Like it or not, today’s average consumer expects a business to have a website. Even if you don’t actually do business online, consumers like to research companies, products or contact details on the internet, before they contemplate a purchase. For this reason, getting your business online is a crucial early investment. For many Start-ups, the website and social media can also be an early headache. To avoid common mistakes, it can be good to adjust the way you think about your website and the role that internet and social media can play in your business plan.
A website has a permanent, full time, role in your business. Many small businesses think of a website as a self-contained project — that once you have one that’s the Internet done! If you simply invest in a website and ignore it, you’re wasting precious funds. If a website is to be an effective part of your business it requires nurturing and development. It is also not the only online presence you will need. You will need a social media presence that links in with your website and draws traffic to it.
Think of your website like a house plant. If you ignore it, it will die. It needs feeding (with new content on a regular basis) and daylight (exposure to Social Media drawing new traffic to your site through relevant posts and tweets) and watering (effective Search Engine Optimization to ensure a high ranking in Google search results). Only with all 3 elements will your site and business flourish. Miss one out and your time and effort online could be wasted.
As a Startup entrepreneur or the owner of an established SME you will have a lot on your plate and probably limited funds and time to invest in a website and social media. You will have particular skills and expertise that you will want to focus upon, and rightly so. You may have little or no experience with building and managing a website and be tempted to create a quick ‘off the peg’ website using one of the many online D.I.Y. website creators. They may be cheap but without some understanding of S.E.O. and Social Media you will just be throwing money into an internet shaped hole with little or nothing to show for it.
You may decide that you can do without a website and just focus upon social media and in almost all instances this would be a huge mistake. Social Media covers certain demographics very well but can be completely ineffective with others. They do not rank well in Google searches which still counts for over 65% of all searches and traffic on the internet.
A website may not be the holy grail of business tools but with an effective one it will produce an excellent return on investment for any Startup or SME. Viewing your website as an ongoing task rather than a one-off project is the key. By getting feedback from users via contact forms and social media, you will be able to refine and improve your website’s performance over time. It is OK to subcontract the design, basic running and maintenance of your site so that you can concentrate upon your core business. Social Media is however another matter. This will take your time rather than money, but within a couple of weeks you can become a social media ‘expert’. Effective use of Twitter and Facebook can quadruple the traffic to your website and therefore dramatically increase your cashflow.
If you have managed to get through all the above then here is my bulleted list of Do’s & Don’ts for getting your business online
The Do’s – Know your strengths and weaknesses.
If you don’t understand what works in a good website or basic SEO pay for someone to do it for you.
Spend what FUNDS you have available to get the best website you can designed by someone who knows what they are doing.
Spend what TIME you have available developing your businesses social media connections
Sign Up for a Twitter account for your business. Search for similar business to you and see what they tweet and emulate their best ones.
Research the relevant #(hashtags) for your business and location and use them sparingly in your tweets.
Take advantage of you local networking groups #townnamehour to spread the word about your business
Create a Facebook page for your business. (A note of caution here, your FB profile will have to be public so make sure there is nothing on there that you wouldn’t want your customers to see)
Join FB Groups relevant to your business and post something interesting.
If you subcontract the running of your website keep in regular communication with your website manager. Give them information to update your site with and ask them about traffic flow and user interactions.
•Keep it fresh
Always remember that your website may be the first impression potential clients get about your business. Keep it fresh and ask advice from third parties on how to improve it.
The Don’ts – Don’t think ‘That’s it done!’
•Websites are not meant to be static!
Do not use a D.I.Y. website creation service to create your website and then think that its done! Such sites frequently look amateur and generic — is that the impression you want to give potential customers? If you do use one ask someone impartial for an honest impression of your work and accept all criticism as potential improvements.
•Don’t ignore S.E.O.
Don’t ignore SEO — There is no point paying for a website that turns up on page 7 of google. Very few people look that deeply into search results. SEO is fluid and changes regularly. If you do not have the time or interest in this pay for someone to do it for you.
•Don’t ignore Social Media.
Don’t ignore Social Media.It’s not Google, but more and more people are coming to websites through Social Media links (Approx 30% in 2014). It can also dramatically impact upon traffic to your website which can in turn impact positively on your google ranking.
•Don’t ignore your website.
Don’t ignore your website in favour of Social Media. This may be like spinning plates but a website is your ‘shopfront’ to the world. First impressions last. A well crafted website gives your business online credibility and respectability that SM cannot do.
•Don’t pay too much!
Don’t pay too much!If you are an SME or a Startup don’t look for a swanky design agency with forty staff to design your website. You’ll be paying for their tofu bar and ‘at desk jacuzzi’*Patent Pending. Find a freelancer or small local agency that will give you the attention and service at a reasonable price.
If you have any questions or things you would like to add please get in touch via Twitter (@Helios_W_D) or via my website.
See my article on choosing the best hosting provider HERE. My overall choices for the best hosting providers are –
Best Budget UK Based Shared Hosting Provider
Best Overall Hosting Support & Platform Shared & VPS Hosting
Best Cloud, VPS & Dedicated Server Hosting Provider
*A relatively new type of hosting, ‘Cloud Hosting’ has emerged in recent years. I will write another article on this subject and or amend this article when I have firmed up my thoughts on this development.