Small businesses and organizations trying to grow their online presence are often told that one of the best ways to increase traffic to their blogs or websites is to start building relationships on these platforms.

The wisdom goes that, by sharing information and comments on social media, news websites, blogs, and email marketing, you’ll establish your organization among industry peers and potential customers and supporters.

In turn, that will grow your presence and lead to new sales and donations, because more people will visit your website and find out about your organization.

But this only works if you’ve if you’ve left an online trail.

What’s an online trail?

An online trail is made from all of those comments, social media profiles and posts, and emails you write for your organization. The trail should lead from each of these locations back to your website proper.

Your job is to follow the trail yourself and figure out if anything’s missing. If there are any online profiles that don’t lead back to your website, you’ll want to fix those as soon as possible.

Here are the three main places you want to leave an online trail for potential supporters and customers:

1. The blog

Not all small businesses and nonprofits have a blog, but it’s a good idea to start one.

This year, Google AuthorRank is putting more emphasis than ever on quality content, so having a blog with regular posts can really help boost your rankings in search engines and show off your expertise and personality to potential customers and supporters.

The trick is to find out how your blog fits on your trail. When you’re creating a blog platform, make sure there are visible links to your main website or any other resources people need to find out more:

By offering lots of links to visitors, you can make sure your blog is a gateway to your website.

At the end of each post, make sure there’s always a next step for people to take and, if possible, something that leads them to learn more about the organization:

A question, a link, and social share buttons are all great ways to make sure there’s a next step for blog readers.

And, if you’re commenting on another blog, make sure the online profile used for the comments is updated with your own website and organization information.

2. Social media networks

Nowadays, a lot of organizations have Facebook Pages, Twitter handles, LinkedIn accounts, and Pinterest boards. That’s good because each helps brands grow awareness.

But you’re missing opportunities if your social profiles don’t have bread crumbs in place. Specifically, this means putting your web address and any other relevant information on all of your social media profiles.

There are a lot of Facebook Pages without the basic information for a business (hours, homepage, location, menu) and that means your fans can’t easily get to your website.

3. Email marketing

When you send an email, the email should also have a next step. Often, that means linking to different articles, blog posts, or content that will lead readers deeper into your website.

We do that when we send out our monthly Hints & Tips newsletter and that’s really helped boost engagement and traffic on this very blog.

There are all sorts of options when it comes to creating bread crumbs for an email newsletter. Service businesses can make “Reservation” buttons, businesses with complex products and services can have “Learn More” buttons, and nonprofits can have “Donate” buttons.

The bottom line is that your email should offer an obvious, concise way for someone to take a next step.

Here are 10 examples of email campaigns from small business and nonprofits that do just that.

What’s this really about?

At the end of the day, you’re trying to make it easy for your potential audience to find you when they need what you’re offering.

Make sure you’re putting down the crumbs and leading people to where you want them to go.

How do you form a trail of content that leads people to the next steps? Let us know below!