Business is all about visibility. While that once meant investing in a billboard and flashing sign, these days, it’s all about your online presence. According to Google, 97% of customers go online to research a local business. If you’re a solo entrepreneur or freelancer, you need a solid online presence to stand out from the competition.
But what exactly constitutes an online presence? With so many small businesses competing for attention, how can you stand out from the crowd?
This guide will help you understand the benefits of cultivating your online presence and show you proven ways to build your brand online.
What is an online presence?
Put yourself in your client’s shoes for a moment. Imagine that you’re trying to find someone who can do some web design work on a contract basis. A quick Google search reveals dozens of companies and freelancers offering their services.
How easy is it for clients to connect to your business, specifically? The answer to that question depends entirely on your online presence.
Online presence definition
You might think that having a website is enough to develop an online presence. But this is just a start. Simply existing online isn’t enough to generate an actual presence. Online presence refers to three key things:
In other words, an online presence allows clients to not only find you but to learn more about your services and your past performance.
Online presence management is the art of cultivating this online presence. You’ll have to regularly work on your online presence in order to maintain strong brand visibility and a positive online reputation.
Benefits of a strong online presence
The greatest benefit of a strong online presence is that it helps your clients discover you. Appearing at the top of your clients’ search results means more revenue, which helps you expand your core business.
A strong web presence can help you in other ways as well. Online presence:
- Allows you to increase brand awareness
- Establishes you as a legitimate business
- Builds your online reputation
- Helps you develop relationships with your client base
- Enhances visibility on multiple channels, helping gain conversions
No matter what type of services you provide, your digital presence can help you connect with your current and potential customers and grow your core business.
10 ways to improve your online presence
If you’re like most business owners, you already have a lot on your plate.
The business networking site LinkedIn reports that 47% of small businesses handle their own marketing. For solo entrepreneurs and freelancers, there’s simply no digital marketing department to fall back on, and that means it falls on you.
Don’t sweat it. Some of the best online presence management strategies don’t require a lot of time or even a lot of money.
Here are 10 ways to increase your online presence and build brand awareness in 2022:
1. Create a stunning website
Start by creating your website. This step may sound obvious, but surprisingly, nearly 1 in 3 small businesses (28%) don’t have their own website.
That means you, too, freelancers. Having a dedicated web page ensures that your clients have an easier time locating you, and it also gives your freelance services a greater sense of legitimacy.
Don’t worry about learning code. There are many website builders available that can help you create beautiful, professional web pages in about a day. Make sure your site is clean, easy to navigate, and has a strong web design on multiple mobile devices.
Top tip: include client testimonials on your landing page. This inclusion lets potential customers get a better idea of your reputation and quality and can help land more bids.
2. Maintain your social media presence
To truly build relationships with your customers, you’ll need more than just your website. You need to go to where the people are, and these days, that’s on social media.
It costs nothing to create a profile or page on top social media channels, and if you regularly post updates, you’ll stand a better chance of reaching a wider audience than you could with website traffic alone.
When you create content that your loyal customers share with their own profiles, you’ll essentially get limitless free advertising. Staying active online, especially on social media, will help you develop relationships with potential customers. You can use these platforms to answer questions and respond to customer comments.
One study found that when businesses engaged customers on social media, the shopper would spend 19% more than the average consumer.
3. Adopt new social media platforms
Of course, not all social media platforms are created equal, nor are their users. If you want to connect with your target demographic, you’ll need to focus on the social platform that they use the most.
Facebook, naturally, hits just about everyone. But if your target audience skews younger, you might consider Instagram, where the majority of users are under 30.
Most businesses maintain multiple social media accounts on multiple platforms and craft a content calendar to help them keep track of what they post and when. If that sounds overwhelming, sites like Hootsuite and Buffer offer free tools to help you schedule posts in advance. This allows you to manage your social media pages without stealing focus from the rest of your business.
One of the advantages of using multiple social media channels is that there is usually less competition. While Facebook is saturated with businesses and advertisements, you might use Instagram or even LinkedIn to connect with a new audience.
4. Create relevant content
You can enhance your social media presence by creating content that followers find interesting. The material you produce is a great way to introduce your brand and speak with authority to the industry or sector you’re passionate about.
What exactly counts as “content?” That’s up to you. Common forms of web content include:
- Starting a blog
- Video blogs (“vlogs”)
- Online brochures and e-books
When you produce content, make sure to include a call-to-action (CTA). This addition means you’ll ask your readers to subscribe, contact you, or sign up for your services.
