Common mistakes small businesses make in building their online presence

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A strong online presence can help any small business to grow and reach new customers. Yet with everything else they need to do; many small business owners don’t have as much time to invest in their digital channels as they would like to. Plus, as a small enterprise, you don’t necessarily have a lot of budget to pay social media agencies or website designers to help you cultivate your online presence.

With the accessible, easy to use tools available on the market today, nearly any small business can take a DIY approach to building a great online presence. And the good news is that many of the mistakes small businesses make when they’re building a website or launching digital marketing campaigns, can be easily avoided.

Seven common mistakes that entrepreneurs should avoid in building their online presence

  1. Not having a website at all.
  2. Staying on old technology.
  3. Abandoning the website and social channels.
  4. Neglecting local search.
  5. Using a freemail or ISP email address.
  6. Ignoring the importance of SSL.
  7. No search strategy.

Let’s take a closer look at the mistakes and some ways to avoid them.

1. Not having a website at all

Many small business owners believe that a Facebook page or an Instagram account is enough of an online presence. But if you don’t have a website of your own, you’re not in full control of your digital presence. What happens, for example, if a social platform changes its policies and you are no longer happy to use it? Plus, your own website is your own branding environment, giving you more freedom around search engine optimisation (SEO), design, and customer experience.

2. Staying on old technology

Many small businesses put up basic brochureware sites a few years ago and are stuck using old technology. Not only does this mean that their websites have an outdated look-and-feel, but also that they lack functionality that has today become essential. For example, the website might not be ‘responsive’ – in other words, it doesn’t look good or work well on a smartphone browser. In some cases, it might not be as easy for you to update the site with new content as it would be on a modern content management system or website builder.

Tip: Pressed for time and working on a shoestring? You don’t need to know how to code or design to build an amazing website. With GoDaddy’s Website Builder and its easy-to-use templates, you can create a slick, mobile-optimised website in under an hour. It features SEO, email marketing and other tools that make life easier for the on-the-go entrepreneur.

3. Abandoning the website and social channels

Building your website and signing up for social media accounts is just the beginning of an online presence. Once you have done so, it’s important to regularly refresh them with new content. If you haven’t updated for a while, people may wonder whether you’ve gone out of business, or they could act on old information like outdated price lists and contact details. An abandoned website looks unprofessional.

Plus, new content is key to surfacing your brand in search engine results and ensuring visibility on social channels. It is time-consuming to create content, so it can help to carve time out in your diary to generate blog posts or social media content. You don’t need to post every single day, but once a week or every two weeks will keep your online presence alive.

4. Neglecting local search

One of the best ways to be top of mind for customers in your neighbourhood is to use the power of local search. You may have seen the list of local businesses that come up on a map with their contact details in Google search results when you’re trying to find a nearby vet, hairdresser or pizza restaurant.

Of course, you want your business to be there when someone in your town or suburb is looking for the product or service you provide. The trick to getting your business to show up in these local search results is to create a Google My Business Page (GMB). You can add photos, respond to customer reviews and provide up-to-date contact details.

5. Using a freemail or ISP email address

A commercial email address featuring your own domain name (e.g. @prestoplumbers.co.za,  rather than an ISP or freemail address) is a great branding tool. It means people see your company’s name whenever your emails land in their inbox and it helps to show that you’re running a credible business.

Every time you send an email, you’re giving your domain name to customers and prospects, encouraging them to visit your website. Setting up a business email service is easy and affordable with today’s solutions and its simple to get a business email account that syncs all your accounts across all devices, includes enterprise-class security and spam filtering.

6. Ignoring the importance of SSL

Small business owners who don’t have much experience with websites might not know why SSL is important or think that it matters only to companies selling products online. But SSL is a must for every company with an online presence. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, a technology that encrypts information sent through the browser to the server where your website is hosted.

Search engines like Google rank https-encrypted websites higher in their search results. Plus, having authenticated SSL security helps establish trust between your audience and your site. Putting SSL in place gives your customers confidence because it shows you have secured your true identity online. And customers won’t see a ‘not secure’ warning on their browser when they go to your website.

7. No search strategy

The higher the placement of your website on search engine result pages, the more traffic your website will generate which in turn will provide more opportunities to engage with and sell to customers. SEO is the process of making your website more “friendly” for search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo, which helps them categorise your site and display it in relevant search results.

You need SEO because there’s a lot of competition and noise on the Internet, and people might not find your site unless you have a strategy for raising its profile on the search engines. At its most basic, this is about identifying keywords and search terms based on your specific business type. It also involves some technical housekeeping, such as putting SSL in place and ensuring your webpages load fast.

Tip: GoDaddy’s Search Engine Optimization is a do-it-yourself tool that improves your website’s SEO. You don’t need to be a technical whizz to use it. Its easy-to-use interface generates personalised keywords for all business types.

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Selina Bieber
Based in Istanbul, Selina is part of the GoDaddy EMEA team managing the Turkey and MENA regions to help grow the GoDaddy brand and business. With a background in marketing communications, Selina is passionate about small businesses, the entrepreneurial eco-system and leveraging digital technologies to get ahead of the game. Prior to joining GoDaddy, Selina led the PR activities of Facebook, VeriSign and Euler Hermes in Turkey, and was based in Amsterdam to head up regional media relations across Europe for a natural gas project. Selina is a self-professed foodie and travel addict.