Getting on the Web

OK, so you have decided to bring your business onto the web! Its time to create your online presence, or you might already be on the web.  Here is a checklist of dos and don'ts.  Check them against your existing site or make a note of them for your proposed site.

Free Web Site. 
Yes there are numerous places where you can get a free web presence.  They will provide you with free hosting and online assistance in designing your site. 
If you want to be taken seriously on the web, I suggest you avoid this type of free web presence.  If you are serious about your business you will need to have your own web address or URL (Universal Resource Locator). 
Web surfers know the difference between a free (read real cheap and amateur) web site and a more business like one.  Web surfers want to deal with someone they can trust not someone with a cheap site setup that might disappear tomorrow.  A specific URL such as www.appbizx.com.au (an example only,) is far more professional and looks like a more professional business that a freebie site with a URL such as www.freehosting/heartland/eastcoast/appbizx.com.au.  A net savvy surfer knows the difference between the two and which one to trust. 
This level of professionalism and trust is just as important for your email address.  When you are dealing with other businesses and customers an email address such as peterg@appbizx.com.au is far more professional and trusting that an email address such as peterg@somefreethingforanyone.com. 
Any customer would feel much safer dealing with a business that has its own web address and an emailing address that incorporates the same URL.  This type of set up even looks more honest and trusting.

Takes Too Long
Many small business sites load too slowly.  If it takes to long to load you will be losing visitors to your site.  The main culprits of slow loading pages are multimedia applications like flash. Also  photographs and graphics, sop ensure your photos and graphics have been optimised for the web so they download quickly.

Web Design
Some small businesses get carried away with technology and design.  They end up with a slow loading, difficult to read and difficult to navigate web site.  Avoid getting caught up in this problem, a more simple site that is easy to read and navigate will be received a lot better by web surfers.  To make a site easy to read black text on a white background is the best.

Information Is Stale 
You must keep the information on your site current.  I have lost count of the number of sites with stale outdated information.  Some do not even update such things as email addresses and phone numbers.  Some sites contain new happenings that are months old.  You must keep your website current, if you do not have the time to do it hire someone to do it for you.
 
Contacting You
Ensure that your phone number, facsimile number, mobile (cell) number, postal address and physical business address are included on your web site. One way small business web site are frequently used by customers is to first do their own research about a product on the web then contact the business to make a purchase.  If all that information on how to contact you is not available you lose out on the business. Also a physical address shows that you really do exist and reinforces the trust aspect in the customers mind.

So You Do What?
Your site must quickly convey to the web surfer exactly what it is that you do or offer.  Your home page should include a short statement that clearly conveys what you do.  If a graphic can help convey that message then use one.
 
Marketing Online
Just because you have a web site does not mean customers will start visiting and purchase all you have to offer.  This is a mistake made by many new businesses on the web. 
You have to market your online presence using such tactics as
  1. Search engine listing and optimisation
  2. Linking with other sites
  3. Building your online customer lists to email.
Ensuring your web address is included in all your communication materials such as letterheads, business cards and so on.

Summary:
Here is a summary of the steps outlined above   
Register your own URL and create email addresses using the same URL.
Ensure your web pages load reasonably quickly.  
Do not get caught up in the techno wiz bang in designing your web site.
Keep it simple and easy to use for your visitors.
Update your web site often and ensure all is up to date Check all your contact details. Make sure every form of contact is listed and it is up to date.
Check that your home page conveys exactly what it is you do or offer. 
Make sure you have your tactics both for online and offline marketing in place.
 
If you follow these steps then your chances of achieving your online objectives will be greatly improved.
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