Online Presence Guide for Small Business

Guide Overview:

Our Online Presence Guide for Small Business can step any business owner through establishing a brand, building a website, and more.

Brand Research
Domains
Business Email
Branding
Social Media
Business Directories
Website

Brand Research

You want your branding to be consistent with your business name, website, social media accounts, and any other elements that make up your overall online presence. There should be no chance left for branding confusion. After you complete the following steps, you should have your desired business name, domain name, and social media account names.

  1. Brainstorm some ideas for your business name and come up with a list of your favorites.
  2. From your favorites, narrow your list. starting with the shortest names that still make sense for your business and will make sense to your potential clients/customers.
  3. From your narrowed list, research whether or not your potential business names are already taken, especially in areas where you might incorporate your business.
  4. From the potential business names still remaining on your list, run each of them through namecheck to ensure a desirable domain name is available.
  5. From the potential business names still remaining on your list, run each of them through a brand reputation tool to verify if a domain has a bad history or is currently suspected of containing malicious code, harmful programs, or is a suspected phishing site.
  6. From the potential business names still remaining on your list, run each of them through namecheck to ensure social media account names are available for all the platforms that you do business in or will potentially do business in down the road.

Domains

At a minimum, procure your chosen domain name as soon as possible. If you need to protect the privacy of the person or business that is registering the domain, make sure domain privacy is included in your purchase. (Note: Depending on your situation, it may be advisable to grab other variations of your domain. This not only prevents the competition from jumping in and creating brand confusion.)

Domain Name Variations:

  • Helps visitors find your website when/if they accidentally enter your domain name incorrectly. (ex. myfavoritepizza.com vs. favoritepizza.com)
  • Prevents your competition from driving a wedge between you and your audience. (ex. myfavoritepizza.com vs. myfavpizza.com)
  • In rare occasions, some companies want to have shorter email addresses domains while maintaining their full (longer) domain name on their website. (ex. myfavoritepizza.com vs. mfp.com)

We recommend Namecheap for registering domain names.

Business Email

Domain registrars and web hosting vendors often include email solutions with their packages, at “no cost”. This may seem like a good deal, but these solutions are often riddled with SPAM and various limitations such as low storage quotas. We recommend a business-grade solution and Microsoft Office 365 is our go-to. As Microsoft Partners, we’re happy to help you get started.

  1. Sign up for a Microsoft Office 365 plan
  2. Add your domain to Microsoft Office 365
  3. Configure your email and create a signature that includes your new logo
  4. Start using your new Microsoft tools to collaborate and to build your online presence

Branding

Color Palette

Before you set out to create your various online accounts and your website, you need to know what your color scheme will be from here on out.

When considering your color scheme, you should consider your audience, the mood you’re trying to set, and of course work in what you like as well. Think about how you feel when you see certain colors on a screen or on a page.

One tool we recommend for helping to generate your color scheme is Colormind, which allows you to generate random schemes or even upload images to pull colors from.

Artwork

Now that you have your color palette in hand, the next step is to get your artwork (logo, favicon, illustrations, etc.), whether you are going for custom designs or purchasing ready-made elements. We can help with your designs and/or offer guidance on resources for finding your own. 

For any custom design work, please make sure to request that all artwork be delivered in vector format, that all fonts be disclosed, and that all colors (e.g. color palette) be disclosed.

Social Media

Procure all social media usernames that you will use right away and even those that you may or may not use down the road. 

Any artwork that you add to your accounts should have a very crisp resolution and should send a consistent branding message. There are plenty of online guides, like SocialSizes, that can help you with the dimensions to use for each piece of media that you add.

  • Facebook: You will log in using your personal account and then create a page (company, brand, etc.).
  • Twitter: You can create an account directly, using your business name business email address.
  • Instagram: You can create an account directly, using your business name business email address.
  • LinkedIn: You will log in using your personal account and then create a page (company, brand, etc.).
  • Quora: You can create an account directly, using your business name business email address.

