How to Establish a Successful Web Presence for Your Business

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1 How to Establish a Successful Web Presence for Your Business

2 How to Establish a Successful Web Presence for Your Business 2 Establishing an online component to your business is essential for any business owner, whether you re a small local retailer or a large conglomerate. Michael Walsh from StartUpNation equates not having a website to not having a phone number for your business 1 In today s global economy, a website is an essential tool for marketing, advertising and communicating. People are utilizing the Web in greater numbers for both personal and professional use. A recent study indicates that over 110 million websites exist 2 and more than 1 billion people around the world utilize the Web s riches 3. Even if you are a local small business, service, contractor or consultant the chances are high that people have used search engines to look for your website. Thus, if you don't have a website, you re already behind the game. Think of your business Web page as a 24-hour, year-round billboard aimed at your customers and prospects. One common misconception about business websites is that they must provide ecommerce services. But while ecommerce websites are increasingly popular, the vast majority of business websites are still information and communication-based rather than purchase-oriented. In fact, of the 6.4 million U.S. companies with a payroll (averaging 16 people each), only about 30% sell things. 4 Therefore, even if your products and services aren't intended for Internet sales, you still need a Web page of your own. Why It s Important to Get Your Business Online Getting your business online is about reaching out and connecting with millions of potential customers, buyers, and partners. Statistics show that Internet users comprise over 23% of the world s population 5. Therefore, building a website is the most scalable way to attract potential customers from all over the world. A Web presence expands your market significantly and instantaneously. All of the excitement about ecommerce (selling things online) sometimes overshadows the fact that not every business offers products or services suitable for online sales. It is important to know that consumers use the Web to find sources for offline shopping and organizational information as well. In fact, increasing numbers of consumers well over half the American population, and climbing are using the Web to find everything. It is their first stop for locating a business around the corner or across the globe. Establishing an online presence can also boost cost efficiencies. You can save money by limiting the amount of expensive mailings you send out and targeting your advertising and marketing more efficiently to the clients visiting your site. Those who visit your business website click on it because they have a specific interest in your company s product or service, which you can use to your advantage by signing customers up for newsletters and then collecting their addresses for business purposes. While getting your business online may seem daunting at first, remember that a professional website is the ultimate marketing and advertising tool and will ultimately save your company money. 1 Get Your Startup Business Online by Michael Walsh, StartUpNation. 2 Domain Counts & Internet Statistics". Name Intelligence. August Emarketer, February Internet World Stats

3 How to Establish a Successful Web Presence for Your Business 3 Phase 1: Choose and Register Domain Name The first thing you will need to do is to choose and register a website name, commonly known as a domain name or Web address. The website domain name is the address of your business Web page. For example, the domain name or Web address for Network Solutions is networksolutions.com. A domain name is how people find your site online and is one of the most valuable aspects of your business s online presence. In short, your business domain name is an important key to your business s online identity. Ideally, the address of your Website will match the name of your business. In reality, many addresses are already taken (you can always offer to purchase it from the owner, but beware of those who look to cash in on a pool of unused domain names they ve bought cheaply).vii If that's the case for you, give some thought to an original Web page address/name that reflects your business: ABCmytownname.com, perhaps, or something similar. Remember, your Web page address should deliver your business's name as closely as possible, as well as being memorable and distinctive. Your website's address is a marketing tool as well. You will search for your domain name s availability at a website of a domain name registrar such as Network Solutions. A reputable registrar will offer tools to help you find the domain name, and easy path to register (purchase) the domain for a period of time, and reminders to renew that registration to help insure your domain name remains yours for as long as you need it. Registration establishes your ownership of the domain for a set period of time usually one or two years, although longer registration periods are available. Here are some quick tips for choosing a domain name: Do make it simple and short Do use descriptive words that describe your business Don t use hyphens. Don t use numbers if you can avoid it. Phase 2: Establish a Website Once you ve committed to creating an online presence for your business a website and registered your business s domain name, the time has come to design and build the site itself. As with so many aspects of the Web, site design and construction offers many options. Design It Yourself You can do this yourself or you can ask a relative or friend to do it for you. The friends and family route, however, may be less than satisfying when simple design requests take weeks or months to accomplish, or more complex requests never get done. There is also the risk of offending your help when the final deliverable is not what you envisioned. Website creation software makes building a website for your business almost as easy as creating and sending an . Using professional design templates, this software lets you accomplish building a website quickly, efficiently, and for a very small price. Building your own website also gives you the most control over updating the site s content as often and as quickly as necessary without waiting on a professional designer to do it for you. In addition, online

