You’ve decided to create a website to market your products or services. More and more people start their information searches online, so having a website is the logical next step. But without web development skills or knowledge, how do you build and market a website?
To help you bring your business online, we’ve laid out these steps for you:
The website concept
• Choose and register a domain name
• Write a site outline
• Get a website template
• Write your website content
• Make your website user friendly
• Put together an e-commerce system
The online presence
• Choose a web host
• Set up your website
• Market your website
1. The website concept
Choose and register a domain name
Your domain name should represent your business and be easy to spell and remember. Your company name is the obvious choice, but if the name is long, you may want to use a shortened version of it.
The domain name extension is the part that comes after the main part of the name and the dot. Dot com (.com) names are the most popular for businesses. If your business is specific to a country outside the US, a country-specific extension helps show this. Country-specific domain extensions have rules relevant to the country they represent, such as that you’re a resident of that country or have a registered business in that country.
To find out if a domain name is available, go to Whois Source (http://www.whois.sc/) or the domain name registrar of your choice. Whois Source has a name spinner tool, which suggests variations of a name if the one you want is taken.
Once you choose a domain name, register it as soon as possible with a low price domains (http//www.lowpricedomains.com) provider. It might not be available the next day. Be sure to renew it before it expires — your company identity will become linked with this name.
Write a site outline
What content do you want at your website? These pages are standard for most business websites:
• About Us
If you offer just a few products or services, one page for each product or service will work fine. On the other hand, if your company provides a range of products or services, your site will be easier to navigate if you group the products or services into a separate directory for each group.
Good website content not only helps site visitors decide on your products or services, but it also helps increase traffic to your website. If you’re selling purple widgets, for example, a page on how to use purple widgets will bring your site more hits via search engines. It will also provide content that webmasters of other sites as well as posters in forums might link to.
With the site outline ready, you’re ready for the next step.
Get a website template
Pre-made website templates (http://www.templatetour.com) vary in quality, but they can be customized, and they save you time. If you plan to buy a pre-made website template, consider these features when choosing a template:
• Does the design convey a professional image that fits with your business?
• Do the pages download within a reasonable time?
• Does the design look good in all of the most common screen resolutions and browsers?
If you prefer to have an original website template but you don’t have web design skills, we recommend that you hire a professional web designer ([http://design.websitesource.com]). To choose a web designer, look at several web designers’ portfolios to see whose web designs meet the above criteria and suit your personal tastes.
2. The website
Write your website content
Web readers are different from print readers. Web readers want to know right away if a page has the information they’re looking for. If it doesn’t, they may use the Back button to go to another site.
You can hire a copywriter to write your website content, or your web designer may work with a web writer. Or, you can write your website content yourself.
Tips on writing for the Web:
• Organize your content with headings and subheadings.
• Tell readers what each page is about near the top of each page.
• Write clear, concise sentences in short paragraphs or bullet format.
• Use tables to display data such as product and price comparisons.
• Provide details about your products and services. Imagine what you’d want to know if you were looking for the products or services that you provide, and make this information easily accessible at your website.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a major part of web writing. Use keywords (words that people will enter in search engines to find information) throughout your content and in your title and headings in particular. The use of keywords also helps people find the information they’re looking for.
Make your website user friendly
Once site visitors come to your website, you want them to feel comfortable and to spend time reading the content. If your site is difficult to read or to navigate, you’ll lose visitors. Make sure that your website has the following:
• A readable font size
• Clear contrast between the font color and the background
• Links to the main pages that are easy to find from any page
• Links throughout the site that take visitors to the next steps — more details about your products or services, order pages, contact information
Put together an e-commerce system
If you sell products or services at your website, you need:
• An online shopping cart program so that people can place orders
• A merchant account to handle Internet payment transactions
• A payment gateway to connect your shopping cart and the financial institutions involved in the sale
• An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate to establish a secure connection when receiving credit card information
For low-volume sales, PayPal may be more economical than a merchant account, and it doesn’t require a payment gateway or an SSL certificate.
Shopping carts range from basic to those with more advanced options. Some merchant account providers include a payment gateway with their merchant accounts, which simplifies setting up an online store.
3. The online presence
Choose a web host
Choosing a good web host is essential to your online presence. If your site is constantly down, or if you can’t get customer support when you need it, your website won’t be able to work as well for you.
Don’t look at price alone when choosing a web host. Consider also these factors:
• Are the support people fast and helpful?
• Can you reach support easily at any time?
• Does the company have a good record of server uptime?
• Do the hosting packages provide room for your site to grow?
In addition, look for specific features that your website may require, such as website templates or support for specific e-commerce solutions. Website Source’s Hosting (http://www.websitesource.com) includes these features and more:
• Hundreds of templates to choose from using Site Studio — no HTML knowledge required
• A shopping cart and shared SSL certificate included with accounts
• Free website content that clients can publish at their sites
• A marketing control panel with tools to help market and monitor websites
Once you have a web hosting account, you’re ready to go online.
Set up your website
You have your domain name, your website template, your content, your e-commerce system, and your web host. Now what?
Put it all together.
• Your domain name When you set up your web hosting account, your web host gave you the names of two nameservers. These names need to be in the domain name record for your domain name to point to your website.
To add the nameservers to your domain name record, log in to your domain name account at your domain name registrar and look for the two fields marked “nameservers,” “DNS” (domain name servers), or just “Primary” and “Secondary.” Enter the nameserver names that your web host gave you, and click on Update. (The exact steps may vary depending on your domain name registrar.)
While it used to take 24 hours or more for domain names to point to a website, this process often happens within an hour or so now.
• Your website content Your web designer can format the content in HTML for you and add it to each web page. If you’re using a pre-made template with a
• Your website You can upload your web pages via an FTP (file transfer protocol) program or via the website control panel if your control panel has a file upload feature. If your site has an e-commerce system, you can set it up after you upload your page files.
When you think your website is ready for the public, check it, check it, and check it:
• Do all the links work?
• Can visitors find information easily with the minimal number of clicks?
• If you have a shopping cart, does it work smoothly?
• Did you provide all the details that visitors need, including contact information?
Market your website
If you build it, they will come — but only if they know about it.
Help people find your site online:
• Submit your site to search engines
• Find relevant online directories and submit your site to them.
• Ask the webmasters of sites with related content if they want to link to your site.
• Put your site name and a link to it in your signature line for all outgoing email.
• Participate in forums and newsgroups and include your site name and a link to it in your signature line for posts.
Share your site domain name offline too:
• Print it on your business cards and stationery.
• Display it in your store or office.
• Add it in lettering on your company vehicle.
• Put it on any company giveaway items.
• Include it with any advertisements.
Keep your website content current, continue adding new content, and give your domain name as much exposure as possible. And watch your business grow.