LinkedIn Presence

You’ll want to add all of your businesses to your LinkedIn account. As with other social media accounts, we recommend that anytime you write a blog post on your website, that you include an excerpt for the post on LinkedIn. This excerpt should point back to your website’s blog post and the verbiage should be unique if possible.

Quora Presence

Whether you are a one-man show, or a larger company, establishing a presence on Quora should be strongly considered. Outside of time, it’s a no-cost way of building up your brand awareness, the trust surrounding it, as well as your SEO.

Let’s say you just launched a graphic design business and you’re operating under your own name/brand. Working with the Quora platform could pay huge dividends. Answering questions within your industry, for topics like “graphic design tools for beginners” or “optimal settings for adobe illustrator”, may help you become a trusted authority. If you become a trusted authority, your name/brand may come to mind when someone is looking to hire a graphic designer.

Now, let’s say a company of 5 employees just launched a mobile phone repair shop. It’s the same deal as the graphic designer above, but this time everyone is operating under the business name. In this scenario, it would be advisable for some or all of the employees to interact on Quora, working towards a goal of bolstering the business. So, instead of one voice, there could be 5 voices on the Quora platform, answering questions on topics like “what to do when your phone gets wet” or “what to do if your screen cracks”. If we’re being real, people don’t always stay at one job forever. So, employees should not look at this as only building up the business, but also as the building up their own Quora presence. When an employee leaves the mobile phone repair shop, they take their already built up profile along with them wherever they go.

  • Short Bio: When you answer questions, only the first 50 characters will display for identifying you, and this includes your name. We recommend including your brand at the very beginning of your bio and if it fits/makes sense, add supporting verbiage. (ex. Sr. VP – Microsoft). (Note: Keep the number of characters of your name as you have it currently, in your mind. When you enter your bio, pay attention to the letter count that Quora shows you. The number of characters in your name + your bio characters, should not exceed 50. So, for example, if your full name is 9 characters, don’t let that counter get below 19. This gives you 9 characters for your full name and 41 for your bio.)
  • Full Bio: This is the section underneath the Short Bio, where you can add more details about your businesses, including services offered, links to your websites, links to offers, and your logos. The information you put here is some low-hanging opportunities to boost your overall SEO.
  • Employment Credential(s): Add an entry for any position you’ve held or currently hold, that gives you credibility on the topics you’ll be supplying answers for. For example, that job you had at Dunkin Donuts is not going to give you credibility when it comes to answering questions about dentistry. (Note: Only one employment credential can appear on your main profile page. The first one you enter will be the one that appears.)
  • Education: We recommend you add any educational accomplishments that will be germane to the topics you’ll be answering questions for. If you’re answering questions about playing the violin, adding your Julliard credentials would add a huge trust factor to your answers.
  • Location: Having your location listed provides an awesome potential for Local SEO. For example, let’s say you answer a question about auto repair. If the person asking a question trusts your answer (i.e. automotive advice), the next time they (or someone they know) have car trouble, they may remember you as being a car mechanic located near them.
  • Connected Accounts: Link Quora to all accounts available to you. The more you can extend your reach, the better.
  • Privacy: The main setting to consider here is “Allow search engines to index your name”. In order to extend your reach and bolster your online presence, we recommend you leave this option checked unless it’s absolutely not an option.

Quora Blog

Regardless of where you are with establishing your own blog, the Quora blog feature is for you. For those that may not have a website (blog) in place just yet, using Quora’s platform in the meantime, is a great way to gain an audience and get traction fast.

If you’ve already established your blog, Quora can be used to offer a content “teaser” that links back to the original post on your website. Taking advantage of this does come with a bit of caution.

  • After posting some original content on your blog, give it 12-24 hours to sit or use the Google Search Console to fetch your content right away.
  • When posting on Quora, do not simply copy and paste your entire original content. Rather, only copy and past a couple of lines of your content and post a “Read More” link back to your original content.
  • To take it a step further, if time permits, write a couple of new sentences on the Quora side, to introduce your content.

