We’re here to tell you that is not the case.
If you follow these 10 steps, you could have a business website up and running in no time at all, and at a fraction of the cost you expect.
- Register a domain name: This is your internet address (like your physical address, but virtual). It is the www.yourbusinessname.com that people key in to get to your website. It is often best to use your business name, if available, or to use a descriptive domain name – so if you sell padlocks, it might be www.padlocks.com. It is really important here to do the research – www.padlocks.com and www.padlocks.com.au are two different addresses (as are www.padlocks.net or www.padlocks.biz) , so if you want to avoid confusion, steer clear of registering a name that is similar to a competitor’s, and if possible, register all possible extensions.
- Choose a hosting service: If you are a large business, you can probably host your own site. But this can be expensive, and means you will probably need an IT department. A better option for small or medium business is to pay someone to host your site for you. This may limit your software and hardware capabilities, but it means much lower start-up fees and monthly cost, and you can get your site live reasonably quickly. And not all hosting services are created equally – if a bargain seems to good to be true, it probably is. And it probably means that you will be sharing the “cloud” with many other business, and the risk of downtime is high – not a good look if you are relying on your website for leads. (There are also some options where you pay nothing, but your site will have a domain that tells your customers it’s free. We don’t recommend this as it can look unprofessional)
- Decide on the type of web site: Do you need a shopping cart? Or the website merely an online brochure? Are you going to include a blog? News articles? A forum? A membership section? What pages are essential? Many small service business only really need a handful of web pages – home, about, service and contact at a minimum. And bricks and mortar businesses, the site may only be an avenue to drive people to the physical location (or at least make a phone call. (as an aside, here at Direct Sites Online, we hardly know anyone who still “let’s their fingers do the walking”. Instead, they let their fingers do the Googling – so if you don’t have a website, you will be virtually invisible).If all you need is an online presence, there is no point spending time and money on a website with all the bells and whistles. Another question you might want to ask before you start, is whether you want to be able to update it yourself once it is live – in which case you will want it to be developed using an open source CMS (content management), such as WordPress. Do your research by having a look at the sites of similar business and see how they present themselves online. Then talk to your developer about what you like, as well as what works and what doesn’t.
- Build yourself or hire a designer: Gone are the days where you needed to learn HTML to build a website – much of the latest CMS platforms offer WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). Which means anyone can build a site. But it doesn’t mean anyone should. For starters, without experience it might take you a lot of time – that could otherwise be spent earning a living. And without some knowledge of what good website design is, it might also mean that your gorgeous site that you spent hours agonising over, does not actually attract a single paying customer. If you can afford to, a better option is to get someone to design and develop it – it may be cheaper that you think, drop us a line on email@example.com to find out how we can help. Oh, and if you have some skills but lack others, we can help you with the things you are unfamiliar with.
- Get optimised: When people are looking for your product or service, the will general key in a phrase in their preferred search engine (the most common are Google, Bing or Yahoo). So it’s vital to make your site “search engine friendly” so that you can be found. Simple on-page SEO include using the keywords phrases that people might use to find your business. But don’t go overboard – search engines don’t look kindly on what’s known as “keyword stuffing”.
- Test your site before going live: Make sure you get people to look at it on various size screens and using various browsers (the most popular are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer). And don’t forget smart phones and tablets. What they should be looking for a colours and layouts – for instance, does the most important information still appear “above the fold” on the page on a smaller screen? Naturally, while you are checking the technical aspects, it doesn’t hurt to check for spelling and grammar errors – you don’t want to look sloppy and unprofessional.
- Promote your site: Start by adding your URL to all your promotional material – including email signatures, letterhead, business cards and flyers. Next you can list the website on a number of free directory sites (such as True Local or Hot Frog) and upload your site map to Google (and other search engines).
- Analyse your traffic: Use software such as Google Analytics to track the visitors who some through your site – where they are landing, where they go and when and where they leave. This is a great way to figure out your best (and worst) performing pages and ensure continual improvement of your site. Your developer or web host can help you with this.
- Seek feedback: Want to know what people think of your site? Well, ask them! You can put a survey up or your site through an application such as Survey Monkey or Zoomerang, or you can seek opinion via social media channels. Community forums are also a great way to get feedback from potential customers – but if you are hosting a forum, it can be incredibly rewarding, but time-consuming to moderate.
- Review and refresh: A website is not a tattoo and not only can it be regularly updated – it should be regularly updated. There are a couple of reasons for this – first, it looks unprofessional if people are landing on a website for information and seeing advertisements for specials and events that ended months ago and secondly, Google LOVES fresh content In fact, if you don’t update your content reasonable regularly, Google may end up not seeing you at all.
If you want to get online efficiently and effectively, call Direct Sites Online of 02 9557 7623 or email firstname.lastname@example.org