A decade ago, consumers in need of new shoes for the whole family likely stopped by a shop they’d seen in the past or visited the store for which they received a coupon in the mail. Consumers today are researching brands online before deciding where to spend their dollars. They’re looking at business’ websites and social media pages, and they’re reading online reviews to make sure they’ll have great customer service and receive a quality a product. With nearly 95 percent of shoppers reading online reviews before making a purchase, a strong digital footprint is necessary to be successful.

The term digital footprint has been around for a while, but many people might not know what it means. In short, your digital footprint is the digital trail your business leaves behind on social media and the web. Your company information, digital behavior and electronic reputation are traces left behind in your marketing messages and business statements.

Enhancing your digital footprint is critical to building online consumer awareness. A strong online presence lets you connect with your target audience, gain exposure with online viewers and find leads and customers who are more likely to become loyal to your brand. From a strong social presence to a well-executed website, your online persona should be strategic to help your customers distinguish your brand from your rivals’.

The key to strengthening your online presence is to be transparent and provide a real, authentic persona for your business through an informative and interactive website. Take advantage of the appropriate tools such as social media marketing, SEO, SEM and review management sites to make the most of your website investment.      

Your Website is Your Most Critical Asset

On average, it takes about 0.05 seconds for a consumer to determine if they like your website and if they’ll stay or leave. Simply having a website is not good enough. It needs to properly market your current products and services and provide the functionality your consumers want. Your website is often your brand’s first impression. In fact, a recent survey of more than 1,000 consumers found that more than nine out of 10 respondents said they visit a brand’s website for the first time for reasons other than to make a purchase. Additionally, 45 percent of respondents said the primary reason for their first visit to a website was because they were searching for new products.     

For those who don’t have a web development and design background, there are plenty of options to build a professional, user-friendly website. It can be tempting to take the easy route and use a one-size-fits-all content management system like WordPress, Wix or Weebly. However, hiring a professional will allow you to build a custom website that is tailored to your needs and better reflects your unique brand. You’ll have input about the design, colors, fonts, information and interactive elements, but with the expertise of a professional to help guide those decisions. And when constructed properly, custom websites are almost always more secure than open-source templates.

Why You Need Social Media

No matter your business’ size, effective social media is an essential part of your marketing strategy to connect you with customers, increase awareness about your brand and boost leads and sales. While you don’t need to tweet every hour or constantly post to Instagram, having a strong, consistent presence on the right platforms is necessary.

Let your brand’s personality shine through your content. Customers aren’t interested in businesses that publish only dry, corporate content. Develop your brand’s voice so that it accurately represents who you are and what your brand stands for. Customers are becoming increasingly savvy and discerning about what businesses they’ll support. They will likely browse your website or social media to learn more about your business. Setting up robust profiles that you update frequently with relevant content will build your brand’s authority and ensure you give potential customers a positive first impression. An advertising agency can help you create a custom social media strategy, specific to your goals and wants.

A great way to launch your social media profiles is to run ad campaigns and boost posts with a designated dollar amount to reach a defined audience. These tactics can help drive clicks and attract customers, often at a lower rate than other advertising avenues. 

Take Advantage of SEO

Once your website is complete, focus on attracting customers. Search engine optimization, or SEO, increases the searchability and visibility of your brand and offers even more value to your business. It used to be that targeting specific keywords and writing a 500-word blog was all that Google required to rank your business high on search engine results pages. To an extent, this still rings true, but there are a few other tactics you should implement.

Incorporating strong keywords into your content is the foundation of a good, findable website. When effectively researched and optimized, keywords connect your target audience to your website — the linchpin between what people are searching for and the content you are providing to fill that need. If you write an amazing blog that has all of the right information to provide value to your audience, but use a synonym for a term with much higher search volume that is still attainable for a brand, you’re missing an opportunity to have an impact with a more popular term that can potentially get your content seen by tens of thousands more people.

Another best practice is to incorporate links to relevant and trustworthy websites within your blog. This tactic helps to build your brand’s credibility, but remember your website’s content should inform readers first and search engines second. Instead of packing your article full of links and keywords in an attempt to rank your page higher in the search results, prioritize writing for the consumers who will read your work. When you prioritize users above search rankings, you’ll write helpful content that more people click on. Search engines will reward your site because SEO follows clicks, not the other way around.

If you want to dive even deeper into the world of SEO, you’re in luck. We wrote a Journal on the subject, complete with tips and tricks to make sure that your content and keywords all work together to attract unique visitors in higher quantities.

Implement SEM Tactics

Now that you have revamped your digital platforms, it’s time to use them strategically. Working hand-in-hand with SEO, search engine marketing, or SEM, is using paid advertising strategies to increase your brand’s online visibility. Simply put, brands pay for ads to appear on search engine results pages. When a user searches for those specific terms, they see an ad from the brand.

Utilizing keywords is one of the most important aspects of a strong SEM campaign. SEM keywords are terms and phrases that you pay to target in your search engine marketing campaigns. When users search for those keywords, they see your ads. A digital media specialist can help you develop a strong SEM campaign to get your brand in front of the right online audience.

The Importance of Review Management

Few places on the internet reflect a company’s online reputation more clearly than review pages. Reviews on Google My Business, Yelp and other review management sites represent honest, and often emotional, opinions of customers. Consumers are constantly searching for opinions and asking friends for recommendations on where to shop, which restaurants to visit and what products are worth their investment. Rather than asking a friend, some consumers go straight to a website to read reviews. Eighty four percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, which means that 84 percent of consumers trust strangers’ reviews almost as much as good friends’.

The prevalence of reviews isn’t just positive for consumers; it also provides a valuable source of feedback for your business, which can help you understand your strengths and weaknesses. A review management strategy is an important piece of your overall marketing plan to maintain your image, as potential consumers will likely look for reviews on your product, service and business overall.

The best way to develop a review management strategy is to set up profiles for your business on common review management sites to keep track of the reviews you’re receiving. Marketing professionals can help you determine which review management tools are best for your business in monitoring, analyzing, responding to and generating reviews.

Now that you have the tools, don’t waste time and opportunity with an outdated digital presence. Take the first step and keep at it regularly to ensure that you elevate your digital footprint into a positive marketing tool that works for your business.