Set Up Your Quora Blog

  1. Visit the Quora website.
  2. Click on your profile picture and choose Blogs.
  3. Click the Create Blog button.
  4. Enter the name of your blog and your portion of the Quora blog URL, using either your straight business name or something catchy like your business slogan.
  5. Enter a description for your blog, keeping it super simple for this round of changes.
  6. Save your changes and then more settings are unlocked.
  7. Under “Photo”, add what will be your blog’s main identifying photo.
  8. Go back to your blog description and bolster it, using links to your website, links to your publications, add photos, etc.
  9. Set any desired permissions and then off we go!

If you are an authority in multiple areas, have multiple brands or businesses, etc., create a blog for each of them if desired.

Business Directories

Google My Business Presence

Google My Business is a crucial online, digital tool service from Google that is available to local businesses, true brick, and mortar businesses, or service area businesses. You have to have a business in a location to claim a profile for that location, but when you do, it does unlock some powerful tools.

If you’re an online services business, you can use your home address. If you run multiple online businesses, you can use that same address and simply add a fictitious suite number to each business address.

See what’s currently out there:

  1. Using your new Gmail account, log into Google My Business.
  2. Start typing your business name and as you type, look for your business name to come up.
  3. If your business comes up, select it and even if it doesn’t come up, you’ll want to proceed with extreme accurately (it must be exact) filling in your business information.

Claiming your listing:

  1. If someone has already claimed the business, you can follow the instructions on the dialog box to gain access to your account, using the “this listing has already been verified by” email address or you can continue with your new account as request ownership from the previous “owner”.
  2. Using either your new Gmail account or the account from the previous step, continue filling out your business profile with extreme accuracy (it must be exact).
  3. Google will send you a postcard with your new identification PIN. Once you receive it, enter it into your Google My Business account.
  4. While you wait for your postcard, fill in your business information as completely as possible, filling in your business hours, area(s) your business will serve, etc..
  5. Go through each and every section of your listing so that you know what’s available to you and consider turning on certain options like appointments, messaging, etc..

The accuracy of your listing is absolutely critical, as the information will (must be) listed consistently across your listing,  other social media accounts, your website, etc.

Remove duplicate listings:
During your initial search, you may run across additional (duplicate) listings for your business. You will want to remove all listings except for your primary listing.

  1. Select the business that is a duplicate listing.
  2. Click Edit.
  3. Click the close or remove this listing drop-down arrow.
  4. Click mark as permanently closed.

Branding your listing:

  • Cover Photo:  1080px x 1080px, .png format and “Art Optimized” setting via Adobe Illustrator.
  • Profile Photo:  250px x 250px, .jpg format and “Type Optimized” setting via Adobe Illustrator.

Bing Places for Business

Bing Places for Business is Microsoft’s version of Google My Business. While Google dominates the search engine world, Bing does have an extensive reach. Since there is no cost to use this service, it makes sense to invest some time creating a listing on this platform.

General Business Directories

These directories allow you to create a listing for your business, at no cost. They also offer paid options to further extend the visibility of your business. We recommend that you create a listing with ALL of these directories. Often times, the no-cost listing is enough for most businesses.

Important: Your business must satisfy the following criteria in order to qualify for a local business listing in any index.

  • Business name or a DBA (Doing Business As).
  • Dedicated physical address. (Shared, virtual, and PO Box addresses do not qualify)
  • Phone number that matches the location city. (Toll free, shared, numbers and call tracking numbers do not qualify)
  • Face-to-face contact with customers. (Virtual and online store only businesses do not qualify)

Pro Tip: You can check all of your current listings, using the following method:

  1. Open your preferred browser
  2. Do a Google search by entering the name of your business in quotes

Specialized Business Directories

These are directories that focus on a particular business niche. For example, a dentist office will want to get listed on the top dentistry-focused directories. To find these directories, simply do a Google search for something like “dentistry directory”. We recommend that you create a listing on all directories that appear on the first and second page of the search results and as time permits, those directories that appear further down the search results list.

