How to Measure Your Online Footprint for Your Business Plan - dummies

How to Measure Your Online Footprint for Your Business Plan

By Steven D. Peterson, Peter E. Jaret, Barbara Findlay Schenck

Make sure your business is ready to embrace the growing impact the Internet has on your business. The year 2011 was the year in which half of all retail sales were influenced by web activity. By 2012, Google logged 1.2 trillion searches. And in 2013 more than half of all searches took place on mobile devices.

To make sure your business is prepared, make sure you do the following:

  • Open a search engine and type in your business name and study the first screen of results. Does your business dominate or is it lost in a sea of results for like-named businesses or people? Do results link to information that is current, accurate, and positive? The findings can help you determine whether your business plan needs to include steps for developing credible online presence.

  • Open a search engine and pretend you’re a customer or reporter who is searching for businesses like yours or for products like the ones you sell. What information would that person seek? Restaurants in San Antonio? Best battery rechargers? Golf instruction in Portland, Oregon? Enter the query and see if your business shows in the results. At the same time, see if your top competitors are among the results.

    Your findings can help you determine whether your next step needs to focus on enhanced online presence, findability, and search engine optimization (SEO).

  • Open your website on a number of different devices. Use a desktop computer, a laptop, a smartphone, a tablet, and a tiny-screen cell phone. On each, check to see whether key information about your business is easy to see and whether click-to-contact buttons are big enough for fat fingers to press.

    If not, include website redesign in your business plan, along with a reminder to employ what’s called a responsive web design, which allows you to create a single version of your website that auto-adjusts to display properly on all but the very oldest cell phone screens.

  • Get a candid opinion. Get someone outside your business to look at your website. After five seconds ask the person to describe your what your business does. If the answer isn’t clear and correct, begin a redesign — stat!

Depending upon your assessment of the quality and scope of your online presence, your business plan will likely address one of the following goals for online presence:

  • Online awareness and credibility: Conduct a search for your business name. If the results are few or, worse, if they lead to inaccurate or outdated information, set a goal to appear more prominently in search results by establishing a website or blog and social media pages you control, and by developing links to that site through publicity, posts, and mentions on prominent blogs and sites, and frequent online interactions.

    Also, be sure your website loads quickly and looks great on all screen sizes.

  • Online interactions: If your online presence is strong, make it your goal to broaden online connections and interactions with those in your target audience.

  • Sales: Unless your business is an online retailer, selling will likely be an indirect goal of your online program. In the same way no one wants to go to lunch with the guy who starts selling before the water is even poured, no one wants to receive pushy sales messages through social media interactions.

    Better to plan a program that delivers entertaining, educational, shareable, likeable messages that generate interest and pull people back to your website or a landing page on your website, from where they can begin the purchasing process.

In your business plan, include a description of your online program goals, along with key steps you plan to increase your online presence, findability, and interaction with consumers.