florist200pxWe’re always impressed with how innovative and resourceful our customer-businesses are in promoting themselves – often with little or no budget. Savvy business owners know that prospective customers are constantly searching online, and the key to generating more inquiries, visits or sales can come down to your business’s digital presence. This simply means when customers search online, your business comes up as frequently as possible.

Establishing a successful digital presence, however, doesn’t happen by accident. Businesses take proactive steps to ensure they’re not overlooked or missing from customer searches or social media interactions. The good news is that there are a wealth of free and inexpensive online tools and services designed to help businesses “be there” when customers seek the products or services you provide.

Get Acquainted with the Tools

This guide provides an introduction to some of the top tools to help you build an online presence. You’re probably already familiar with many of them: Google My Business, Yelp, Foursquare. Click on any of the tools below to learn more and for direct access to websites where you can get started.

Google My Business
Bing Places
Yahoo Localworks
Yelp for Business Owners
Yellow Pages
Yext PowerListings
Express Update
Foursquare for Business
List Yourself (411 Listings)

Develop a Game Plan and Go!

Once you size up the tools, think about a plan of action that you can reasonably accomplish. To that end, consider the following:

  • Required Effort: Determine who, besides you, will be involved in your online-presence-building initiative. Also determine how much time you’re willing to devote to initial setup and ongoing monitoring.
  • Which Tools: While you may not have the time to engage all the tools listed above, decide which ones are most important to you and pursue those first.
  • Get Intelligence: Do some informal research. Conduct searches for your business or your business category and see what comes up. See what your competition is doing online. Ask your customer how they search and which tools they use.
  • Create a Deadline: Often a target date for your effort will ensure you accomplish what you plan. Consider using multiple deadline dates (e.g., building your Google My Business and Yellow Pages presence by your first deadline, and two more by your next deadline).
  • Factor in Monitoring: If you’re going to the effort, be sure to keep an eye on what’s working and what’s not – and grade each by the customer engagements they generate. And always ask customers how they found you or learned about you.
  • Don’t Forget Your Website: Search tools and social media posts will often benefit from a direct link to your website for information, special offers, free information, etc. Your website can be your hub for customer engagement, so keep it updated and optimized with industry-relevant keywords if possible. And add efficiencies that will help visitors, such as embedding the free the Click-to-Call Me feature that provides a quick and easy way to contact you.
  • Have Fun with It: Building a digital presence for your business is exciting, particularly when it begins driving traffic and customer engagements. Share your efforts with your peers and learn what they’re doing. Learn and improve as you go, and most of all – “be there” online when prospective customers search. It’s a business advantage that’s worth mastering.

Tools to Build Your Digital Presence

Explore the tools below and link to their respective web pages for more information. Also, should you need a new Toll-Free Number to support your efforts, you can easily add one by contacting a Vonage Business representative. Ready to enhance your business’s digital footprint? Read on!

Google My Business

Google-Logo-sqareConsidering that Google is probably one of your site’s top traffic generators, it’s important to get the local element right. Google My Business is an easy way to ensure you’re found by potential customers on elements like Google Maps, Google Search and Google+. Get started by signing up at Google My Business. They also have an excellent FAQ section to help guide you.

Google My Business Top Tips:

  • Double check to ensure you don’t already have a listing set up. Duplicate content can ruin your chances for coming in on top of the search results.
  • Verify your listing immediately. You can do this from your Google My Business Dashboard, and Google will send you either a postcard or confirm you by phone.
  • Check and double check your address. Ideally it should match what the U.S. Post Office has for you. Read Google’s guidelines here.

Bing Places

binglogosquareWhile it’s easy to focus most of your attention on Google, it’s important to ensure you’re also making your presence known on other search engines like Bing and Yahoo. Bing Places for Business is extremely easy to set up and will walk you through the process when you sign up. From there you will also be able to set up a store front, which can make connecting with customers even easier.

Bing Places for Business Top Tips:

  • Like Google, you will need to verify your listing. This can be done via mail, phone or email and will require you providing a valid address.
  • Check your map location. This will make it easier for your customers to find you.

Yahoo Localworks

yahoo-logosquareYahoo Localworks acts a bit differently to the local offerings from both Bing and Google in that they help to spread your listing across over 50 different sites. Websites such as Yelp, WhitePages and MapQuest will get your information after you’ve signed up and verified your information. There is also performance tracking available, which can help a lot in your SEO planning.

Yahoo Localworks Top Tips:

  • Though search engines like Bing and Google offer their local programs for free, Yahoo Localworks has a monthly cost associated with it. This can fluctuate, so be sure to look for deals or coupons before you sign up.
  • Be sure to check all of your listings. Even though Yahoo is offering a service to list you on multiple websites, it’s important that you regularly check them all to ensure they’re correct. Mistakes do happen.
  • Look for ways to enhance your listing so you get the maximum visibility. Listings with offers and extra photos attract more eyes.

Yelp for Business Owners

yelp-ios-app-300x300Yelp is a powerful tool in your online offerings, particularly as it allows your users and customers to interact with your business through ratings and reviews. Though many people associate Yelp with restaurants, there are a wide variety of businesses taking advantage of their rating system. Setting up your page is free, though some of the paid tool offerings might be worthwhile for your business in the long run.

Yelp Top Tips:

  • Check your reviews regularly. One way businesses fail with Yelp is by not responding to negative reviews. You have the right to reply to your reviews, and doing so shows other customers that you care about their experience.
  • Check listings before you set up your page. Again, duplicate pages will only confuse your users, split your reviews and look unprofessional.
  • Think about advertising. Deals and gift certificates can get traffic through your door.

Some Other Places to List

Though you’ll be taking care of much of your online presence with the listing tools above, there are still a few more that you can utilize to help your customers to find you.

Express Update

Express Update will send your information to the top search engines, leading car navigation systems, and local online directories. Plus, it’s FREE!

Yext PowerListings

Your business info will be updated on Whitepages and other Yext partners such as Yelp, Citysearch, Yahoo!, MapQuest, and Superpages.

Yellow Pages

The former champion of local for small business is now online and well worth a sign up.

Foursquare for Business

With over 50 million users, Foursquare is one of Yelp’s chief rivals in helping spread the word about their favorite spots.

List Yourself

Don’t forget about the basics like directory assistance, or 411 Listings with List Yourself. For millions of people, picking up a phone and calling directory assistance remains their preferred way to find and connect with local businesses.