4 How to Establish a Successful Web Presence for Your Business 4 website building tools let you update your site at any computer with Internet access. So, if you re out of town and your website content needs updating, you can do so from a remote location. However, if you choose to do it yourself, remember that learning to use the tools of website design takes time and commitment. Factor in time spent to update your site and you may soon find that running your business has taken a back seat to maintaining your website. This is why many business owners turn to professional website designers to create and maintain their site. But choosing the right professional designer is the key to your site s ultimate success. Hire a Professional Designer You can hire the services of a professional website designer. By checking references and examining samples of their work, you can be assured that your designer is competent, efficient, and provides work in a timely and professional manner. Above all, you should be confident that the design service you select possesses the proven technical expertise to create a website that reflects well on your business, delivers your message effectively, and takes advantage of the Web s special ability to market your products or services. An effective and experienced designer will provide a wide range of services either personally or through vendors with whom the designer has relationships that include design, professional copywriting that both delivers your business message and attracts the attention of Web searches, specialized online marketing and advertising support, regularly scheduled updates and the ability to respond promptly and efficiently to unexpected needs (special sales, new or changed product announcements, etc.) Website Look and Style Images, graphics, photography and a custom logo will help to reinforce your brand identity online but remember to keep it consistent with your brick and mortar business. Design should be crisp and clean making sure every page is easy to read and follows a logical reading path for both the human eye and the search engine spider. Your Website Should Be: Clean and uncluttered Typefaces should be clear and easily readable Colors should coordinate and enhance each other Important features should be prominent and easily found, including: Security assurances Purchase and check-out buttons (if applicable) links Professional designs should provide the ideal balance of proven effective design layout combined with customized image features. The images used on your website should always reflect your brand identity. Images and logos should be used to enhance the look and feel of the Web page, but a designer should never use an image to replace the use of written content, as it is the text that will be read by a search engine and used to find and rank your website.

5 How to Establish a Successful Web Presence for Your Business 5 Ongoing Site Support and Maintenance Knowing exactly what you need from a website isn t always clear until it goes live and you can see how your customers are using it. So it can be helpful to find a professional designer that is able to provide you with a website designed to enable growth (e.g., build more pages or sections as your business requires). Most designers can support ongoing maintenance packages that will enable you to modify or add to your website easily and periodically as your needs change. Ecommerce Ability Having an ecommerce component to your website (if your company sells products) is absolutely essential to a solid business model. A 2007 Accenture survey of more than 600 U.S. consumers found that most consumers use the Interest as part of the shopping process even if they also go to the physical stores to purchase the items 6. If your goal is to sell your products or services online, make sure you pick a designer that can demonstrate successful ecommerce Web design and can provide the specific features that you need for your business, such as integration with accounting software, ability to offer discounts and special promotions, product quantity limitations that match your inventory, technical support and security compliance. Effective ecommerce website design should support multiple payment options for your customer and make it quick and easy for them to search for, find and buy your products. Every page should include a standard layout that clearly identifies the important features such as; shopping cart, my account, purchase buttons, price lists, etc. A professional designer will be able to guide you through the technology that will secure your ecommerce website and protect your customer s transactions including: the use of technology that meets or exceeds industry standards for the protection of credit card information; shopping cart security features that include the encryption of sensitive data transmissions; multiple firewalls; and access restrictions to the hardware which stores credit card data. Online Security is Key! Security is in many ways the most important aspect of online business, both for you and for your customers. The convenience and global reach of the Internet is matched by the perceived risk many consumers still feel about shopping online. Fortunately, there are several steps that you can take to both provide the highest levels of security and, equally important, assure visitors to your site that your business is secure. The key to ensuring the security of your business website is by working only with vendors who practice the highest levels of security themselves. Be certain that your site is protected by: High-level anti-virus software Hacker-proof defenses (called firewalls) Constant upgrades of all defenses Assurance that confidential material from your site will not be shared with third parties 6

