area. Just in the last year, searches that included the phrase near me in the search term have almost doubled.
Overall search interest for the phrase near me. Time period Jan 2013 – July 2015
And even though 59% of purchases are still made in a store and in person, 4 in 5 of those consumers are conducting searches for local businesses online. That means your customers, who come into your physical office or store, will most likely have started their search for your services online.
With the ever growing reach of digital mediums, having or growing your presence online provides a new way for you to reach new customers. There are many options, but we’ve narrowed it down to 5 choices for you to easily get started.
Claim local listings
Whether you are a local yoga studio, offer tax services, or provide music lessons, your potential customers will be conducting research about the best options in the area. Sites like Yelp are often the first place a consumer looks, using the service to compare options and find a business with favorable reviews.
In most cases, even if a search engine is used instead of going directly to Yelp, the review site will still show up in the search results. Google My Business is often a prominent result for local searches and can even show higher than the brands already present.
If you haven’t already, creating and managing a profile for your business will allow you to:
- Put the correct information on the listing
- Respond to reviews
- Create an additional way for customers to find you
Claiming and managing a Yelp or Google My Business profile is a simple process that will provide long term value.
To claim your Yelp profile, visit https://biz.yelp.com/
To claim your Google My Business profile, visit https://business.google.com/add
Once you’ve claimed your profile, you’ll want to add:
- Your address
- Information about your business
- Any pertinent contact information including your phone number
- Applicable email
- Hours of business
Most profiles also allow you to add pictures. Essentially, the more information you have available to fill out your profile, the better. With BookSimple appointment scheduling you can even add a Book Now button to your Yelp profile.
Have, or build a website, and make it mobile friendly
If you haven’t already, build a website. This will take a little longer than setting up a Yelp or Google profile, but its benefits are even further reaching. When customers search for your brand name you’ll want to completely own the messaging and image you present. Having your own website allows this.
You can also become a source of information or inspiration for your customers if you begin building out content. And, depending on how well it is optimized for search, you can be present for searches around your business or service type.
With 65% of online consumers looking up more information online now versus a few years ago having a company website is increasingly important. Earlier this year searches on mobile devices also surpassed those done on a computer making a mobile-friendly design an important requirement for your website.
To build a website from scratch there are numerous free options, but the best way to continue owning your presence is to purchase a domain name and website hosting yourself. From there you can install the popular CMS WordPress or another solution to begin creating your site. If WordPress is used, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of responsive themes available that are mobile friendly. If you prefer to use another platform or create a custom look, talk to your developer about your website goals and come up with a proper solution.
Build your social presence in one or two platforms
There are a number of social platforms available, but pick the one that best fits your end goal. You should be able to identify where your customers are to make sure you can create engagement and provide value. For example, a karate studio wouldn’t necessarily need Pinterest, but it might be a great fit for a home decorator to showcase clients’ homes and the latest projects.
If you only have the time and desire to manage one social channel, Facebook is often a safe bet and works well for most businesses. This is because Facebook gives you the ability to create a business page that allows you to input company information, similar to Yelp and Google My Business. The key with Facebook is to post relevant and engaging content on a regular schedule and to keep your company information up to date. If you are using BookSimple, you can also add a book now button to your Facebook profile, increasing the chance that potential customers will become paying customers.
Generate online reviews
With your business pages and social profiles set up, you’ll then want to have your customers leave reviews on each. Having reviews written about your business and managing those reviews is an important part of earning new customers.
As mentioned before, most consumers are searching for options online before making a decision. It has been shown that 61% of consumers use reviews before making a choice on which business to go with and current customer reviews are typically trusted more than the descriptions written on your website.
If your social profile or website is appearing in searches, you’ll want your business to be shown in the best light possible. Those positive reviews, especially fresh and relevant reviews, go a long way towards helping customers make a decision.
To begin collecting reviews, ask your current customers to leave feedback for you. You can let them know you have these profiles set up and, after their next appointment or service, remind them of the ability to write a review. You can also share this through your social profile, a physical message in your business, or through email newsletters.
Build local citations through directory sites
One final method for beginning to expand your presence online is through the use of directories or sites that can provide citations. Citations are mentions that refer to your business and may come in the form of directories, other review sites, local community sites, or relevant blogs. Often times they are the sites your customers are currently using for research or information about your industry and provide a way for them to discover your brand.
The site moz.com has a great resource for getting started with citations. They have a sample list of sites you can utilize based on your industry. Visit https://moz.com/learn/local/citations-by-category and find your business category. From there, go to the pages listed and begin to discover how to add your business or information to each.
In the example lists above, each site is rated by how relevant it is for that specific industry. The longer the grey bar, the more likely that citation source is going to be shown for a relevant search.
Getting started with expanding your digital presence can seem daunting, but by taking small steps and spending a little time on it each week, you can create new ways for future customers to find you. Plan out your next steps using the guide above and watch your business continue to grow.
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