Last week I gave a presentation to the Denver Small Business Development Center’s Leading Edge for Entrepreneurs class – on what you need to create websites. It was a fitting subject and I presented with another web developer. After I was done, I thought – this would be a good article – so, here we are.
1st of all… Why?
There are a number of reasons why you need a website. I go into more detail on this in the previous article – So Why Do I Need a Website Anyway?. Here is a high level answer…
- Establishing legitimacy. When I was younger you looked businesses up in the phone book. Now, you Google them. If you can’t find them, they more or less don’t exist. C’mon – you know you have done that. You look up something and if you don’t find it – you move on.
- Sell things 24x7 – It’s hard to sell when you’re not there right? Well not if you have a website that offers your products/services.
- Provide information such as a menu, hours, product info, prices…
- Answer questions – a lot of people like to help themselves by looking things up instead of picking up the phone and speaking to someone. I know I do….
- Attract new customers from beyond the local area. If you are a small local business maybe you want to sell things world wide – with a website – you can.
At what point do you get started on the website? Probably not 1st. You need the business idea, business plan, product development and so on. Also, not last. You don’t want to have your product ready to go or try to sell something then decide you need a site. At this point you’re losing out on possible sales since you’re ready to go but have no where to sell it. My recommendation is somewhere between 1st and last – but more towards the early part. Why?
- You need to create a following – get people interested. I remember a grocery store called Cub Foods. Before they opened they had a commercial with a brown paper bag and some items in it – that was about it. It made me really curious as to what they were promoting.
- Provide updates on your company, product, service
- Write articles on how your idea will help – this helps with the inbound marketing part.
- Start gathering email addresses for your mailing lists
- It takes time for Google to get you in the index
- Establish your online identity – FB, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram…
What are the basic things you need?
First you need a domain name. You know – the www.your web address.something. By far .com is the most popular and most prevalent. It’s the easiest to remember too. If you go to the web you type www.something.com first right? The extension .org typically is for non profits. There there ara.net, .mil, .edu, .gov, .info, .tv, .mom, .me, .baseball, .box… Actually, there are now over 882 domain extensions. Depending on the extension, prices are from about $9.00 to $20.00+ / year
Next you need hosting. There has to be a place to store your files – they don’t just live in space, although it may seem like it. Some hosting companies are Hostgator, Godaddy, Bluehost, Arvixe, inmotion, VISKA Hosting, etc. Once you have selected a host you need to think about a few things. What platform are you going to run? Something based in php or .asp? Different languages run better on different operating systems. Your choices will likely be Windows Server or a Linux server. I can tell you WordPress is written in php and runs better on linux. Things written in .asp will work better on Windows.
Depending on what you do with your site you may be OK with shared hosting or you may need VPS (virtual private server) or a dedicated server over your own. Price goes up depending on what you need. From a few $ to 100s of $ per month. You may be asking what does that mean? Shared hosting is a server with many, many websites running on it. If one site on the server gets hacked, it can expose the rest to vulnerabilities too. Also, if a site is using a lot of resources, your site may be impacted as well. VPS is your own virtual machine that you have more control over. While, there are many VPSes running on a server, they are more isolated than on shared hosting. Dedicated servers are just that – you rent the machine and you control it (or pay someone to do it) but the only stuff that is on there, is what you put on it.
Hosting companies typically give you email as well so you can have firstname.lastname@example.org. Depending on the level of service you choose you may get 1 email address or 1000.
You need a platform. This can be WordPress, Joomla, html, php, asp and so on. Wordpress makes up a huge percentage of all pages on the web. It is easy to use and you can add pieces called plugins to it to make it do what you want. You can also customize it if you know html, php and css. There are many themes available – some free some you pay for. Wordpress in itself is free as well.
If you are running a store (ecommerce) or collecting customer info – then you need an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Certificate to encrypt their information like name, address, phone number, credit card information, etc. Google gives a small rank bump to sites with an SSL – so that may be worth considering. You can get free SSLs or you can pay for them – prices range all over the board. In addition, Google is now marking sites that collect credit cards or usernames / passwords as insecure if they do not have an SSL, and have begun doing so for all sites (look at the address bar – on the far left – if it is secure it will have a green lock icon.
Sites have to be mobile friendly. Not only do you want the site to work correctly across all devices, you want people to access your site wherever they are and on the device of their choice. You can lose out on sales if someone tries to access your site on their mobile device and they can’t. Plus, Google recently started a mobile first push – giving preference to sites that are mobile friendly.
Content – you need this. This is typically written by you or someone at your company – there are companies, like Rylentless, who can help you write your story also. Inbound marketing – requires new and fresh content often. This content needs to be written for your audience (avatar, customer profile) in the various stages of the customer journey (awareness, consideration, decision). Articles that help people without being salesy – something like the top 5 ways to do ______.
Typical pages are:
- Product/Service Page
- What are you selling? This is important as 47% of website visitors check out a company’s products/services page before looking at any other sections of the site. Once on a company’s homepage, 86% of visitors want to see information about that company’s products/services.
- Store/Cart – if you are selling something.
- Blog/Articles (provide information – useful for inbound marketing)
- Others that are industry specific like menu, prices, appointment booking, special features….
Appeasing the Almighty G(oogle)
As we know, Google is the internet overlord and if you don’t meet its criteria you will not be listed in a favorable place (damned to the bottom of the list). Google knows more about you than you may think. Google Analytics shows interests, gender, location, where you visit, how long you spend on a page and soooo much more. You can use these to market appropriately to your audience. Google wants to be known for providing its users with the right information and a good user experience – so if your site is hard to navigate or find what your visitors want – they will leave (bounce). Having a high bounce rate is calculated into your position on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). So you need to keep people engaged and on your site – looking at multiple pages. How? Quizzes and polls, videos, articles, great CONTENT.
Both you and Google want visitors to return to your site… often. So as I mentioned, you need new, relevant content. New content brings people back, plus it adds to the list of things you can be found for. Proper formatting (H1, H2, H3 text, bulleted lists, pictures) is quite helpful as it helps people find info they want quickly. Pages that load quickly are a big one. Pages that are easy to navigate and find information. You should also tie social sharing into the site. This way when your content gets shared – people visit. When people visit – Google knows and it may just kick your site up a few notches.
So yes – there is a lot to think about when setting up a site, but don’t fret – it’s all quite simple. You just have to do some planning and put thought into it before you get going. Hopefully this article can help you get there.
Tune in next time for – OK – Who can do this website building thing?