Your website likely has some sort of content management system built-in. If not, consider moving your website to a service such as WordPress that includes a content management system. This will help you keep track of things like blog posts and can even help you build a subscriber list.
5. Get noticed by major search engines
Make it easier for your clients to find you when they search for your business online. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art of using keywords in your web content so that you appear at the top of search engine results pages.
If you’re in a popular industry, consider using long-tail keywords to help attract customers. For example, let’s say you’re a freelancer who works in web design. By itself, the keyword “web design” won’t help search engines find your unique business among all of the other web developers out there.
However, if you create blog posts with titles like “current trends in web design,” you’re more likely to get some clicks from clients searching for those topics.
Local SEO can be useful if your business operates in a specific geographic area. After COVID, many consumers and companies are eager to support local businesses. Incorporating geographic terms in your keyword phrases (e.g., “graphic designers in San Francisco“) can help you rise to the top of local searches.
6. Build a subscriber list
Creating an email list keeps you engaged with your existing customers. You can send email updates that include blog posts, industry news, and information about upcoming promotions.
Here’s a tip: use your most valuable content to capture customer data. For example, you might offer an online guide or eBook with “Top Tips for Increasing Your Home’s Curb Appeal.” If visitors want to read your guide, they’ll need to enter their names and emails. You can use this data to build your subscriber list and increase your reach.
This approach is one of the most basic forms of online presence management, and the good news is that subscription content doesn’t depend on getting noticed by today’s search engines.
While there are paid email services out there, such as MailChimp and Constant Contact, you can use their free tools to send a limited number of emails to a small group of followers.
7. Invest in online advertising
In the earliest days of your small business, you’re unlikely to gain much traction simply by hoping customers find your website by using a search engine. Even search engine optimization (SEO) strategies can take months to take full effect.
With this in mind, many online business owners are using pay-per-click advertising to reach potential customers. For example, imagine your business sells athletic wear. When a customer puts the term “athletic wear” into a search engine, the search provider will display a small banner ad on the search results page.
Digital marketing is an investment. The advantage is that your ads reach a very specific audience, and are triggered by the same types of keywords that you use in your search engine optimization strategy.
These types of digital ads will increase your online presence by driving traffic to your website. There, customers and clients can subscribe to your newsletter, request more information, or even purchase your products or services.
8. Make it personal
Naturally, your top priority is communicating as much business information as possible. But don’t be afraid to make it personal. Share your story, so your future and existing customers can learn more about you.
Video can be a great way for potential customers to connect your brand with your face. Starting a YouTube channel can allow you to speak directly and conversationally about your passion for the industry. These videos can later be posted to your other online channels to give you greater exposure.
This exposure is particularly important for freelancers who operate any sort of consulting business. Telling your story can help clients better understand your character and expertise, giving them more confidence in your ability to address their unique needs.
9. Network with other businesses
There’s strength in numbers. Connect with other local businesses to share content and increase your visibility.
For example, if you serve as a copywriter, you might consider guest posting on a blog for a web development company to talk about the intersection of your industries. With permission, you can use external links to point readers back to your website or landing page.
This approach can be tricky, as you want to avoid local businesses that serve as your competitors. Make sure you and the other small business owner are on the same page about your target market and that you share a similar “brand voice,” which refers to the way you communicate to your customers and readers.
10. Get listed on other sites
Your on-site SEO strategy refers to using the right keywords and searches terms to get noticed by today’s search engines. But you also want to consider how off-site SEO can help you connect with the right audience.
Off-site SEO involves having other websites link to your website, which encourages more traffic that can lead to more consumers discovering your brand.
Networking with other businesses is already a great way to do that. But you can also find online directories where you can list your small business. Many of these directories are organized around specific industries, which can help you better connect with your target audience.
Here’s a tip: set up a Google alert for your small business. Google alerts will notify you when new results show up in the search engines for a topic and can alert you when other websites are linking to your business.
Maintaining your online presence should be a regular part of your business. Consistently evaluate how you’re performing on various search engines and make adjustments as necessary. This work should be as much a part of your business strategy as reviewing your financial documents.
Invoice2go understands the needs of small business owners and freelancers quite well, and our suite of digital tools can make it easy to build websites, get noticed by search engines, and invoice your clients. Learn more today by visiting our website, and seeing how these tools can enhance your own online presence.
Ready to hire? Our marketplace of over 410,000 diverse freelancers has the skills and expertise needed to skyrocket your business. From marketers to designers, copywriters to SEO experts – browse the talented bunch here!