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Getting Your Business’s Website Discovered

In the late 1990’s it was important to have an Internet presence for your business whether it was large or small. Today it's critical to have an online presence because you may be missing financial opportunities to sell your products or services.

If your business is Internet based then it's important to understand the ins-and-outs of things like website design, Search Engine Optimization, etc. If your business is not web based, it can be confusing and frustrating trying to navigate the technology, concepts and techno babble.

This article is both for people who are trying to create a website for their business or those whom already have one. For those that are trying to create a website, you will learn the basics you will need to know to build a strong foundation for your internet presence. For those businesses with existing an website you will learn how to better promote your site.

Finding a great domain name

The foundation of most web sites can be its domain name. This is how people will find you and refer to your business. A good domain should contain keyword references to your profession or the products you sell.

For example, lets say a guy named Frank has a company called Frank’s Widgets, and his company is in a town called Webville. If FranksWidgets.com is taken (which is the more ideal name), then he could also try checking if domains like FranksWidgets.biz or FranksWidgetsWebville.com are available.

Good domain names have been hard to find for more than a decade, so if you find a good one right off keep it. There are a few considerations when selecting a good domain name, see the following article that I wrote on the subject for more information.

Designing a fantastic website
The next thing you need to do is a create a good layout and design for your website. I always recommend starting with something clean and simple, and avoid cluttering it up with useless stuff (e.g. graphics, information or other design elements [such as Flash]).

Google’s original home page was very clean and started its own minimalist website design trend. For design clues and ideas check out popular sites (like apple.com), look at what you think they’re doing right and wrong. Then implement those ideas into your own design.

It's also a good idea to avoid incorporating any Flash animation into your home page unless its a video. Flash animation can look cool, but can also slow down your page load times, and content inside the Flash object can’t be indexed by the search engines.

If you’re going to hire a web site design company or designer, I would highly recommend that you check their references. I have heard several horror stories over the years about these companies and individuals. From bad service, products, expense, and trying to upsell their customers useless stuff that they don’t need.

Note: there are several professional templates and services that can make setting up your web site pretty quick and easy. The biggest problem you may run into with a company that offers DIY website builder is that you’re locked into the features that hosting provider has to offer.

Finding A Good Website Host Provider

There are lots of hosting companies available that can host your website, they generally offer a plethora of features and services for different costs.

Before selecting a host provider, talk to the web designer to make sure you understand all your the web site design requirements (e.g. content management system [like WordPress, etc.], server-side scripting language [e.g. .PHP, .ASPX, etc.], etc.) to find a provider that can meet all your business needs.

I would highly recommend that you talk with your friends and associates to see if they can offer you any personal suggestions or recommendations of a business that they have used. Don’t get stuck in some long term contract with a hosting provider that has lousy service or doesn’t offer the features or services you need to run your business.

Make sure to call the hosting provider that you want to use and question them about their system availability and reliability. Ask them what would happen if the server goes down where your site is hosted, will it still be available. A good hosting provider has some type of high availability technologies built-into their computing infrastructure.

The Basics of Search Engine Optimization

Most people receive 90-99% of all their visitor traffic from the search engines. Depending on the country which is your target market, the most popular search engine can be different. For most of us here in the USA our traffic comes from Google.

Search Engine Optimization (aka SEO) are techniques used by website owners to get in the top search results for specific keywords for related products or services they provide. I jokingly call SEO a dark art of the web. The problem is that there is no specific patterns of techniques that you can use to always get the same results. You also have to be careful there are some SEO techniques that can get you banned from search engines if you use them, or they will penalize your placement in the returned search results.

I would highly recommend that you talk with your friends and associates to see if they can offer you any personal suggestions or recommendations of a business that they have used. Don’t get stuck with some SEO company that offers lousy service or doesn’t get you the results that they promised.

Utilizing Social Media Marketing

Just about every website you go to these days is asking you to “like” them on Facebook or “follow” them on Twitter. The biggest problem with social media marketing is trying to figure out how to effectively use these services to promote or market your website, products, or services.

There are a several considerations when trying to use social media marketing for promoting your website, product or services, see the following article that I wrote on the subject for more information.

Understanding Your Visitors with Website Analytics

Website analytics help you understand where your visitors and traffic are coming from. This technology can tell you how your visitors found your site, what they’re looking at, how long they’re staying on our site, and much more.

If you’re running advertising campaign to drive traffic to your site, this information is invaluable for targeting content, products or services at potential customers.

Google offers a free website analytics service called Google Analytics. This service and others like it requires that you embed some specialize JavaScript code into all the web pages you want the service to track. Some hosting providers

Other Ways to Promote Your Web Site

Other web based internet marketing technologies that shouldn’t be ignored and are still effective tools when used appropriately are:
  • Blogs: Allows you to post information in a chronological list about what is going on with your business, products or services that your visitors can read.
  • RSS feeds: A chronological list of article excerpts and links from blogs, news or other related site content. RSS feeds are generally read by some type of RSS reader application.
  • Email: Before blogs and RSS feeds was email marketing. Customers or visitors voluntarily provided their email address to get information or discounts from a business. Done correctly this can still be an effective tool for promoting your business, done badly you can be considered a spammer.
  • Video or audio podcasts: Are you looking for creative ways to promote your products or services. Create an audio or video podcast to provide more information about them, creative uses for them or how they can help improve your customer’s lives.
  • Advertising: There is only so much you can do without spending money, sometimes to get real results more quickly might require that you start an advertising campaign with sites like Google Adwords.
  • Reciprocal Linking: This is a more controversial SEO practice, but it allows you and fellow friends or business associates to share links between sites. For example your friend links to you from their site, and you link to your friend’s website from your site. The intent of this practice is to help increase your website’s ranking in a search engine's search results. (More information)
  • Location Search: If you’re a physical business you need to make sure that your potential customers find you when they’re looking for products or services that you sell. Google Places allows you to manage information about your business on Google’s site.

Making Some Extra Money
If your web site is content based, you can make extra money by leveraging affiliate marketing links or displaying advertisements on your site.
  • Affiliate Marketing: Several companies such as Amazon, and many others offer Affiliate Marketing opportunities that allow you to sell their products on your site. For every product you sell, you get a percentage of the sale.
  • Hosting Advertising: Services like Google Adsense allow you display their advertisements on your site, and they will pay you when your visitors click on their customer’s advertisements.

Caring for your Online Reputation
Before people will do business with you they will generally check online (using search engines or price comparison service) to see if your business has a good reputation. Although, finding this information can sometimes be challenging unless you know where to search for it.

For example, if your a restaurant, then you might want to check sites like Yelp to see what your customers are saying about your business.
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