In this five-part series, we’re looking at marketing tactics that can help boost your consulting business’ visibility and better sell your skills to the organizations that need them right now. Today we examine steps you can take to increase your online presence.
With all of the changes the pandemic has brought the world, one of the most significant for businesses large and small is the reality of an increasingly crowded market. As an independent consultant, differentiating yourself and making your value apparent are key—which is why the first three parts of this series have focused on building a unique brand, establishing expertise, and expanding your network.
The next piece of the puzzle involves increasing your online presence to help organizations looking for independent consulting talent find you easily so you can build a trusted relationship with them.
What constitutes an “online presence”?
Simply put, your online presence comprises everything that connects back to your—and your business’—identity on the internet. This includes both your website and social media accounts as well as papers or articles you’ve published, interviews, and events or speaking engagements you’ve participated in. It’s essentially everything about you that can be “Googled.”
But more importantly, it’s the impression you create via this conglomeration of digital identifiers. The more optimized your online presence is, the more compelling it will be to potential clients.
These recommendations will help you increase your online presence while presenting a consistent, complete picture of who you are, what skills you offer, and the value you provide.
Optimize your site’s search visibility
Standing out is important, but first you need to be visible. Applying best practices for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will help you appear higher in search results when companies are looking for someone with your particular set of talents.
There are a variety of tools out there that can identify specific SEO keywords to incorporate into your website’s pages. These should be woven into landing pages and blog posts naturally, both to appease search engine algorithms and to remain readable — and meaningful — to your audience.
Start by considering any trends or common issues that your content addresses, and use an SEO keyword tool to discover which closely related terms people are searching for. The most valuable keywords will strike a balance between a high number of people searching for it and a low number of sites using it. With the increasing use of Siri, Alexa, and other digital assistants, you may want to explore opportunities for voice search optimization as well.
Having a mobile-friendly site is equally essential, for both usability and searchability. Google’s algorithms rank mobile sites higher, and as of June 2019, 94% of internet searches happen on a Google property. Add to that the fact that more than half of all global web searches take place on mobile devices (excluding tablets!), and it’s easy to see why mobile optimization needs to be a top priority. Fortunately, Google will analyze your site’s mobile friendliness for free.
Improve contact data collection
You’ll want to make it easy for potential clients to connect with you, and you can personalize future interactions by learning more about them early on. Start by designing your contact or lead form to gather more than just their name and email—find out what industry they’re in, what challenges they’re facing, and what type of support they’re looking for.
At the same time, don’t go overboard or you’ll risk losing them before they hit “submit.” Keep it simple, and make it visual. UK technology company Venture Harbor examined the lead generation forms for 25 leading sites and found that the less a form looks like a form, the more successful it is. The best-converting forms consider the user’s intent, use clickable elements instead of plain text, and integrate conditional logic to ask questions that are relevant.
Make sure there are a few different ways you’re routing people to your form, too. Have a contact page you link to throughout your site, but also consider gating some of your most valuable content to collect information before a visitor can download it. The content they download gives you another level of insight into their interests and potential challenges they’re facing.
Create a robust content calendar
Consistently posting new content on your site will boost search rankings while also growing your online following. A content calendar can make consistent posting feel less daunting and help you standardize and refine your strategy. For example, you could plan to post a quick video tip once a week, then pepper in longer-form content and trend analyses throughout the month. If one or the other gets significantly more traction, you know which direction to focus on moving forward.
To further increase your online presence, the blogs and videos you create can also be repurposed on social channels and in monthly digest-style newsletters to extend your reach and drive readers/viewers back to your site. Avoid simply cutting-and-pasting, though. You’ll want to adjust your message, interactions, and formatting to fit each platform, both to keep it fresh for your followers and to sidestep potential faux pas.
Integrate social proof
As helpful as the internet is in connecting us, it has also eroded our trust for businesses in a big way. Social proof can help your independent consulting business clear this hurdle by associating the well-known (trusted organizations and industry leaders) with the potentially lesser known (you).
It can be as simple as posting about upcoming events that you are speaking at, displaying trust seals and certifications, or linking to key directory sites and talent platforms where you’re listed. The most compelling forms of social proof, however, include testimonials and success stories from clients who have expressed high levels of satisfaction with your past work.
When requesting testimonials from past clients, Hubspot recommends:
- Creating a template that can be tailored to your project
- Timing your request appropriately
- Giving clients a choice in the format (text or video)
- Offering a review / testimonial in return
Ideally, these social proof elements are woven throughout your site in key areas. If you choose to house them all on one page, though, make sure to underscore their relevance by organizing them in a visual and easily digestible manner. And don’t forget to include context, such as meaningful data and statistics, that clearly describes the value you bring to your projects.
Continuously analyze and refine
The only way to effectively attract the clients you want is to regularly reassess which channels and approaches work best for them—and for you. You can do this by reviewing your newsletter stats to see which links received the most attention, embedding a Google Analytics tracking code on your site to see who is visiting your site and which pages are getting the most traffic, and noting engagement on social media posts.
This data can then be used to refine your strategy. For example, you might identify trends that better inform your content strategy, or you might notice that certain topics are less compelling to your audience and deprioritize those. Once you’ve achieved a solid following, you can even include share/read stats on your posts to reinforce social proof. Use social tools that have a built-in threshold for displaying social share counts so you don’t work against yourself by displaying low share numbers.
In the next—and final—post of our series, we’ll take a look at how to engage your audience with meaningful interactions to strengthen your connection with them.
Emily is an award-winning writer who specializes in B2B marketing. She has been helping global brands reach targeted audiences to drive sales and awareness for more than 15 years. As a small business owner herself, she understands what it's like to source a team that can scale with sudden growth.