All businesses need a
website. Unless you don’t advertise, and you specifically don’t want new
(or even old) customers to find you, there’s just no excuse for not having
one. Financially, you can’t afford not to have one, since they can be had
for as little as $200 a year.
With “broadband” (high
speed) internet access, there are a lot of people that only seek
what they need online. Many people never even look at a phone book
If you’re not there
when they look, those people will go somewhere else. Try it for
yourself. Go to any search engine, any type a search for “carpeting
portland”, or anything like “yourindustry yourcity” and press the search
button. There they are…your competition!
Establishing a web
presence requires just three separate things, and all can be obtained in a
week or two. They are…a domain name, a website, and a host.
A domain name
(a. k. a. web address or a URL) - Get it now because the one you want is
already gone. Think of it as a phone number on the internet for the
world to reach you. Unless your name is unique, yourcompanyname.com is
probably gone already, and yourindustry.com is almost certainly gone.
Just think of something
easy to say and easy remember too. You might consider adding your city
name to yourcompany or to yourindustry, because those are probably still
available. For example, portlandcarpet.com and pdxcarpet.com are both
pretty catchy, and (amazingly enough) both are still available. A domain
name should never cost more that $35 a year, and usually, it’s about half
that much. To protect yourself, be sure that YOU are the registered owner,
and not the company that you hire.
website - This can be a simple one page
electronic flyer with your name address and phone number. It can also be
an elaborate piece of functional artwork containing dozens or even
hundreds of pages of information. The important thing to remember is
that SOME website is better than no website. Just because you can’t
afford a full page ad in the Yellow Pages, do you remove your simple
listing from the phone book? Of course not!
The cost of a website
can range from FREE (your 6th grader can make it for you) to
several hundred, or even thousands of dollars. The important thing is to
find someone with a design history that you can look at online, to see if
you like their style. Ask to see some examples, along with the price
Finding a host
for your website - Generally, a web designer is not a web host too. My
own business is unusual in that respect. They are usually separate
businesses that perform distinctly different functions. A host is just a
physical computer with a “T-1” or better internet connection. This is
where the files will actually sit for your website, and be accessed from
anywhere in the world.
There are lots of
things to consider when choosing a host, but the most important one to
look for is… can you reach them when you need to? If you don’t get a fast
response when you’re calling or e-mailing, then how will they react in an
Your host is important,
because if they aren’t reliable, then your website could go “offline” for
an extended period of time. Can you imagine having callers to your
telephone number get a message saying “That number is no longer in
The monthly cost of
hosting can range from $5 to $100, and depends on the variety of services
you need. Most small businesses shouldn’t pay more than $15 or $20 unless
they accept credit cards online, or they transfer huge amounts of data
over the web.
Once your site is up
and running, you don’t need to spend any additional money to promote your
new website until you’re convinced it will work for you. Simply add your
website address to ALL of your printed material, letterheads, ads,
business cards, etc. and people will go there just out of curiosity.
Soon, you’ll be getting phone calls and e-mails generated by your website
while you sleep, and you’ll realize that the web is indispensable for
being found by customers.
Of course, you
certainly can advertise your website, but marketing your website is an
entirely separate subject. It is, however, a subject I’ll be writing
about very soon.
To help you get
started, my own business can help you with any or all of these services. I
can also help small businesses with marketing an existing site through SEO,
“Search Engine Optimization” and PPC “Pay Per Click” advertising.
In 1997, people used to
talk about a business because it had a website.
In 2003, they talk about one because it doesn’t.