How do I Use a Website to Promote my Business?

Do you need a website?. Well that depends entirely on how you wish to market your business and whether your competitors have an online presence, it also depends on the type of clients you hope to attract. Let me ask you a straight question – Do you want to increase business for a minimum outlay?.

Most people now have some form of access to the internet, whether at home, at work or through their school or university. For many, searching for a service or product using Google is now much the preferred alternative to opening a phone directory, or scanning the Yellow Pages. With the increase in Broadband technology and the rapid fall in prices then this trend is very likely to continue and grow, with more and more people of all ages having some form of regular internet use. Do you want to miss out on this potential and growth?

Many small business owners and CEOs think nothing of spending hundreds or even thousands of pounds on conventional advertising such as that in Yellow Pages and similar directories, and yet are still missing out on the earning potential of having a website presence. For some this is simply through not having the relevant skills or feeling that they have no webdesign capabilities to even begin to build their own site. However with many webhosts now offering WYSIWYG web creation tools and web builder packages, anybody who is capable of booting a computer now has the possibility of creating a basic website to promote their business.

After word of mouth, my website accounts for nearly all of the new business which my own business gets. Given a price versus revenue comparison, it is the most competitive form of advertising which I have ever used, and the one which yields the most success when it comes to new business leads!.

Remember that the more professional your website looks, the greater chance of impressing potential clients, and of getting an enquiry. For this reason, employing the services of a webdesigner may be a preferred alternative. But for now, let’s talk about how you can build your website with only limited knowledge. Your options are popular software such as Microsoft FrontPage, or other software such as x-site pro. Many internet users have found great success in designing their own websites. Some webhosts now include free website building tools in their hosting packages. Whichever option you decide to choose, when building your website and promoting its existence, there are a few points to consider, and we will discuss those below.

Always avoid free hosting. These are webhosts who allow you to upload your own site for free onto their server. However in return they often add Advertising banners and pop ups onto your website, and these can prove very annoying to internet users, look cheap and tacky and do not portray a professional, business image. You may have a very professional looking website, however if you use free hosting then you do so at your peril and when masses of pop ups great your visitors, then they’ll often close their browsers or surf away without bothering to read any further. Professional webhosting without any form of banners is available for as little as the price of a coffee per month! – far cheaper than any form of newspaper advertising, so don’t skimp when it comes to reliable hosting.

Buy a domain name. This promotes your unique company identity, and it is also a good idea to use your company name, as your domain name. Domains ending in .co.uk are often cheaper than .com and will also boost your search engine rankings in geographical area based searches such as Google UK. This may be useful to businesses only serving clients in their country, or those with overseas offices.

Remember to try and incorporate a relevant keyword describing your business service or product(s) within the domain page name. So for example, if you had a business called Acme Widgets and you had a product called Mighty Widget – then you could name the page name extension as mighty-widget.html so the url to that page would look like [http://www.your-domain-name.com/mighty-widget.html]

We will get to other keyword use later.

The most effective websites are the ones which load fast and offer a clean, smooth appearance free of useless information and which are largely uncluttered. Make sure that your name and description of your business appears on each page, and that if your site has more than one page that they are all linked together using an HTML Menu. Do not be tempted to use flash or other fancy image type menus, because search engines will not be able to index the site easily. If you do decide to use a flash based website then make sure that there is an HTML alternative, complete with HTML menus.

Keep the site simple. Remember that you have to make the site appealing to search engine spiders as well as human visitors in order to get your website onto the search engines. After all, it is pointless having a good, professional looking site, if nobody can find it!. Avoid the use of fancy flash based websites and splash pages, although they may add an initial wow factor to the first impression, they are often difficult for some search engines to spider and index, plus they may take forever to load on a slow connection. Very few visitors will wait 30 seconds or more for pages to load, or install special viewers so avoid going over the top with these types of presentation!

Keywords are the words that people use to enter into search engines in order to find a site. Consider which keywords people will be using to find your website. Don’t just concentrate on the obvious and most popular words which describe your business, since these will be difficult to rank highly for, due to the competition!.

Instead, look for other niche search terms and phrases too. Your website should contain as many keywords as possible on each page. Don’t be tempted to just add loads of raw keywords in meaningless strings onto your page, since search engines are wise to this practice of cheating and will penalise your site, plus it looks messy to your human visitors too!. It is far more effective to incorporate these keywords into text paragraphs and try and vary their frequency, so for example if you were a company suppling widgets in London, you could try the following:-

Widget and Sons, a family company suppling widgets in London, we are retailers of the popular Mighty widget range

And then later in the page…

For the best price on mail order widgets and sole distribution of the mighty widget contact our sales department

By doing this, and varying the phrases whilst keeping them keyword rich, you are effectively giving Google something to work with. Hopefully, by adding as many keyword strings as possible your site will (hopefully) appear for several different search terms such as ‘Widgets’ or ‘Mail order widgets + london’ or ‘Mighty Widget’

A Picture paints a thousand words, so don’t forget to add pictures to your website!. But keep the, fairly small so that the site loads quickly. Often 640 x 480 resolution is ideal, or use thumbnail software to load a gallery of clickable smaller images neatly onto a webpage. Remember if you use images that clients like to see happy smiling staff! and a structured, well organised company, so make sure that you don’t accidentally capture your warehouse man reading the paper, or that rubbish in the corner of the office!.

Unless your business is technical or technology based then avoid long descriptions about specifications of products and what machinery you use!. Comparing equipment is only of interest to others in the same industry as you and rarely of concern or top priority clients just looking to buy and end product or obtain service. Besides they can see just how good and how neat and tidy your business looks from your pictures!.

Always display clearly your contact information, and this should include a telephone number. Avoid Hotmail and other free web email addresses such as MSN or Yahoo because this doesn’t look professional and can also be blocked by your recipients spam filter. If you have registered a domain name for your site you will be able to set up email based on this, and cutomise it to your own requirements, for example:- [email protected] or [email protected] . Offering an enquiry form on your website is also a good idea, since it will prevent your email address being copied from your site to be used for Spam (Unsolicited Emails), and ensure that you have all of the relevant information from the client to be able to quote accurately.

Getting your site onto the search engines is the hardest part of the exercise, and this may take between 3 and 12 months to get a decent rank. The more you promote your site the easier it is, and the more successful the results. Simply submitting your site URL to Google’s Submit a Site page is not the most effective way of listing your site and neither is it the quickest. The most effective way of getting your site visited by Search Engines is to add your link to Existing websites of a similar theme and subject and the many online directories which already have a search engine presence.

Another very effective way of boosting search engine presence and getting your website onto search engines quicker is to swap links with other sites. Why not build a simple links page or invest in a topsites script on your website and use this to return links?. Remember that it is only polite internet etiquette to link back to websites which link to you, so it is often expected that you will have a link already in place on your own website, when you contact another webmaster and ask to add your link to his /her site!.

There are many other features which you can build into your website, such as e-commerce features including shopping carts and credit card processing facilities, if your company offers products by mail order. However adding these usually requires some detailed knowledge of website building and other skills in website code and is therefore outside of the scope of this article.

Hopefully, this website article, has given you some information on getting your business a web presence on a budget!.