First things first, what is web presence?

Before we dive down the rabbit hole let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. Before we talk about how to have a healthy web presence we need to know what web presence actually is.

Some people think a good web presence is having a pretty website.  And they’d be thinking along the same lines as the dude who thinks he’s healthy just because he hits the gym. There’s more to online health than just big muscles.  That same gym rat might also load up in his truck after pumping iron, smoke a pack of cigs a day and chase them down with Mountain Dew. I guess you could argue because the dude looks super strong he must be super healthy.  And I could argue your position is actually super delusional.

Let’s break online presence into two factors:

  1. The first part of online presence is the ability to be found by people who want to learn about your company and services.
    You might be really good at this and have a ton of traffic on your website but none of the visitors stay to learn about you because your website is so gawd awful. You’ve got yourself an El Camino when what you really need is a dump truck.
  2. The second part of your online presence is communicating with people about your company and services. 
    You can have a beautiful website that articulates your message perfectly that no one can find.  Here you’ve got a dump truck but nothing to load it with.

So then what you do you need to do to get the ball rolling in the right direction to make sure you’re not left in the cyber dust of your competition over the next 5 years?  That’s a super tricky question.  Think about how technology has changed in the past 5 years.  It’s hard to imagine that type of trend continuing but I don’t see it changing anytime soon.  5 years ago I got my first iPhone.  5 years ago my website had an average of 5% mobile visitors, and now it averages almost 20%. Yeah. Crazy ha?

We can’t predict the future perfectly but we can outline a good idea of what’s not a fad.  Like you know, the internet, social media and websites, those were all fads around 15 years ago.  You’d be hard-pressed to make that argument now.  Unless you’re google plus 😉

A healthy web presence 5 years from now will still contain these fad-proof items:

A. A plan to get people to your website
B. A website that doesn’t stink

I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record with those two biggies but I mean it.  Let’s break them both down to you understand what’s what.

A. Make a Plan to Get People to Your Website

MOZ Localized Organic Ranking FactorsAccording to MOZ’s 2017 survey, there are 8 biggies to keep in mind that together make up how your website is listed in Google, which let’s face it is a big part of how people find you.

  1. Link Signals (29%) – the other websites that link to your website and how good those links are.
  2. On-Page Signals (24%) – having a website that’s not crappy and has all i’s dotted and t’s crossed.
  3. Behavioral Signals (11%) – if people actually click on your website when they see it in listings.  Google makes your listing from the words it finds on the pages of your site.
  4. Personalization (9%) – having a website that doesn’t stink actually communicates with people.
  5. Citation Signals (8%) – making sure your listings are all consistent and that you’re listed in the big directories.
  6. My Business Signals (7%) – your listing in Google, making sure it’s up to par.
  7. Review Signals (7%) – actually having reviews and making sure they’re not all exactly the same.
  8. Social Signals (4%) – existing on Facebook, Twitter et al and interacting with followers

You might have noticed that numbers 2, 3 and 4 above are reflective of the second part of a good online presence: a website that doesn’t stink.  If you want one the other you need to have the other.  Peanut butter and jelly, you get my point.

If you’re finding even the big 8 overwhelming then let’s just focus on this for the next 2 years.

No, I can’t tell you that you can have 5 years to get it done.  In 5 years things will have migrated to a whole new target, but if you don’t lay the foundation today you won’t have that asset to build on tomorrow.  There’s not a magic bean that will make people find you online any more than there’s a skinny pill that will give you six-pack abs.  For the next two years your magic prescription looks something like this:

1. Make Sure Your Google My Business listing is in Tip Top Shape

7% of a pie is a bit difficult to ignore especially when it’s basically a set it and forget it type of activity.  Your Google My Business (GMB) listing is free and displays on Google Maps, Google Search, and Google+.  If I get started too far down this path of how to make your listing awesome we may be here for hours so let’s just start with this:

  1. First search for your business on Google. If you don’t find your business listed get started by setting up your listingThis video from Google will help.
  2. If you’re listed but you how no idea how or why odds are good your listing isn’t yet claimed. Need to claim your business, not sure how? This video from Google will help.
  3. If your address is wrong then that’s another story altogether. Check out all the other info too, is your phone number correct?  Hours of operation?  Fix it up.
  4. Review your business category, you want your business listing to properly match your business category, scope out your biggest competitors to see what they’re using.

