While I’m now a marketer, at one time I was a journalist. Professionally I worked for healthcare magazine publishers, but during my college and internship years I worked at different news institutions, including newspapers, radio stations, and alternative weeklies. Just as in my current marketing work, these journalism jobs required research – and usually a lot of it. Whether I was looking for my own source or following up on a tip given to me by an editor, the first place I would look was online. Do you know what my number one frustration was?
So many people do not have websites!
This isn’t an issue if you’re a private citizen or work in a position that doesn’t require promotion. But do you know how many businesses, large and small, do not have a website? Hint: it’s a lot. Back in my college days I would say something like, “Really? It’s 2007 and you don’t have a full website?”
And do you know what I’m often saying to myself today? “Really? It’s 2015 and you don’t have a full website?”
Things have changed a lot in the last decade regarding the Internet, and yet so many things have stayed the same. A lot of those companies from way back when still don’t have websites, or they’ve evolved with the times and maintain a Facebook page as their official home on the web. I’m going to bold my next statement because I believe in it so strongly:
A Facebook page cannot replace a real, robust website.
I’m obviously not advocating against maintaining a Facebook page for your business. If it makes sense for your company, you should absolutely have one and use it wisely. But, again, it cannot replace an official website. As a journalist, a Facebook page has never provided me with enough information, especially because the pages for small businesses are not comprehensive. In general they leave something to be desired. As a journalist, as a marketer, as a customer, please, I want you to have a website. For the love of all that is holy, I want you to have an official website.
Because the Internet rules the world. Also because I don’t want to have to jump between your numerous social profiles or dig through months of posts to find the one bit of information I’m looking for. And this is coming from me, someone who is much more patient than most. Do you know what the average attention span is? It actually dropped in the year 2013, down from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. 8 seconds! Can I find what I need in your massive Facebook feed within 8 seconds? If not, I’m gone.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm limits the number of your fans that see your posts? Organic reach for pages has dropped to just 6.5% as of March 2014. Compare that to the 100% of visitors that can access 100% of your official website. You can pay to promote and boost posts on Facebook so that more of your fans will see them… but why not just use that money to get your website in order? Another benefit of having your own website is that you own it. You don’t truly own your Facebook page – Facebook does.
Your business needs a strong online presence, and having a comprehensive website can help you achieve that. You can stay ahead of your competitors by outranking their website on search engines, target your ideal customers and route them to specific sales pages on your website, and you can build better brand loyalty. These are just some examples. An official website is a great marketing asset that can be leveraged in a number of different ways.
So… why isn’t your business online?
If you answered “Because a website is too expensive and other options, like Facebook, are free,” you are wrong. Yes, wrong. You can register a domain for a year for $10 and you can find hosting for $7 per month. Heck, you could probably find both for cheaper than that. You don’t have $100 bucks to invest in your business? Really? Not everyone needs a web developer to build a website for them. WordPress is a 100% free content management system that’s incredibly easy to use and has hundreds of free themes you can use to customize your website. If you need help, there are reasonably priced people you can turn to. Trust me, your website is worth it.
So, here we are. What are the steps for moving your small business online?
Define your target audience.
Who benefits from your products or services? Who is already using it? What do you know about the people that buy from you? A company can create buyer personas using data gathered from past transactions, engagements, campaigns, purchases, and other historical data. These personas allow the company to better know who they are targeting with their messaging and their products.
Register your domain.
Exact match domains, such as buyscentedcandles.com, can actually be seen as spammy. Instead, use your businessname.com. If by chance that is already taken, try a different, catchy domain or consider using another extension such as .co or .net. A .com domain is most preferable as that is what most people associate with websites.
Find the right web host.
Web hosting is critical for your website. Don’t just settle with the cheapest option out there – do some research. What is the host’s uptime? You don’t want people trying to visit your website only to find that it is down for the tenth time today. You want a reliable (and speedy) web host. A quick-loading website can actually help to increase sales and other conversions.
Choose a design.
If your business cannot afford or for some other reason does not want to work with a designer or developer, there are free content management systems and designs available, such as WordPress, which was mentioned earlier. Use branded colors and really think about the experience of the user. A best practice is to choose a responsive design that will adapt to the device the visitor is using. For example, a site that automatically adjusts whether it is being viewed on a desktop or on a mobile phone.
What is your website going to be used for? Is it only informational, or will you also be selling products through it? The website needs to function the way the visitor needs it to. In this regard, you need to have stellar content that caters to visitors’ needs as well as any and all necessary systems in place, such as a shopping cart. When creating content it is important to remember that the more closely the content matches a visitor’s goal or keyword search, the more likely they are to convert to a lead or customer. Content and design should work together.
The process of building a winning website moves further beyond these steps, but this is a good primer to get you thinking about your company’s web presence. After the website is built, it needs to be populated with engaging web copy and quality, shareable content.
Do you need help getting your business online, or maybe help with creating content that will win over your visitors? Send me an email, I may be able to help: firstname.lastname@example.org.