It could be the end of you, or the start of your best years in business ever
If you own a business you should have a website, regardless of your other marketing methods whether you sell items online or provide just a service. Your website should detail your background, experience and other credentials to give you credibility and give potential customers more confidence when deciding whether or not to deal with you.
Whether you design your own website or hire someone to do it for you, it will be easier if you understand the process of creating your small business website.
- Decide the purpose for your website
What is it that you would like your website to do for you? It may be fairly static or you may want to use it for information about your company and provide articles and information you’ve written to clients and potential clients. You may of course want to sell products and services directly online.
This is a very important first step as you would be ultimately designing the website for your visitor and possible client.
- Choose a platform to design your website on
Based on what you want to do with your website, you do have several choices in software. Most of them are free. It is my suggestion that you maintain control of your website. Don’t get stuck with a website that has been created using software that is not easily available or understood.
If your main purpose is to sell products online, you should consider software which is specifically designed for e-commerce. However, if e-commerce is only a small part of your website’s purpose, you can get free or low-cost add-ons that work with most popular free content management software such as, Joomla! and WordPress. These are both CMS – Content management systems and will allow you to edit your website from any pc no matter where you are.
- Choose your domain name
Choose your domain name eg yourname.co.za This can be your company name or any name you wish people to identify your company with. Choosing a domain name is also going to give your email some branding. You don’t want your clients identifying you as email@example.com. It is more professional to be firstname.lastname@example.org. Owning your domain will also give you ownership of your email address no matter what isp you use to connect to the internet. I say take the control and better yet take ownership.
- Choose a reliable web hosting company
When choosing a hosting company there are a few important matters to consider. You can start your website with a small hosting pack and upgrade as you go along. Make sure your choice of website hosting company has a good record for uptime, support and turnaround time. I hear horror stories all the time of clients’ websites being down for long periods of time. You should also consider speed, bandwidth limitations, server space limitations, backups and server location. All these factors will affect your website. At the end of the day you want your website to be available 24/7 delivering speedy page requests, making your end users experience a pleasurable one.
- Choose a template and plugins for your website
Once you’ve chosen your domain name, software and hosting company, you need to start thinking about what you would like your website to look like. With many content management systems you will have the choice from hundreds or even thousands of different templates that give your website the look and feel you want. For instance, if you are a real estate agent, you might consider looking for a template that is geared towards selling real estate. This may include a template that will have relevant backgrounds and features that enable you to showcase your listings.
While free templates are readily available, don’t be shy to spend a small amount for a premium template. Visit www.themeforest.net for a wide variety of templates.
Whether you want to add a shopping cart, provide social networking share buttons, incorporate videos, start a podcast, require people to sign up to receive free material or downloads, create a portfolio of your photographs, and even run surveys, polls, or a newsletter, just about anything you can think of is available as an add-on at no cost. These add-ons are called plugins. This will save you plenty bucks as you won’t need to pay a developer to write you software for the functionality you are looking for.
- Organize your website
At this stage, you need to decide what to display on each page. First decide on your menu or navigation items. It’s important to think carefully about how you want to organize and structure the information on your website. Constantly think about your end user and what they would like to see. Make your navigation clear and simple.
- Create your website content
Obtaining content from my clients is always the hardest part of the process. It needs to be compelling to visitors and convey the right kind of information at the right level so visitors actually read it instead of moving on to the next website. When you write text, think about it from your visitor’s perspective.
In addition to text, you also need images. Making your pages professional looking is particularly important as visual impact and appeal are a key part of any website. I strongly suggest not using clip art. Keep it real, your clients will relate and respond more. Images can make or break a website. If you have bad images you could possible come off as an amateur in your field. Images speak louder than words and tell a story in an instant.
Keep your home page interesting, it is your shop front. Entice your visitor to read on and stay on your website. Don’t put the encyclopedia on your website. Keep your information concise and to the point.
- Populate and maintain your website
Most text and graphics are added using a built-in WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) webpage editor that is easy to use and does not require you to know anything about web programming. This editor allows you to cut and paste your text from any document and upload images from your computer. You will also have the ability to edit text size, color, font and other features as well as the sizing and placement of images. The editor will allow you to preview your material before you actually make it available for your visitors.
I have designed a few websites where clients have taken over the maintenance of their own site. Starting a website from scratch can be very daunting so you may want to hire a website designer to do this for you. When the initial site goes live, I suggest to those that request it, to take over their own sites. This will give you the ability to make your own edits and save some valuable cash.
- Let the world know you are here
Nobody buys a car and parks it in the garage. We drive our cars, service them and take care of them. The same should happen to your website. Don’t spend a small fortune on getting a website designed and just leave it, hoping visitors will find you. Every second of the day there are websites going live all around the world. You need to tell the world you are here and ready to do business. Make use of social media. Tell your friends and spread the word. Consider a Facebook Marketing Campaign or AdWords Campaign from Google. Getting ranked on Google is a catch 22 situation.
Google will never rank your page well because nobody visits it. You may ask yourself, how will I get people to visit if they can’t find me on Google. You will need to drive visitors to your site, make a noise and get some attention. Google picks up on this and you will slowly start getting better rankings from Google. Social sharing and paid campaigns is a small thing you can do to help market your lovely new website.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) will play a vital part in being found on Google. It is an ongoing process and comes at a price. I will discuss this in more detail in another blog.
- Hello, is anybody visiting my site?
You need to create a Google Analytics account. This is very simply as Google is very clear with their steps on how to create a Google Account. Once you have done this and inserted your tracking code into your website, you will start seeing some valuable data.
This data will allow you to choose dates, compare periods, view reel time visitors, page views, locations, genders, referring sites, keyword usage and many more stats.
Hope my article has outlined the basic process as simple as possible. If you have the time and knowledge to design your website, make sure you have the basics enabled. If you are looking at employing a website designer, don’t be fooled by any designer and know your basic website needs.
I will go into depth on each step in more articles.