This really isn’t a joke. If you don’t have a website it won’t be long before you’ll be out of business. We use the Internet for everything these days. We make friends and talk about things, we buy things, and we research things before we buy them, all online. When someone asks you a question (like where is a good place for Chinese food?) you first think about the experiences you have had in the past. Where you’ve eaten, what you’ve heard people talking about, and what you have noticed as you traveled around town. If that quick mental search doesn’t yield any response the next thing you do is pull out your phone and search online. In fact, for a growing number of people, that is the first thing they do (forget about thinking…)
So, what does this mean to you? Well it means at a minimum you need a simple one page website with some basic information about your business on it. If you are a business with a physical location you need to connect it to Google Places. This makes finding you so much easier for those glued to their smartphones.
Websites used to be complicated, long projects that cost thousands of dollars to build and maintain. It sounds like a daunting task so we just keep ourselves busy with running our businesses. With today’s technologies like WordPress and shared hosting, and techniques like using pre-built themes and crowdsourcing, you can easily put a simple business website together for less than $150. I don’t want to go into the technical aspects of creating a website today. There are step-by-step guides to help you through that process. Today I wanted to talk about the high-level mechanics of building a business website.
The first step is to think about the purpose of your website. There are really 3 main things a website can do. Going from simplest to complicated your website can be informational, like an online business card or listing, it can be a sales tool to help market and sell your products or services, and it can be a store to actually sell the products and collect payment. Figure out what you want to do with your website in the long run, but don’t be afraid to build it in phases. All you need to get started is a single informational “about” page that describes your business.
Choose a domain name
The domain name is the address people use to get to your business website. It needs to be easy to remember, tell people about, and ideally type (it is generally not a good idea to do things like substitute a “4” for the word for.) If you have a business (and therefore a business name) you probably want to start with that. If that is taken add words to the beginning or end to find something that is available. I always try to stick with a .com domain if possible but I’ve used .net too. I’ve never used others, and I don’t recommend it. (One thing to note is that you can change your domain name later if you need to. It is more complicated than getting it right the first time, but don’t let this be a stopping block for you.)
Hosting is the physical location where your website exists. All of your files (images, text, etc…) are stored on a server and your domain name points to that server so people can access those files. There are lots of hosting services out there. For a small business, most shared hosting will do, however I recommend bluehost.com as they have a reasonably priced package that offers what most websites need. (They also allow you to register your domain with them for free which saves $10 and significantly decreases the complexity of setting up your website because your domain is already pointed at your server.)
Find a Theme
So, what do you want your new website to look like? It used to be that you would pay a designer $1000 or more to build out your website exactly the way you need it. Today there are thousands of beautiful pre-built themes that you can drop on your site and then customize to some extent, even without any programming. Most of these themes are less than $50 and 99% of websites will look great using a theme.
Once your website is up and running (or as you get it going) you will be bombarded with tips to make your website function better and be found easier. Things like SEO, Social Media, Videos, Press Releases, plugins and other features and tactics. These are all important at some point but be sure you are building on a solid foundation. If you use WordPress to set up your website there are a ton of tools that will help you to extend and customize your website, but to start, get your website up. WordPress is a good, solid base for a website, business or personal, and if you want you can easily get your site up for less than $150.
There are a lot of things that you can do with a website, but the most important is to have one.