Spiders have the right idea.

They know that the way to capture an audience is weaving threads together.

If you’re a small business owner, here’s a shocking statistic:

Photo: A man sitting outside on a bright day looks at and taps on his mobile phone.

76% of shoppers look up a storefront online before stepping through the door. Even more telling, 59% use their phones to research items on the shelf while they’re in the store.

And for service providers without a brick and mortar? Whether you are an online entrepreneur or a repair professional with a truck and a box of tools, how you appear online has a significant impact on your service’s salability.

A compelling, cohesive web presence is critical to any modern successful and growing business. Small and local shops and services are especially reliant on — and susceptible to — search engine results, social media, and positive online reviews (or lack thereof).

Business owners can no longer rely on word-of-mouth as their sole or even primary method of organic advertising. Referral marketing works best when paired with a strong online presence, making it easy for the people who hear about you to find and learn more about your business.

What makes up a web presence?

Everything that leaves any kind of “footprint” on the web about you or your business is part of your online presence. Even if you don’t have a website, you likely already have a web presence. It may include any or all of these common components:

  • Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Mastodon, Tumblr and other social media and micro-blogging accounts
  • Don’t forget sites such as Blogger, Pinterest, YouTube and even eBay!

Your personal accounts make up part of your owned online presence: That which you control.

That said, even if you don’t have a one of these accounts, other people may have already posted about your business publicly on their own.

Graphic: A happy spider captures dollar signs in its web; each radius thread of the web anchors into an online or social media icon.

And if Facebook is your primary business website? You can convert more customers to your business using a simple web page to add credibility to the your posts and the other public mentions out there, helping customers to distinguish you from competitors and the inevitable online scammers.

  • Mentions on other websites: Yelp!, the BBB, Angie’s List, etc.

As with the posts outside of your control mentioned above, this kind of exposure generated by other people is your earned online presence.

For many savvy consumers, earned presence just as important (or more so) than your owned presence. They are able to quickly look up mentions of your company and use them to determine whether your business is legitimate, competent, and worth their effort to connect with you.

And the No.1 way clients and consumers check your business’ legitimacy is with:

  • Google — the modern yellow pages

If you don’t have a searchable business listing in Google, then as far as many potential customers are concerned, you don’t exist.

At least 25% of customers will not visit a business they can’t find online.

Everyone talks about search engine rankings, and a high ranking under the right search terms will drive more traffic to your business.

And yet, as a small and/or local business, your Google business profile is absolutely essential.

From a Google search result, your customers can quickly and easily view your contact information, view a menu of goods or services, pull up a map of your location, view your hours, and more — if you’ve made the information available.

If you do nothing, Google will take what it knows and create its own listing. And while that’s kind of helpful… it can also work against you.

Try this simple experiment:

Open Google maps, and search on the phrase “electrician near me”. (Feel free to try this with plumbers, tailors, piano tuners, etc.)

Pull up the “List” view, and scroll through it.

Without clicking on any of the listings: Which companies are open today? Which ones look competent?

If you were looking for a professional to hire, which companies are you likely to scroll on past without a second thought?

Remember the 80% of shoppers using the ‘net to do research before they enter a retail storefront? Nearly all of them (a whopping 62% of all consumers) are using Google’s shopping tab to do research.

And if you are a small storefront, or a service provider? Nearly half of all Google searches are looking for information about local goods and services.

This provides a valuable opening for you to direct willing customers to your business, by curating the information that pops up about your company in its Google listing.

If you’re not already making the most of your online presence, it’s time to get started. Webbed Presence is here to help.

Photo: Screenshot of a Google maps search for "electrician near me". Top result has a star rating and contact info; next 2 results have images of a house from a street and no contact info.

Here are the Top 3 ways to take ownership of your web presence today.

While you can’t control everything written about your business online, you can get ahead of the curve by cultivating a web presence that communicates your competency, legitimacy and value.

At the very least, every business owner should:

  1. Claim their Google Business Profile

  2. Maintain a web page, preferably with a unique, memorable domain name and without external advertising on the page

  3. Check occasionally for other people’s mentions of your business online, and respond to them.

Here’s what to expect from your online presence initiative:

At a minimum, dedicate several hours a month to reviewing your Google profile, searching for and responding to online mentions and reviews, and checking up on your social media presence.

Make sure your hours and contact information are always up to date on your Google Business Profile and your website.

Bonus: Add some new information every month to your website to keep it fresh in the rankings. The easiest way to do this is through articles or blog posts, much like this one.

At the same time be ready for an uptick in interest, as more people become aware of you and start to seek you out. Plan ahead to accommodate increased business so you’re not caught off guard with more to take on than you can handle.

Leveling Up: Expert Assistance At Your Service

Photo: A man in a dark room at night leans on his desk and looks at his laptop with frustration.

We absolutely get it — All too often, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Sometimes, it takes as much time and energy to market a business as it does to produce its goods and services.

Add to that the time to learn how to do it all, and it might start to feel overwhelming.

I started Webbed Presence specifically to help other small business owners through these challenges.

Here on the Eastern Shore, there is a thriving small business community. An impressive and hard-working entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in these parts, often spanning generations.

Hard work and service to others is truly the backbone of this culture and community, as it is across much of the nation.

Yet I’ve been surprised to learn how difficult it can be to find what you need locally. People often choose the larger corporate names over local shops and services for reasons that can easily be overcome with a little technical know-how.

With over twenty years of relevant experience, I am passionate about helping other businesses close the gap in their local marketing, and put their companies in front of their customer’s eyes, right where they’re already looking.

Are you ready to take control of your web presence?