With so many aspects of our lives, from professional to social, migrating online, it’s surprising that so many business owners continue to deprioritize an online strategy as part of their growth plans. For many of us, it is challenging to balance this additional component with the daily demands of running a business. But putting this critical part of running a successful business on the back burner may significantly slow your growth prospects. Don’t get left even further behind the trends. Avoid these five all-too-common mistakes made by business owners every day, and immediately improve your business growth trajectory.
1. Not Having A Website
A professional website, whether it has three pages or 3,000, is the centerpiece of your online marketing strategy. There are a wide variety of options in terms of pricing, ease of use and content management systems to get you started on a new website including established names such as www.godaddy.com and www.1and1.com and newcomers www.wix.com and www.squarespace.com. A website is important for any offline business because potential customers are increasingly doing their research and making decisions based on information they find online. With your own website, you produce the authoritative information about your business, rather than relinquishing that to other, potentially untrustworthy sources. Put your company logo, location, and other notable details such as menus and best-selling products on the site to showcase your business to new potential customers.
2. Not Responding To Online Reviews
As a proud former employee of TripAdvisor, I understand all too well the tremendous influence that online reviews have over potential customers. The content in these reviews can boost a business overnight or push it closer to busting over time. When hotel owners would ask me what the secret to managing their TripAdvisor reviews was (often as I was checking into their hotel and they realized my affiliation with the site), I would candidly say “respond honestly.” Online reviews are an opportunity to engage with your customers and continue the conversation. If you are fortunate to receive excellent reviews, reach out and thank the customer. If you receive a negative review on a review site like Yelp or Angie’s List, respond with apologies and offer to make things right the next time the customer patrons your establishment. Be honest about what contributed to a poor experience, and reassure that it will never happen again. Potential customers will appreciate the candor and understand that even the best-run businesses experience challenges.
3. Not Managing Your Business Data In Google Local
Google Local should be viewed as an extension of your own personal website. It takes a few minutes to upload content and could have tremendous impact on how your business is listed and displayed within Google search results. The more valuable content you provide through the interface created specifically for business owners, the more professional and trustworthy your business looks to potential customers. Upload your business address, company logo design, and pictures from your business, such as your storefront, samples of your products, or a picture of your team at a job site. These professional yet personal touches will make your business memorable and more appealing to the online audience.
4. Not Leveraging Social Media
You don’t need a complex, highly-integrated social media strategy in order to engage with your customers where they are already having conversations with their friends and family. Set up a company Facebook page and encourage your customers to “like” it. Every time you post new content on your page–such as a special limited-time offer–every single person who has liked your page will see the update in their News Feed. Make your company Facebook profile look even more professional by featuring your company logo and creating professional Facebook cover images with your logo design integrated. You can also try out Twitter’s new platform specifically designed for small businesses to reach out to new customers, or follow them at @TwitterSmallBiz.
5. Not Doing Basic SEO
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the practice of improving your company’s presence in the top search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. SEO specifically refers to the search engine listings on the left side of a search results page–unpaid placements based on the quality of content on your website–versus the listings at the top and right of a search results page–paid placements. You don’t need an SEO expert in house or the input of a consultant to implement the basic, and often most important, principles of SEO to your website. Focus on creating unique content, updated regularly for your website, to help establish it as an authority in your industry. Furthermore, make sure the five most important pages on your site have descriptive page titles, the <title> tag, and meta descriptions, the <meta> tag, called out in the code. Your page title should be no more than 55 characters in length, and should be a descriptive overview of the content on that page. Your meta description should be no more than 150 characters long, and should be a brief sentence providing more detail about the content on the page. When read together, the <title> and <meta> tags should give the potential customer a clear picture of the information on a page before a link is clicked.
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