Tips & Tools to Boost Your Online Presence

Lockdown, quarantine, curfew…whatever the reason, we’ve all been spending much more time at home. After a small bit of work-related travel I am back to being home again indefinitely. That means even more time online. Through the blur of COVID announcements and tropical weather forecasts I managed to find a few good online marketing nuggets for small business owners in the Virgin Islands to build their online presence. Read on!

Google My Business

I write about this a lot because it’s so important. People looking for anything start their search with Google. Make sure your business shows up! The purpose of this tip is to remind you to check your categories on your Google My Business listing. Remember that people aren’t necessarily looking for your business, they’re looking for a business. By adding appropriate categories to your listing, it’s more likely that you’ll show up in a search.

Here’s an example: Let’s say a visitor wants to buy a piece of jewelry as a reminder of their trip to St. Thomas. They are not likely to type in the name of a store (unless someone told them to go to a specific store), they would probably type “jewelry store.” The businesses that have identified themselves as a jewelry store will be listed first! It’s that simple.

Google map results for jewelry stores in St. Thomas, USVI

To select categories for your Google My Business listing, go to Info (on the left navigation bar) and then below your business name, click the pencil (see screen shot below). As you type categories, suggestions will appear. Once you’ve indicated your categories, Google will verify and it may take a few days until they appear on your listing.

sample Google My Business listing

Geomapy

If you have multiple locations, Geomapy is a handy tool that you can use to visualize how your locations rank compared to your competition. You see, when users search for a business, Google considers where they are searching from before displaying the results. Geomapy lets you see where each of your locations ranks based on a search from a specific area. From there, you can see where you may need to improve your keywords or your Google My Business listing specifics, in order for your locations to rank higher.

Custom Hashtags

This falls into the intermediate social media category. What are custom hashtags and why would you want one? It’s simple: custom hashtags are unique hashtags that refer to a specific event, person, or business. It’s a way for people to research and discover topics related to the hashtag. The Virgin Islands Department of Tourism had a campaign a few years ago where they referred to the Virgin Islands as “Real Nice.” Their social posts included the hashtag #USVIRealNice. Anyone could type in #USVIRealNice and find lots and lots of content related to visiting the US Virgin Islands…not only from the Department of Tourism, but from anyone wanting to showcase their services to potential visitors.

I’ve been asked where do you get a custom hashtag. It’s easy, you make it up! It’s best to toss around a few ideas with your friends or family, after explaining why you want to use one. Pick the one that your informal focus group gravitated to most, and go!

Businesses can use custom hashtags to expand their brand, build credibility and facilitate conversations. Ask your customers to post photos or reviews using your custom hashtag. It will grow awareness of your brand when their friends see it. Also, you can search for people posting about your business, then respond.

Here’s an example from a page we manage, the Hillsboro Lighthouse in Florida. If this user had not used the hashtag #HillsboroLighthouse, we wouldn’t have seen this beautiful video and been able to thank him (and share! and engage!) for doing so.

Facebook post showing hashtags

Why Do I Need a Page?

This goes out to businesses who don’t think they need an online presence. We’re an island after all, so word of mouth should be enough, right? I understand that you don’t want another thing to manage (hint: you can outsource it). But having a presence online allows people to discover you. There are all kinds of ways to do that – that’s a topic for another day – but if you’re not online, people can’t find you online. You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket, right? It’s the same thing.

Here’s an example: I was researching an article about foodie destinations. The sites that wrote about foodie destinations also mentioned, and linked to, individual restaurants. Readers want to click on the link to the individual restaurant and see what it’s all about, what types of dishes they serve, etc. Hypothetically, if someone were to write about your business, wouldn’t you want those readers to be able to find you? Simply put, if your business is not online, other pages can’t link to you. At a minimum, have a Facebook or Instagram page or a Google My Business listing. You may not need a full-blown web site.

Conclusion

In conclusion, spending more time online may be giving you cabin fever, but you can always use your time online to learn something new. I hope you learned something new today! Stay safe everyone!

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