There are more ways to optimize your listing.  I’d start with Google’s guidelines and work my way through it from there or you can check out our guide to getting your Google My Business listing claimed/setup/corrected etc for more information as well.

2.Get Your Listings in Order

MOZ Local Citations by CategoryMake your business has a consistent Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) in the courts of directory royalty. In general, you need to make sure your listings are correct on Yelp, Facebook, Yellow Pages and BBB.   However the directories that matter to each industry differ.  The nice thing about the listings is after they’re corrected unless you move, change your phone number or your name you’ll be reaping the benefits for years to come. You only get one listing per business location so don’t try and buck the system by doing a bunch.  And make sure all your listings are super consistent.  Like will you list your website as www.mayecreate.com or just mayecreate.com because…it matters. Work to keep them all exactly the same, this article from MOZ does a good job explaining the do’s and don’ts.

3. Devise Some Type of Social Media Plan

Even if you’re not selling your product or services to the general public if you’re hiring regularly to populate your workforce you are selling to the general public.  You’re selling the experience of working at your company to new hires.  They will look for your business online and peruse your social media.  Make sure you’re communicating with new hires where they’re at.  Find the social network your target market frequents most and start there.  I could go on and on about this but really, odds are fairly good that some type of social media will help you get where you’re going.  Now’s the time to stop ignoring it.

4. Start Asking for Reviews

Reviews play two major parts in your online presence.  First, they make up 7% of the aforementioned pie.  They show search engines the integrity of your company.  Now, I’m not suggesting you put up hundreds of fake reviews just to catch Google’s eye, Google knows a faker when it sees one.  However, real reviews even the occasional not-so-good one can indicate you run a vibrant modern business.

Then there’s the second part, the one that’s almost as important as Google, impressing your potential customer.  According to the 2016 Local Customer Review Survey published by BrightLocal, 9 in 10 US consumers say they read online reviews about local businesses before making a purchase.  OK, so that’s a bit high for the construction industry though, if we’re honest with ourselves we can see that’s how consumers are trending.  If you want 5 more years to ask for online reviews and your customers are doing it now you’re just 5 more years behind.  Safer to shift gears and move that direction now.

If you do business locally exclusively consider gathering reviews in Google, that’s where they’ll make the most impact for you.  Now, if you’re doing business all over or if searching for your service tends to pull industry directories instead of displaying listings with a map provided by Google, I’d suggest just getting reviews in any medium your customers feel comfortable dishing them out.  There are many ways to go about this task, and that is sadly a topic for yet another rant.

5. Make sure your website doesn’t stink

Oh wait.  I think I’ve already mentioned that little nugget of goodness.  How do you make sure you have a fresh and fabulous website?  Ha!  I thought you’d never ask.

B. Get a Website That Doesn’t Stink

I may or may not have mentioned this particular part of having a healthy online presence already.  And even though I keep joking about it I really am serious.  You have to have all the things to get to health.  Just a slammin website won’t do, even if someone real cool like MayeCreate builds it for you.  This isn’t field of dreams people.  It’s the race to see who can be crowned homecoming queen at Google’s prom.

What makes an aromatic website?

  1. Fast Loading & Easy to Use
  2. Mobile-Friendly
  3. A Page for Each of Your Services
  4. Stuff You Update
  5. A Compelling Story

1. Fast Loading and Easy to Use

Pretty much the only thing that stays in style forever is cowboy boots. And blue jeans, but the beauty of good denim is in the eye of the beholder. There was a woman dropping her kid off at preschool the other morning wearing jeans with elastic cuffs around the ankles, like sweatpants.  No, not the kid, that fashion statement, while stupid looking would have been at least marginally understandable on a three-year-old, but on a 30 something mom? Someone needs to help that woman.  Just like someone needs to help businesses know when their website is ready for the trash can.

Here’s the reality, your website has a shelf life.  It’s good for about 5 years.  So if you just built a new one, budget for another one in 5 years.  If you build a new site two years ago, if it was built right, you have 3 years before you need to take the plunge again.  Unless your website stinks. In which case you may just need to rebuild it now.

