On the internet, your most basic presence is a website. It is the staging point and the hub of everything that you do online.
Almost all of your activity in online marketing goes back to your website. Your website is the face you show for your business. This is where your customer gets his first impression of your business. This is where they interface with your business.
A professional-looking website says that you are a reliable, trustworthy, professional business. A sloppy-looking website says that your business is small-time, amateurish and cannot be trusted.
That is why it is important that your website has a design and content that speaks well of your business. Also, if you have a site or plan to have a site where your customer can buy merchandise (an e-commerce site) you should also ensure that the process of ordering is easy and problem-free.
These are the basic steps of building a website:
Get a domain name. This is the URL or web address that people write on their browser to get to your website. A good domain name is short, memorable, easily spelled and typed, easy to say, and ideally, should contain your business’ keyword. Dotcom (.com) domain names are more trusted than .info, .biz, or any other top-level domains (TLD). Popular places where you can buy a domain are GoDaddy and Register.com. Very often you can get your domain name for free from the host you sign up with.
Get a reliable host. A host is a company that owns the server where your website lives. The main consideration for choosing a host is the number of functionalities it gives you for managing your site, such as a cPanel where you can create a site with a few clicks, accesses your site via file transfer, sees activities on your site via logs, and more.
As to cost, you can sign up for hosting for as low as $6 a month. There are even hosts that allow you to build several websites with unlimited traffic on one account. The more popular hosts where customers are happy with include HostMonster, GoDaddy, and BlueHost.
Determine the business objectives of your website from a marketing perspective. The most common objectives are the following:
Inform customers about your product and services
Enhance and reinforce your brand in your audience’s mind
Generate leads or convince customers to contact you
Generate sales or sell directly via your site
Decide what your website should contain based on your objective. Content does not necessarily be composed of only text and graphics. Depending on your marketing objective, you can put multimedia elements such as video, audio or flash animations. For example, a video on the features of your product or how to use your product can be a great tool to convince your web visitor to buy your product. See also this post on how to make a professional brochure.
Design the structure of your website. How is your content organized? How do your users navigate from the main menu and find your most important content? Having a good website structure also helps in optimizing your site for the search engine (or SEO). Put your outline or plan on paper.
Decide the technology of your website depending on your content.
For a plain vanilla “brochure website”, brochureware, or business card sites. It can be as simple as a plain HTML site that you create via software like Dreamweaver or can be design-flashy using Flash pages (not recommended if you are optimizing your site for the search engines).
There are vendors that offer templates for business websites, and you just have to supply the content. Examples of this are Yahoo Business and Intuit Websites. These are more expensive and less flexible though than building your website yourself.
A site with e-commerce is more complex still, and you would need, aside from a “shopping cart CMS”, the mechanism to have a secure site that protects it from being hacked, and take also a look at these Photoshop alternatives.
Plan to make your site search engine friendly or search engine optimized. In designing the structure, assigning page titles and meta tags, and putting together the various elements of your pages, apply the basics of search engine optimization. This will enable you to get free traffic from the search engines. It is preferable to have your site optimized for the search engine at the outset, rather than making fixes later.
Build and launch your website.
If you do not have the knowledge or the inclination to build a website, you can hire site builders or web developers.
One fact you have to face is that even if you build it, they will not necessarily come. Your website is just one of the billions of sites in the internet competing for an audience, and your audience, unaided, has no idea how to find you. Be also careful with your design!
That’s why you have to drive your intended audience to your website. You can do this offline by putting your web address on your calling card, on print, billboard or another form of “traditional” advertising. Recalling your web address (or URL) from offline media, however, involves effort from your audience as they have to memorize your web address or write it down until the time they have access to the internet. Unless your audience is very motivated to access your website, the chances of losing him are great.
The best way is to grab your audience is by getting in front of him while he is online. If it takes just a click to get to your website while he is already online, it is more probable that he will visit your site. Attracting an audience can be done by search engine optimization, pay per click, social media marketing, and other online promotion techniques.