3 Tips for Building a Solid Online Presence

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3 Tips for Building a Solid Online PresenceThis article is brought to you in partnership with Verisign, the global leader in domain names and internet security.

In today’s Internet-driven marketplace, before a business can open its doors, an online presence is a must. Just as a storefront with an “open” sign once let communities know a business was ready for customers, a website lets today’s customers know that a business is open. Whether a business is online, local, or a combination of both, the vast majority of customers will search for information online before making a decision.

The advantages of being online are immeasurable. Not only can an online presence help a business get off the ground, but it also helps a company thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Today’s customers would rather Google a company than pick up the phone to call, even for small details like operating hours or directions. When a business doesn’t have that information online, it risks losing customers to competitors.

But in order to be found online, a company must first be online. There are three major options to get started on building a strong online presence for your brand. Eventually, you should consider a combination of all three, but to get started, focus on one and add the others later.

1. Social Networks and Ecommerce

More than a billion people interact with social networks, as well as sites like Amazon, Etsy, and Yelp. The good news for brands is that it’s fairly simple to set up a page on each of these sites, at which point you’ll have access to a built-in base of existing customers. However, even if you choose to set up a comprehensive presence on one preferred social media or e-commerce site, you should still invest in a domain name that points to that site. External websites can change, but your URL will always be a site where customers can find you.

2. Company-Branded Email

If you’re using an email through a third-party site like Gmail or Yahoo, you may be scaring customers away. A full 90 percent of people surveyed say they feel more comfortable working with a small business that has a branded email. When your email address reads yourname@yourbusiness.com, you add a layer of trust you’ll find you need as a new business. Securing a domain name is fairly easy and inexpensive and you can still use your favorite email client to get your email.

3. Company Website

Like a domain email address, you need a website URL to serve as your online business card. As important as social media and e-commerce are to your online presence, your own domain name gives you the most in terms of control and flexibility. Once you have a domain name you can point it to your social media page or e-commerce store or set up a basic WordPress site to serve as your web page. If you want something more comprehensive, a service like Wix or Weebly can help.

Before you can decide on your business’s online branding, you must first set up the basics. Your domain name is the single most important choice you’ll make as you build an online presence. For about the price of one lunch, you’ll be able to brand your business while also creating an online home that makes it easy for customers to find you. There are multiple extensions available, but for best results choose either a .com or .net address and try to find a name that will make it easy for customers to find you. As a small business, the right domain name can make a big difference in being seen by your customers as legitimate and professional.

verisign logoThis article was written in partnership with Verisign, the global leader in domain names and internet security. All opinions and experiences expressed are my own.

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Ramon Ray, founder and editor Smart Hustle Magazine. Entrepreneur, best selling author and global keynote speaker.