Beginner’s Guide to Improving Internet Presence
From Googling the movie quote that’s on the tip of your tongue to finding out what’s playing at the local cinema, we rely more on technology than ever before to keep us “in the know” and connected to our favorite people and brands. This leads to the question many grocery and c-store operators have, is it a good idea to create a specific website for their brand?
Start Improving Your Internet Presence
Let’s check out some of the pros and cons of creating your own website, establishing an internet presence and a few tips along the way. The ultimate goal is to make it easier for customers to find you.
Pros: Why Have a Website
Compared to some of the alternative methods that we discuss below, having your own website allows you to take customization to the max. By building the website yourself or hiring a freelancer such as those on Upwork, you can create a website that fits your brand to a T.
With a decent website designer, you can customize your site to include highlights of promotions, what makes your store special, public outreach, job postings, your contact information, suggestions and your locations. For instance, over on our site, ChampsChicken.com, you can see that not only do we highlight our promotions, but we also make it easy for prospective customers to find a location nearby!
The possibilities are endless when you have your own site. It’s important to have professional graphics to create the best user experience and retain site visitors. You can sign up for a few helpful tools for graphic design on a budget:
Canva – This is a free graphic design program that will allow you to create graphics for your site easily and professionally.
Pixabay – If you need royalty free images, this is a great place to get them. You don’t want to go around pirating images, so this is a good alternative.
Fiverr – If you need logos, videos, audio, etc. created, this is the place to get it for an amazing price. There are a ton of talented individuals on Fiverr that produce incredible results starting at $5.
Who wouldn’t want more people seeing your brand? Whether you are a large chain or a small local operator, this is a big benefit. By creating content with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in mind, you have the ability to reach hundreds and thousands of people.
While SEO tactics are a book in themselves, it’s basically formatting your content to rank higher on search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) for specific words and thus drive more traffic to your site.
Small c-store chains should focus on local keywords to be found, and ensure they use local city name, or even local areas. Think about what your customers are searching and create content using those words. While this is a little oversimplified, it’s a great place to start. For example, “Great Fried Chicken Has Found Its Way to Holts Summit.” as a page or blog title announcing your food service program.
Customer Contact Information
If you want to keep your customers coming back for more, not only do you need to provide awesome service and products, you also need to be top of mind. One of the most effective ways to do this is via email. Considering the average person uses their smartphone 5 hours a day, this is a great way to stay relevant.
Whether you are a national chain or a small mom and pop location, asking your customers to go to your site and sign-up for promotions and specials is an easy way to utilize your website. It’s effective, economical and can drive same-store sales. One free platform to get you started is Mailchimp. Their free service allows you to collect up to 2,000 subscribers and send over 12,000 monthly emails.
What is more credible to you as a prospective consumer, a business card or radio ad that directs you to www.Facebook.com/Store_Name12481, or one that sends you to www.StoreName.com? We all know the answer to that one. It subconsciously tells your prospective customer you’ve been around for a while and will be for years to come.
Cons: Why Find An Alternative
One con of having your own website is that are a few small costs. For instance, purchasing a specific URL can cost on average anywhere from a few bucks to $20 (or much more) to own the rights to that URL for a year. Obviously, this needs to be renewed every year.
Likewise, hosting services such as Bluehost or HostGator can require monthly hosting fees. There are free hosting alternatives, such as Wix, which allows you to build and host your website for free. This can also be a great place to start for new brands, especially when the main goal of the website is brand awareness.
Apart from the actual URL and hosting costs, you also need to consider the amount of time it takes to maintain the site. You want a site that provides a great user experience. This usually equates to updating any theme, plugins or content you use to make sure it’s relevant.
You don’t want graphics for a promotion you ran two years ago to still be front-and-center on your site. Browsing your site monthly for graphic and content updates goes a long way.
As you would expect, personally setting up your own site takes a bit of internet savvy. Don’t let that deter you. You can always hire a freelancer or use a platform such as Wix to help you create templates in a plug-and-play model.
Yes, it takes a little time and effort in order to create a site you can be proud of! That being said, there is probably an employee on your staff that has the aptitude to handle this issue, so check in with all of your employees to explore their skill sets.
Increasing Exposure with Facebook
If the cons outweigh the pros for your location, then at the bare minimum it’s ideal to have some sort of internet presence. With more than 1 billion active users a Facebook page can at least put your location(s) on the proverbial internet map.
Once you have your own Facebook profile, you can create a Facebook page for your store at this link. It’s best to complete the profile as thoroughly as possible with a phone number, address, store hours, etc.
You can use any of the above tools (Canva, Pixabay, Fiverr, etc.) to help flesh out your page with graphics to increase interest in your site. You can also reach out to your vendors for graphics related to specific products. Many vendors are more than happy to help you with Facebook graphics as it also increases their brand awareness.
TIP: Once you have your Facebook page up and kicking you can then invite all of your family and friends to like it to increase traffic and awareness.
Again, be as thorough as possible when filling out your page to make it useful for any prospective customers.
Get Google Listed
As we’ve mentioned, Google is the premiere search engine. Heck, it’s so popular, it’s become a verb (Google it). While your store may already appear on Google Maps or in their business listing, it’s best to double check by Googling your business. If it doesn’t appear, solve this by adding your information to Google Maps here and your business listing here.
Both of these features are free and definitely worth your time. Make sure your store is properly listed in the categories your customers will be searching for, such as convenience store. This step ensures your business can be found and serves as a great way to increase your SEO presence.
What do you do?
So, we’ve weighed the pros and the cons of building your internet presence via a website. We’ve also discussed some simple alternatives, so what are you to do? This really all boils down to what you have the time and budget to do well. A website can help your business, but only if it’s maintained and complete.
Creating a Facebook page and getting your company Google listed are mandatory steps, no matter the size of your company. A website is a great way to be found online, create customized content for your consumers, display your promos and gather email addresses that require minimal maintenance after it is up and running.
In the end, if your brand has more than a couple locations, a website becomes much more important and less of a hit to your business. If you can’t afford a website, the basic steps will get you found by potential customers.
Editor's Note: This blog has been updated for accuracy and content. It was originally published on January 12, 2017.