A couple of weeks ago, on our way back from the beach, we decided to go to an Indian restaurant for dinner. We wanted to try a new place. So, I started googling for restaurants near us and started checking out the ones that we could try. I wanted to check out their menu to see if they had a particular dish that my kids wanted to have. To my surprise, two or three of them did not have a website and even if they did, they did not have a proper menu.

This made me think why wouldn’t somebody who is doing business, not have a proper website? In this day and age, a website is very important for the success of your business. It can make or break a business.

Let’s take the example of restaurants. If they have a website with their menu and hours on it, it would be helpful to a lot of people. People are in a rush trying to find things quickly. People use ‘Siri’ and Google to find things online. If you do not have an online presence, they will not find you. You need to optimize your site to show up in the “near me” searches. Having your business address registered in Google search is not enough. You need to have a website and at least a couple of social media profiles that talk about you and your business.

Wider Audience

Having an online presence helps you gain wider audience. Your website is accessible to people around the world. You might think that your products/services are local, but never underestimate the power of the web. Even if it is local, your site will help you gain more customers. People usually tend to search for products and services online first. Even if you don’t sell anything online, your potential customers will checkout your site and if they like what they see, they might actually come to the store to buy the products or contact you for your services.

Website accessible at all times

Your website is accessible to people even when your office/store is closed. People don’t have the time to go and visit different stores before buying a product. Many of them prefer online shopping in the comfort of their homes. So, having a website means that your will show up as an option for your potential clients.  Some services cannot be bought online and in that case give your potential clients a chance to read about you and get to know you. That will make it easy for them to make the decision to hire you.

One of the reasons people ignore their websites and social media is because they do not know where to start. There is so much information thrown towards us, that we are utterly confused on what is important. 

Here are the three main things a business needs to thrive online. These are just the starters, but can quickly evolve into much more. 

  1. A website
  2. Social media presence
  3. Strong SEO

Websites

Setting up a website is one of the easiest things and also one of the first things you should do. Here are the things you need to setup a site:

  1. Domain Name 
    As soon as you decide on your business name, check if you can purchase a domain name the same as your business. If your business name is a unique one, then it should be easy. You can do a search for domain names easily – https://www.name.com/domain/search
  2. Hosting 
    Once you have the domain name, purchase a hosting account to host your website. You can find some good hosting options here. I use SiteGround for my site and recommend it for my clients as well. Their customer service is excellent. You can check out Site Ground’s hosting options here.
  3. CMS 
    Using a Content Management System like WordPress will make it easier to add new content and maintain your site in the long term. Although WordPress is easy, there might be a learning curve. Once you install WordPress on your site, you can add pages and content to your site. There will be some options to customize your site. You now have a brand new site that you can show off to the world!! 
  4. Design for your site: WordPress comes with a number of themes to choose from for the look of your site on the front end.  You can choose a free theme and setup your site. If you want a custom design for your site, you will need to hire a professional to help you with the design and the building of the theme. Here are some tips to choosing the right theme for your WordPress site.

Building a website isn’t rocket science, but there are some things to keep in mind while you are building or setting up your site.

Websites make lasting impressions on people. You have a few minutes to make them interested in your products/services. So, you should make sure that your brand value/personality shows through your website. That will help people make the connection between you, your products/services and your website. Make the website easy to use and have the information easily accessible.

Your website should speak about you and your business just like you would in person. Your website is one of the best resources you have to convince users to purchase your products/services.

How much do I spend on my website?

So, now the big question that bothers every small business owner – How much should I spend on my website? Unfortunately, there is no magic number anybody can give you. You have to figure it out based on your requirements.

The good news is that you do not need to put down an enormous amount for a starter website. 

Just like you would not start a company with 10,000 employees on day 1, you do not need an expensive website with all the bells and whistles to get started. You can have a starter website for about $2,000.00. As your business grows, you can add more features to your site.

Social Media

Social media is as important as a website. People like to engage and get updates and information through their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts. Having these for your business will definitely increase your customer base and result in more sales. Social media channels are a place where you can interact with your clients.

You do not need to have a profile on every social media channel out there. Some social media are preferable for some businesses. Facebook and Twitter are generally relevant to all businesses. There are other social media channels like Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc which you should definitely look into.

Post about product updates, offers, new products etc on your social media. Make it so that your potential customers are guided back to your website from all the social media channels.

SEO

Search Engine Optimization ensures that your site will show up on major search engines. Most people end up on a site from search engines. If your site does not show up in a search, it is very likely that you won’t be found on the internet. 

SEO is an ongoing process. You have to keep working on it to make sure your site shows up for relevant searches. If you use WordPress, there are a number of free plugins that will help you with SEO. I use the Yoast SEO plugin which offers a number of options even in the free version.

You can dedicate entire days for your SEO and there will be still so much more you can do. But, since you also need to focus on your business, you can start with a few things and learn as you go.

  • Add your site to the Google Search Console and the Bing webmaster tools. The webmaster tools help you see how your site is showing up on search engines, how your pages are ranking and what search phrases or words are people using to land on your pages. You can use the free Yoast SEO plugin for this.
  • Add an XML sitemap. XML sitemap is like a table of contents for your site. This helps search engines crawl all the pages on your site more efficiently. Sitemaps also include information about when the pages have been updated and the meta data of the pages.
  • Make sure your pages are loading quickly. If you have great content on your site, but it takes forever for your pages to load, people will quickly leave the site.
  • Have a mobile friendly site. Most of the website traffic these days comes from mobile phones and tablets. So, making your site mobile friendly is very important.
  • Optimize your page content and images – There is a lot you can do to optimize the content of your pages. Get started by having a title and description for your pages. This can be done using the Yoast SEO plugin if you are using WordPress. Adding descriptions to images using the alt tags and optimizing the image sizes helps.

There is a lot more you can do to have a strong online presence for your business. Get started with the minimum and add as you build your business online.

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