Small Business

2 Easy Ways to Increase Your Business's Online Footprint

With so many consumers now searching online for local businesses, it’s critical to have a strong web presence if you want to grow your business. It isn’t enough just to have a website these days—you also need to make sure customers are finding your business when they search online. (It’s no use having a great website if it shows up, say, on Page 10 of the search results for what it offers.)

You may have heard that SEO, or search engine optimization, is important to the success of a website. While that’s true, it’s probably not worthwhile for many small business owners to spend a lot of money on optimizing their search results, especially when a few small steps may suffice to boost your business’s web presence. (In turn, having a strong web presence could help you in other ways, such as getting approved for a small business loan or receiving a better rate on a loan offer.)

1. Claim and Update Your Business’s Local Listings

Google, Facebook, Yelp and Yellowpages all provide free listings for businesses, some of which are created automatically. A major benefit of pages on these platforms is that they typically rank well in Google Search.

You should check the websites of all three to claim any current pages, delete duplicated pages or create a new page for your business. Once you claim these pages, be sure to update all profile information, upload any photos of your business or products and link to both your business’s website and social-media profiles.

You should also encourage your customers to leave reviews of your business. Positive reviews can help your listings and website rank better in search results. On some of the platforms, such as Yelp, you can even respond to user reviews and run special promotions.

2. Be (Effectively) Active on Social Media

You don’t have to go overboard and create accounts for Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Snapchat. Instead, think about, or even research, which social media platforms your customers use and what you can realistically manage. It’s better to be effective on one platform than ineffective across four or five. If you don’t know where to begin, creating a Facebook page is a good first step for your business’s social media efforts.

When you create a new social media profile, be sure to fill out your profile completely, including the “About Us” section, business address, phone number, website URL, and customize your page’s URL (e.g., www.facebook.com/MyBusiness). You should also add relevant photos of your business and products/services and links to your business’s other social media profiles.

Once your page is up, you should engage your customers by sharing content that’s high quality and genuine, such as updates or photos about your business and products/services, relevant news articles or blog posts, tips and tutorials, and promotions or coupons. In addition, be vigilant about responding promptly to messages and questions from your customers--especially since some platforms actually track how rapidly you do so, and publish a summary of that information on the page.

Another advantage to having a strong web presence is that it may help you to get approved for a small business loan. Alternative lenders, such as Kabbage, and even some traditional lenders, will use your business’s social media and online data when evaluating a loan application. In some cases, a strong social-media presence could help you get approved, even if you have a less-than-stellar credit score. Indeed, having an active social media and web presence is important both for building your customer base, and for ensuring your business’s financial health.

Rebecca Wessell

Rebecca is a Product Manager at ValuePenguin, focusing on small business lending and personal loans. She was a financial services and data management consultant at Ernst & Young.