It needs to load quickly.

Making your website visitors wait forever for your site to load is like keeping them on hold. Just the thing to make them feel valued.  Everyone loves sitting on hold.  For real, you only sit on hold when it’s your last resort.  And here’s the thing, sitting and waiting for your website to load isn’t a visitor’s last resort, it’s just the last time they’ll sit on hold waiting for your company.  Because they’re going to click the back button and move on to your competitor’s site.

And once it loads quickly, it should be easy to use.  

People don’t want to have to think about how to use your website, they want to use your website.  Do you have to think about how to use a coffee mug?  If you had to consult a user manual prior to using a coffee mug what would you do with it?  That’s what I thought.  Heck, I thought about throwing away my daughter’s Barbie house because the construction process was so convoluted.  So imagine what your potential customers are going to do if they can’t figure out how to use your website?  They don’t even have a 6 year old close to tears motivating them.  They’re going to wonder why a bunch of jerks went through the trouble to build something that their potential customers can’t even use.  And what’s it going to be like working with those people?

Just like you’ve moved on to coffee mugs and left sippy cups behind, today’s internet browsers are corvettes compared to the power wheels we used 5 years ago.   Modern coding techniques are an absolute must when building your new site.  They help also with load time and ensure your site will be functional for years to come.  Your customers aren’t the only people using your website, you have to use it too.  It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to update your site.  If you want to do it on your own you should be able to. Modern coding techniques can save you time updating your site and give it a longer shelf life by allowing it to render correctly in the Millennium Falcon browsers we’ll be using 5 years from now.  Plus, keeping your site up-to-date is a major piece of keeping a healthy online presence. But we’ll dig deeper into that in a little while.

2. Mobile-Friendly

In the second quarter 2017 52% of global internet traffic came from mobile devices according to statista.com.  That’s up 10% from the same quarter 2016.  If I were a gambling person I’d bet that next year your website will get more traffic and most of that traffic will be from a mobile device.  And here’s the kicker, if you don’t have a mobile-friendly website you probably won’t have an increase in traffic because Google is playing favorites.   You won’t even be invited to sit the bench if you refuse to play by the rules.  Google started the push for mobile sites in 2015 by labeling sites as mobile friendly and now it’s search algorithms aren’t nearly as friendly with non-mobile sites giving preference to mobile-friendly sites and returning them higher in search results than their outdated counterparts.  Still not convinced?  Ok, then just build a mobile-friendly site because we said so.

3. Pages for Each of Your Services

There are three reasons why you need a page for each of your services:

Reason #1: Because I say so.  

Really, I say so, because I wanted three reasons, three seems so much more convincing than two.  And I’m convinced that I need to convince you to invest in individual services page because Google and your Clients will thank you for it.  That’s my story. On to the people who really matter.

Reason #2: Because Google says so.  

Google, which I guess now that I really think about it seems more like an animal than a person with their myriad of recent animal-themed algorithm updates (Hummingbird, Panda, Penguin…), I digress.  Back to Google.  On page SEO signals are worth 24% of the pie to Google.  And these pages help move you in the right direction.  The search engine groups content to display when people search for keywords.  So Home builder and paving company don’t return the same results.  Some people may in fact think, “I need my driveway repaired so I need a paving company.” But others still will think. “I need the potholes in my driveway repaired,” and search for pothole repair.   Your company may very will do pothole repair but if you just list the term once in a bulleted list Google may not think you’re very serious about it, or it may just think you’re lazy and who wants a lazy pothole repair guy?  The result – your site isn’t displayed in the search results.  You can get around this through by clearly communicating with Google about what you do, creating a pothole repair page and explaining the service.  Then when people search for pothole repair you’re far more likely to be listed among the search results.  And the listing will link people to your pothole repair page where they can learn everything they need to know about why to work with you and not the jack nut down the road who is a total loser. Which brings me to my next point…

Reason #3: Because your prospects say so.

