Get Online Week - tips for building your first business website

Forget the doom and gloom of yesterday’s Comprehensive Spending Review. How about a bit of good news? This is Get Online Week – a week aimed at encouraging individuals and businesses to get started on the internet.

There are potentially enormous benefits to be derived from getting your business online. Consumers are spending an increasing amount of time and money on the internet, and you may be missing out on a significant revenue stream if you are not visible on the web.

So how can you get started with your first business website?

1. Choose a great domain name

Your domain name is one of the most important aspects of your web presence. Ideally, your domain should reflect your brand or the nature of your company. If you already have a strong brand, you should try to make sure that this is included in your domain name. Similarly, remember that your domain name is one of the key factors used by search engines to determine whether or not your site is relevant to a search query. So, if you are a plumber operating in the Bradford area, you should consider getting this information into the address.

2. Get the right hosting

In order to get your website online you will need to buy a hosting package. There are thousands of hosting businesses all offering deals. Seemingly minor differences between packages can have a significant impact on your website’s performance. So, as well as looking at the amount of storage space and bandwidth on offer, consider factors like where the servers are based. If the majority of your clients and customers are based in the UK, consider spending a bit more to have servers located in the UK as well; this will generally yield faster loading times.

3. Show what you sell…

Make clear to first time viewers exactly what it is that you do and what you are offering. Most visitors will have neither the time nor the inclination to go trawling through your website to work out whether or not you can help them. They want the relevant information quickly – so make sure it is clearly visible on the initial few pages that a visitor will come across.

4. …but remember it’s not all about transactions

That said, it is worth remembering that not all websites are transactional – and even those that are will not necessarily immediately yield sales. For example, if you are selling high-ticket items relatively few customers will make impulse purchases. Instead, they might well go away, visit a few other sites, then return if they want to buy.

5. Give your customer options

Consumers appreciate options; they do not want to be dictated to. This should be reflected in your website. To begin with, make sure that consumers have a range of options when it comes to contact methods. Some will prefer to email, others want to phone. Make sure that they can do both. If yours is a transactional website, make sure that a range of payment options are on offer. You can accept credit and debit card payments easily using services like Paypal.

6. Learn to optimise

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a key factor that could dictate whether or not your website is a success. SEO is a set of techniques designed to improve your site’s performance in search engine rankings. You will ‘optimise’ your site to perform well for specific keywords; these might include your brand name, a product name, or phrases relating to the services you offer. You might achieve this through writing relevant, valuable content, building links from other sites, submitting articles to directories, or any number of other techniques. Click here for more information on SEO.

7. Consider PPC

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is another important way of driving traffic to your website. The most common form of PPC advertising is the ‘sponsored listings’ that appear at the top of Google results pages. You can ‘bid’ to appear in this list. PPC can be a great way of boosting traffic while you are waiting for your optimisation efforts to take effect, or if you are running a special marketing campaign. Click here for more information on PPC.

8. Read your emails

You should have a customer service email address prominently displayed throughout your website. In addition, though, it is vital that you monitor the emails you receive. It is vital that you reply to enquiries promptly if you are to stand any chance of closing a sale. Many of the major retailers now pledge to reply to correspondence within four hours. Try to emulate this wherever possible.

9. Test, test, test

Finally, it is vital that you test your website before unleashing it on the world. Consumers simply will not put up with clunky or misbehaving websites; they will go elsewhere very quickly. It is therefore imperative that you spend time making sure that there are no dead links, that every page behaves as it should, and that the site is compatible with the major browsers.

Building a great website is a learning process. Your site will be tweaked and overhauled over time, and you might end up with something completely different to whatever it was that you first envisioned. But, by getting online today, you can help to build a profitable and well-connected future for your business.