So far in this series about online marketing for merchants, we’ve shown you how to utilise social media and websites to extend your brand and create new business opportunities – directly and indirectly.


Once you’ve ticked these boxes, you aren’t finished with your foray into the digital world. Rather, you’ve just begun. The most important component in your digital marketing efforts is the management of your company’s online presence.  


The starting point


To be able to manage your online presence, first you need to know how your company fares on the web. The easiest way to do that is to Google it. Make sure you’re using a clean browser with no history or cookies as this will skew the results (for example, use Firefox if you usually use Chrome). Type your company name into the search box and navigate through the first couple of pages of results, paying close attention to the first few results in particular. This is what potential customers will see if they want to find out about your business. Ideally, they’ll see a link to your website and your social media pages, or perhaps a complimentary article on another website. If your business name is quite common you may have to add your location to the search terms to find your company.

Evaluate what you’ve found. Will prospective customers find the info they need? Will they gain a good impression of your brand? Are there any negative comments and reviews in the first page or so of results? Are opening times and contact information easy to find on the search results page?


Reputation management


Now that you know how your brand appears to the outside world, you need to manage it. Aim to complete the following reputation management tasks regularly:

·         Update your website and social media pages to remove out-of-date offers, information and events.

·         Add new posts to social media pages and websites if nothing new has been uploaded in the past 1-2 months.

·         Check that opening hours, contact details and address details are correct on all your online channels.

·         Respond to feedback – particularly complaints. Don’t delete negative comments. Instead, reply to them in a courteous manner, apologise for the problem and say what you’ll do to make it up to them and prevent it from happening again.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is another part of online reputation management that helps your website appear higher on search engine results pages for certain search terms.  It’s a complex field that we won’t explore fully here, but at present the golden rule is ‘content is king’. Regularly update your website and social media channels with interesting content and for the most part, SEO should take care of itself.


Your personal social media accounts


Senior members of the business also have a responsibility to manage their own online presence to help your business. For example, if your CEO’s Twitter page appears in the first page of search results when searching for your company, it won’t make a great impression if they swear copiously in every other Tweet. Ask your senior staff to make their personal social media accounts either private or professional. 

Overall, when you manage your online presence your goal is to give the public a good first impression of your brand and show that your company is competent and trustworthy. Now your instore or online shopping experience must live up to that impression!

We’re nearing the end of our series of digital marketing tips for traders – stay tuned for some hints and tips on effective email marketing campaigns.