HOW TO MANAGE YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE
Phil Bray offers an eight-step plan to managing your crucial online presence.
We all know that the best type of new enquiry comes from a referral or recommendation; they’ve already heard great things about you and, in many respects, are pre-sold on the idea of working with you.
However, there’s still a high chance that anyone referred to you will head online to find out more before getting in touch. Some may simply need your contact details; some will be carrying out further due diligence; others may have been given details of multiple advisers and are weighing up the pros and cons of each before deciding who to contact.
There’s another group of people who will also perform brand searches: those who have seen your business name elsewhere and want to find out more. That might mean they’ve been on one of the adviser directories (Unbiased, VouchedFor and AdviserBook being the three most popular), seen an advert you placed, driven past your office or seen a social media post.
These days an online search means Google, which is why most of the traffic it sends to your website probably follows a brand search for your business. What these people see in the results goes a long way to dictating whether they get in touch; if it builds on their existing positive impression, the chances of you receiving a call or email rise. The reverse is obviously true.
And that’s why spending time working on your online presence, dominating the first page of Google for an online brand search and ensuring the results show your business in a positive light is so important.
So, here are our top tips for managing your online presence:
1. Run Google searches
Before anything else, you need to understand what people see when they search for you or your business. To do that, put yourself in the position of a potential client and run the searches they might.
What do you see? Ideally, you will dominate that first page of Google. Your website should come up first, alongside your Google My Business listing (more on that in a moment). These should then be followed by a combination of:
- Links to the FCA register
- Your social media channels
- Articles you have written
- Places you’ve been featured online
- Directory profiles
- Your Companies House listing
If you see all of the above you can pat yourself on the back, but you’ve still got work to do (see points three onwards). If you don’t...
2. Can’t find your business?
If your business can’t be found for brand searches, we have a problem (unless it’s very new).
Your online invisibility could be due to one of several reasons. Top of the list of possibilities is that your trading name is too generic and you’re competing against (and losing to) businesses with a similar name.
How do you solve the problem? There are really only three options:
- Work harder on appearing on that first page by following the tips in this article. Be realistic about what’s possible though. Look at the businesses you are competing against and ask yourself honestly whether you can dislodge them.
- Set up Google Adwords so adverts appear when people search for your business name. Targeting other key search terms, such as the names of individual advisers, might also be sensible. Remember, this isn’t advertising in the strictest sense of the word; you’re just trying to make it easier for those people who already know about you to find your website.
- It’s time for a rebrand!
3. Claim your Google My Business listing
It’s free and simple to set up, yet many businesses fail to claim their listing.
Doing so will help you dominate that first page, provide an easy way for potential clients to find your business and website, while also allowing clients to review your service, which in turn will provide you with all important social proof. As an aside, you should closely monitor all reviews left for your business. It’s not unheard of for fake and malicious reviews to be left. These are relatively easy to deal with, providing you know they are there.
4. Make sure your entry on the FCA Register is correct
Your business’s page on the FCA Register will often appear in brand search results. That’s good – it demonstrates you are suitably authorised and will help build confidence. However, your entry is based on the information you give to the regulator, which you usually do when first seeking authorisation. Consequently, if you’ve been trading for several years, the information might be out of date. This applies particularly to email addresses (all too often generic such as Hotmail) and website domains (often missing).
Check your entry on the Register; if it’s out of date, take steps to rectify the problem.
5. Build an effective website
Following a brand search, it’s reasonable to expect most people will head to your website, providing of course they can find it.
In many respects, a website is your shop window; it displays the type of people you typically advise, how you can help them and the reasons why they should select you and your business. However, so many adviser and planner websites are ineffective, offering a poor user experience, missing vital information and talking too much about products and not people.
As we’ve said earlier, building a favourable online impression will increase the likelihood of potential clients getting in touch. That’s why you need to focus on your website.
6. Think about how you use social media
If you or your business has Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or other social media accounts, it’s possible these will appear on the Google search results page. They are therefore open for public consumption, including everything you post and conversations you have.
Firstly, make sure your profiles are complete. Next, agree the key messages you want to promote. Finally, decide how you will use social media; will you be on constant broadcast mode or be more interactive, conversing with your followers and connections to add value, build trust and demonstrate knowledge?
Hint: how likely are you to listen to someone constantly talking at you during a networking event?
7. Be consistent
Consistency breeds confidence. That means being consistent in how your brand is visually represented online. It’s relatively simple to produce a set of basic brand guidelines that show everyone in your business how you should be visually represented – from colour palette to the fonts you use. Producing these guidelines and embedding them in your business will help to improve the consistency of your visual identity.
Consistency is about more than colours and fonts though. You should be consistent with your messaging too. That might be in terms of what you do, who you do it for or the benefits of working with you. If your website says you specialise in long-term care advice, but your social media profiles talk regularly about first-time buyer mortgages, you can see why a potential client might be confused.
8. Don’t ignore the online world
Like it or not, most of us now, to one extent or another, live in an online world.
We can’t ignore the fact that most people in the UK, including those in their late 50s and early 60s (often the target client of advisers and planners), are online; that includes 7.8 million over-55s who are on Facebook.
And, there’s no doubt that many will head there to check you and your business out. That means you need to do everything you can to make it easy for them to find you and, when they do, build a lasting and favourable impression.
Phil Bray is founder and director of Nottingham-based The Yardstick Agency, which help advisers, planners and providers to market their businesses.