A Website – that’s not for a Small Business Surely?
One of the great wonders of the World Wide Web is that it is a great leveller. It gives access to millions of people to fantastic information and purchasing potential. Over 250,000 people per month gain access to the web world wide and many of these enter the internet for less than $1,000 a year
The internet market, thanks to the greater ease of access is surging ahead exponentially. So how is it a leveler? Web pages are presented in virtual space. The browser, or surfer, is not interested in where the company is based or how large it is, all of these are transparent to them. With a visually effective web page a small to medium company can compete with other larger companies.
The recipe for an attractive website consists of: a web programming tool, a domain name, a company to host your web, an effective design backed by a good business strategy, some time each month to maintain and update the website and, or course, something to say or sell.
Take care not to economize on your domain name. This is the address that your website is known by. Whilst it may be tempting to take the cheaper option and use the free space offered by most internet package providers, don’t unless your budget is really tight. The web address www.hostsite/yourcompany.co.uk does not look as impressive as www.yourcompany.co.uk . The cost of the latter starts at about $9 per year and hosting your site is about $100 per year. There are free web hosters available but these will subject your visitors to annoying adverts and more importantly – usually poor support.
For your hosting – this involves undertaking an informed choice. To start with, you need simple, reliable hosting. You obviously need email – but I have yet to find a hosting company that does not offer this. Bandwidth – the amount of traffic allowed to get to you site is the most expensive part usually. Think of bandwidth as a water pipe – the bigger it is the more people will be able to see your site. Next you need web logs – which tell you how many people have visited your site, where they came from and what pages they looked at. As you get more proficient – PHP and MySQL would be useful – this is a database and software combination that will help you with put functionality on your web site.
Do a simple search or buy any internet magazine and there are a considerable number of companies that will host your website and offer e-mail forwarding and other goodies. The best way of finding your ideal host company is to detail your requirements and then send them to a few likely companies. The best reply (that you can understand) is the company for you.
Now to the area that puts a lot of people off – the design and build of the website. This is not as difficult as many people think. Templates with simple click and build facilities are readily available or you can visit a web site such as elance or guru and get your site built quite cheaply. The key points to remember are that the web is a visual arena, and users have a very limited attention span. Make the loading of each page quick, especially the first page, which should just fill the screen. You can then offer links to other areas that you want your customers to view. If you want to sell from your site, most credit card merchants now offer shopping carts and easy set up.
Keep changing your web site in order to encourage repeat visits. Add competitions, special offers, jokes or information. Keep adding content – many people visit web sites looking for information.
Now the vital lesson. If you are going to sell on your website then you need the supporting business facilities to support enquiries and the selling and delivery of your products.
You’ve set up your website, now you have to let the world know that you have arrived. There are four ways, in order of effectiveness: Search Engines, Portals, Market Sites and Marketing.
Search Engines are used by surfers when they want information on a particular subject. Where ever possible, go to “add URL” on each site and follow the instructions. The major search engines usually require a payment on submission. Don’t fall for the top ten listing in Google adverts – it is impossible to guarantee this.
Portals are groups of like-minded sites that can all be accessed from one major site or portal. Examples are sports information or small business information.
A Market is a group of merchants, usually grouped geographically or by product or service, who all use a central website to advertise on. Examples are groups of realtors/estate agents, medical services or “Our Town”.
Marketing can be via banner exchanges, complimentary links, quoting your website on all your correspondence or the most effective of all – pay per click advertising.
Most importantly, before you set your website up, decide what your business strategy is going to be. Are you going to: inform, sell, seek AdSense or similar revenue, or a combination of all three. Make sure that this strategy fits in with the rest of your business. A website can be time consuming but it can also be very rewarding. Good luck.