7 min read

Building a strong digital presence may be one of the best ways to improve your business. According to small business online presence statistics from GoDaddy through Redshift Research, a surprising majority of small businesses have no online presence. More than half of very small businesses don’t have a website. Of these, only 12 percent have a Facebook page.

Perhaps such lack of a significant digital presence seems trivial. After all, these businesses are still able to get customers. They wouldn’t be in business otherwise, right? Well, on the flip side of these small business online statistics, a whopping 83 percent of small businesses that have websites report that their online presences them a competitive advantage. Considering that around 80 percent of people research businesses online and check out the companies’ websites before making a purchase, the reported advantage is logical.

The biggest reasons why more small businesses don’t have an online presence is that they think it isn’t affordable and they don’t know how to create a professional online presence for their businesses on their own. Yet, according to the numbers, the investment will prove worthwhile, improving reputation, reach, and revenue. In short, an online presence is one of the best ways to improve your business because it can give you a competitive edge and help you get more customers.

 

Clarifying Your Online Presence Definition

Now that you know why your business should have an online presence it’s time to focus on what an online presence is. Though it’s easy to assume the meaning of the phrase is easy to grasp without a detailed explanation, there’s several different perspectives on what qualifies as a digital presence. And, as the online presence definition you have in mind can influence how you approach getting your brick-and-mortar business on the web, clarification can prove worthwhile.

You see, there are a few brick-and-mortar business owners who think along the lines of CompuKol Communications’ definition. Ranking first on Google for “online presence definition”, this is the first meaning many curious searchers encounter.

Google search for online presence definition

The first part, that an online presence is an existence that can be found online through search, seems reasonable. It’s the second part that causes some to stumble. It gives the impression that a presence consisting only of a listing in an association’s online directory satisfies what it means to have an online presence.  

I have no doubt that there are many spectacular association directories where having a listing can flood a business with hot leads. But still, this alone doesn’t suffice as a presence, and I’ll tell you why: once a potential customer finds the listing, that person’s next step will be to seek out more information about the business or professional the listing features. The traditional approach is for the customer to pick up the phone and call the number on the listing. The more modern, easiest, and now more popular approach is to use social media and/or the business’ website to dig deeper before deciding whether or not to call.

Let’s look at the matter from another perspective:

Google Listing

Of course, Google is no association directory, but a high listing there can bring a business a lot of activity. While some searchers may see these results and start calling the list, you can guess that more will click through to the company’s website or check out the reviews. What if one of the companies doesn’t have a website on their listing? They instantly miss out on having a competitive edge and may miss out on getting the customer. Businesses that aren’t listed here at all may not even get to be in the running.

There are a lot of competitive variables here:

  • Is the business listed?
  • Is the business’ listing complete?
  • Does the business have reviews?
  • What type of reviews does the business have?
  • How has the business responded to its reviews?
  • Does the business have a website?
  • Does the website provide a positive experience and sufficient information?
  • How does the business’ website compare to its competitors’?

All of these factors serve as pieces of a larger picture that is the business’ online presence. It is a searchable existence, just like the definition suggested, but it’s a lot more involving than an isolated listing.

For a more technical definition of online presence, WhatIs.com defines web presence as a collection of files and use the term synonymously with “web site”.  In my experience, a website is what most people think of when they hear “online presence”. The definition I found most inspiring and accurate comes from YourDictionary.com. It defines an “internet presence” as, “the online part of an organization”, including its website, directory listings, and social media links.

Thinking of your business’ online presence as an extension of the company can be a great method for improving your approach to digital marketing. No longer does a simple, one-off listing in some association directory suffice. Instead, your presence now includes everything this definition lists and more; website, social media accounts, and directory listings. To this, I add profiles on review platforms and appearances on other websites, especially when talking about local businesses. Interestingly, some social media platforms, such as Facebook, act as online review platforms as well as social media sites.

How to Increase Your Online Presence

By now, you should have a good idea about why your small business needs a website and of the importance of social media for small business. Throughout these, you want to make sure your branding is consistent, professional, and audience-focused. An amateurish presentation may be fine for novice bloggers and web design hobbyists, but it’s not a great asset for business owners who are serious about getting more customers and maintaining a positive reputation with existing customers.

To me, this is the fallacy of companies like Wix that tell small business owners building a website is easy. Building a great website is never easy. There are a lot of considerations involved, such as:

  • Branding
  • Layout
  • Functionalities
  • User Intent
  • Usability
  • Conversion rate optimization
  • Search engine optimization
  • The quality of the content
  • Graphic design
  • The marketing funnel
  • Competitive positioning

 

Not just any website will do. You want one that can help you achieve your business goals; one that satisfies, even surpasses,  your potential customers’ expectations, compelling them to choose your business out of all their options.

Once you have a strong business website to serve as the foundation of your online presence, then it’s time to extend your reach by getting listed in relevant online directories and review websites. Also, you want to create a solid social media presence that routinely features interesting, share-worthy, engaging content. Those social media profiles should be professional when it comes to the descriptions and graphics, as this serve as your business’ most basic identity on the platforms. And no online presence for a local, brick-in-mortar business would be complete without a listing on Google My Business, which helps put you literally on the map.

My hope is that you now have a better idea of how to create an online presence for your business. I see so many small business owners taking the state of their company’s online presence for granted. It’s often because they see themselves as lacking the sufficient amount of time and money to do more. And, to make matters worse, a lot of digital marketing agencies set sky-high prices that keep the task of building a digital presence out of reach of most smaller companies. These are the reasons why I have put together a digital marketing solution that’s designed to meet the needs of local small businesses without being too pricey. It protects business owners from many pitfalls and gives them a complete, professional online presence that’s a true asset for their company and its customers.

 

Elisa Planellas is a digital marketing consultant in Memphis, TN, helping small businesses establish, maintain, and expand their online presences, connecting offline customer relationships with online experiences designed to deepen loyalty, brand strength, and reach. She has 12+ years of experience in creating business goal oriented website copy and marketing content that engages readers and compels them to buy into the product, brand, or idea being promoted. Elisa specializes in using the success-minded attitude voice to inspire audiences. Her hobbies include camping, fishing, cross-country bicycling, herbology, volunteering, cooking, fashion, travel, home improvement, and fitness.