What Do You Need?
Websites are excellent marketing tools. They are accessible 24 hours a day, allowing potential clients to learn about you or place orders even when your business or organization isn't open. It is so important to be online these days, whether you are selling a product or providing information, more and more Americans are doing their background product research, banking, purchasing, booking travel, researching and learning online.
"Two-thirds (66%) of online Americans say they have purchased a product online, such as
a book, toy, music, or clothing."
"35% of Americans said they had used the internet to do some product-related
research online in 2000, a number that grew to 60% in September 2007."
-2008 Pew Internet and American Life Project report on Online Shopping
There are many components to creating a functional, successful web site. I have written short overviews of some of the components of a website, including how to choose a domain name, hosting services, creating content, and marketing. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Choosing a Domain Name
When you open a web browser, such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Firefox, Safari, or Google Chrome, you often type in a URL to reach a specific website (ex.: http://www.kathyjacobs.com). Choosing a domain name for your website is an important step in developing an online presence. Your domain name should represent your business or organization, be easy to spell and remember, be relatively short, be easy to say over the phone or on the radio, and if possible, contain some keywords. Having a domain name that is easy to spell and remember is very important. Your domain name should not include any odd characters or words that are not commonly used or unusual spellings unless they are strongly branded. Although I can provide some recommendations for you, you should come up with one or two options for your website. If you would like me to, I can assist you with purchasing your domain names.
Most small businesses market their domain name on other venues than just the Internet. Brochures, television commercials, radio ads, and even billboards can have your domain name printed on it. This is helpful for potential customers who are looking for more information about your products and business or organization. One way to test your domain name is to call a friend or relative and tell them your chosen domain name. Ask them to wait about five minutes and type the name in a browser window and then call you back. If they can remember it and type it in a browser correctly, it may be a good choice for your business. If they have to ask you how to spell it or ask you more than once what it was, you may want to rethink your choice. Try this on more than one person.
Website Hosting Services
Every website must have hosting services. This is the physical location where your files will be uploaded so that they can be viewed on the Internet. There are many companies that provide hosting, but you should select one that is reliable. Do your research and get a company that will be around for a long time and one that has a history of good customer support and service. There may be local companies that provide this service; ask for references of businesses that are currently using them, and don't be afraid to call to ask about their service. Costs will vary depending on the amount of space you wish to have and other features that you select. I can set up this service on your behalf.
Keywords are the words and phrases that online users will put into a search engine to find goods and services or information. For example, if I am looking for a place to stay while on vacation in Starkville, MS, I might enter the keyword “bed and breakfast Starkville, Mississippi.” If a website does not have these words on them, it will not be returned in the search results. When developing your website, you will go through a process of brainstorming keywords that should be included on your website. I can provide additional research assistance to find more. Including web analytics on your website will also improve your keyword research as people begin to visit your site. Keyword research is just one component of on-page search engine optimization.
Additionally, if you would prefer to have assistance in writing the content for your website, my business associate, Tom Knecht, can provide technical writing services. He will interview you, draft the content, and provide it to you for review prior to publishing it on the Internet.
A website can have the best information on it or offer the best services, but if the website isn’t user friendly, you will lose potential clients before they even learn about what you have to offer. There are many things you can do to improve usability, but one of the most important is providing an easily navigable website. One of the first steps to organizing your content is to create an outline. I will work with you through your first draft to make sure that the information is clearly organized and easy for users to find. Your website will be developed with a checklist of usability issues in mind with the goal of creating a user friendly design.
For more information about usability issues, I recommend the following resources.
- Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug
- Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed by Jakob Nielsen and Marie Tahir
- Jakob Nielsen's website useit.com
Just placing a website on the Internet isn't enough, you have to actively market your site (and thus your business) through both online and offline activities. Although a website might get significant traffic from search engines, if designed well, it is very important that you market your website online and offline. Placing your website in directories, garnering links from associated sites, participating in paid advertising (ex: Google AdWords), in combination with the production of brochures, business cards, radio advertisements and other types of marketing will help get people to your site. I can provide recommendations for you to advertise your website and business or I can provide the service of advertising your website and business or organization through various avenues. Contact me for a free consultation.