It is a new year and it is the perfect time for you to enhance your online presence. I've been traveling since the beginning of December and upon coming home I was surprised at the number of new cafes and restaurants that had opened whilst I was away. I got really excited upon seeing them and immediately Googled them. I was quickly disappointed by the lack of websites or information available.
It is 2016 and there really is no excuse to not be online in some capacity. It doesn't even have to cost you anything. So here are my mostly free tips on enhancing your businesses online presence. P.S. this article will be more focused around cafes, restaurants and bars due to my obsession with all things food and drink - however it doesn't mean you shouldn't do a lot of these things.
1. Have a website!
This one isn't necessarily a free one but it doesn't have to be an expensive one. I think for most new businesses a single page site is perfectly appropriate. Do you need an about us page? No. Contact us page? No. History? Hell no. All of that is unnecessary guff.
What you need is your logo/company name, your address, opening hours, a phone number and some nice pictures of your store/cafe/thing. Also have links to your social accounts. Here is a checklist:
- Business name
- Contact number
- Opening hours
- Pretty pictures
- Social account links
- A short sentence about what you are/do
- An email (only if you will check it!)
The photos are important as they legitimize your business. An address is great (you need people to visit your business!), a phone number helps give confidence to people (especially if it is a familiar extension) as it makes you very contactable, however it is the pictures that will really legitimize you. You want people to see themselves in them. The social accounts provide social proof i.e. other people have been here and the sentence helps if you have an obscure hipster name. If you include a menu here you will be my hero, however I do have another plan for that.
None of this is rocket science. Even the building of the website is dead simple. Find your friend who is best at Instagram and get them to take some photos for you and then find someone who knows basic HTML (or teach yourself here in less than 3 hours for free), buy a domain name (i.e. web address) and hosting (i.e. Bluehost) and you have a website. If this sounds too hard speak to my friends at Beech & Co. and I'm sure you will be surprised.
Remember simplicity is key here. Most people only want to know where you are, if you are open and if you are any good. You don't need anything else. Also make sure it works on phones (keeping it simple helps with this).
- Please be consistent when typing your business name and address everywhere on the internet.
- Always link back to your website, not to your Facebook, when adding your business to listing websites.
- Once again, always be consistent.
2. Add/Claim your business listing on Google
This is dead simple. Go here and follow the prompts. This will allow you to show up on Google maps and in the local search box in the Google search results. You will need to verify your business by either a telephone number of responding to a letter sent in the mail.
3. Ask a number of friends to review your business on Google
You know how Google has review stars? You can do that too. In Australia there isn't a huge uptake on the Google reviews which makes it easier for you (if you are in Australia). About five friends honestly reviewing your business will be enough to start. Make sure they are honest, genuine reviews. People aren't stupid and they will immediately see through the five glowing five start star reviews. Don't be dumb. Try average around 4.5ish as that is believable (you never see a perfect review score).
If you are feeling clever get someone to give you a one star review which is really petty. People will think that person is an idiot and side with you. Seriously. There was a study done a little while ago that found that businesses that had both negative and positive reviews were trusted more than just positive.
4. Create a Facebook Page
Create a Facebook page before you open. Build some anticipation with photos of the venue renovation. Why not? Please please please create a Facebook Page and not a another Facebook user. A person is not a page. Your business is not a person. Create a page.
Use your page to post about specials, something funny that happened, photos, changes in opening hours (i.e. over Christmas/Easter) and most importantly your menu. Yes, your menu. I will rarely go out of my way to go to a restaurant/cafe unless I have an idea of how much it is going to cost me or even if it has food. Photos of food may seem a bit much but it really helps people get a feel for what kind of restaurant/cafe you are. You want to make people want to come and eat your food or drink your coffee/wine/beer. Basically latte art makes me happy.
5. Create an Instagram
This is an easy one. Create an instagram account, post cool photos of your place with either food and cool vibes and push them through to Facebook. Easy. Free exposure. If you have trouble finding your business name try adding an underscore (_) in front of your name or adding AU after it.
