Depending on which survey you read, anywhere from 25% to just over 50% of small business owners don’t have a website. If you don’t have an online presence, you are missing a segment of your market that is looking for you. Your online presence is also part of your overall brand and gives your market a way to connect with you any time of the day.
If I hear of a business and I want to find out about them, I whip out my phone and Google the name. In most cases, I cannot find the business online other than through some generic site like Manta. Many times I will find a Facebook page but it has limited to no information about the business. I still may visit the business, but I am not as likely since I do not know anything about them.
Like it or not, some people will decide whether to do business with you based on whether you have a website and how it looks. Your online presence is part of your overall marketing strategy. It is a key component of your platform on which you will build a brand (but I will cover developing your brand in a different post).
We live in a technologically advanced society where 64% of the US population has a smartphone and 74% of the population has a computer at home with an internet connection of some kind. People are looking online for information more and more and that includes looking for information on your business.
You may not think having an online presence makes much difference in your business. Here are some interesting statistics found by the web team at Deluxe.com about online searches and what they mean:
- Local searches are 2x as likely to lead to a purchase
- 50% of consumers searching for a local business on their smartphone visit the store within 24 hours
- 66% of consumers searching on a desktop or tablet go to a store within 5 miles
- 75% of consumers searching on a smartphone go to a store within 5 miles
You also need the right content. When potential customers visit your site, what content are they looking for? Be sure to include the information listed below.
For smartphone searches:
- 54% are looking for business hours
- 53% are looking for directions
- 50% are looking for local store addresses
For desktop or tablet searches:
- 45% are looking for product availability
- 42% are looking for business hours
- 38% are looking for local store addresses
How to build a simple website
If you don’t currently have a website, setting up a simple site to provide the essential content is easy. In most cases, you can do it yourself in less than an hour.
1. Pick a domain name and setup your hosting account:
This is step is very easy to do. I recommend using Bluehost to register your domain and setup your web hosting services. I have used them for all my sites over the years and have been very happy with their service. I also like the values they have since they do not provide hosting for any pornography, gambling, or other sites with objectionable content.
Go to the Bluehost website and click in the green box to get started registering your domain and hosting
I recommend the plus plan. It is only a small amount more money but you get unlimited website hosting on this one account and unmetered website space.
Once you select your hosting plan, you will be taken to the sign up now screen where you will choose your domain name. I recommend using your company name or a name easily associated with your business. I also recommend getting the .com domain. Play around here as you can always hit the back button and try several different names to see what is available. If you select a name that is not available, you will see other suggestions that are available. You can pick one of these or hit the back button and try a different domain name. As I said, get a .com name rather than settling for something else .net, .co, etc.
If you already have a domain name, you can transfer it to Bluehost or point the name servers to Bluehost and leave the domain where it is. If you registered through a service like Name Cheap or Go Daddy to reserve a domain but never had a site, I would go ahead and transfer the domain. Bluehost will help you with the transfer.
2. Provide information to complete hosting
Once you have a domain name and have hit next, you will sign up for your service by entering your information.
Here you will select your account plan for hosting. You can purchase 12 months, 24 months, or 36 months. The pricing drops the longer period of time you agree to. Keep in mind, you will pay the full amount for the hosting period up front so make sure you select the plan you can afford.
⇒You will also see options for add on services on the signup screen. The only one I encourage is Domain Privacy Protection. If you do not have privacy, someone can see who owns the site and the likelihood of you receiving lots of spam email increases. For the price, it is worth it.
Enter your credit card information, check the terms and conditions box, and click submit. You will now be taken to the screen to create your password to login to your hosting account.
3. Select your password for the hosting account
Once you have selected a password (please save it somewhere to make life easier), go ahead and copy it for ease of logging into your account. You should be taken to the login screen. If you domain is not prefilled, put in your domain name and paste your password. When you hit submit, you will be taken to your hosting account.
If you receive any more upgrade offers here, just skip them. If you ever want to add them later, you can. No need to spend additional money now when you are just getting started. You want to click on hosting at the top left side of the menu. If you get a popup asking if you want help, you can close out of it and proceed. If you would prefer help, you can always request it later.
4. Find your hosting cpanel
You should see hosting at the top left in the menu. In the submenu under hosting you will see cpanel as the 2nd menu item from the left. Click on cpanel and you will be taken to the control panel which looks like this:
You want to install WordPress to start developing your site. Click on Install WordPress under website builders. It may ask you again if you want help but just click you will do it yourself.
Click the green install button and select the domain you want to use. If you only have one, that domain should be showing in the drop down list. Click “Check Domain”.
Once you check the domain and there are no issues, you will see the screen below. Check the terms and conditions box and click “Install Now”
While WordPress is installing, you will get another ad. Click the X at the top right to close it. You will see the progress of the install in the top right section of the screen as the arrow shows.
When WordPress has been installed, you will see the orange banner at the top saying your install is complete. On the right is a button which says view credentials. This is your login information to your WordPress Dashboard where you will create your website. Click “View Credentials” to see the information.
You will be taken to the mojo marketplace where you can see your credentials. Scroll down to where you see the section below and click on view beside the red credentials button.
Once you click view, you will see the login URL for your WordPress site, your username, and password. Save these where you can get to them and they are safe. This is the access information to get to the backend developer of your website so protect it.
Once you have this information saved, click on the URL link and you will be taken to the WordPress login for your site. Enter your information and close the ad asking if you want help creating your site.
You are now at the WordPress Dashboard. This is where you can create your website and publish for the world to see. You will also write and publish your blog posts from here. WordPress provides you some very basic themes for you to get started. To learn more about WordPress and how to use it, I recommend WP101.com as a starting point. It is very low cost training and is what I used when I started learning WordPress.
I recommend considering a premium theme. With a premium theme, you get a lot of options and flexibility to create your site. Two places I have used are:
Themeforest – I like the X theme because it is very customizable. I use it for my site here. There are many other good ones here as well.
Studio Press Premium Themes – Studio Press has quality premium themes built with SEO in mind. They have a great reputation
Outsourcing your design
If you don’t want to tackle building your site and need help, you can engage the help of someone else. A few resources to consider are:
Genesis Developers for Studiopress themes: – Studiopress has several recommended developers you can check out and touch base with.
Envato Studio is an online shopfront for freelance services where you can get web design services and programming help if needed. I have not used this service but have heard good things.
Regardless of the route you take, you will not regret establishing an online presence. You will be providing your customer with a 24 hour a day connection point to learn and engage with your business. Technology is not going away and internet marketing is rapidly becoming the one of the key advertising methods required to reach your target audience.
What questions do you have about setting up your online presence? Connect with me through facebook or twitter and I will answer your questions.
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.