The term "digital footprint" has been around for quite a while now, but what exactly does that mean for your business? Basically, it is the digital trail that your business leaves behind on social media and the world wide web. Think of it as your company information, digital behaviour, and electronic reputation as a result of conducting business activities. They are traces left behind on the internet and from marketing messages and business statements.

It is very important to understand your specific business footprint. Even if you are a physical business with no website presence, other companies can affect your digital reputation when they mention your business. They can even leave reviews without your company having any input at all, which can improve or damage the reputation of your business tremendously.

 Back in the day, advertising was very easy for small business owners. All many business owners had to do to get their business noticed was to place an ad in the newspaper. However, times have changed. Today, you can’t succeed only with these traditional ways of advertising. With advancements in technology and the development of the Internet, people are moving to digital advertising. You cannot afford to be left behind.

Your company’s digital footprint is a vital part of its public image and appeal, and, in many ways, it is very much like the real world. If your brick-and-mortar shop looks clean, attractive, and well maintained, you will be welcomed in the community and will enjoy the benefits that come from positive word-of-mouth. Likewise, in your online presence, doing a good job of representing yourself will go a long way in getting customers and spreading the word about what you do.

 So, the important question to ask is, “How can my business have a positive and effective digital footprint that will drive customers to my business and make it grow?”.

 Well, there are several ways to improve your business’s digital footprint that are not very complicated. Here are simple steps you can take that will dramatically improve your online presence.

 STEP 1: Your Professional Website

Probably the most important thing a company can do in terms of establishing and broadcasting its online identity is to have a professionally designed website. It’s true that there are dozens of services out there that allow organizations to create do-it-yourself websites for free. But, as the age-old adage goes, “You get what you pay for.”

The truth of the matter is that 99 times out of 100, a do-it-yourself website looks like a do-it-yourself website. And when they use the internet to compare your company with your competitors, your customers are much more likely to choose the company with the professional, custom-made website. That’s because a good website helps build the trust and confidence of potential clients in the technical abilities of the business. In short, they will trust you more if you have an amazing website.

STEP 2: Your Social Media Presence

The next step any business should take in improving its digital footprint is to establish a strong, authoritative presence on social media. Why is this important? It’s important because the three billion people who use social media every month can’t be wrong. Social media is the easiest way to reach the broadest range of customers for the lowest price – free. Or, if not free, then for the cost of the office hours it takes to get it done.

Opening and posting to a Facebook or Instagram account cost nothing. But, of course, you can’t expect to simply open an account and become an instant digital success, either. Social media truly is the best route to reach the largest number of customers. But using it effectively takes a degree of skill and strategy.

To truly finesse your social media presence and maximize its potential can be a complex undertaking. It can absorb a ridiculous amount of your time. That’s time you could use for something else. Social Media Marketing has grown so much that now, an entire generation of professionals has sprung up with the exclusive purpose of marketing on social media. It’s true, you can hire a Social Media Manager to handle it for you. Of course, hiring a full time professional can be very costly, so that may not be an option for every business.

STEP 3: Digital Lead Generation

Gone are the days when business and sales were done primarily in printed text and personal visits. The world is simultaneously too small to write letters to everybody, and too big to visit everywhere. The only way to reach out and make contact with potential customers in large volume is on the internet. But where should you begin? Of course, a big part of that depends on the specific nature of your particular business. However, whatever your business is, whether your it is a growing medical practice or you sell artwork online, the internet is an amazing resource.

Generating leads is an art form. Some people have an aptitude for it, and some do not. What should you do if you need to find more customers, but you’ve exhausted your traditional methods, and you don’t know what else to do? Maybe you’ve even used the internet already, but you’re not satisfied with the results.

Well, you could hire an in-house employee to focus on lead generation. That would make sure it gets done and would probably result in an uptick in sales.

 STEP 4: Search Engine Optimization.

Search engines are software programs that apply user input to find specifically desired internet content from amongst a nearly infinite sea of websites and pages. Do you want to find out about pine trees? Type it in a search engine like Google, Yahoo! or Bing, press enter, and wait for the results.

But people also use search engines to find specific products, services and the companies that provide them. Wouldn’t it be great if the first company they find in a search was yours? Don’t you want to be at the top of the list, especially when the list can be thousands of items long? For this, your online presence must be optimized to match the search criteria of the most popular search engines. You need an expert who can help you adjust your website and content, to ensure that the search engine finds you when an appropriate search is made.

 STEP 5: Be Responsive

It is not enough to provide your audience with information about your business and sell your products to them; you need to also interact with them. Respond to all comments good and bad and find out what customers think about your business and products. This interaction is what will make your customers come back for more goods and services next time.

In all, improving your business’s digital footprint can involve a lot of work, but the results will be well worth it. With better online exposure and a good online reputation, you can target your audience, get noticed and find leads and customers who will likely make recurring purchases with your company.

The key is in building your online presence over time and using a transparent and relatable “persona” for your business, along with the appropriate online promotion tools such as content creation, SEO and social media marketing.

The most important thing, however, is your strategy and ability to organize all your tools in favour of promoting an improved digital footprint. For that purpose, you’ll have to get involved primarily on social media, and become an influential figure when it comes to attaining thought leadership in your desired niche. That way, people will come to you to solve their problems, and you can design your products especially around their needs, so you’ll get the maximum benefits from them.