How To Get Your Business Online

Photo by William Iven

This article was originally published on Agency Media’s company blog on October 17, 2016.

We’ve seen unprecedented growth and innovation in the digital space over the last ten years that’s left a swath of businesses — large and small — scrambling to catch up.

According to Forbes, “97% of consumers now search for local businesses online and 72% trust online reviews.” The future is here and it needs a high-speed internet connection.

That’s why I’m going to cut through the crap and offer a clear, definite path for how to get your business online — regardless of where you’re at.

Websites

When approaching the online space, the best place to start is your website. Your site will operate as the hub of your online presence — it’s where your social media platforms will direct traffic, where you can host video content, and what will show up in search results. There are four categories you can fall into:

  1. You don’t have a website
  2. You have a website, but it’s more than 3 years old and doesn’t meet modern web standards
  3. You have a new website but aren’t happy with how it performs
  4. It’s great! (If so, proceed to the next step)

What do CNN, TED, TIME, National Post, Spotify, and Agency Media have in common? We all run our websites on WordPress (and you should too). Over the last ten years, this open source blogging platform has become the most popular content management system in the world and runs over 26% of the internet.

WordPress is open source — that means you can download it for free and set it up on any reliable web host. There are a few steps to get things running, but there are thousands of how-to guides, YouTube videos, and message boards to assist you.

When it comes to the design of your new site you can stick with the standard theme (we don’t recommend it), purchase a theme, or invest in a custom design that’s created from the ground up for your business. Whatever option you choose, don’t be afraid to invest a little in this step. A well-designed, written, and developed website will provide great returns for your business — and set the foundation for the rest of your online presence.

Content

Now that you’ve got a website you need to start giving it some life. Something that business owners and marketers alike love to discuss is search engine optimization (SEO). SEO — the process of adjusting your web content to show up higher in search results — is both more complicated and simpler than it seems. To show up higher in search results you can do two things.

First, Google’s advanced algorithm is tuned to prioritize the things that your audience wants to see — quality, relevant content. Create regular content that engages your customers and covers the keywords that align with your business and what your prospective customers’ searches. This content can be blog posts, original videos, and website copy. Google looks at each of these and records your visitors’ behaviour to determine whether you should appear on the first page of search results or the fifth. Believe me you don’t want to be fifth. When was the last time you clicked the fourth “o” in Goooogle?

Second, you can take a look search engine marketing (SEM). The ads at the top and to the right of your search come at a price and those companies pay every time someone clicks to their site. This is a fast and easy (but expensive) way to reach the top. These paid results are not as trusted as organic results (achieved through SEO and content), but it’s another avenue to explore when you’re building your web presence.

There are some good resources out there to help you if you’re just starting out. For content advice, we love Copyblogger — start with Copywriting 101 and branch out from there. For SEO guidance, I love Moz. They have an amazing blog detailing all of the tips and strategies to create an effective website. Their post outlining the ways to improve your site’s rankings is a good (although long) place to begin.

Social

Now you’ve got a stellar new website and you’re writing a weekly blog that highlights your industry’s issues while providing interesting content to your readers. What next?

You need to join the conversation on social media. Ever since Facebook launched on Harvard’s campus in 2004 and Twitter took SXSW by storm in 2006, social media has been the fastest growing online phenomenon. There are thousands of conversations occurring every second on multiple platforms. Users are complaining about you or your competitors, asking questions about products and services, and expressing gratitude and frustration about the most mundane things. Every one of their posts is an opportunity to learn more about your customers. You can intercept them before they leave for a competitor, offer a solution, and fix their problems.

Not that it’s always that easy. Each social media platform comes with its own set of rules and language. Facebook is intimate and incorporates video, photos, and text. Twitter is public, brief, and contains a mix of photos, videos, and animated gifs. LinkedIn is professional and text-focused. Instagram is public, visual, and personal.

Confused about where to start? Begin your social education at the Hootsuite blog. This Vancouver-based social media brand’s active blog outlines best practices for each network. Start with this post on getting started on social networks.