Are you online? If so, what does the Internet have to say about you and your business? How high do you rank on the search engine results? Can your customers easily find you? If they can’t, they may never pop into your store. What can you do to resolve that? Web Presence Optimization.

Web Presence What?

Web Presence Optimization is the equivalent of holding a big spinning banner, chanting and dancing to invite customers inside your store while having an army of matchmakers ready to sing about the merits of your business at every wedding, funeral, and religious or secular festival — online. It’s about helping customers find you. It incorporates Search Engine Optimization (SEO), content marketing, landing pages, social media, and reputation management.

In layman speak, to optimize your web presence means to make sure your business ranks high in Search Engine Results and that your information online is accurate and complete, so that when people ask Siri on their iPhones, or Genie on their Android: “what’s a good place to eat Mangalorean food in Mumbai?” they find your restaurant without difficulty because you took the precaution to list it as one that offers “Mangalorean food in Mumbai.” It is about having a terrific website and making sure people can easily get there. Do you appear in Google Maps? What about TripAdvisor or Yelp? Did you list your hours? Your menu? A link to your website? Photographs? Did you ask patrons to write a review? People want to know if you’re worth the drive. Think about all the things hungry patrons care when looking for a good restaurant. Make sure they can find that information quickly and pay attention to the essentials. The story of how your father started the business half a century ago may be a motive of pride for you, but your clients may be more interested to know whether you cater large groups.

Before You Start, Understand How Your Customers Think

Welcome to the second decade of the 21st century, where we have no flying cars yet, but we interact with more people via social media in one week than our ancestors did face to face throughout their whole life. We used to ask our neighbours for a good plumber, now we check for one on Google first. We still place trust on word-of-mouth advice, but now the advice comes in the form of online reviews. We want answers. Fast. Price? Hours? Do they take credit cards? The advances in mobile technology have made us grow short on patience. If we cannot find answers to our questions instantly using our phones, we go for the next option.

So, your customer is impatient. What else? A good exercise is to create a Buyer Persona, a mock-up character that embodies the needs, goals, and desired experience of your regular customer. Then, base all your web presence optimization efforts on pleasing that Persona in specific. In other words, don’t write content for high-end executives using obscure terms when your audience are teenagers. Adapt to your users’ needs.

Create a Website with Terrific Landing Pages

Keep in mind that when you’re creating a website, you must satisfy two different audiences: People, who prefer to make decisions based on heuristics (rules of thumbs based on experience and driven by emotions that we follow to make decisions fast) such as bright photographs and the number of good reviews you have; and then the crawling spider-bots from Google, Bing, Yahoo and all those search engines, who are looking for specific terms.

Imagery for the People

Pleasing people becomes easier once you have them on your site. Nowadays, there are plenty of companies that could host your website and offer terrific templates to choose from, so don’t worry about finding a programmer or cracking your head with design. Your time is valuable. Outsource. What you should worry about is creating good content. Make sure your website tells a story, one that magically transports the visitor to your business using suggestive images. Can she smell the Fish Tawa Fry from the photograph? The Butter Pepper Garlic Prawns? If not, you need to retake those pictures. Images engage customers’ attention because they cause a neural response similar to the one we would have in the presence of the stimuli they represent. Hire a good photographer. You cannot be cheap with the site that feeds you and your family.

Written content? Of course! But keep your words short and concise. In this 21st Century, nobody reads; everyone skims. Let the images, the colours, and the “vibe” from your site do most of the talking. It’s not what you say. It’s what you imply.

Words for the Bots

Now, the crawling bots are a different story. The crawling bots have no heart. No matter how appetizing the Kundapura Mamsam looks, they will dismiss the image as rubbish if it’s not properly tagged. Bots look for specific terms on your website: “Mangalorean food,” “Mumbai,” “Kundapura Mamsam.” If they cannot find those specific terms or the terms do not seem relevant enough, they will send your wonderful website with all those bright pictures and funny videos to the last page in the search results. When you create content, take some time on choosing the right keywords, those that you imagine your customers will be typing into the search bar, incorporate some trending ones, then weave your text around them. That’s what SEO is about. Do it organically, though. Your content has to make sense to both the bots and the people.

Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram? All of them! They’re not just a fad. A continuous stream of posts on social media will help you promote your business for cheap and allow you to interact with your customers and their extended network. Did somebody make a comment on how poor your service is? Good! Apologize and engage your customers. Discover what went wrong and what you could have done that would have enhanced their experience. Invite them to try your services again. Depending on the size of your close network, and how large that of your customer is, your response may be seen by quite a large audience. You’ll never know how someone will discover your business. Gulshan may see that his cousin Rakesh commented on a photo that his friend Rusha liked on Facebook. Not all your content will spread because not all customers will find your content relevant. Yet, the first step is to put it out there. Think of posting content on social media as taking a selfie. Not all selfies are worth sharing, but the more you take, the bigger the chance you’ll get the right one and then — bam! — a shower of likes.

Paid Advertising

Traditional media like radio, newspapers, or TV can be expensive. Thus, focus your advertising efforts on the Internet first. There’s the old (by now) pay-per-click method in which you pay for displaying ads on the search engines’ sponsored results section. This involves having to bet on what specific keywords your potential customers will be looking at. And there’s social media paid advertising. Social media may be a safer and cheaper bet for many. You can narrow your audience to a small level, control how your ad will look, and the content spreads by a mixture of paid and organic interaction, as in every time someone writes a comment on your ad.

Blogging

Up until the last decade, blogging used to be a solitary affair done by a few for a niche audience. Not anymore. Now many companies have a blog, although, with so much to read and so much to consume online, only a few will follow a blog on a regular basis. Why is everyone blogging then? Don’t forget those heartless, tireless bots. When they find the keywords the public are looking for on your blog, the bots include your site in the search results. People may end up in your blog for reasons that have little to do with your business, like that one time you wrote about “choosing the right mug for your latte.” The more content you feed to those bots, the more people you will attract. Again, make sure your content makes sense. Good keywords lure the bots. Great content grabs the people. Keep your prose fresh and original. If you copy and paste from other sites, you may do yourself a disfavour because search engines demote plagiarism. Ouch!

Online Communities

Did your mother ever tell you that nobody likes a busybody? The internet loves them! Forums and online communities work as virtual bulletins full of people giving unsolicited advice for free. You know them already. You run into online communities every time you try to get an answer to an obscure subject. Companies like Apple and QuickBooks rely heavily on forums for troubleshooting. Thus, if you have a secret: share it! People prefer to do business with those they trust, and the fastest way to be trusted is to be liked. Offer your customers good advice, advice that is valuable yet inexpensive. Participating in online communities has the additional advantage of fulfilling the human need for belonging to a group. When you make clear to your customers that you are part of their same tribe, they infer that it would be wrong not to do business with you and attempt to develop a social connection.

A word of caution when participating in a forum: Do not oversell your business. Mention it nonchalantly; make sure that your profile includes a link, perhaps, but remember that what you’re doing at an online community is merely socializing.

Email Campaigns

Does anyone read email anymore? I get about 80 every day of which I delete 79. Then again, the one that survives may get my business.

With email writing the same rules as with creating your website apply: Make it beautiful, make it relevant, make it simple and short. With one little tweak: emails don’t need to be complete. You want your customers to follow a link to read more.

ePaisa allows you to save your customers’ email address every time you send them a receipt and integrate it with MailChimp. Use that power wisely. When creating an email, regale your readers with beautiful imagery or useful advice to compensate them for their attention. One gorgeous email twice a year may bring you more business than a crappy one once a week.