A photo posted by Seven Seeds (@7seedscoffee) on Jan 20, 2016 at 12:55pm PST
6. Add yourself to TripAdvisor
I pretty much lived on TripAdvisor when I was traveling around Europe with my wife. It found us many a delicious eatery. TripAdvisor is not just for tourists either. There are quite a lot of locals that use it. It is quick, easy and free to add your business so go do it now. Add your business here.
Once added get a number of friends to give you mostly positive reviews, post the usual photos of food and coffee, and link back to your website. Easy.
7. Add yourself to Foursquare, Yelp, Zomato and Beanhunter
If you do this it will make me happy. These three are local food/business search apps. They all do something slightly different. Foursquare is my faviourite (I'm they mayor of a lot of places in Newcastle), Yelp is great and used primarily by foodies and Zomato use to be Urbanspoon (an infinitely better name). I'm not sure what is bigger out of Yelp or Foursquare, but Zomato is definitely the smaller one of the pack. Beanhunter is a Melbourne creation that's sole focus is reviewing the coffee at cafes and restaurants.
Foursquare focuses around tips, so small pieces of useful information. Wifi passwords always make very popular tips. Yelp is more long form review focused, there are also tips however the emphasis is on the review. The bonus with Yelp is that its stars and reviews are used in a number of places around the internet - Yahoo search and apple maps being two of them. I don't really use Zomato.
Once again it is quick and easy to add and claim your businesses on these sites. Ask your friends and customers for reviews their preferred platform.
Here are the links to add your business
- Zomato - https://www.zomato.com/addrestaurant
- Yelp - https://biz.yelp.com.au/
- Foursquare - http://business.foursquare.com/
- Beanhunter - http://www.beanhunter.com/cafes/new
Don't worry about these things consuming more and more of your time in the future. Once set up they will require minimal effort to maintain. Just check back occasionally to ensure you are not getting horrible reviews.
Bonus tip for places that serve beer: Untappd
Untappd is an app that people check in the beer they are drinking at the venue they are drinking. The venue is pulled from Foursquare. It would be interesting as a venue owner to see what beers your patrons are drinking.
8. Add yourself to any other local directory websites
There are normally a number of websites trying to offer a local business directory search. I doubt they will exist in a few years as Google gets more and more relevant, however that is another story. Find them, add yourself (if it is free), link back to your website never think of it again. This could be the hardest one in that I can't spoon feed all the local directories to you.
One called local search is being advertised pretty heavily in Newcastle at the moment so just have a quick look to see what is around and add yourself to it. I honestly doubt they would be worth paying for though.
9. Find and talk to local blogs/newsletters
Wherever you are I am sure there is someone that has a blog about it. For example in Newcastle we have a very popular blog/newsletter called Hunter Hunter. They review cafes, restaurants, new shops and anything cool and I and many others use them to find out about new places to try out. If you are opening soon try and get in touch with these kind of blogs and explain to them who you are and invite them to try your restaurant (maybe even for free).
These blogs are always on the lookout for new places to post articles about so they would be happy to be contacted. You are making it easy for them as finding new places can be very time consuming. However be a person when talking to these people, they will know when someone is trying to use them.
Why are we doing this?
In case you are wondering why we are doing this I will explain. People use a whole host of different websites to search for businesses other than just Google. In fact I would argue that people would rarely simply Google a restaurant and go there. They would go to check it out in other places too. Most businesses in Australia neglect a lot of these things and simply just set up a website (and a horrible one at that). Complete business listings with photos and reviews immediately makes you stand out.
This is basic digital marketing that many people overlook, mostly because they don't know about it. The other side of this is that creating profiles for your business on all these sites and linking back to your own website is good for SEO - i.e. Google search results. You must be consistent in your listings for this to be effective though. Essentially Google sees your brand, website and address all over the internet and associates them to your physical location. This means that if Google knows you are in Newcastle and a person in Newcastle is searching for your thing your business will be more likely to show up higher in the search results. So you get double benefits from following my tips.
There you go. These are very simple yet very effective tips to help your business off on its quest to local domination. The first point is the only one that costs money and all the others you should be able to knock out in little over an hour on the couch with a beer watching the tennis (the Australian Open is on at the time of writing this).