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Sunday, November 07, 2010



This is a guest post from Dillon McEvoy designed for anyone who has a small-to-medium sized business and wants to develop an online presence. It is designed for business owners with a limited budget and experience with online marketing but applies to all business owners.

All of the steps outlined in this post, except for the first one, can be completed for FREE. If you've constantly been hearing about Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare 'and social media', and don't know what the heck any of it means, or worse, how to use it, fear not, you've come to the right place.

This post will guide you through, from scratch, how do get your business online and how to start growing it's online presence. The internet and social media is a way for potential customers to find you, to connect with you and for you to communicate with them.

1. Get a website.
If you haven’t already got one, your first step to developing an online presence is to get a website for your business. First you will need to register a domain name - make sure it is relevant and easy to remember. There are lots of agencies and independent web designers who will be able to register and develop a site for you. This shouldn’t be too expensive and depending on your site, development shouldn’t take longer than 2 weeks.

Make sure you approach a few designers before you decide on one to use. Take a look at their portfolio of work, and make sure their websites are in line with what you want in your site. Compare their portfolios and quotes, and ensure you can have a good working relationship as you will need to communicate with them on an ongoing basis in order to update your site. Use a site like eLance.com to post your needs and find a designer.  I usually follow 3 rules when determining a site design, these are:

• Simple. Keep it simple.  Only use relevant, interesting and eye-catching text and pictures. Do not bombard your viewer with an abundance of content. Include information that will be of use to them but will also set you apart in some way (highlight your USPs).
• User-friendly. Make sure your site is easy to navigate and not cluttered. Your products/services and any information relating to them (price, color, size, etc.) should be readily available. IMPORTANT – ensure your contact details are easily found.
• Stylish. I do not mean stylish as in fashionable or cutting edge, but rather that your website conveys quality. It must look professional. Your website is the online face of your business, and the internet is increasingly the first stop for people interested in your business. Therefore it is crucial that your site conveys a great first impression, it needs to communicate that your product/service is of a high standard.

2. Register your business and website on directories.
There are a number of online directories that range from very broad and general (Yellow Pages) to product and location specific (Restaurant Directory in New York). Do a thorough search of all online directories relating to your business. For example if you are a plumber in London, do a thorough search for all London directories and then for all service and plumbing specific directories. Take your time to register your details and website on these directories. This will help your business get found and also improve your website’s search engine rankings.

Some of the bigger global online directories are:


3. Get your business on the map.
More and more people are using Google Maps and MapQuest to locate businesses in their area. Firstly, do a quick search of your business on Google Maps. If it is located with the correct address; congratulations. If not, you need to get it on Google Maps also known as Google Places.

First register your business at Google Business Center. Google Places aggregates a number of popular directory's addresses in order to position places on its Map. Again registering your business on relevant directories (Step 2) will help with this and imrpove your rankings on Google Places.

There are large number of reviewer based community sites, such as Yelp and CitySearch, that are used to position business and give them ratings and reviews. Get a friend to write a quick (positive) review about your business on these sites and submit all the correct details (address, opening-closing times, services, etc.). Encourage any friends and family to start logging on and writing reviews of your business. This will help your rankings and your business will come across in a genuinely positive light to anyone who reads the reviews (free marketing).

4. Create a Facebook page
By now I’m sure that you have your own personal Facebook page, if you don’t you will need one in order to register a Facebook page for your business. A ‘page’ for your business is not the same as a personal page. A personal page will more often than not require an ‘accepted friend request’ before someone can view information on your page and post comments, whereas a page is easily found by search engines and can be viewed by anyone with a Facebook account.

Setting up a Facebook page is slightly different than setting up a profile page, but is easier. Go to this page http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php and follow the very easy steps. Make sure you enter your business’s address and website correctly.
You can now link your website to your Facebook page, with a simple ‘like’ button. The html code is easily available. Speak to your web designer in order to set this up.  It should take less than 10 minutes.

5. Open A Twitter account
Social Media, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Foursquare, blogs, etc. all seem to be the current buzz word. A lot of brands and business are panicking and not sure what to do. Don’t worry, as long as you have a Facebook page and a Twitter account where people can easily find your business you are in good shape. 

You can also set up a Twitter account and link this to your Facebook page so when you update your Facebook status your Twitter account is updated simultaneously. This is particularly useful in helping potential customers find your business, and provides a fast and easy 2-way communication channel.  Keep in mind that you don't need to constantly update your status. Rather use it promote any specials, deals or interesting news about your business. View your Facebook and Twitter as another line of communication between you and your customers. If they compliment you, thank them. If they express a complaint make sure you deal with it quickly and effectively.

You now have the option of using Facebook ads. These are very effective in targeting your specific market segment and will ensure your page increases the number of ‘Likes’ but will not necessarily lead to more sales. I would recommend initially growing your page organically, get your family, friends and associates to ‘Like’ your page and recomened it to their friends and so on.

Congratulations! You now have a significant online presence for your business. You should set yourself a time limit of 3 weeks to sufficiently complete these 4 steps. It will take about 2 weeks for Google, Yahoo! And Bing to start ranking your sites and pages.

This is a beginners guide and only covers the basic steps to initiating and growing your business's online presence. In a few weeks I will be looking at how you can further your online presence using blogs and Facebook ads.

Guest post from Dillon McEvoy.  Dillon is from Cape Town, South Africa. Dillon recently graduated from UCT in 2009 with a degree in Marketing and Economics.  He currently resides in Dublin, Ireland after completing a marketing internship at a prestigious software firm and is studying web and graphic design at the Dublin School of Business. Check out his latest project or follow him on twitter


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