There is no denying that a website is the best solution for building a web presence and reaching new clients. Among other things, it gives you full control over the platform and the information on it, and you can add, change or delete anything, as and when you like.
But what if you’re not quite ready to create a website? What if you’re just starting out and don’t even have a budget for it? Does this mean that you need to miss out on all the opportunities the Internet offers for building your brand and reaching new customers?
Fortunately for business owners (and perhaps, less fortunately for web designers like me), the answer is a resounding ‘No!’
In this post, I will show you how you can easily build a solid online presence without a website, and also how some businesses have managed to even get their business listed at the top of Google’s search rankings without one!
Before we look at the actual tips and techniques, let’s first get clear about a couple of things.
What is an Online Presence and Why is it Important?
By ‘online presence’, I mean being listed or discoverable on the Internet.
More people now search for goods and services on the Internet than anywhere else. And if they can’t find your business when they search for what you offer, they will choose to do business with someone who can be found online.
And, as more people embrace the convenience of doing business on their mobile phones, while on the go, they will expect to be able to find you, contact you and buy products and services from you via their phone. Again, if you don’t make it easy for them to do this, they will take their business elsewhere–this includes your existing customers as well.
Now that we understand why we’re doing what we’re doing, let’s look at some of the places you can list your business online for free.
Google My Business and Bing Places for Business
What better place to list your business (so it shows up within the popular search engines) than with the search engines themselves?
Google and Bing both operate listings for ‘places’ where you can list your business for free. These listings are aimed at businesses with a physical presence and are tied into their map services. (Google also offers a free website on their platform aimed at businesses.)
So if you operate a business with a physical location (a brick and mortar store or office), then you should list your business with both these services for sure. It’s as easy as creating a free account, adding some details and verifying your business address (they will send you a postcard with a verification code on it).
The best part is that these search engines list their own ‘business’ listings ahead of other search results. So your business could potentially get pushed right to the top of the rankings!
For more details, visit the sites below:
Most people are familiar with social media, but few understand that it’s more than just a place to share selfies and cat videos!
Most social media channels let you create pages or profiles for your business for free. You can use these channels to do a number of things, including:
- Reach new people and grow an audience
- Communicate en-masse with your customers
- Educate and update customers about your goods and services
- Inform customers about promotions and special offers
- Allow potential and existing customers contact you directly
Not every platform will be right for your business or your goals, so you have to choose carefully. But as a rule of thumb, LinkedIn is good for businesses that deal directly with other businesses (B2B) and Human Resources-related businesses.
Facebook and Instagram are excellent for businesses that deal directly with their consumers (B2C). So if you sell cakes, clothes or widgets, these might be the places that suit you best. Facebook also has a review system, where customers can leave feedback about their experience with you.
So do some research and try out a few and you’ll soon find the channel that’s best for you.
Local Listings and Directories
These are business directories that offer free listings based on geographical locations. Depending on the location, you will have many different options.
For example, for my local area of Surbiton, Surrey, U.K., I found the following:
Not all of the available directories will suit your business or necessarily bring new customers. But the opportunities are there and most will help you be found online and reach new customers.
Industry Specific Directories
As the title suggests, there are often directories that relate to a specific industry or profession. So whether you’re a cafe owner, personal trainer or operate a hotel or BnB, you may have a directory that’s specifically aimed at someone like you.
For example, Trip Advisor and Booking.com both operate within the travel accommodation industry.
But please note, unlike the local business directories I mentioned previously, many industry-specific ones don’t seem to offer free listings. And although Trip Advisor and Booking.com do offer free listings, they both charge commissions.
A Success Story
Before closing this post, I wanted to share a success story to help motivate and inspire you.
A salon that opened on our local high street fairly recently had no website for most of its existence. But it nevertheless secured the number one spot within Google’s search results, based purely on their listing in Google’s ‘My Business.’ And this was despite having a lower review score than their competitors.
One Last Thing
Bear in mind that established directories and social media sites have higher ‘authority’ in the eyes of search engines. This means that your directory listing or social media page can help you rank higher than a competitor’s (or even your own) website as a result. So you should definitely list your business on these platforms, even if you do have a website (and link to it from there).
Well, that concludes this post. I hope you’ve found it helpful and that you’re ready to take your business online now. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below and please share this post with anyone you think might like to read it.
Be sure to get in touch with me if you need any help with getting your business online.