Got a website?

I am always surprised that there are still lots of businesses that do not have a website. Nationally, it’s about 45% of businesses. Here in Hawaii, we hold a special distinction with the highest percentage of businesses without websites: a stunning 67%! That was over a year ago, so I hope that number is improving!

Without a website, you are not really in business. Or put another way, if you don’t have a website, many will not treat your business seriously and you certainly risk being out-of-site and out-of-mind if no one can find you on a google search.

This post is for anyone who doesn’t have a website or has a site they know needs replacing. Or the worst case scenario, you have a site you can’t change without calling in an expert. Whatever your status, let’s review the basics.

Brief sidenotes:

New business? There’s plenty to do to get a new business launched. You don’t need to build a site today. But even if you are at the “just have a business name” stage, go get the domain for that business name! If your domain is already taken, you may want to reconsider your business name. Seriously, that might be something to consider. So don’t be creating logos and dba’s until you have a domain name. Old Business and first website? If you have been in business for years, and finally decided to get a website, you may find it hard to get your name so try variations: Joe’s Ice Cream might need to be joesicecreamshop. Or joesicecreamshopatthemall. You might need to fool around with name places: joesicecreammaui You might be tempted to do a dot something, like .store or .guru (I gave that a lot of thought! LOL!) or hundreds of other extensions, but if you can have the good old fashion .com, that is still the top dog. And by the way, consider variations – see next section.

The Five Steps

  1. As stated already: Get YOUR domain name secured.

It’s cheap. $15 a year or less. GoDaddy and Hover are just two examples where you would go and explore what URL’s are still available and then purchase them. And it’s not a bad idea to get various spellings, etc. For example, I have several variants of The E’s of Selling – it’s where I concentrate my efforts to help people sell off-line (and eventually online, too). So I have esofselling, theesofselling, easeofselling, and a few others. Having variations helps people find you. I bought plenty. (BTW: Joe’s Ice Cream could be easier to find if someone puts “ice cream at mall” in a search engine and he also owns the domain, joesicecreamatthemall. Right?)

And when I get my courses online (Yes! I am going to start offering online courses!) all of those domains will send people to my courses site. These serve as flags on the internet soil. No one else can have your domain name. And trying to get your name later – buying it from the owner – is usually very expensive.

2. You will need a host. 

Think of your domain name (the URL) as an address and the host is the plot of land where you will eventually build your house – er… I mean Website. Hosts are companies who have giant servers that store (host) all the codes and images that makes up your website. GoDaddy is an example and so is Hover. And many hundreds more.

3. Do some advance planning. Hire a consultant if need be.

Think about what you want the site to do. Before you start thinking about what the site will look like, take the time to consider what you hope to accomplish. Do you want to do any selling? Or do you want it to be the “brochure” to inform that links to a selling site? Maybe you want it to be a hybrid (many sites are) that gives potential buyers a chance to learn about you and your offers and also sells on the same domain name. Only when you have defined your goals and put some basic menu ideas together can you move forward.

Remember: the number one reason you have a website is to market to the public. Your site is a marketing tool first and foremost. Hire a marketing consultant to guide you through what it takes to be effective online. (Yes, I am a marketing consultant. So I am offering my help. Set up a Free appointment.)

However, don’t call me or any other experts for advice if you don’t know what you want to accomplish. You will flounder for weeks or months heading off in various directions hitting dead ends. Save time by really examining your competition and seeing how they lay out their presentations. What part of their messaging will also resonate with your clients? That’s a great starting point for a conversation or overall strategizing.

4. Start building

Finally, the time comes to start building a structure on the plot of land, right? That is your website. Choosing who will be the “builder” or what blueprints to use can be overwhelming. However, companies like Wix or Weebly, and even SquareSpace are pretty darn easy to use. Even WordPress can be conquered with a little tutoring. Some companies, like GoDaddy, have their own branded website builders available, but they are not your best bet. Some companies (Wix and Weebly) offer “free” sites, but you really don’t want to go there.

My hope for you is you will use something that is easy for you to grow your business with and maintain all by yourself. Take if from me. I learned the hard way: If you hire someone, just make sure you will be given the opportunity to learn how to use the controls yourself. I ended up starting completely from scratch after spending over $800 and getting nowhere and getting zero help. Was it hard to learn? It just took time and researching to learn the basics. You can do this. It’s not that hard. I promise!

5. Take the time to learn how to do basic things on your site.

Websites are like a shop window at your local mall. If you have the exact same things in the window for weeks, months or years, people will not linger. People may even think you are “behind” the times or lazy, or worst of all: that you really aren’t actively involved in your business anymore. Is your copyright up to date? Do you know how to fix that?

 

Whether you are using a simple drag-and-drop builder like Wix or if you need to hire someone like me to help construct the mainframe of a WordPress or Wix site, you need to learn how to do basic changes like adding a photo or building a landing page. I taught a 70-year-old just last month how to use her WordPress site. She’s an expert now! LOL! You can do this.

Let’s Review:

  1. Get your domain name. 2. Find a host. 3. Research and plan on what you want and need your site to do for your business. 4. Figure out what (or who) you will use to build your site. 5. Learn the basics of your site’s building tools so you can do general maintenance and updates to your site.

WARNING: It is not unusual for websites to cost many thousands of dollars. A client of mine who came to me for some rewriting of her “about page” had spent $5000. She also had to have an expensive ($300 a year) ongoing contract to keep the site’s security and updates monitored and had to pay extra to have new photos added or have any other changes made. It was going to cost her over $125 to get my marketing words and a new photo on her page and that didn’t include my fees.

However, this company was not ripping her off. Many companies charge this or much more and their clients are very content to have little to do with the process other than ordering changes and approving it. My client is not content but feels stuck. Be careful, because even the most sophisticated sites need complete overhauls from time to time so your first site will not be your last. Think hard before spending oodles of money on a web design unless you have a clear path to sales at the end of the process.

For example, if you have a generation’s old business like Joe’s Ice Cream and you have items to sell, it might make sense to go all out. If you want to sell hats, t-shirts, and bottles of your “Joe’s Favorite Caramel & Honey Sauce” to your huge list of ice cream lovers via emails that you are quickly gathering up every day from people coming to your store, then maybe you can afford to pay someone to build and run the entire online venture. If you can afford this level of assistance, then go for it. But you better sell like crazy to cover those costs!

For the vast majority of us, we simply need to get started with an online presence where we can add to our credibility, be found and remembered, and grow our businesses over time. A place to gather emails for our list. A place to gain trust and eventually make some sales.

What are you hoping to gain?

Let me know where you stand with your website issues. What are your challenges? What are your plans for the future? I look forward to your comments!

And I apologize to anyone who is making a bee-line to their nearest ice cream shop. While you’re there, ask them if they have a website, and if they don’t – pass my name along!