How to Build a Welcoming & Inclusive Small Business Identity Online

Are you showing your audience that you're an inclusive small business, or are you alienating communities that could benefit from your services?

We’re wrapping up Pride Month, and many brands have been showing their support for (or their desire to sell to) the LGBTQ+ community in different ways. It’s popular to use a rainbow version of their logo to commemorate the month. However, when your action doesn’t reflect how your business behaves throughout the year – it’s viewed as performative, or bandwagon marketing designed to just drive sales. If your goal is to show the world that you run a respectful and inclusive small business, keep reading.

How do I show my audience that we’re really an inclusive small business?

Having an effective online presence is more important than ever. But in a sea of digital noise, how can you make your business stand out and welcome a broader range of customers?

Many small business brands depend on stock imagery when creating digital content, especially for their blogs, social posts, and websites. When you fail to consider different skin tones, identities, body shapes, and abilities, it may come across as disrespectful and as a harmful act of unconscious rejection against specific communities. As a result, you also could limit your brand’s reach to only a very small audience, when your intentions were to welcome everyone. Well, we’re here to help you change that!

Different audiences want to be well represented online. People are more likely to respond to a piece of content when they see themselves represented in it. It’s an emotional connection that leads to a positive view of your business.

Did you know that 88% of American marketers say that adding diverse images and content to a brand’s content benefits its reputation? It may seem obvious, but many businesses fail to connect the two – especially small businesses. So in essence, inclusive marketing is not just the right thing to do, it’s really good for business!

Standing out from the crowd as a diverse and inclusive small business involves gaining a clear understanding and mastery of some basic principles, such as making your website as user-friendly as possible and creating engaging, consistent content. There are quite a few ways to not only drive traffic to your site but also convert your browsers into buyers.

Here are some great tips we have compiled to help you turn your business into a diverse and welcoming brand in no time. Let’s start by getting your website in shape and ready to deliver the right content to your new visitors.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Search Engine Optimization is about fine-tuning your website content to rank higher in search results so a wider range of customers can find you easily. It sounds super-technical, but don’t panic, the concept of SEO is actually quite simple once you get the hang of it.

It’s important that you don’t abuse or take advantage of Google’s algorithm, since that could flag your website and push your business down in search results. Having the right knowledge of SEO will help you significantly increase your traffic and, in turn, increase your chances of making that sweet sweet sale.

Best practices for SEO include:

Your search intent should guide your website copy

Look closely at the layout of your website. Will the descriptions and titles catch a visitor’s attention? Can your content answer common questions or satisfy a need they might have?—be honest with yourself! It’s ok if it’s not perfect, the first step to improving your site is being aware of its shortcomings.

When your site contains keywords and answers to common questions, the search algorithm will find you more easily and pull you closer to the top of search results. Also, opting for accessibility options, and clear metatags and image descriptions, make it easier for not only visitors with impairments to still enjoy your site, but also make it easier for the site to be indexed.

Make your website run faster

The sluggish load time of a website has frustrated all of us at one time or another. We might hit refresh to get things to reload, but if it takes more than a few seconds, we have already moved on to another site.

Your site might be slow if your images and videos are too large. You can decrease your website’s loading time by shrinking your image sizes.

Use only reputable and authoritative links on your site

Add links from reputable, trusted sources to your blogs and social media posts. The links you provide to your customers should be informative and useful to them. It might seem counterintuitive to direct people away from your website, but it will pay off in the long run as you will build trust and reinforce your reputation among your visitors and search engines alike! It’s a win-win!

woman in hijab reading a blog post on her cell phone and smiling

How do I make my small business brand authentic, appealing, and inclusive?

The key to generating visits to your website is to regularly post engaging content that represents your audience. However, it may be difficult to connect with your target audience right away. To make your website one that people keep returning to, you must provide quality content that will capture their attention straight away and keep it there as long as possible. Our five tips below will help you produce engaging content regularly to help you do just that!

