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The Digital Footprint of Your Business
Every Business Has a Digital Footprint
It’s important to know what the digital footprint of your business is, and what it looks like compared to how you want it to look, ideally. We define digital footprint as the sum total of what can and should be found about your business on-line. Every business has a digital footprint. But it’s shocking how many business owners have no idea what’s out there to be found by potential customers. In fact, when we first audit the digital footprint of a prospective client the average starting grade is a C-, using the typical school grade schedule. Sometimes businesses are being hurt by what’s there; other times, it’s what’s missing. If your business has extremely limited time, money, and expertise to focus on marketing — begin and end with digital footprint before you worry about anything else. For us, digital footprint contains four primary layers:
On-Line Business Directories Are the Modern-Day Version of the Yellow Pages
For decades prior to the advent of search engines, when people needed something they inevitably reached into the junk drawer of their kitchen for the phone book and went alphabetically to the category of business they needed. Every business spent between a few hundred and several tens of thousands of dollars every month making sure it was visible in the yellow pages. The modern-day equivalent of the yellow pages is primarily these major on-line business directories:
- Google My Business
- Microsoft Bing Places
- Apple Maps Connect
To have a healthy digital footprint, these directories (and potentially others, depending on your industry) have to be claimed, owned by you, and well-managed to make sure the search engines, maps, and local search apps know you and feel highly-confident in the accuracy of the information they have. Learn More About On-Line Business Directories
When Search Engines Like Google Know You, They’ll Show You
One of the most common questions posed to our experts at Source Local Media is, “How come when I type [what we do] into Google, it doesn’t even list us?” The answer is both simple and complex. Google (or any search engine, for that matter) only shows what it knows and feels strongly is accurate. In other words, if Google knows you, and feels confident what it knows is accurate, it’ll show you — a lot. In fact, it’ll show you far more than you ever imagined. Search engines want to get searchers to the best, most relevant information the fastest. So your mission is to be that best, most relevant result. Here is what holds most companies back:
Most Web Developers Only Worry About Creating a Pretty Front-End of the Website & Ignore the Back-End
This ranks right up there as one of the biggest mistakes anyone can make when it comes to search engine visibility. And as a business owner, it would be perfectly reasonable to assume that all the money you paid that web developer included making sure Google and other search engines know your website exists. But it almost never happens. It’s like building a race car and leaving out the engine.
Search Engines Look at What Visitors Can See — But That’s Only the Tip of the Ice Berg
Just like you only see 10% of an ice berg sticking up out of the water, visitors only see a small fraction of what search engines are looking at when they index your website and decide whether or not they want to show it in search results for keywords and phrases. Yet, most web developers skip that step. And since you can’t necessarily see it just by looking at the website, it’s easy to get fooled.
E-Mail & Social Media Are the “How To” Guide to Doing Business With Your Brand
In the early days of social media when algorithms weren’t stacked against businesses, social media was a great way to go prospecting for new business. Today, for a host of reasons social media should be considered strictly a “pay for play” channel for all but the top 5% of content creators. It takes such creativity and even luck to “go viral” anymore, we no longer consider social media much more than an advertising medium. That said, it can be a great advertising vehicle. We see social media primarily as a tool to communicate your brand story with customers between purchases.
Your Followers Are Your Focus Group
People don’t follow a business on social media unless they’re interested in the brand and want to keep up with it. So use that to your advantage. We see social media as the place where you tell your brand story, often with more emotion than you can in typical advertisements. For example, you can showcase your people, products, services, and tell the story of your brand in far more meaningful and personal ways. Followers on social media can also help you learn about what your customers want from you. It can be surprising to see how their opinions differ from your expectations, and that often creates an opportunity for growth. And making sure you have social media posts that relate to the keywords and phrases you’ve prioritized for Search Engine Optimization is one more important tool to out-ranking the competition.
E-Mail Newsletters Can Be a Useful Touch Point Between Purchases
People don’t give you your e-mail unless they have an expectation that you’re going to use it. So having a solid strategy for what to say and how often to say it becomes an important part of how you curate the relationship with prospects and customers between purchases. Your e-mail newsletters are a chance to tell your brand story in deeper and more meaningful ways. They’re also a chance to provide prospects and customers with a “users guide” to get the most out of doing business with you.
Some Consumers Use On-Line Reviews & Reputation to Aid Buying Decisions
It’s important to realize that on-line reviews and reputation can become a real rabbit hole if you’re not careful; and in some cases a real time suck that isn’t worth the allocation of so many resources. Yes, in some industries they’re critical, but for the vast majority of businesses, we tend to place too much emphasis on it.
Reviews: How To Get Them, How Many, & What To Do When You Get a Bad One?
A key to on-line reviews is always be asking. Whenever a customer shares a positive story, ask them to share it via whatever review platform they prefer. Anyone willing to do it will likely ask you where you want it posted. If you ask 10 times, you’ll get 1. So always be asking, and be OK with the idea that most people will not do it. Your goal should be to add a few new reviews every week to each major platform. Which platforms matter:
- Yelp! (because these reviews are also used by Apple & Microsoft)
- TripAdvisor (for travel-related businesses)
- HealthGrades (for medical professionals)
Depending on your industry, there are potentially others. We can advise you. Most of us have a natural reaction to act quickly and decisively whenever a bad review is posted. It’s inevitable, no matter how careful you are, that a bad review will show up. Obviously, if you’re seeing a lot of them, that’s an entirely different issue. But if you generally feel great about your customer service, don’t let one stray bad review “wag the dog.” In fact, our advice on bad reviews is pretty counter-intuitive. We recommend identifying the customer and then handling the issue off-line. When the issue is resolved to the best of your ability, ask the customer to update the review. Why? Because part of how reviews get featured on these platforms is the amount of engagement they get from other people and your business. So when you rush to respond, you’re giving that negative review a lot of weight — making it more likely to be featured. If you can resolve the customer’s issue and they update the review, that’s also going to carry a lot of weight. We encourage clients to focus a lot of energy on the positive reviews so those get featured instead.
Reputation: What’s the Sweet Spot?
In our cynical society, it’s actually a bad thing to have too high a score. That perfect five stars sounds great to you as the business owner, but no one believes that’s really been earned. Consumers don’t trust a perfect score. The sweet spot for reputation is in the mid-to-upper 4’s. 4.6-4.8 is ideal. But if you’re not there right now, don’t fret. Anything above a 3.5 is sufficient for the vast majority of people who consider reputation as a factor in making a purchasing decision.
Do’s & Don’ts of Digital Footprint
Know what your digital footprint looks like. Have goals to improve it at whatever pace fits your budget of time, money, and expertise. Follow our best practices to make sure search engines, business directories, and other influential apps know you, feel confident about what they know about you, and actively see you as the best result they can share with a searcher. Don’t let the Internet crowdsource your digital footprint. We have horror stories to share with you about that. If Digital Footprint seems confusing, or if you’re just trying to figure out a plan to get the most out of your digital footprint, we can help,. Schedule a free marketing consultation. It gives us a chance to get to know you, your business, and your goals better and give you our best advice on how to proceed.