If you are running a small business today, then there is practically no escape from having to maintain some kind of Internet presence. Whether you like it or not, have the time or money for it or not, it has become a fundamental part of doing business- on the level of managing your cash flow or conducting a marketing campaign.
But as essential as it all is, knowing how to build and maintain your business’ online presence can get confusing at best, and downright overwhelming at worst. The problem is that the rules of Internet marketing, SEO, social media, etc, just keep changing even as the to-do list in these areas keeps on growing. As a small business owner you may be wondering how and where to start building your online presence.
The sites and services mentioned below can help. This collection of resources are primarily geared towards those of you who have only a basic knowledge of the Internet, SEO, and website development. They will give you all the tools and knowledge you need to build and maintain an optimized online presence that will promote your brand, engage your customers, and ultimately increase sales.
Make sure you also check out my recent post Are You Making These 10 Fatal Mistakes with Your Small Business Website? over on The Frugal Entrepreneur. If you can avoid these mistakes from the beginning, you’ll be many steps ahead of the pack already.
The Best Blogs to Follow for Business Owners Online
Since the Internet keeps changing the rules, you first need to make sure that you know where to go to learn what those rules are exactly as well as how and where they are changing. The following sites, taken together, will give you a well-rounded rundown of what is happening online, including trends in content creation, social media, search engine optimization, Internet marketing, and blogging tips:
- Copyblogger- The definitive source to learn about effective webcopy and content marketing
- Problogger- Learn how to turn your blog into a brand-building, money generating machine
- Traffic Generation Cafe- Very informative and useful posts about how to bring traffic to your website
- Basic Blog Tips- Practical, actionable tips to help you build your business blog
- Small Business Trends (Lisa Barone)- Learn effective Internet marketing strategies aimed at small business owners.
Best Webmaster Forums to Hang Out
- Social Media Examiner Networking Clubs- There are three “clubs” to choose from; Facebook, Blogging, and Small Business. I’ve been a member of all three for about 10 months, and I’ve found it to be a very helpful, supportive community.
- Warrior Forum- One of the oldest and best internet marketing forums on the web with an extremely knowledgeable and loyal community. Some features of the forum are for pay, but you can browse much of the content for free.
- Website Babble- I recently stumbled upon this great webmaster forum from Lisa Irby of 2createawebsite.com (Her main site is also a real wellspring for the basic how-to’s of building and running a website, and it’s something I recommend checking out)
Best Website Builders
If you are looking for some no-nonsense, easy-to-use website builders with no coding knowledge required, then check out these five options:
And.. don’t forget WordPress! WordPress is currently the most popular content management platform out there. It can be used for static web pages and/or hosting a blog. You can self-host your site and customize your theme via CSS and a wide variety of plugins.
That said, here are…
The Best Website Themes and Templates for WordPress Sites
Though there are many different kinds of “premium” themes out there, the reality is that not all themes are created equal. Before you buy anyone’s theme, make sure you research the company or the individual who created it to see if their themes are coded properly.
Additionally, there are several factors you need to consider when deciding on a theme for your website:
- What is the nature of your business?
- How technical are you? Some themes have easy-to-use, WYSIWYG visual editors, while others need to be tweaked and customized via CSS (If you don’t know what CSS is then you should probably look for something that comes with a visual editor or hire someone to help you)
- Does the theme come with technical support? A forum? Access to theme updates?
- What percentage of your visitors are coming in from mobile devices? These days, it’s not enough to just have a mobile version of your website. Due to the variety of mobile devices being used to access the Internet, all with different screen sizes and resolutions, the trend is now towards incorporating “responsive” website designs. Basically, a responsive website will use one theme that automatically optimizes itself for whatever device being used to view it.
Here is a great round up of some responsive themes: http://www.tripwiremagazine.com/2012/11/responsive-wordpress-themes.html
Aside from the themes mentioned in the post above, the best two sources for premium themes at a reasonable price really are DIY Themes as well as those based on the Genesis Framework. DIY Themes (also known as Thesis Themes) comes with a very easy-to-use and powerful visual editor, which is a big plus if you are not keen on working with code. The Studiopress themes that run on the Genesis Framework, offer a well-constructed, intuitive foundation on which you can build a first class website (or hire some else to do it for you).
The Local Search Resources
With smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices literally popping up everywhere, and with more people intuitively turning to the Internet to help them plan out their daily business and leisure activities, the growing importance and impact of local search simply cannot be ignored. If you run a brick and mortar or home-based business, you need to make an effort to ensure that your company has an optimized and accurate presence within the local search engines, directories, and social networks.
Not only should your website include information such as your hours of operation, physical address, and even a map to your location (ideally all on your homepage), you also need to optimize your local search listings. Where possible, these listings should point to your website, where you can offer potential and current customers more detailed information about your business as well as try to increase opt-ins and engagement.
To start, head on over to Getlisted.org, enter your business’ name and zip code, and you’ll instantly see if and how your site appears in the major local search engines. The great thing about this site is that you can quickly access your listings and edit them as well as add new listings on sites where you don’t already have a presence.
Next, take a look at these informative posts on optimization for local search results
- Local Search Engine Optimisation – The Small Business Advantage- Socialmediatoday.com
- 10 Basic Bing Local Optimization Tips- Searchengineland.com
- How to Optimize Your Business For Local Search and Social Marketing- Quicksprout.com