Don’t jip your visitors with just a bulleted list of your services.  When making a buying decision they need to know what makes you great at what you do.  Or they might call that jack nut down the road and because he’s sitting around picking his nose and not working he answers the phone first and gets the job.  In 2014, which was like a decade ago in internet years, Retailing Today reported 81% of shoppers conducted research online before making a big purchase.  Imagine how many do the same today?  We want to go into a buying decision informed to make sure we’re not getting taken for a ride.  When I bought my first car dad took me to the lot and handed me off to Joe.  I told him your budget, then test drove a car. And bought one of the cars I test drove.  That’s how it worked.  Fast forward twenty years. Now when I go to purchase a car I know the approximate trade-in value of my current vehicle, what a good deal is on the car I want and the cubic inches of legroom available in the back seat of each make and model of SUV before I go to test drive the one I intend to buy.  So I already know what I’m going to buy, now I just need to find a person I’m comfortable with to sell it to me.  If you’re not willing to educate your visitors about your services online and the jack nut down the road is – he’s winning.

4. Stuff You Update

Another way you can bump up the SEO volume on your website is by adding things to it. Each page you add to your website is an opportunity to shake hands and do business.  The more pages you have the more hands you can shake at once and the greater your chances of closing business.  Think about it this way, say you have 10 qualified companies to prospect for business.  What’s the likelihood of one of those 10 needing your services right now? Consider you have  400 qualified companies to prospect, what are you chances then?  A website with 400 pages gets a ton more traffic than one with only 10.  And each visitor to your website is just one more opportunity for business.

Now you’re thinking, “yeah a 400-page website makes sense but who the heck has 400 things to add to your website that anyone would give a rip about?” Rip.  Really?  Give a rip?  Ok back to the point.  Adding stuff to your website can seem overwhelming but consider these ideas:

  • Answer frequently asked questions to help people understand how you do business
  • Highlight an employee of the month to show you care about your crew
  • Post completed projects to give an idea about what you’re capable of
  • Add testimonials to let people hear how great you are from the perspective of your clients
  • Share awards you’ve won
  • Talk about trade shows you’ve attended, what you learned and how you’ll use that to improve your business
  • Give advice to people who are in the early research stages of your product to assist them in making a good buying decision
  • Promote new services and why they’re better than the alternatives
  • Let people know how you fixed a problem, share a case study of what the problem was and how you solved it
  • Brag about the longevity of your work, take photos of older projects and show how they held up under the elements

Pick one or do a mix of many things.  Just know updating your site regularly is important, the hands you don’t shake are deals you’ll never get to make.

5. A Compelling Story

Remember earlier when we said having a website that actually communicates with people is worth 9% of the pie?  Here’s where that comes into play.  And also, remember what we learned from the car buying story – people are contacting you further through the buying process than before.  They may already know what they want. Ok, I get it, knowing what they want and understanding what they need is a completely different thing.  What they really need is to find a person who can convince them to want what they need.  Someone they can trust.  And they are going to judge whether they can trust you or not by looking at your website.  The easiest way to get them to trust you follows the same rules as getting a three-year-old to sit quietly in the doctor’s waiting room: tell them a story.  Doesn’t matter the medium.  You can show them a video, pretty pictures or let them play a game, complete an online estimate form or maybe wow them with words.  They all work.  Visitors want to connect with your company, to see you “get” them and what they need.  That you can solve their problem.  So get your story straight and get it out there.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed, Prioritize

Whew.  I think I broke a sweat just writing about all this work you have to do to have a healthy web presence.  Don’t get overwhelmed, prioritize.  Make a list and set timelines for your tasks.  And for heaven’s sake delegate some of this stuff to someone who loves to tinker online.  Remember the end goal to a healthy web presence isn’t just pumping iron.  You need to have the ability for visitors to find you online and then once they find you the ball’s in your court to communicate effectively to seal the deal.

More about the Author

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Monica Pitts

Monica is the creative force and founder of MayeCreate. She has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with an emphasis in Economics, Education and Plant Science from the University of Missouri. Monica possesses a rare combination of design savvy and technological know-how. Her clients know this quite well. Her passion for making friends and helping businesses grow gives her the skills she needs to make sure that each client, or friend, gets the attention and service he or she deserves.

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