Before You Get a WebSite
When most small businesses decide to get a website they usually start out by doing one of two things. They either ask someone they know to build them one, or they buy a software program to create one. In either case, they usually have an idea about what they want to have on their site. But, they miss the very first steps. These steps are the most crucial and will determine whether the website is a success.
So, before you actually spend your time and money getting a website, please ask yourself these questions. Even if you are on the Internet already, these questions are good to ask yourself if your Internet presence isn't doing as well as you want.
Different companies have different purposes for being on the Internet. Decide which reasons are right for you. Some common reasons are: to directly sell your product or service; to provide detailed explanations of your products and services in order to reduce advertising costs; to have an online brochure; to have an email address with your own domain name; to provide customer service; or to have a high-tech image.
This is a tricky one. Many people believe that once they have a website, the world will beat a path to their door. It's just not true. You must know your target audience. And you need to find ways to bring them to your site. So before you can answer this question, be able to answer the following questions.
First, make sure you've considered using all your collateral marketing materials. Put your web address and email address on everything you have - business cards, letterheads, envelopes, brochures, one-sheets, press releases, advertising specialties, etc. Second, think carefully about reciprocal links. These are links that other companies place on their sites, that link to you. In return, you link to them. Don't even consider companies that don't have anything in common with you. Nor should you consider competitors. Instead, focus on companies that sell related products and services. For example, if you do word processing, consider reciprocal links with printing companies, graphics firms, and desktop publishing companies. The third method is search engines. This is our least favorite method. There are just too many other companies that get listed in the search engines, and if you're not in the top twenty or thirty, you can just forget about being seen. There are many other extremely good methods to get visitors to come to your site but they are too numerous to list here.
On questions 4-7, make sure you think from your customers' points of view, not from your own. We'll go into them in depth in Part II. But you should be thinking about them in the meantime if you're considering getting on the Internet.
As much as you would like them to come to your website, it's not just going to magically happen. You have to market the website and you have to have something valuable on the website. One of the most valuable items you can provide is information that the visitors feel they absolutely must have.
If someone comes to your website a second and third time, if there's nothing different from when they were there the first time, then they'll feel cheated. You have to make their subsequent visits fresh and interesting. Usually, this means updated content, but other ideas include specials, contests, or puzzles.
One of the best methods is targeted emails. We definitely do NOT mean spam. We mean mailing lists that your visitors sign up for. You provide information that they want on the website, and summarize that information in an email.
Only you can answer this one. But in another article, we'll discuss the costs associated with owning a website.
Which is better: A poor web site and no domain name or no web site and no business email?
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