Before you start building your website
Nearly one in four micro businesses in Australia don’t have websites – yet. If you’re one of them, and looking into your options, here are some key issues to consider before you start building your website.
Flying Solo’s survey Understanding Micro Business, 2010-2011 revealed that 23 percent of Australian soloists don’t have websites, however, many of those who weren’t online were planning to be. In this article I’ll focus on issues that you’ll want to take into account now so that once you’re up and running you’ll be in a good position to market your business online.
How much will it cost?
There are many ways to get online for minimal cost. Some of them (such as the current joint initiative between Google and MYOB) are free and allow you to get your web presence very quickly. These options can be good for some small businesses, but in some cases you won’t have your own domain name, and your website may be restricted to effectively being like having a brochure online. That’s not ideal from a marketing perspective as these types of websites often don’t generate traffic, but it’s better than nothing.
WordPress and other DIY options
One step up from this is to DIY and use an option like WordPress for building your site – or to outsource this job to someone else. This may cost as little as $300, but you’ll need to create all the content and organise your own domain hosting, and, at the base package level, maintain the website yourself. Nevertheless, this is a good option for some small businesses, especially as WordPress is so Google-friendly and the plug-ins are fantastic. Whether you choose WordPress or another option, I recommend choosing a modular option that will be able to grow with your business and incorporate functions such as shopping carts, database marketing and social media plug-ins as you need them. Give the system a test run before you commit to it.
"If you’ve already established a consistent, professional look for all your communications, the decisions about how to brand your new website will be much easier and faster to make."
Custom web design
For a premium option, go to a web designer and get your site custom designed. This will usually cost $2,000 to 10,000, although you’ll probably need to allow extra for content creation. If you want to be able to update the content yourself, make sure the system you’re buying includes a content management system (CMS).
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What messages do you want to convey
Your website is often the first taste people get of you, so paying for premium design, branding and content writing that conveys your key messages to your ideal customers can be a very good investment. I always advise clients to have a style guide for their brand done first because if you’ve already established a consistent, professional look for all your communications, the decisions about how to brand your new website will be much easier and faster to make.
How will you update your site?
For optimal results, your website should be updated with new content regularly. Planning that content is a very important step in your online marketing and lead generation. If you’re not planning on creating new content and updating your website yourself, consider budgeting for someone else to do this for you.
How will you build relationships?
Online marketing is all about building relationships with prospects. To do this well you’ll need to be able to capture their details so you can communicate with them over time, so having a web form and automated email software as one of your website tools can be a plus. At the very least, use stand alone tools that integrate with your website. I like AWeber as an email responder and Wufoo as a form generator.
How will people find your site?
Getting found online is not something you should leave to luck, so start thinking about search engine optimisation (SEO) before you start building your website. Either plan on educating yourself about this continually changing field, or plan on paying someone to look after it for you on an ongoing basis. SEO is not a set and forget task so you’ll want to take a long-term approach. You may also want to consider other strategies to drive traffic to your site, such as Google AdWords or pay-per-click advertising.
How will you know what’s working?
Understanding your web traffic and what people are doing on your site is a great way to tweak your marketing activity. For most people Google Analytics is all that’s needed to start with – although you may wish to add additional analysis tools later.
In your experience, what else should those new to the online world consider before they get started building their website? Please share your tips below.