Over the past 5 years, the urge for businesses to have an online presence has been gathering pace. Many companies invested in a simple website, some had one or two social media accounts and some even dared to dabble in Google Ads. Digital transformation was a phrase that many business owners had heard of but left it to the big companies to adopt. 
Enter the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns in 2020; not only did this change the face of how businesses sourced and connected with their existing and potential customers, it also dropped digital transformation into the lap of every business owner up and down the country. 
Two years on and having an online presence – an effective one – has been propelled to the top of the list. Today, your online presence is your new shop window. The way you built your brand, established trust (credibility) with your customers and improved your reputation has moved into the digital landscape. 

 Why is an online presence important? 

No matter what the industry is, businesses have had to adapt to a new way of working. The marketing strategies that were used pre-2020 have been torn up and rewritten, with a focus on an online presence. 
So, what do we mean by an online presence? In simple terms, it’s how well customers – B2B and B2C – can find you online, i.e. the internet and social media. The better you are at making your business visible online, the greater the opportunity for your audience to find you. 
Search engines, like Google, crawl online channels, like websites, social media platforms, review sites and directories, to identify content that is relevant to a user’s search query. The more online channels and relevant content that is attributable to your business and the search engine can find, the more likely it is your business will appear on the first page of search engine results. 
Sounds simple but in reality establishing, managing and increasing your business’s online credibility is a multi-faceted task. However, without an online presence in today’s worldwide digital landscape, your business will certainly miss out on new leads and sales. There are four key online areas that every business, whatever size, must adopt to build credibility – a website, social media, online reviews and SEO (search engine optimisation). Let’s look at these areas in more detail. 

The importance of website credibility 

There was a massive rush by many small business owners at the beginning of 2020 to get a website built - mainly those who had relied on their high street presence before lockdown. Just to keep sales turning over and survive, they needed to be able to display their products or services online and take orders. Problem is, that website is now very much outdated. Consumers want more than just a row of products being displayed with one or two images, a little bit of a description and a checkout that is slow and cumbersome. 
The first step to building website credibility can be summed up in just one word – mobile. In this digital online age, your business is now accessible worldwide – 80% of internet users are searching online using mobile devices. That statistic is mind-blowing enough but when 83% of mobile users expect your website to deliver the same top level user experience on a mobile as it does on a desktop, making your website mobile friendly is a priority. 

Why an active social presence? 

Let’s start with a statistic – 4.62 billion people are active on social media, daily. In fact, the number of social media users has increased by more than 10% in just 12 months. With most active users spending at least two hours of their day viewing their social media accounts, that’s a captive audience. 
But it’s not just about creating a social media account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media platform. Building credibility on social media takes time and effort. Remember that users are receiving more than 5,000 brand messages a day so your message must stand out. 
That’s where online directories come into the picture. Essentially, it’s listing your business in a directory; the difference is that now that directory sits online. 93% of consumers’ first port of call to find a local business is via an online search. An online directory listing, like Google Business Profile (most of them have a free option) that includes your business’s name, address and contact details is crucial because: 
It boosts your online presence. 
Increases traffic to your website – studies show that 51% of all visitors to websites is via organic search. 
Improves your online visibility and SERPs ranking. 
Increases sales. 
Greater potential of reaching your targeted audience, more quickly. 
Builds trust and enhances your business’s reputation. 

Get ready for online reviews 

Online reviews have a significant impact on a consumer’s buying decision. In fact, 72% of customers say they use Google reviews to find a company. Reviews online is the new ‘word of mouth’ referral that so many small businesses relied upon pre-2020. But why should you put your business out there and be judged by consumers? Because: 
Increases trust in your brand/business. 
Improves online visibility and local SEO. 
Provides you with essential feedback. 
Boosts website traffic. 
Converts leads to customers. 
Not sure which review site is best for your business? The top five review sites are currently: 
As well as being an online directory (Google Business Profile), consumers are also able to leave reviews about your business. 
Primarily a review site for businesses in hospitality, entertainment, travel or customer experience-oriented businesses. 
Both of these review sites are similar in operation and are suitable for all types of businesses. 
One of the largest customer review sites but you can’t respond to reviews without a subscription. 
Unlike other review sites, Birdeye pulls together all your business reviews across the internet and presents them in one place. 
Of course, what holds all these together and ensures your business is at the top of search engine results is SEO (search engine optimisation). Google’s search algorithm ranks your online presence according to specific criteria – content quality including use of keywords and meta descriptions, backlinks, mobile friendliness, website page loading speed, accessibility, user experience, security and reliability. Get these areas right on your website, social media channels, online directory as well as review sites and you’re well on your way to establishing online credibility for your business. 
it’seeze Windsor is a website design company that delivers professional web design. Not sure if your website is working for you? We offer a free Website Health Check that will identify the areas where improvements can be made. Call us today to create the website of your dreams and turn your business into a success. Contact us for more details. 
We look forward to hearing from you. 
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