Designing a Website on a Shoestring

small-business-website-designIf you’re in business today, having a web presence is a must.  Even if you don’t plan to sell products over the internet, a website is essential in order to connect digitally to your customers and your marketplace.  When was the last time you actually used the yellow pages to search for services or products in your area?

If you want people to find you, you need a website.  If you hand someone a business card and it doesn’t have web and email addresses, the chances of the person contacting you are greatly diminished. So if you need a website, this will tell you how to do it on a shoestring.

It’s All in the Name

Your business name needs to be out there, recognizable and, in the digital world, searchable.  The first critical step to building a website is to register a domain name.  A domain can be registered for as little as $9.99 a year on sites like GoDaddy.com.  When registering your name, you may want to snatch up all of the domains such as .com, .net, .info and .org.  This prevents others from capitalizing on your name.  These additional domains shouldn’t cost you more than an additional $40-50 a year.

Site Hosting

There are a lot of “free” web hosting service sites, but it’s worth it to host your site with a full service host like Hostgator.com or GoDaddy.com.  They provide a wide range of hosting, email and web design services that can make the building and maintenance of your website much easier.  For example, GoDaddy.com has a free web design service that you can use. You can be up and running in less than 24 hours.

The data tracking the hosting services provide is invaluable and often have free trial advertising tools you can use as well.  As your website progresses there are very helpful add-ons and expansion tools.  Plus, web hosting packages usually include free email so you can also set up your own email with your business domain name in the address. This is more professional looking than using a personal account email account like AOL or GMAIL.

Content Management

Your website needs to have relevant business content. Content describes your business, explains the services or products you provide and it is also the key element in driving traffic to your website. In the beginning, all that matters is that you put some basic content up on your site. At a minimum, you need a home page, an ‘about us’ page, a privacy page if you are collecting site visitor information and a product or services description page. If you are a business that people come to, like retail stores, a directions and map page can be very helpful for customers too.

And you don’t have to be a writer to have good content. Article websites like www.articlealley.com also have content on a wide variety of subjects that you can use on your site for free. You just need to follow simple instructions to do so.

Website Development and Marketing

So far, your investment in creating a customized website is minimal, about $50-$75 per year.  The balance of your investment is really in the amount of time that needs to be expended to write the content, manage customer interaction, and market the website to drive traffic.

While this doesn’t have to consume a lot of your time in the beginning (remember, the important step is to just get a website up so your customers can find you), it will be important to expend more time and money at some future point in order to optimize the site, upgrade your content and make it more interactive for customers and prospects.

Affordable Website Help

Longer term it will be important to create content that is optimized for the search engines such as Google or Bing.  This does require some knowledge of SEO and the services of an SEO expert may eventually be needed. However, new content can easily be added later in the form of a blog post page, additional product offerings, and an event or news page for the business.

High school or college students with web design experience can provide essential web optimization elements for a small outlay.  And web designers and content writers can also be found on sites such as Elance.com. They can provide quality content and site maintenance for reasonable fees.  For the amount of exposure and digital marketing your website will provide, it’s a very worthwhile investment.

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