Our world is increasingly dominated by the Internet. Almost everything we do, including our businesses, is more connected today than it has ever been before, and as the years pass these connections will continue to grow.
Businesses have realized a decade ago the significance of this network: the Internet. There were a record 5.7 million private sector businesses at the start of 2017 according to National Federation of Self Employed & Small Businesses (https://www.fsb.org.uk/media-centre/small-business-statistics). There are various ways a business can establish an online presence. You can use social media, a blogging platform, or a fully dedicated website just to name a few.
Most people will take you more seriously as a business if you have a website, especially if it’s fully functional and looks good. An attractive website is a clear sign of professionalism and demonstrates that you are up to date with technology.
But merely having an online presence isn’t enough.
Things are now far more complex than they were in the ‘90s. You need to “inform” your market that you exist. For this reason, marketing your business is invaluable (if not indispensable). In 2018, there are more tools than ever available for marketing a business online. Some of them are effective, and some of them less so. Let’s have a look at some of the most effective ways of ensuring your business will be seen by your intended audience.
The Essence of Online Business Marketing Today
Let’s face it: no one really knows the size of the Internet because its potential for growth is infinite. It’s like an entire universe, and like the actual universe, it keeps expanding. Technology advances with each passing day, and with each advancement, new tools are being introduced that provide new and better ways for networking. 24 MP cameras back in the ‘90s? They were unimaginable. And now we can easily capture a 24 MP image with a smartphone!
The size of storage on such devices keeps increasing, and this is the main reason that the true size of the internet can never really be determined. Cloud technology provides the largest storage capacities ever, and these will keep advancing with time.
Your website is like a grain of sand on the beach
In order to set it apart from the other grains of sand, there should be a way for it to be easily discovered. After all, you went online to establish a presence so that you can be found – there is no point in doing so if your target clientele cannot easily reach you.
Google My Business and Bing Places
There are so many business marketing tools available today, but not all of them are effective. Like most entrepreneurs, many of us spent hours and hours trying to figure out what to do and what to avoid.
However, one method is tried and tested: online marketing. You cannot talk about online visibility without talking about SEO. In fact, I think the equivalent term for ‘marketing’ online is ‘SEO.’ Considering the vast number of SEO tools that exist today, which ones should you go for, especially if you are still new to ‘all this internet and web stuff?’
Google is the world’s dominant search engine. In as much as there are also Bing, Yahoo, and the others, I bet you’ll agree with me that you sometimes forget that they exist. Knowing that Google is the leading search engine, it means that people are likely to be looking for your business by using it. ‘Google My Business’ is Google’s own local web directory, designed to make it easier for businesses to be found, particularly within their respective geographical location. How convenient is that?
It makes sense that you, as a business owner with a physical address, should apply as soon as your website is up and running for Google’s local directory. You’ll get an envelope with a code to validate the address you’ve specified, and from that point, the process is almost done.
You’ll just need to upload some pictures and you’re good to go. From that point, when someone searches for something that you offer or your business name, you’ll show up near the specified business address location. Google My Business is one of the essential tools you should use to achieve your goal.
According to Smart Insights, Bing is the second most popular search engine (source). Bing Business is Bing’s equivalent of Google My Business. Ensuring that your website is listed on both of these tools should be your first and most important step to attaining online visibility.
Your next stop: web directories
Other ‘magical’ online visibility tools you should invest in (especially if you are a small business) are online directories. Web directories work like Yellow Pages. They contain listings of websites arranged by topic and geographical location.
Google compliant web directories.
These have been developed according to Google’s rules, and they make it easier for Google to find your website and rank it accordingly. Some of them include:
Best of the Web: This is a general web directory, serving UK as well, founded in 1994. BOTW’s structure is very simple and intuitive, and the submission process is quite simple.
You click the “Submit Site” button located on the top of each page, fill out your website details (URL, title, description, etc.), and then their editors handle of the rest.
This directory reviews each submission for quality content and then places the site in the most relevant category.
Jasmine Directory: This is another excellent web directory, established in 2009, known for its high editorial discretion. It started as a university project, and over the years their editors have added a lot of businesses and resources. It was even awarded a few times by industry specific reviewers.
UK business owners have the option to suggest their sites for review as well. However, inclusion is not guaranteed which is a good sign.
All submissions are reviewed by staff editors, and if found suitable, your website will be listed in the directory. JasmineDirectory.com costs £43/year or £84/as a one-time fee payment. If a certain website doesn’t meet certain editorial guidelines the review fee is completely refundable.
When submitting your information for inclusion, take an extra moment to review that all the information you provided is accurate. In JasmineDirectory’s case, you may want to submit several pieces of key data including website URL(s,) contact information, business address, links to social profiles to enhance your business profile page.
Both directories have divided their listings in form of categories which are further sub-divided into smaller categories so that they are more accurate
In theory, if your website is listed in quality directories like the mentioned above ones, it helps Google and customers alike to identify businesses already “vouched for” by these directories.
Remember that rapid changes take place online, sometimes within months. What works today may not work tomorrow – some marketing tools and strategies will be relevant for today and obsolete tomorrow. To maintain your online visibility, it is your duty as a business owner to take advantage on any online sustainable marketing option.