In the second of his series of expert features for Business Advice, GoDaddy’s VP for EMEA, Stefano Maruzzi, looks closely at the different steps business owners can take to build your online presence.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it, ” says billionaire investor Warren Buffet, who knows a thing or two about business.
While the time it takes to become successful varies in length, he’s definitely right about reputations being severely damaged overnight, particularly in today’s digital world.
Today, a key indicator that can determine the success of as small firm will be its online presence. It’s imperative to lay strong foundations to build up and help protect your brand regardless of whether you’re a two-person startup or a multinational.
In examining how to build a strong and lasting online presence, we’ve already covered how important it is to carry out research into trademarks and domain names before launching into building your online presence.
The next step is to actually create your website. Many people may be confused where to start, but it is a lot simpler than you think. If you have no website design experience but are willing to give it a go yourself, today’s website builders are designed to hide the technical detail while you bring your site to life using an easy drag and drop tool.
And, if you need to visualize how it’s done, there is a wealth of tutorials and support material online to help you along the way.
So now that you are up and running, what are some other areas to consider in ensuring nothing can stop you and your website?
Pay attention to website security
Don’t be fooled into thinking that cybercriminals are only focused on swiping data from billion pound companies and that they’ll never attack little old you.
Smaller firms are increasingly vulnerable to hacking, with UK government research showing that 74 per cent of small businesses experienced a security breach in the last year. It can happen when an employee simply clicks on an email link, when a virus is unleashed on and latched onto the company network, potentially impacting your company’s and your customer’s data.
Statistics suggest that the most severe data breaches can leave small firms upwards of 300, 000 out of pocket a figure that is simply unaffordable.
The good news is that there are plenty of steps that can be taken to create the digital equivalent of Alcatraz. The Cyber Aware website set up by the government is a wonderful starting point for all SMEs. This website features tips on how to secure your devices, create strong passwords, help protect data and even points to free online training tools for staff.
To beef up the security of websites themselves, you should always ensure you have security software installed on your computer to help protect your website, and that it is up-to-date.
As an small business owners, it’s likely that you won’t have a dedicated IT department so the next best option is to use an automated tool for malware removal. SiteLock is an affordable option that can give you piece of mind by scanning for threats on a daily basis and removing any that may be lurking. There’s even an emergency 911 version of the product should you ever find that your website has come under attack without being prepared.
If you are selling products or services online, in addition to having secured your company’s and customer’s databases, an SSL certificate is key to helping to protect your business and customer data transmission, providing customers with the additional confidence to shop with you online.
And, as an added bonus, youll also give your site a boost in Google’s search rankings. GoDaddy offers a variety of SSL certificates, all of which use some of the strongest encryption technology available today on the market.
Be socially savvy
Setting up Facebook and Twitter accounts can be a no-brainer when you’re starting up a business. These social networks provide a free, easy way to help market your company, build a community of customers and engage with them.
For example, you may be a boutique gym in London and decide to offer a points-based system to members whenever they train, which can then be used to unlock discounts on classes or exchanged for freebies.
One of the ways customers might then be able to collect points may be by promoting the gym on social media, which builds a relationship with the customer and can double as marketing. Of course, you need to focus on what is truly going to drive value for your business and customers.
Don’t forget about Instagram, YouTube and even Snapchat, depending on your business and target audience. Remember, images and videos are usually the best performing types of social media content so think creatively, especially if you’re offering products or services that naturally lend themselves to something visual such as food or clothes.
There are plenty of online tools on the market that allow you to manage posts across multiple social networks at the same time and even suggest the best times to post content using analytics.
From your social channels youll want to drive customers and potential customers to your website. This gives you the opportunity to control the story around your business, its products and services and be the place to purchase. You can consider posting a blog on your website to share additional insights like useful tips or industry trends.
Honesty is key
In the analogue era, small business lived and died by recommendations that were spread through word of mouth. In the digital age there are many mouths talking all at once. As weve seen, the importance of social media is crucial when it comes to endorsement but don’t forget about those online reviews posted on Google, TripAdvisor, TrustATrader, Yelp and the like, as these play a key role in helping to attract customers and steer them towards making a purchasing decision.
According to Yelp, less may be more. It may seem counter-intuitive but Yelp discourages businesses from hounding customers to write positive reviews. This can lead to bias because let’s face it, no business owner is ever going to ask an unhappy customer to tell the whole world about a negative experience.
The secret to obtaining a great reputation online is to provide the best possible customer service and let spontaneous and happy reviews amass organically over time.
Finally, remember that no business is perfect. When something unfortunate might happen, try to respond quickly and honestly which can be a great way to gain support from your customers and your social media followers.
Stay tuned for next month’s article, where Stefano MaruzzI will be offering up some simple methods for making your website look professional.