Having a website for your business might seem obvious to some, but it turns out more than 50 percent of U.S. small businesses still don't have even a basic website. To many customers, your presence on the web is their first impression of your business. It should be critical to have a website that showcases who you are and what you do.
If you haven't created a website yet, these three simple tools can help you bring your business online -- where the customers are -- so you can keep doing what you do best:
1. Google's 'Get Your Business Online'
Google is making a nationwide push to encourage small-business owners to create a digital presence. The company has created an online toolkit for website creation and is holding events in cities around the country that provide free face-to-face training.
On GYBO.com you can choose a custom domain name and select a basic site design from among a host of templates, which Google says are fully customizable. Then it's just a matter of adding content, and your site is ready for its first visitor.
Who should use it: Business owners who don't have coding skills and aren't planning to hire a website developer. The templates are useful and, with Google hosting your site, you should be less prone to experiencing outages due to server issues.
Costs: Google provides website creation tools and hosts your website free for one year. After that, your domain name and hosting cost a total of $7 per month.
Homestead offers website creation, hosting and basic analytics together in a simple template-based format. Website designs are industry-specific, meaning once you've selected a design, it comes with generic images and content related to your industry baked in. From there you can either upload your own graphics -- including a logo -- or choose from Homestead's library of 250,000 images.
When you publish the website, you'll get a custom domain name and business email address. You'll also be able to track visitor statistics and make other changes whenever you want.
Who should use it: Since customization options are limited, Homestead may be best for entrepreneurs whose main purpose for having a website is to draw customers into a brick-and-mortar store rather than to keep them on the site itself.
Costs: The package is $5 per month after a 30-day free trial.
Unlike some other tools, LaunchRock doesn't provide you with a full-on website. Instead, it can help you build an eye-catching "launching soon" page to advertise your upcoming business. You can post updates on the launch page, which integrates easily with major social media sites so you can keep everyone in your network apprised of your progress.
It also allows you to start collecting email addresses and begin sending out e-newsletters to potential customers.
Who should use it: Startups with an exciting business concept that want to launch with a substantial user base, as well as established businesses that want to generate buzz for a new product or service.
Costs: There is no cost for creating a LaunchRock page, and all the existing features are free to use. The LaunchRock team is working on paid premium add-ons.