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The Importance Of An Online Presence During a Pandemic

March 7, 2021

There are approximately 32 million small businesses in the United States, making up 99% of all U.S. businesses and an impressive 47.1% of the U.S. workforce. What do many of these small businesses have in common? They are being hit hard by the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

The longevity of the pandemic is still unpredictable, making it harder for small businesses to plan out their financial futures. Small business owners will have to get creative and come up with ideas on how to stay relevant and visible to consumers. For example, did you know that many distilleries are now making hand sanitizer?

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Caledonia Spirits montpelier, VT

Along with creativity, small businesses need a thriving online presence, which includes an engaging and user friendly website, online media marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO) in order to survive this pandemic. 

Why is this especially important during a pandemic?
Now, more than ever, it is important for small businesses to have a strong online presence because people are less likely to walk into brick and mortar businesses. They are also less likely to stumble upon a storefront during their daily lives. Furthermore, we are all spending less time in our social circles, which means there is less exposure to word of mouth referrals and casual suggestions from friends like “You should check out this great place I went to last week!”.  

What are people doing instead? Spending way more time online! Since the beginning of the pandemic, ecommerce numbers have soared, as well as social media connections. Overall online content consumption has dramatically increased. 

A recent study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences found that “41% of businesses reported that they were temporarily closed because of COVID-19.” In order to adapt to the pandemic, businesses that craft a successful online presence are able to continue conducting business even when they cannot see patrons in person.

What does this mean for you as a small business owner?
This means that if you do not have a website yet… get one. Already have one? Update it. 

A website is critical even if you don't actually sell your products online. These days, when consumers are trying to find businesses or products, they almost always turn to the internet for help. You want to be able to rely on your website to function seamlessly. If your website interface does not captivate users or is difficult to work through, users will quickly move onto another site.  You just lost that customer you desperately needed.

Your website is now your new spokesperson and your storefront. Your website can be used as your home base for the large community that has now gone online. Cultivating this presence can help maintain your success through the pandemic. And one thing’s for sure, your competition is definitely doing this already.

Is your business ready for 2021?

A Checkup For Your Website

Let’s dig in a little more to understand how your website needs to function and what changes you’ll need to make.

Step 1: Reassess your website.

Start by stripping away all your preconceived ideas about your business and try to experience it with fresh eyes. Think about what it’s like for a user to move through your website from top to bottom. Ask questions like:

  • Is the homepage going to grab their attention?
  • Can they easily find the products and services they are looking for?
  • Is my website mobile responsive? 
  • How long ago was this site made?
  • It is best practice to be updating your website at least once a month and if it was made years ago there may be compatibility issues or new design trends to think about.

Don’t have a website? Start to think about what your website would look like and the different pages it would need. Remember, this year your website is your new storefront and your best referral.

Step 2: Get traffic to your site.

Once your site is ready to take on visitors you’ll want to drive traffic to your site. There are four main ways to do this:  There are different ways to actively drive traffic to your website:

  • Maps/places
  • Organic
  • Paid
  • Social

Maps: The simplest first step for getting your business “on the “map” is to get your business on Google Business (previously called Google Places). This is the map that shows up with businesses interspersed when you search for something on Google. It's free and does not even require a website. It is a business listing. The simplest first step for getting your business “on the “map” is by adding it to google places/ google maps. This will direct traffic to your business and website when people are looking for a specific service or product in their area.

Organic Traffic: Of all search traffic the most desired is organic traffic because it’s free and sustainable. This is when someone types a search into google or other search engine and your site comes up on its own. Your website will drive traffic based on how it is ranked on search engines. If your website isn’t coming up on the first page of results when typing in your service you’ll need to develop a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Building a strong SEO strategy will make your website perform better in searches as well as ensure that you are hitting your target customer base.

Helpful analytics tools like Google Analytics can reveal important data about your site.  Ranking on search engines is a lot like fishing. Each page is like a line in the water with a specific lure meant to catch a specific type of fish. You want to adjust your lure based on the type of fish you want to catch, or even which fish are biting.

Increasing your lines in the water
An important concept to understand is that google ranks webpages not websites. Every page ranks independently. Every page is an opportunity to rank for a relevant search. Because of this, adding pages to your site through online articles (known as blogging) allows for more opportunities for your site to rank higher for specific terms. In other words, blogging allows you to diversify the terms that you'll rank for. A common strategy is to create blogs around popular topics that people will be searching for, then when visitors are reading your blog you can fold them into the rest of your site - selling them on your services, asking them to sign up for more information, or any other "call to action" that makes sense in this context. Blogging also allows for sharing which expands the number of people who are consuming your content.

Paid Traffic
The next way to drive traffic to your site is through paid ads. This included ads that will be shown on Google, Facebook, and Instagram. Paid traffic can be used in a number of ways:

  1. Pay-per-click. If you are not ranking well organically, you can pay for your listing appear in ads throughout a user's search results.  This is a short term strategy because it can be expensive to see greater results. 
  2. Billboard style advertising (AKA display ads). You pay to have your business show up on other people’s websites.  An example of this is when you are reading an article on a news site and you see ads for other products throughout the article.
  3. Ads on social media. This is showing ads on people’s social media feeds. 

These options can expand your network on the platforms that users are interacting with daily.

We highly discourage the use of paid ads before your website is fully developed and functioning. You wouldn’t open your restaurant before you had your menu fully planned out and places for people to sit. Remember, your website is your storefront. 

Social media
Once your website is established, updated, and running smoothly you can start to focus on creating a social media strategy.  Social media can help keep your followers engaged and keep your business in their minds. Social media strategies will vary widely depending on the nature of the business.

How we can help.

Setting up and cultivating your online presence can be a full time job and you already have one! So why not have professionals that are invested in your success help you out? Trolley Web has been delivering powerful and impressive websites since 2013 for businesses, schools, nonprofits, national organizations, and political organizations to help them grow and flourish. We have beautiful website templates to choose from or can create a custom website for your business. We also can develop a plan to help your website rise in the search rankings through proper SEO techniques. 

Call us to help your business grow during this crazy time.

Want to learn more? Give us a call!

Trolley Web is a Delaware web design firm located in Trolley Square in Wilmington. We’ve helped hundreds of Delaware businesses succeed by creating robust web presences. We’ve been thriving in Wilmington since 2013.