1. Consistency is key

A website that provides consistently updated content keeps visitors coming back again and again. On average, online visitors spend 96 seconds reading a blog post so if you don’t have content that attracts their attention, then you’ve just lost a potential customer.

To maintain reader engagement and get them exploring your site for longer, you will need to create content that personally interests them, creates an emotional connection, or fulfills a need. Keep doing this and you are on track to success!

2. Post quality content only

It’s important to create posts that provide intrinsic value for your readers. If you want to be viewed as a trusted and inclusive source by your readers, you will need to post credible, useful information. Before you write, you may have to do some research to back up what you say. Consistently generating great and relevant content can be challenging, so you may want to hire a writer with a different background or perspective from your own if you need help on a specific topic. Budgeting time, resources, and research for content creation is one of the best ways to ensure quality articles reach your readers consistently.

3. Variety is the spice of life

For your content to pull in readers from different backgrounds, you’ll need variety in your subject matter. It is ok to focus on a specific niche, but try creating different articles or social posts that cater to different types of demographics and tie them back to your business. Need inspiration? It’s always a good option to plan blog posts for upcoming holidays or important causes, such as Chinese New Year or Juneteenth, or showing your support for the Special Olympics. Brainstorming with your team to gather ideas can be a great way to drum up new content ideas quickly.

4. Craft an enticing headline

Your website’s success depends on getting readers’ attention. The most important job of a headline is to get readers to read the first sentence of your post. The job of the first sentence is to get them to read the next one, and so on. Consider why you search or click on a blog, and apply that in your own work.

5. Think about your audience

Think about what your audience would want to read when trying to come up with topics to write about. If you are running dry on prompts, perhaps you could engage with your audience directly on social media and ask them what subjects they would like you to touch on. After you’ve gotten their input,  incorporate these ideas into your future content and watch your traffic skyrocket!

diverse range of people gathered together and laughing

Where can I find diverse and inclusive stock images that are appropriate for my business?

Oh stock photos…

Let’s face it, stock photos can be a real mixed bag of great, terrible, or straight-up bland, you never know just what you might find.

Yet, did you know there’s also a weird category of stock imagery that emphasizes stereotypes? Even though America is becoming a more diverse nation, especially among 18–39 year olds, why do companies continue to pluck images that scream “look! here’s a picture of diverse people!” to use on their websites? While we may never quite know the answer, you can choose not to be part of this group and go off and do great things with quality photos that truly show how diverse our country really is.

Lean in on showing people just doing what your customers do with their time. Make the the diversity in the images a natural thing. Don’t focus on how different people are. Instead, focus on how normal it is to be different.

Here are some great resources you could try for your next blog or social post.

The Gender Spectrum Collection

Stock photography rarely portrays transgender and nonbinary people. By representing members of these communities, we need to take into account that their individuality is more than just their gender identity—it is also their careers, hobbies, relationships, and more. So sing it loud and proud with the Gender Spectrum Collection!

TONL

The mission of TONL is to highlight the stories of people from all backgrounds and to transform the generic and staged look of most stock photos into things of art. They create realistic narratives for minorities and in turn better quality images for all.

CreateHER

Candid, authentic, and diverse, this site caters to marketers looking for stock photos of women of color. And we definitely need more sites like this!

nappy

At nappy, they focus on delivering high-resolution, realistic photography of people of African and middle-eastern descent, with themes such as: active, food, people, places, things, and work—making it easy for you to find the perfect photo for your topic.

Body Liberation Photos

As its name suggests, this site chose to break away from the norms of depicting young, thin, white, able-bodied people in their content. As a stock image source, they do an especially great job representing plus-size people in their work.

Now that you have the tools for success, you are ready to create some amazing and inclusive content!

Running your business online requires hundreds of invisible steps. We make sure they all work for you. At Main Street Marketing Tech, our team of local marketing experts is here to help you get one-stop website management and strategic tech planning, along with friendly 24/7 support to empower your small team to make big things happen. Contact us today to book your free strategy call.

You may also like