Website 101: Promote your business online.
Did you know that 97 percent of consumers look online for local products and services? Yet, surprisingly, 47 percent of small businesses don’t have a website, according to small business mentoring foundation SCORE.
If your company doesn’t have an online presence, you may be missing out on key marketing opportunities to gain new customers and retain current ones.
And it doesn’t need to cost you a ton to create — expert estimates on what creating/publishing a website can cost, according to The National Federation of Independent Business, vary from about $22 a month to more than $230, plus up-front costs, depending on what management and construction method you choose.
Not sure where to start? Check out the following 6 tips to help you create a site that will win over your customers and prospects:
1. Find a design and publishing tool that works for you:
- You’ll first need to choose and register a domain name, which
- defines as a URL with www and your site name, followed by .com — your site’s address. Then, pick a service that’ll house your website on its servers. Some services will help you register a URL and provide hosting and site creation help. A few hosting and design services include:
2. Don’t want to DIY your site? Hire an expert: Inc. recommends hiring a mid- or senior-level developer if you need someone who can oversee site construction and maintenance. Expect to pay a median base salary of $48,000 to $64,000 for a general developer, according to Inc. — more for someone with an advanced skill set. You could also hire a temporary developer through an IT staffing agency, or post an ad for a web contractor on online staffing service/project-based websites for costs ranging from $3 per listing to 10 percent of the project cost or $50 per month, according to PCWorld. (Web developers make, on average, about $30-$32 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
3. Build it, and they will come: Now that you’ve laid the ground work, it’s time to build your site, which generally involves several phases, according to Smashing Magazine, including:
- Research and planning — when you’ll decide what you want your site to contain
- Design — the portion where you’ll determine what the site looks like
- Content entry — when the text you want included for the homepage and other sections will be incorporated
- Testing — your last chance to make sure everything works before you show your site to the world
- Go-live — your site undergoes a live server set-up and becomes visible to the public
4. Create relevant content: Your website should essentially be an online promotional tool, providing information about the products or services you offer, your background, credentials and other vital information. At the very least, your site should include “about us” and “contact us” pages, a site map, FAQs, and links to any social media sites you have, according SCORE — which found businesses that add social media components to their online strategy received 400 percent more unique site visitors. If you’re unsure where to start when it comes to developing content, check out this article from OpenVine.com for 9 tips.
5. Include a call to action: It may seem obvious, but be sure to include copy that tells customers how to obtain your products or services — or, the Small Business Administrationsays, risk losing them to the competition.
6. Plan for site management: Who will make updates to ensure content is current: You, another employee or an outside contractor or company? More than half of small companies (64 percent) said site management was their biggest challenge — more so than site maintenance costs, which only one-fourth of small businesses found most difficult, according to the National Small Business Association
For additional tips on what to include — and, more importantly, what not to include on your company’s website (such as that blog you’ll never update or fake testimonials) — check out Inc.’s Build a Killer Website: 19 Dos and Don’ts article.