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What is your online presence?

And what is it telling your customers?

· small business,online,search,google,maps

By: Emily LaDrig

What does your online presence tell your customers?

I'm searching for a restaurant to go to tonight. When I search “restaurants in Detroit” in Google it brings up the map and I start exploring! Weeeee. Not only am I looking at the menu, but I’m drawn to the pictures, reviews, hours, ease of calling to make a reservation, etc. Basically, if I can’t find you and see what’s happening with your business from this one search on my phone, I’m not coming to visit.

In a Google survey, 80% of people said they use a search engine to find local business information. 80%!! That’s like, everybody. So if your business is not showing up, and looking good, you’re going to lose!

Let me walk you through it.

The first step to looking good online is claiming your business on Google. You need to do this so that you have control over what customers see about you when they are searching online. Go to www.google.com/business and enter your legal business name, choose your business category, and verify your business. Google My Business is a free service that let’s your business get found on Google Search and Maps. Once your business is verified, you need to get the most out of your listing.

Imagine you own a boutique in a hip downtown area like Brooklyn. You would work on the layout and aesthetics of your shop all day, every day, so that it shows beautifully, right? You would design the front window to give you the best chance of catching that young ad exec’s eye as she walks by, forcing her to come inside and look around.

Your listing on Google is just as important. That hip, young ad exec is actually sipping her coffee around the corner and searching on her phone right now for where to go shopping. If you’re not online and showing reviews, hours, and pictures, she’s going to pass right by. (Also, she will probably be looking down at her phone while walking by and miss your killer front window display! Millennials, amIright?!)

Time to dress up your online presence. Once you have claimed your business it is super easy to add your hours, pictures and phone number. After that you should work on requesting reviews from your current customers. Run a contest and give one reviewer a $25 gift card, or ask people at the register to give a review while checking out. (P.S. Don’t be afraid of bad reviews. It is a way for you to get feedback and now, since you’re online, you can respond to the customer and make it right or incentivize them to come back!)

Awesome, you did it!

You now have a gorgeous, complete listing on Google. But, don’t just set it and forget it. Make sure you check back often and add fresh pictures, add holiday or seasonal hours and respond to your customers. This listing is going to help you find new customers, stand out from the competition and convince that hotshot ad exec to come spend her paycheck at your boutique this Friday. Woot woot!

By the way, see below if you're wondering where I'm going to dinner (and what a great business listing looks like!).

Emily LaDrig is the Chief Revenue Officer of Excelerate America, a community-driven business accelerator that helps small businesses excel and grow in the digital economy.

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