2 Simple Ways to Drastically Improve Your Business' Online Footprint

With so many consumers now searching online for local businesses, it's critical to have a strong web presence if you want to grow your business. And it's not enough to just have a website these days--you also need to make sure customers are finding your business when they search (it's no use having a great website if it shows up on Page 10 of the search results).

You may have heard that SEO, or search engine optimization, is important. While true, for many small business owners, it's probably not worthwhile to spend a ton of money on SEO, especially when you can take a few small steps to boost your business's web presence (and having a strong web presence could also help you get approved for a small business loan or get better rates on your loan offers).

Claim and update your business's local listings

Google, Facebook, Yelp and Yellowpages all provide free listings for businesses (sometimes these listings will be automatically created). You should check all of these websites to claim any current pages, delete duplicated pages or create a page for your business. The major benefit of claiming and managing your pages on these websites is that they typically rank well in Google Search.

Once you claim these pages, be sure to update all profile information, upload any photos of your business or products and link to both your business's website and social media profiles. You should also be encouraging your customers to leave reviews of your business. Having good reviews of your business can help your listings and website rank better in search results. On some of the platforms, such as Yelp, you can even respond to user reviews and run special promotions.

Be (effectively) active on social media

You don't have to go overboard and create an account for Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Snapchat. Instead, think about what social media platforms your customers use and what you can realistically manage. It's better to be effective on one platform than ineffective across four or five. If you don't know where to begin, creating a Facebook Page is a good first step for your business's social media efforts.

When you create a new social media profile, be sure to fill out your profile completely, including the "About Us" section, business address, phone number, website URL, and customize your page's URL (e.g., www.facebook.com/MyBusiness). You should also add relevant photos of your business and products/services and links to your business's other social media profiles.

Once your page is up, you should be engaging your customers by sharing high quality and genuine content, such as updates or photos about your business and products/services, relevant news articles or blog posts, tips and tutorials, and promotions or coupons. In addition, make sure to promptly respond to messages and questions from your customers.

Another great thing about having a strong web presence is that it may help you get approved for a small business loan. Alternative lenders, such as Kabbage, and even some traditional lenders will use your business's social media and online data when evaluating a loan application. In some cases, a strong social media presence could help you get approved despite a less than stellar credit score. Not only is having an active social media and web presence important for building your customer base, but it is even important for your business's financial health.