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If you’ve got a small business that’s been doing well, but you’ve been struggling to grow it into something bigger, it might be time to take things online. By turning your small brick-and-mortar boutique into an online business, you can reach a much larger audience. If you’re selling small goods, then you should be able to ship anywhere in the nation, or even globally depending on the sort of goods you’re selling. Meanwhile, if you’re offering a service, taking your business online can help to spread the word about your business and bring in new clients.

When potential customers are looking for a product or service, 81 percent of shoppers will research it online first. Creating a strong online presence can help to guide that search and lead those potential customers to your business. So what does taking your business online entail? Here are a few steps to follow that can get you started.

Start small.

While moving your business online is a big step, that doesn’t mean you should get overly ambitious straight out of the gate. Don’t expect to be the next Amazon before you’ve even started. Decide on a few products to sell online at the start just to test the waters. If you’re selling handmade crafts, you might even consider opening up a small shop on Etsy.com. If you’re ready to aim a little higher, though, you’ll want to build a solid website.

Reserve your domain name.

One of the first steps in making a website is registering a domain name. A domain name is important, because it creates a sort of identity that customers can associate with your business. Without a domain name, following the format www.[yourdomainname].com, your company’s web address would be an unintelligible series of numbers.

To reserve a domain name, find a domain name registrar online, such as GoDaddy or Dotster. On the registrar’s site, you can search to see if the domain name you want is available or if it’s already been taken. If it’s available, you’ll be able to pay to register it for your website. Once you’ve built your website, you can associate it with your domain so that customers will be able to find you easily. Make sure to pick something easy to remember and easy to communicate. If it’s difficult to spell, that means it will be difficult for your customers to find you. Keep it short, and keep it simple.

Build a quality website.

Remember, your website is the online equivalent of your business’s storefront. You want it to look professional and appealing. Make sure that it’s easy to navigate so customers can easily find their way from the homepage to any product descriptions or other pages they might be looking for. Make sure to optimize it for keywords that people will be searching for that apply to your business. Keep the website up to date, and post relevant content on a regular basis. Make sure that all information about your business is current as well, including business hours, phone numbers, email addresses, and address of your physical location.

Also, when you are first designing your website, keep growth in mind. Your business may be small now, but if you’re successful, it won’t always be. Make sure to build a framework that can handle bigger customer loads later on so that you won’t need to do a complete revamp of the system if business explodes.

Claim and update online profiles.

Make sure to claim all online profiles that point back to your business, both on review sites like Yelp and in business directories such as Google My Business. Make sure that all of those profiles have accurate, up-to-date information about your business. In order to improve local SEO, you’ll want to claim a physical location on Google My Business. Often, your local search results will improve based on the user’s proximity to that location, and it will give Google Maps something to work with. It’s particularly useful if you provide a service within a local radius, such as pool builders in Henderson, Nevada or lawn care in Jacksonville, Florida. For the people who are within a certain range of your headquarters, you will get prime placement in their local search results.

Encourage customers to leave positive reviews online.

Another way to boost your online search results is to consistently receive positive reviews from your customers on sites like Yelp and Google. If a customer seems particularly pleased with your product or service, don’t hesitate to ask them to go online and give you a 5-star review. It will improve your search rankings and direct more traffic to your site.

Make sure to monitor these sites and address each review as it comes in. If you get a positive review, be sure to thank them and let them know you appreciate their business. If the review is negative, attempt to address the problems they bring up. Make a point of avoiding any confrontation online, and if a customer does have a problem with your business, invite them to take the discussion offline to preserve their privacy and allow you to come to a solution together.

The internet is one of the most powerful tools small business owners have in their arsenal, so don’t delay in building your online presence. In the end, it will improve your relationships with your customers, as well as bring in new business.


 
 
 

 
 

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