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Cindy Bates

Vice President, US Small and Midsized Business & Distribution of Microsoft

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5 Ways to Boost Your Online Presence Without Extra Time or Effort

December 13, 2016

Tips to build an online presence for your small business without adding stress or extra work for your staff.

It’s 2016 — few would argue that a strong online presence is not an essential tool for small-business success.

However, in a small business, where owners are required to wear many hats, maintaining an online presence can quickly slide down the priority list.

Considering that 94 percent of consumers use online resources to research purchase decisions, not having a sufficiently well developed or up-to-date content archive where customers can find answers to questions can be detrimental.

I see this scenario far too often: Entrepreneurs exert time and energy picking out the perfect domain name. They invest hard-earned money into the website design and content, which often includes a blog.

They’ll work into the wee hours of the night to create the perfect Facebook page complete with images and perfect the 140-character description of their business on Twitter. And then, the customers come.

Suddenly, the small-to-medium-business owner is busy managing income, payroll, meetings, projections and other run-of-business items and their web and social media presence are the first to suffer the consequences.

The easy answer is to hire someone to take on these tasks, yet in a startup where every penny counts, new hires are often focused on sales and job descriptions that lead to a more immediate return on investment.

Nevertheless, the challenge remains: What’s a small business to do when consumer behavior has rapidly evolved to include online content as a primary resource for obtaining information, interacting with peers and online brands?

Here are five simple ways to build an online presence for your small business without adding stress or extra work for your staff:

1. Be only where your customers are

A bit of upfront research on customer preference will save you time and energy building a presence on platforms that aren’t being used by your target audience.

For example, Snapchat is growing at a rapid pace, and many small businesses will think they need to embrace the latest and greatest in social media, but that’s not necessarily the case. Your accounting business may be better suited for Facebook or LinkedIn publishing, where customers look for thought leadership.

2. Identify and use keywords in content on your website and blog
Think about the words customers will type into a search engine when looking for a business similar to yours. Incorporate these words into the headlines and text of your web pages and blog posts. Search engines likely will place links to your pages higher on their list if your key words match the search terms entered by the consumer and when you add fresh content.

3. Create once, publish everywhere (COPE)
When you create copy for a brochure or flier, consider how that content can be repurposed for website copy, social media updates and more. This will not only save you time creating net new content, but help to ensure message consistency as well.

4. Use data
With tools like Power BI, you have access to a dashboard that offers a holistic view of your business data. That data can be used to ensure you’re developing only the most relevant content for your audience thanks to easy-to-spot insights, enabling fast and informed decisions about things like when to run an online promotion and who to market it to.

5. Ask your customers for help
Consumers place much more trust in the opinions of other consumers than in advertising or marketing copy. With sites like Yelp, you can build a presence where your customers carry some of the load by providing feedback on your business.

You can also extend this into writing testimonials for your website. Encourage loyal customers to share their reviews and experiences through personal social networks and via “share” buttons for Facebook and Twitter.

By aligning your business to tried and true online best practices, you can improve productivity and allow time to focus on the things that matter most to your business.

This article originally appeared on Cindy Bates’ Blog.

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