Create a website for your business
WordPress is free to use. WordPress.org is a self-hosted version where you control more of your site and take advantage of advanced plugins. WordPress.com works great for complete beginners, but it’s not exactly the best for a business that plans on making money so moving away from WordPress.com makes sense. It does have higher paid plans, but we recommend it for personal and hobby blogs.
But moving on, WordPress is free for anyone to download. It’s an open-source project that’s been around since 2003. This means that WordPress is developed by a collection of contributors. Open-source projects are typically free, with large communities. The users often take part in this community as beta testers or simple brand advocates, but there’s really no requirement for any participation if that’s not your style.
Warning: Although the WordPress software is free, you will most likely end up spending a bit of money. WordPress is self-hosted, so hosting is required. This can start at around $3 per month, for the really cheap shared servers, and go all the way to up to a few hundred per month for those needing ultimate speed and performance.
Suggestion: find a web designer you know and trust and pay them to build it for you profesionally. It’s your business, give it a best chance to succeed.
Claim all your free business profiles
The following tips are listed in no particular order, but this one is at the top for a reason: the importance of claiming your business pages on Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and any relevant industry-specific sites (such as OpenTable for restaurants, for example) can not be overstated.
Astounding 56% of businesses haven’t claimed their Google business profiles. This is crazy. There’s nothing more important for today’s small businesses than a solid online presence (yes, even for small, local shops), and without taking this step, any advertising money you decide to spend will simply drive your potential customers to other businesses.
People check online review sites for “social proof” before visiting local stores. 97% of customers read online reviews for local businesses. And 88% of people trust those reviews as much a personal recommendation family or friends.
It’s absolutely essential that your business show up well in local online searches, and this isn’t possible until you officially claim all your business pages. Plus, new research from Womply shows that businesses that claim their listings on multiple online business reviews sites make 58% more money!
Post your business on free business listing websites
- Yelp – The third most popular review website on the web, Yelp is used daily by millions searching for local small businesses, especially restaurants.
- Google My Business
Shoppers use the most popular search engine for information about and directions to local stores. For everything. It’s the main street of the web. According to Google, 50% of all the mobile consumers who use Google for local searches in a day visit the businesses they search.
- Facebook – More than 1 out of 7 people on the planet are on Facebook, and they’re actively checking out the 65 million plus local business pages listed on the biggest social network ever. Creating a Facebook presence for your business takes five steps. Read our step-by-step guide: How to create and claim your Facebook business page.
- TripAdvisor – Another top five review website, TripAdvisor’s 415 million monthly users have smoke coming from their keyboards — over 535 million reviews have been published on the site. Your small business, especially if it’s in the hospitality space, is missing out on a windfall of digital awareness and feedback if you’re not on TripAdvisor.
- Twitter – Why is this on our list, you might wonder? True, Twitter might not “sell” your customers to come into your shop, but it surfaces to the top in searches and presents one of the easiest and fastest ways for customers to reach out to you. It’s also a location-based tool that lets you search for customers in your area.
- Instagram – A recent study shows 82% of customers research before they come into the store to buy. Today, especially if you’re marketing to younger demographics, photography-based Instagram is a visual invitation to come in and see for oneself.
- YouTube – Some people don’t have time to read reviews, scroll through a website, or comb through social media posts. A video is easy. Just hit play. A YouTube video (even just one) is a solid small business marketing vehicle to reach over 30 million customers who are watching almost 5 billion YouTube videos a day.
- LinkedIn – It might seem like LinkedIn only matters for national or global brands, but a local business can show researching consumers more of who they are, from owners to employees. Use LinkedIn to present yourself as a reputable, well-connected owner with years of relevant experience, especially for finance-based businesses.
- Yahoo – We know Google reigns supreme in search, but Yahoo is still used by 1 billion potential small business customers people every month. Why? For some, it’s preference. For others, especially Firefox web browsers, it’s the default on their machine. Similar to Google My Business, Yahoo partners with Yext (below) to display local small business listings in search results.
- Bing – With slightly more users than Yahoo, Bing is Microsoft’s search engine. Bing Places for Business is where small business owners can access their local listings. Every Microsoft computer’s default web browser is Internet Explorer and searches with Bing, so it’s worth your time to set up your business information for Skype, Office, Xbox, and Surface tablet users.
- YP.com – According the digitally re-invented Yellow Pages’ website, 60 million people still search for businesses on its directory. It’s free to claim your business’s “yp Profile.”
- Whitepages – With over 5 billion records, Whitepages is an enormous database of global people and businesses. One unique feature of Whitepages is its APIs, which allow businesses to buy and use the company’s extensive data to build their own software. This means a WP listing shows up not only on whitepages.com but also across all of their API customers’ sites as well. Whitepages uses Yext to create listings.
Write a blog
If you have solid writing skills, know someone who does, or believe you have created an interesting “niche” in the market that people might find compelling, consider starting a blog.
It can be easy to get caught up in the ego of being a “published author” of a blog, but it’s more useful to look at your blog as an advertising and SEO-boosting tool, rather than the digital equivalent of the great American novel. (One of our favorite snarky t-shirts proclaims, “More people have read this shirt than your blog.”)
Search engines consider all types of content related to your business from multiple sources, so the more sources that “talk” about your business in more locations and platforms, the better.
Remember, though, that you need to create regular, fresh content in order to get the benefits of a blog.
Develop a solid social media presence
You may notice that in addition to the standard website, almost every notable company today has a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or LinkedIn account. This is not by accident. Many customers eschew review sites and choose to post feedback and commentary about your business via social media instead.
In addition to the value you derive from knowing what’s being said about your business online, when you engage current and potential customers on social media (and, more importantly, when people engage with you and share/re-share your posts and content), search engines view you as more important and you show up better online search results… which means, you guessed it, free advertising.
So sign up for accounts on as many of these platforms as you can manage. Be real, be interesting (funny content helps), and definitely don’t turn every post into an ad. Repost your blog content and/or website content updates to all your social media accounts.
You can also exploit the “live” broadcasting features some social media platforms offer, like Instagram live, Facebook live, etc. to host a live event or webinar.