An increasingly popular way to promote your business is through a website, but there are some traps to be wary of. Almost every day your business email inbox will receive a friendly message from someone promising you great Google results, exceptional SEO and cheap websites but unless you know a little about the topic it can be a costly decision. Website companies can offer you a range of services and I will cover some of these in this article.
Domain registration: A domain is your website address or URL. You can easily register this yourself through a range of companies online including Crazy Domains and Go Daddy. Choose a name that most appropriately relates to your business. Registration is usually relatively cheap, about $20 a year, and you are advised to consider registering a range of names appropriate to your business to help prevent the competition from doing so and threatening your brand. Be wary of registering excessively long names as these are often cumbersome on a business card (particularly if your email is through your website) and be careful not to make them too obscure or ambiguous because you and your staff will waste a lot of time spelling it out to clients. It’s best to register your name regardless of whether you have immediate plans to set up your website; it’s a case of safekeeping for your brand.
Website hosting: Your domain is useless unless it is hosted. In layman’s terms this means where your website information is stored and operated through. Again, you can organise this without engaging a website professional, often through an internet provider such as Telstra, Internode, TPG, Dodo etc, and many businesses already have their email addresses hosted in this way. Don’t bother about organising hosting until you have organised for a website to be built or you want to arrange email using your website address. Costs vary widely depending on additional services available such as backups, the amount of storage and email addresses it will take. A basic service should cost around $200 to $250 a year.
Responsive website: A lot of website builders/designers offer what seems like a cheap service, but sadly, the sites provided are not easily compatible with today’s mobile devices. Responsive sites, which are the ones most recognised by Google and easiest to use, change shape according to the device and you can easily navigate around the site on any device, no matter how big or small. Some companies may even suggest two different sites – a mobile and a web option – which is often unnecessary if your site is a responsive one. Don’t waste your money on anything less than a responsive site.
SEO services: SEO stands for search engine optimisation which essentially means how well your site will be recognised and promoted by Google. There are no guarantees unless dealing with bona fide Google organisations and you are actually purchasing Adwords packages which can prove quite costly if you are wanting to feature prominently in popular searches in competitive markets. You generally can recognise a business that has paid for upgraded packages as their website will usually appear at the top of a Google search with an Ad symbol next to it. Much can be achieved, particularly outside the metropolitan areas and in small markets, through good website writing, the use of keywords and meta tags and little expenditure. Be sure you know what you’re getting. If you’re paying per customer know the difference between paying for clicks and paying for those who simply have the opportunity to see it on their search page (whether or not they actually do see it). Website building platforms such as WordPress receive a high Google visibility and there are additional plugins you can obtain to further enhance SEO on the sites. If you’re planning a website one of the first exercises to do either on your own or in conjunction with a web builder is to brainstorm all the combinations of words people might put into Google and other search engines to find your business. Try asking your friends and colleagues what words they’d input to find your business too. These can then be used in writing your site content as well as providing keywords on your site and in any directory listings you might have.
Choosing a website builder: There is a growing number of businesses in the marketplace getting into the website building field, who is best for you will depend on what type of site you’re after, whether you want to update and control it yourself and whether you want face-to-face local service, to name just a few considerations. When considering a company to build your site don’t make any decision until you have seen examples of their work. Check the site copyright information at the bottom of the page to ensure the site is actually theirs. If it doesn’t contain their name you need to find out why. Once you’ve visited some of their sites it’s always smart to then try Google searching for these sites again to see how they perform from a search engine perspective as some platforms and some builders are better than others.
Considerations: When meeting with a potential website builder some considerations will include:
- Who is going to write the words or provide the photography?
- Timeframe for development
- Is the site responsive?
- What SEO is included and is the charge ongoing? What guarantees come with the SEO?
- If changes are required in the future who will do them and what will the cost be?
- What monitoring will be included? Google Analytics should be included in your website building service.
The DIY option: Building your own website is an option but be careful you don’t spend a lot of time on a platform that isn’t going to get good search recognition or waste your valuable time doing something you really don’t have the skills for. WordPress is simple to use and can usually be downloaded free through your website host. Many of the themes and plugins used are free and updated regularly. There’s also plenty of online support. Be aware that your website is your shop window. Building your site takes time and that means it’s time you will be away from your day-to-day business focus. Your site will also need to be kept up to date, so it might be more cost effective and make more sense to have someone else do it for you at a reasonable cost.
*Carolyn Jeffrey is the principal of CJ’s Business Solutions. For more information visit www.cjsbusinesssolutions.com.au.