Website

Before you engage a website professional, you will want to have some idea as to the purpose of your website and the contents it will take to make your website a success. Depending on how much work you outsource (e.g. website design, copywriting, etc.) there is a good chance you will have some work to do yourself.

  • Copy/Wording/Verbiage: You can hire a copywriter to do most of the heavy lifting, you can split duties with the copywriter or you can write up everything yourself. (Bootstrapping Note: Write the content yourself to start and then reassess in the future if needed.)
  • Images: You can hire a professional photographer, you can purchase photos from premium photo websites (e.g. Shutterstock), you can use the many no-cost premium photo websites (e.g. Unsplash) or you can take the photos yourself. (Bootstrapping Note: We find it rare to have the need to pay for photos.)
  • Design and Functionality: Take to the web and identify websites that fit your style, either as a whole or for certain elements. Write down the website URL (web address) and list out what you like about that website. Do this for any websites you like and be prepared to share this info with your website designer.

Check out our Outsourcing WordPress Blogging guide to get a more in-depth look at what elements are needed.

Website Designer

  1. We recommend you start your search by asking your existing network (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) if they have any recommendations. Of course, we would love for you to pick us to work on your project!
  2. Shoot your potential designers an introduction email and kindly request a link to their portfolio. Narrow down your search by identifying designers that have a style similar to yours. If you like clean and minimal, look for a designer that designs in that fashion.
  3. Narrow your choices further by any factors that are important to you.
  4. Make sure to share your website content ideas (not the actual content) with a potential designer. This is important for many reasons. You want to find out if the designer has the required skill set or even the desire to work on what you have in mind. If the designer fully understands what you’re after, they can also help with recommending additional solutions or alternative methods.
  5. Choose your designer. Go with your gut!

Website Pre-build Summary

At this point, you have the following items in place:

  • Business Name
  • Domain Name(s)
  • Social Media Accounts
  • Artwork (Logo, favicon, illustrations, etc.)
  • Social Media Presence (Facebook, Twitter, Googe My Business, etc.)
  • Business Email
  • Website Content (Does not need to be 100% ready)
  • Website Designer

Website Hosting

It’s time to purchase website hosting. We recommend you start by consulting with the website professional you’ve selected for your project. By now, they should have an idea of what your project will entail, and from that, they should be able to recommend website hosting that meets your requirements. Our recommendation is to NOT sign up for hosting that the website professional provides themselves. While it may sound convenient, it’s a good idea to keep these entities separate, and more in your control. Instead, we recommend going with hosting providers that are well-known and have a good reputation. (Bootstrapping Note: Unless you or your designer is 100% sure that a high-powered hosting package is needed, start with a lower-priced package and then upgrade as needed.)

Kinsta is our preferred vendor for the best hosting…period. SiteGround is our preferred vendor for quality hosting, when budgets may be a bit tighter.

Website Components

Here are the elements we recommend, for building a professional website that does not break the bank, and is easy enough for self-starters. We work exclusively with the WordPress platform, so that is what we will be recommending here.

WordPress Platform

Please do your own research to find out which one is better suited for your project, but we recommend the self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) platform over the hosted WordPress (WordPress.com) platform. We can also answer any questions you might have and explain why we may prefer one over the other in different scenarios.

WordPress Theme / Page Builder

We recommend the Elementor Pro page builder plugin, first and foremost. Elementor Pro has almost eliminated the need for traditional WordPress themes. Until that happens, we recommend the Astra Pro theme. It’s powerful, easy to implement, and works perfectly with Elementor Pro.

WordPress Plugins

Choose only reputable plugins that have good reviews and ratings, are used by a large user base (e.g. 10,000+ installs), and have a responsive support team. Do your research! Only install plugins that fit a need, keeping the number of installed plugins as low as possible. Don’t try to solve a problem you don’t yet have!

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