6 How to Establish a Successful Web Presence for Your Business 6 If you are actually selling products and services online and accepting credit card transactions your site must provide absolute transaction security. That includes translating all financial information into highlevel code (encryption) and exchanging that information only after a special secure connection, called a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)1 connection is established and verified by a third-party authority. Phase 3: Get Found Online So you've worked hard to create a fully functioning, professional website. Hours of toil were spent making your site a pleasurable experience for visitors. The layout is crisp, the design attractive, and the navigation simple. The challenge now is how to get consumers to find your site. Most people find things on the Web by using a search engine. These tools including, Google, Yahoo! and others maintain constant indexes of the world s websites (including yours!) and enable customers to search through all of the millions of sites for the ones that most closely suit their needs. Below are some ideas to get found online. One piece of advice -- use an integrated approach by utilizing some aspects of the following strategies: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) About 71% of consumers use a search engine (such as Google or Yahoo! ) to find their desired websites. This means that you, as the business owner, must utilize all aspects of the Web to lure visitors to your site. The art of making that happen is called search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is all about increasing your online website visibility by creating the right keywords to describe what you offer, organizing your site to capture search engine attention and building good links to your site from reputable sources. You can do much of this yourself, or seek help from one of the SEO services catering to small business. SEO services will increase website traffic by placing your address in search engine result pages top rankings whenever an Internet user enters a keyword specific to your site into an engine's search bar. This method of website promotion can increase your customer base many fold within months. Approximately 65% of all traffic generated by a search in a search engine will go to the sites listed within the first page returned. Professional SEO agents assure their clients success by tactfully creating site content that abide by the "rules" of the search engine spiders, mechanisms that dictate which pages rank well. Spiders determine the "value" of a site using algorithms. They scan a site's content, determine its subject matter based on "keywords," penalize the site for improper content, and establish a ranking. It is possible to create a spider-friendly site without the help of professional search engine optimization services, but the pros have special techniques that can make sure a site is algorithmically attractive. You can, however, take steps in an SEO-friendly direction before or while you work with the experts. Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) Online marketing with Pay Per Click advertising can be a powerful tool for guiding your business website's presence and building your customer base. Pay Per Click marketing, or PPC, is when a company pays search engines and services, such as Google or Yahoo!, to provide listings on a per-bid basis. This is in addition to their 'natural' search results.xi Programs that place sponsored Pay Per Click

7 How to Establish a Successful Web Presence for Your Business 7 advertisements for your business website on leading search engine pages can be a phenomenally good and inexpensive investment. Conclusion In order to compete in today s global economy, it is essential to take the plunge and get your business online. There s no better way to sell your products to millions of customers worldwide, advertise with potential clients in one click, or promote your products to customers ranging from college students to Wall Street execs. Take these simple steps to get your business or idea online professionally, quickly, and affordably. Getting your business online is about reaching out and connecting with millions of potential customers, buyers, and partners. Building a website is the most scalable way to attract potential customers from all over the world. Simply put, a Web presence expands your market significantly and instantaneously. The following steps are essential in creating a complete Web presence for your business: Choose a Domain name (i.e. your website s name). Set-up an address for your website. Create a Website (there are several different kinds and many ways to do this) Make it secure (security protects your customers data when it is transmitted between their computer to your site.) Get your website found (by creating an online marketing plan) About Network Solutions Network Solutions, a leading provider of Web solutions and the pioneer of the domain name registration service, draws on decades of experience to make it quick and affordable for customers to build and manage an online presence. Our full range of Web-related services includes: Web hosting Web design E-commerce software Search Engine Marketing SSL Certificates services Domain name registration For more information, please visit or call

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