When someone asks, “Do I need my own website”, the answer is usually a resounding yes. There are so many benefits to having your own space online that most businesses and charities can easily recoup the cost.
But there are some circumstances when it’s not so clear-cut. Take a local shop which does well from word of mouth and repeat custom built up over many years. Even if they have no plan to sell online, there are still online tools that they can use to help increase sales ‘in the real world’.
For those who are running a small operation and still deciding whether or not you need your own website, or if you’re sure you don’t want one, here are some free, alternative ways you can boost your online profile.
Google My Business
A Google My Business (GMB) listing is what you see on the righthand side when you search for a business, like this one of ours.
It’s free and easy to set up through a Google account and an absolute no-brainer to add to your online toolbox.
Complete the profile as fully as you can and remember to add in regular posts to enhance the listing, for example current offers. You can add a link to a webpage – if you have an active social media page, you could link to that. There is also the option to create a free GMB website (with an address that ends .business.site), which includes the same basic details.
You can also go through a similar process to set up a free listing on Bing.
Free online listings
As well as making sure you are listed on Google and Bing, you can add your organisation to free online directories, such as Yell.com and Thomson Local. Although you may be prompted to pay for a premium listing, a free entry is enough and it helps to have another reference to your contact details online.
It is important to make sure you are consistent in how your name and contact details are presented across all the different platforms.
Most people have a handle on the basic functions that social media can offer organisations. But you might not be aware of some of the less visible or newer features.
For all social media platforms, make sure you’re using the insights – stats on what you’ve posted and how people have engaged with it.
For Facebook specifically, here are a few features you can take advantage of:
- Use the About us section on the right of the page to give followers more information about your business or charity, and add a picture. You can treat this like a blog post.
- For regular posts, you can add the Notes feature (in Template and tabs, add a tab at the bottom), which has the same format as the About us section.
- Even if your Facebook page isn’t connected to an e-commerce site, you can list items you have for sale in the shop section, with a link for people to find out more information (e.g. directions to your real shop or to send you a message).
- You can add to and remove tabs on the left of the page, as well as reordering them. So, if photos are really important to your organisation, you could put this tab high on the list. Each section then appears on the actual page in that order too.
- In settings, through Appointment settings, you can advertise a service for which people can contact you directly through Facebook to set up an appointment. For example, you might offer customers a free consultation.
It is a good idea to go through all of the settings to ensure you have completed as much of your profile as you can, including details in Page Info, like awards you have won and your opening hours.
Remember that organisations with a website can use Facebook, and other social media platforms, to send people to their own site. When you don’t have a website for this, you have to think about what you actually want (and realistically can get) people to do, and make sure your content helps achieve this. If you want them to do something ‘in the real world’ like visit your shop, you need to think about giving them incentives to do this.
Other web pages
Depending on the nature of your organisation, you might be able to maximise your exposure on other websites. For example, if you are running a crowdfunding or fundraising campaign, websites like Kickstarter and JustGiving have options to add updates, as if you were keeping a blog, Q&As and pictures. You can also direct people to them from social media. Just make sure you complete your profile as much as you can and include lots of useful information.
One of the many benefits of having your own website is that it belongs to you, with all of the content it includes. If your trusty social media page disappears tomorrow and takes all your followers with it, there’s not a whole lot you can do. None of it actually belongs to you. So, definitely make use of these free tools, but also bear in mind they might not be yours to use forever.
By Hannah Upton
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