Setting Your Business Up Online
I am James Blackman a business owner based in Tamworth .An expert in online marketing and web development with over 16 years experience. I have had a varied career spanning many different areas, from Operations to Marketing, working with people throughout the globe. My first experience online was back in 1999 when I created my first website. Back then the internet was very different, and still very new. I knew then that trading online would be the future, and that I could make money from having a website.
Whilst working in a marketing department I started to develop e-marketing strategies around 2002. We were looking to mass email our top 1000 clients with up to date information about services they did know about. Back then it was a lot more complicated and as a company they were unsure about its legality and the project was stopped.
12 years on the internet is now a part of everyday life, but many businesses are still a little afraid or unsure that their business should be online, and if online how to get the best results from their website and who to trust to do this critical work.
So let’s start from the beginning, and give you some pointers on how to get off to a good start.
The internet now is your business’ most effective sales tool. Like anything your website has to be set up properly, correctly structured and regularly updated. If you put effort into your website, it will perform well for you and can increase sales and brand awareness.
So to get started:
You need to think about what your website is to do for you. Is it for branding, selling, gathering leads, or informational?
Once you’ve established this you then need to think about what your website should be called. You would need to choose a domain name e.g. yourdomainname.co.uk. Don’t go for a domain name which is nothing to do with your brand or market. Google has a penalty in the wings for any Exact Domain Match which has no relevance to your business.
I would always advise using a .co.uk, a .com is normally associated with international and .org is for organisations like charities, or government bodies. My strongest advice is to register the domain name yourself and don’t get a web designer or web hosting company to do this for you. If you register the domain name yourself, it means you will have total hassle free control of your website. So if you ever have an issue with your designer/developer you can easily take control.
A domain name can be purchased from 123-reg.co.uk or 1&1.co.uk or nominet.co.uk (governing body for .co.uk domain registrants).
The prices vary from £2 a year to £20 a year. It only takes about 3 minutes to register a domain.
Next you need to find a web host. This is where a lot of companies and individuals get it very wrong. Often businesses go for unlimited space for the cheapest price, but this has its draw backs. i.e site performance which is critical for a website. The key thing you should look for is Bandwidth (anything less than 5GB a month is no good). If you have a lot of users on your website the bandwidth increases. Most hosts publish what bandwidth you want. Also Google/Search Engines will look at where the web host is based in relation to your business. If you use an Indian or a US web host this could start to effect your Google position in the future. Go UK and this solves the problem straight away. Hostgator I would highly recommend staying away from.
Web hosting for 1GB to 5GB of space should cost you no more than £60 a year and some hosts provide self service technical support, or a paid technical support from around £15 a month. Often the bigger hosting providers can have terrible customer service. Go local there are plenty of good web hosts in and around Tamworth.
Once you’ve got your domain name and web hosting, then you need to think about content and design.
My recommendation to any business is not to use a template driven website. i..e 1&1 site builders, Wix.com, Moonfruit etc.. They are extremely restrictive and often charge extra for really basic things to be added. Also your website would look pretty much the same as 1000’s of others..
Use a local firm to build your website. Again Tamworth has many high end designers and developers which can suit any budget. However don’t go cheap, remember this is your shop window to the world and you get what you pay for.
To choose a good designer (web design) look at their portfolio. Do not be afraid to contact their existing clients to see if they are any good and find out what kind of experience they had. Don’t ask a family member or a friend to create a site to save some pennies as you are basically trusting them to promote your income and your business. Remember your website is an extension of your business and done correctly it will increase business and your turnover.
SEO - Search Engine Optimisation
Some key things Google and BING demand from a website:-
- Quick loading
- User friendly
- Original Content
- Useful up to date information
- Regularly updated i.e. Weekly/Monthly.
Google and Bing Hate:-
- Flash (Apple mobile devices will not show flash websites. 40-50% of the traffic comes from Apple devices).
- Slow loading websites
- Duplicated content, i.e copy and pasted bits of text from other websites, poor images copied.
- Bad grammar and spelling mistakes – Yes Google has tools to check if sentences are structured correctly and spelt well.
- Lots of links going to irrelevant websites (article farms/link farms)
- Spammy adverts places around your website (Adsence etc..)
We highly recommend that you have a content management system on your website this allows you to update the content with easy and give you control over your content.
Wordpress is a very good tool and many web designers and developers like using it as:-
- Google loves Wordpress built websites. (Matt Cutts – Head of Google Web Spam uses it over Blogger (Google product).
- Dead easy to maintain and keep up to date. Its like using word.
- Totally flexible.
The beauty of Wordpress is that you can purchase themes (look and feel) with some limitations, or you can have a completely customized website. You can also link to all the social networks.
The biggest area of the website is the content .Many businesses fall short in this area. 1 paragraph of text copied and altered from another site will do you no favours. However a insightful piece of content offering some useful information to your potential clients with a minimum of 300 words and use images to support the text. Video also works well with supporting content. Ensure any of your images are named correctly. For example DCM10200.jpg as Google will not index them as it has no meaning, use something to describe the image i.e car-fan-belt-motor.jpg.
Again in Tamworth there are plenty copywriters who can professionally write your content. Getting a copywriter to write your content is such a good investment, as they will write the content in a more user friendly way and take a different angle and could give you a competitive edge. Particularly if your grammar is poor. I am dyslexic so I use copywriters for all my wording.
Social Media - How to bring extra traffic!
Once your website is live get on social media particularly on Twitter,Google +, Linkedin and Facebook.
The key thing with Social Media:
- It can hit a very large targeted market i.e in the UK every day there is some for of business hours i.e #westmidshour this means loads of businesses are on line at the same time selling their businesses.
- Google and BING use social media to help position you within the search results. Particularly Twitter and Google +. Bing is actually using Google + as a key message to gauge how active a website owner is.
- Linkedin/Facebook/Google + you can have business pages which you can brand up and also use to develop potential leads.
- All social media will drive people to your website which is key and you can also use social media to get people to come to retailers to get discounts off line.
Once your website is live you should regularly update your website. Search engines will soon start to only list websites which are updated regularly as it is clear to the search engines who are serious about being online.
About the author:
James Blackman is the Managing Director of Cocoonfxmedia Ltd, a Tamworth based web design and online marketing company providing cost effective, highly responsive websites. Visit https://www.cocoonfxmedia.co.uk/web-design
This article was published in the Tamworth Herald (Feb 2014).