Is your business online? If not, it’s time to get your startup business online. It has never been easier to build, optimize and promote a successful website.
Value and ease of a solid web presence
The simple fact is that nearly every startup business will have some sort of presence online. Before long, having no website will be akin to owning a business without a phone number. The competitive nature of small business requires an established web presence, and sooner rather than later. If your competitor does it first, it could cost you potential business.
A professional looking website is the ultimate marketing tool. It has the potential to reach customers in a way that can’t be matched by traditional advertising, not only in reach, but in cost effectiveness. So why are there still so many small businesses without an online presence (according to a 2008 Warrillow study, 59% are still without a website)? For most, it’s the “time/technology fear factor.”
I don't have time or the tech savvy to get my startup business online
There's a huge misconception about the amount of time a website takes to create and maintain. The largest barrier to entry is a fear of technology. But what if time was no issue and you knew everything you needed to know to run a successful site?
Given the high demand to find affordable yet professional solutions, the industry has made a great deal of progress in providing new, easy-to-use tools and services that cater to every skill set, from those who are well-versed to the “newbie” who knows nothing at all. One of the great things about today’s technology is that it offers the opportunity to be as hands-on as you like - or to offload as much as you like at extremely affordable rates. You define the learning curve that best suits your schedule and pocketbook.
Three pieces of a successful startup business website
What goes into a successful web presence? There are three main components and for each one there are services that can get you up and online in no time at all. The three main steps to creating a promising website are: build it, optimize it and promote it. You build your site, optimize it for prime search engine visibility and then promote it. Sound daunting? It isn’t.
First, you need a website, but even before that you need somewhere for it to live. Enter web hosting providers. If you were to build a house, you’d need property to build it on. A website is your “home” on the web and it too requires somewhere to exist. Hosting providers offer that virtual space on the web, where the files that make up your website are stored. A good hosting provider will also offer a myriad of tools and services designed to make getting online a quick, easy experience. Be sure to find out what tools a hosting package includes and make sure they offer packages designed for the novice as well as the pro.
One of the services you might want to look for is a “ready-made” hosting package that includes design, hosting and site maintenance. A package like this allows you to have a strong web presence, but removes the time commitment from you to build the site and maintain it. You choose the layout of your site and the desired pages your business requires, and a team of experts will design it to reflect your company’s brand and marketing message. When the need to update or add new information arises, it’s a simple phone call away. Packages like these are affordable and can include ecommerce / shopping cart functionality if you intend to sell products online.
Once your site is built, how do you let people know it’s up and running? The short answer: search engines. Search engines account for a massive amount of online traffic, so good placement on them is essential. The way to assure good placement is to "optimize" your site for search. Search optimization does involve some technical knowledge, and it is without a doubt time consuming, requiring continuous effort to maintain a high ranking on search engine results pages.
The good news is that there are search engine optimization (SEO) services that take care of the entire process for you. A service like this assigns a specialist who will analyze your site and give you simple, step-by-step, instructions on how to modify it for targeted keywords and search phrases. Simply put, there are certain keywords searched for more often than others. In your site’s analysis, the keywords most appropriate for your business are ascertained and then applied to the site. This helps the search engine find your site when a potential customer enters those keywords.
Once your site is optimized with keywords, the other half of the coin is your reputation, as the search engines see it. For the most part, that comes down to the outside websites that point to your own through links in to your site. Search engines view these referrals as confirmation that an objective, outside source saw fit to point their own traffic to your site. Some of this can be accomplished by submitting your site to specific directories (e.g., Yahoo! Directory), but most of the work involves the process of finding relevant and respected sites that are willing to point traffic your way - again, working with an experienced SEO firm can be your quickest ticket here. The bottom line is search engines are a powerful way to find customers that traditional media might never reach.
Another highly effective way to use a search engine to increase your site’s visibility is to promote it via targeted search engine advertisements. Each major search engine offers 'cost per click' or CPC pricing for ads in their search results. The big benefit - you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad and visits your website. Even better - there are services that can help you manage this process.
How do they work? Usually a site analysis is performed, as well as a thorough analysis of your competitors' sites. Targeted keywords are chosen and an ad campaign is designed around them. The campaign also integrates copywriting, and the ads are then placed on major search engines and monitored for performance. Many services like these also offer guarantees that your ad will receive a minimum number of views (impressions) each month. Weekly reports are also sent so you can monitor your ad campaign and consult with your service professional on how best to modify it.
This is an excellent, tangible way to guarantee that those customers looking for your goods and services find your site. These services are usually very affordable, especially when you consider what you’d spend to hire a marketing consultant.
The value of collaboration
We all have our own areas of expertise. The hard part for entrepreneurs looking to take a startup business online is not limited to time and resources. Entrepreneurs are required to wear a number of hats at the same time. Taking advantage of professional online services allows web experts to do what they do best - help entrepreneurs run their websites – while freeing entrepreneurs up to do what they do best - run their businesses.
The number one reason many small business owners don’t build a website, or let their existing one fall by the wayside, used to be time. In today’s online world, given the web solution providers, tools and services available, there’s no reason a website can’t be an easy-to-manage, valuable extension of your startup business.
Michael Walsh is a content developer for Affinity Internet.