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The Microsoft way to boost the online presence of a small British business

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There are a number of reasons why small businesses and sole traders might not trade or market themselves online. For instance, some small businesses don’t know where to start when it comes to setting up websites or social media pages. Others assume engaging customers online is expensive and time consuming, with some simply not realising the extent to which customers now use online methods to look for and purchase their goods and services.

A recent study from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills showed that more than half of the public (55 per cent) finds it difficult to support local small firms because often these businesses aren’t online. In fact, figures show that as many as two million sole traders and small companies are missing out on building their business because they have no online presence.

Over half of customers (52 per cent) go straight to search engines when looking to buy from local businesses, which is nearly double the number that ask for word-of-mouth recommendations and, with total website sales in the UK now worth £193 billion, small businesses that don’t trade online are missing out. So, for those businesses that want to make 2015 the year they take their operation into the digital age, here are some handy tips to help them Do More Online. 

Build your own website

Building a website doesn’t have to be expensive and you certainly don’t need to be a coding wizard in order to get a basic website up and running quickly. There are lots of online website builders such as GoDaddy, Wix, 1&1 and others or, if that’s out of your comfort zone, you can pay a web designer to build your website or talk to your local college or university who are offering free tuition and support to small businesses. You can find more information about local courses by visiting Digital Skills.

Before you get carried away building your website, you need to purchase a domain name. This is your own personal ‘.com’, www.thisismoney.co.uk for example. It’s easy to do and you can have any name you like, as long as it hasn’t been taken. You can purchase a domain name at Godaddy, Easyspace and UK2.

The final step to building your own website is filling it with content. It’s important to write copy and use images that help visitors learn about your company’s unique brand. What’s more, you should make it easy for visitors to find the information they’re looking for by including ‘About us’, ‘Webshop’ and ‘Contact us’ pages.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills as part of its Do More Online campaign has included these hints and more online at the Great Business website.

Be visible

Once you’ve built your website, it’s important to make sure that people can find it.  Many of your existing customers will look for your contact details online, so it’s important that you’re visible where they’ll be looking for you.

It’s important to ensure that you’re listed with search engines like Google and Bing as this is one of the most common ways customers will try and find you.  Google has My Business and Bing has Bingplaces.com, both of which get you listed online for free and allow you to be found based on keywords and location.

Depending on your business, there may be other places you need to make sure that you’re listed in order to be seen by as many people as possible.  Try and think about where your potential customers might go to find you, and then make sure you’re listed there – that could be a local business directory or a service specific site like TripAdvisor.

Wherever you put your listing, the description you submit of your business must be as relevant as possible, consistent across different sites and kept up to date. Try to use the same words a customer might when looking for you.  Sometimes it helps to ask a few customers how they found you, and what words they were searching for.

Read more on web design:

More tips from Microsoft on page two, including social media engagement, online finance efficiencies and digital marketing.

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