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“That’s why your first task should be simply searching for your business on various online business directories (like Citysearch and Google),” Tsai says. “Make a list of the skeleton profiles you find and note any changes that need to be made. Most online directories will allow you to log in and claim your page. From there, you can report and correct any errors and merge duplicate pages. As you’re working, make sure that every online entity you manage displays your business information in exactly the same way to avoid accidentally creating more duplicates.

Set up an online storefront…As you first develop your online presence, you may not have much free time or extra money to devote to this task. That’s okay—according to Tsai, it’s perfectly fine—even advisable—to take a minimalistic approach when building and furnishing your online storefront (i.e., your website). Bells and whistles aren’t nearly as important as making sure your website is professional, accurate, and representative of your offline storefront experience in terms of general tone and branding.

“Specifically, your site needs to convey reliable, accurate, and up-to-date information,” she states. “It should have a prominently displayed way to contact your business that allows browsers to easily get in touch with you if they want to. It should also have a trouble-free way for customers to read and write testimonials or reviews about the service or product you provide.

“Most importantly, your website needs to have the right keywords (and enough of them) located throughout the main and secondary site pages to ensure that you’ll rank in the first few pages when prospective customers are searching for what you offer.

…and monitor the neighborhood. One of the most exciting—and most frightening—aspects of the Internet is that it opens up a constant conversation among businesses, existing customers, and potential customers. Consumers who have used your product or service can publicly post glowing reviews or scathing criticisms, neither of which you can completely control, and both of which can have a marked effect on your present and future success.

Put yourself on the map. Most likely, you identified a few skeleton profiles when you searched for your business on popular online directories. Now it’s time to strategically augment them. Based on your location, identify the top three online directories consumers use when searching for the product or service you offer. For instance, social and crowd-sourced sites like Yelp and Foursquare tend to be more popular in major metro areas, while more traditional directories like Yellow Pages, Citysearch, and MerchantCircle are utilized in more rural areas. Make sure you prioritize search engine directories like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

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