While operating a website may sound simple and inexpensive, there’s a lot more to it than just deciding to have one. Here are a few steps you’ll want to consider before you get started.
1. Decide on a URL
Getting the right Internet address isn’t always easy because many of them are either already in use or reserved for future sites. If you can’t find an address you like and you’re not willing to pay a current owner for their address, you might want to follow creative alternatives:
- Consider alternate domain suffixes like .net, .biz, .pro, .co and .info
- Abbreviate your name
- Add a modifier to the beginning or end of your company name, such as “Visit” or “Shop”
- Create a name that explains what you do or what you sell
2. Find a Web host
Web host companies operate servers that connect you to the Internet 24/7. They often can register your URL and sell you space that holds everything that goes into your website. The amount of space you’ll want to buy depends on your business. Obviously, the more elaborate your website, the more space you’ll need.
Don’t overlook Internet providers as a possible business solution. Some bundle all the tools and support you may need to create a website including domain registration, hosting and web site design.
3. Build your website
Websites consist of text and graphics. There are a variety of ways to turn the content you create into something that can be viewed and interacted with online. One approach is to design the site yourself and then have your design coded so it works on the Internet. Another option is to use a pre-configured template and drop your pictures and words into the designated spaces. Since your website is an online version of your business, you’ll want it to reflect your brand and provide the kind of information you would offer in person.
4. Follow SEO Best Practices
- Create page titles, headers and meta descriptions that contain important keywords. You can use up to 80 characters but the first 35 are the most influential in search engine rankings.
- Put your most important information on your home page. Search engines favor the content on your home page over interior pages. Be sure to include what you’re all about and your contact information on your home page.
- Use important keywords when naming your pictures and graphics. The names you give the images are known as image alt tags and are displayed when users have images turned off.
- Organize your website into descriptive subcategories so search engines can easily “crawl” and index your content.
- Update your website periodically. Consider adding a blog or updating the content on your website monthly to let search engines know that you’re still in business. For example, Google considers “freshness of content” in its ranking algorithm.
- Promote your URL. Encourage people online to link to your site when talking about the industry you’re in or the kind of products/services you offer. The more reputable sources that link to your website, the better your position in search will be.
- Register your website with as many appropriate directories as possible.
- Fix common site errors such as broken links and 404 pages using Google Webmaster Tools.
- Avoid SEO “red flags” that will hurt your ranking. These can include:
- Duplicate content, invisible or tiny text
- Excessive use of keywords, or keyword “stuffing”
- Spam, unnatural language and most-paid link profiles will also hurt your rankings.
5. Drive traffic to your website
Now that you’ve got a website, don’t keep it a secret. Include it on your business cards and stationery, in all your emails and all your marketing materials. Encourage your customers to visit your site for special online promotions (coupons) or valuable advice. Use email blasts or e-newsletters to promote your site.
For more ideas on having your customer find your website, see Increase your online presence.