Tips & Tools to Boost Your Online Presence

woman using laptop on bow of sailboat

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!

Preparing Your Business’ Online Presence for Tourist Season

tourists on the beach under an umbrella

Do you run a business in the Virgin Islands that is heavily dependent upon tourism? If so, now is the time to get busy upping your online presence.

Why? For one reason, Google’s crawlers periodically scan your web site to review your content. It’s these scans that help Google determine how relevant your site is for a particular search. For obvious reasons you want your site to appear when someone searches for a word or phrase that’s relevant to your business.

How Long Does it Take for Google to Crawl Your Site?

The time it takes from when Google scans your site to when your content shows up in search results can take four to six months. Note that I’m not saying this is how long it takes for your site to show up on Google. When I launched the ampliVI site it appeared in Google search results in a matter of days – but only if I was searching for ampliVI to find it. It took much longer for the site to appear when I searched for Virgin Islands social media management.

Planning ahead can make a difference in how well your page ranks in a search. For example, if your business sells lamps, you might want to create individual pages that talk about reading lamps, floor lamps, table lamps, LED lamps, or lampshades. Try to think of what people who are looking for your business would search for, and these are the words that you want on your pages.

Where to put these words? If you sell services, make a services page. Or you could write a blog, with a separate post for each service. It’s OK to create both a services page and a blog page. On your blog posts, write about the items that you sell. Write a refreshed page about each item once or twice a year. Don’t delete the old blog posts – those help you show up in search results as well.

Social Media Can Help Your Online Presence

In addition to your web site content, make sure that you also have social media pages set up for your business. If you have a retail store, claim your Google My Business listing and keep the location map, phone number and hours up-to-date. The same goes for Facebook and Yelp. Even if you have not yet set up a Facebook or Yelp presence, your customers may already be on those sites reviewing your business. Claiming your page(s) ensures you get notified when someone reviews your business. Then you can control the message and respond to your customers.

Get Listed on Other Sites

If you rely on tourism to fuel your business, take your online presence to other pages. Manage your listing on TripAdvisor and our local business directories. Go To St. Croix, Virgin Islands This Week, Visit USVI are three popular sites that get a lot of visits.

The bottom line? Give Google plenty of time to soak up all of your business’ content. You will be rewarded by showing up in search results, clicks, and new business. Don’t know where to start? We’d be happy to help.

Why You Need a Google My Business Listing

Google My Business barbershop

Your Google listing helps people find your business online.

If you’ve been on any of the U.S. Virgin Islands for some time, you’ve likely joked with your friends about things operating here on island time. To some extent, it’s true!

With such a variety of people in our island community – down islanders, statesiders and those “bahn ya,” everyone has a different expectation of what normal operating hours look like. What do people do if they want to know your hours? They pick up their phone. Not to call you, but to look up your business listing on Google. And if they’re not looking you up on Google, they’ll say, “Alexa, what time does (insert your business name here) open?” Which – guess what – looks you up on Google.

Over the past decade, Google consistently handled more than 60% of search queries. * All other search sites combined make up the remaining volume of online searches. What does this mean for your business? For one thing, it means your business had better show up on Google, because the chances are pretty good that the person who wants to know if you’re open on Saturdays is using Google to find out.

Getting started with your Google listing

Google’s home for business owners to list and manage their Google presence is Google My Business. Here, you can publish your business hours, introduce your business to prospective customers, add photos, and place your business location on Google Maps.

Setting up your Google My Business page is easy, whether you have one or several locations. First, set up a Google account. You don’t necessarily need a Gmail address – your Google account email address could be you@yourbusiness.com.

Next, claim your business. Your business may already be listed (and there may also be reviews) thanks to publicly available information.  But don’t stop there. Claiming your business allows you greater control of what users see. Click on Own this business? on the right side of the page. Google will walk you through the verification process using information that only you, the business owner, should know. If there is not enough information available for Google to verify your business, you can request that your business be verified with a phone call or by a postcard sent via U.S. mail.

Unclaimed Google listings will show this text. Click Own this business? if you are the business owner to start the process of claiming your Google listing.
If you see this on your business’ Google listing, click Own this business? to claim your business on Google.

Verifying your business

Once you’ve verified your business, make sure that your Google My Business listing covers the basics, such as your specific location, daily hours, phone number, and web site. You can always add to your listing later.

Ensuring that your business shows up on Google searches means it’s more likely for potential customers to find you. It also gives potential customers a more complete picture of your business, which means you’ll likely get the right kind of customers.

Verifying your business is a quick and simple process that all Virgin Islands business owners should do. If you need help setting up your Google My Business presence, drop us a line. We’d be happy to help.

*Source: statista.com