How Big Is Your Digital Sign?

You wouldn't open your business without a physical sign. But digital signs are just as important.

Last week I wrote about the two biggest factors in getting noticed in today's crowded online landscape: one, make sure people can find you, and two, make people WANT to find you. Today, I want to start with that first item: getting found online.

At first glance, this might seem like a relatively straightforward thing to accomplish. Just create a Facebook page and Google will do the rest, right? Well - not exactly. And, if we're being completely honest, there are plenty of businesses that don't even have a Facebook page OR a website, let alone a Google My Business listing. I cannot tell you how many times I have done a search for a local business only to find a Google result that takes me to a bunch of random directory listings, all with conflicting information on critical data like address and phone number. Now, I ask you, how trustworthy does a business seem when you can't even get a straight answer on what number to call? Not very.

Now, I doubt many business owners would consider opening their doors without a physical sign telling potential customers that they're open for business in their given location. Yet this is precisely what so many people are guilty of doing every day when they neglect to address those key bits of information that the internet needs to direct potential customers to their doorstep. And the worst part is that unlike a physical sign, most of the steps you need to take to create a good online presence are completely, 100% FREE. All they require is a bit of time to set up, and maybe a little care and maintenance, but they cost nothing. And, if time is not something you have, there are also plenty of ways to outsource the creation and upkeep of all of them. But more on that later...

So let's take a look at a few of the most critical bits of online signage:

  1. Google My Business Listing
  2. Website
  3. Facebook/Instagram (social media)
  4. Other online directory listings

Item #1: Google My Business. Now, if you own a business and you want customers, you NEED to create a Google My Business listing. It is hard to emphasize this enough. It's non-negotiable, really. The GMB listing is that nice little block that appears to the right of your Google Search Results that displays all the key information about your business, along with photos, reviews, menus, etc. - a boatload of information that makes you very visible to anyone who might be searching for you. When that little box doesn't appear, it's hard to take a business seriously. People look for that box. You look for that box. So take 10 minutes and set up your GMB. I promise you won't regret it.

Item #2: Website. These days it seems like everyone and their brother will try to convince you that you don't need a website, that you can make due with a Facebook page, or with nothing at all. And sure, you can make due, but if you really want to have authority online, a website is STILL the way to go. Why? For so many reasons. First, it gives your business credibility and makes you appear established and trustworthy. Second, you OWN it. Think you own the content you post to Facebook or Instagram? Think again. Mark Zuckerberg does, and you're at his whim. With a website, you own your own space, your content, all of it. It's a place you can grow your brand, post content that helps boost your place in the Google search results (SEO!!!) and more. Yes, it's still critical, and while I will always recommend you hire a professional to create your site (hey, that's my job), there are also plenty of places you can create a website for free or cheap. And even if you hire the pros, you're still looking at a very low cost - again, much less than a physical sign.

Item #3: Facebook, Instagram and all the socials. Ah social media. We love it, we hate it, we love to hate it. But we ALL use it. And if you're not on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you're missing out on a huge opportunity to boost your businesses' visibility, grow a loyal customer base, and build your brand. Starting with a page on Facebook is a great start, and again, it's 100% FREE. All it takes is a little time to get things set up, and maybe 5 minutes here and there to create a post. Need help setting up your page? Check out this simple guide. Need more help? Call me. I am always available to help guide you!

Item #4: Other online directory listings. Other = beyond The Great Google. These include things like Yelp, Yahoo, Bing, MapQuest, etc. And there's a lot of them... many you may never even heard of. So, you might ask, if I've never heard of them, why do they matter? One word (and I bet you can guess what it is): Google. The more places your vital business information appears CORRECTLY online, the more trustworthy your business seems, and the more authority you have in the eyes of the Google Gods. Not to mention that when business listings are complete with hours, reviews, ratings, photos, and relevant information, consumers are 197% more likely to view that business as a place they can depend on. And that's a good thing.

Now, you can try to get your online listings in order manually, but it's going to take a lot of time and you'll have to do it more than once. Why? Because directories rely heavily on user-generated content to keep things up to date. That "suggest an edit" button can be helpful, but it also causes a lot of problems when it comes to accuracy across multiple listings. But there is a solution to this. It's called PowerListings, and it manages business information across the web, suppresses any duplicate information, and makes updates to key information in real-time. It's not expensive, and it is one of the single best services you can purchase when it comes to keeping your online presence in order. I highly, highly recommend it.

So there you have it. Four critical elements for helping potential customers find you online. What questions do you have about how this applies to your business? Email me! I'd love to help answer them.

Until next time...