Back to Basics: Building a Website 101

With the economy in decline I’m getting a lot of calls from businesses looking to increase their enquiries and sales in a cost effective manner. Many are finding they need to design or re-design their website in order to achieve these goals so I thought it was a good time to go back to the basics of building a website.

For too long a website was more of a vanity item, with no real thought into how it could make you money. Over the past few years there has been more talk on how a website should make a positive return on your investment (ROI) and boost your bottom line. Today that goes without saying and so a website that is not achieving your goals is a drain on your finances and a waste of your time.

The best way to ensure your website is a success is to plan it wisely. Be realistic about your online goals, budget a reasonable amount of money to build it, select the right web team and put time and effort into working together to build and market it. Do all of the above and you have a very strong chance of creating a successful website.

Be Realistic About Your Online Goals

The first step in building a successful website is to define your online goals. So step back and think about what you want to achieve with your website. These goals could include:

  • Promote your products and services;
  • Sell online;
  • Collect targeted leads;
  • To brand yourself;
  • Provide customer support;
  • Reduce postage and printing costs;
  • Build an online community;
  • Collect advertising revenue.

When determining your online goals bear in mind that they don’t all have to be achieved at once. If you are on a budget and can’t afford all the bells and whistles in the beginning plan a website that can have new features introduced over a period of time. Being realistic abut what you can achieve is really important. I can’t tell you the number of enquiries I get from people wanting to build the next eBay with a budget of $200. I kid you not.

Defining your goals is the first step in realising a successful website. Everything about your website should be geared towards achieving these goals. The clearer and more realistic you are about your goals the better the strategy you will develop, and the more likely you will achieve online success.

Set a Reasonable Budget

Once your website’s goals have been defined it’s time to start looking at your budget. When building a website it’s important to look at all the costs involved including website design, content creation, website hosting and ongoing marketing and promotion. Under each of these areas are issues you need to consider:

Website Design

The design of your website can include logo design, graphic creation and photography, such as product photography. Take a look at your current marketing materials and determine what can be used on your website and what will need to be  created from scratch. It’s important to keep in mind that your online image should reflect your offline brand. This can be achieved by using the same logo and colour schemes as well as utilising other elements used in your existing marketing materials.

Content Creation

Content creation more simply refers to the text on your website. This text includes information about your business and the products and/or services you offer. Are you able to write this text yourself or will you require someone to do it for you?

Website Hosting

Once built your website needs somewhere to live. This is known as website hosting. There are hundreds of thousands of website hosting providers which can make choosing the right one a daunting task. When researching your available options keep in mind the following:

  1. Reliability
  2. Speed
  3. Storage Space
  4. Scalability
  5. Support

Your web designer should be able to help you choose a website hosting provider to suit your budget and requirements.

Marketing and Promotion

The final consideration in developing your budget is the promotion of your website. A common mistake is the assumption that if you build it they will come. Not so. The Internet is huge, and growing every day, if you want people to visit your site you need to promote it, just like you would an offline business. Website promotion can include a multitude activities including:

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

  • Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising
  • Link Building
  • Newsletter Creation
  • Blogs
  • Promotions
  • Forums

I’ll talk more about these marketing activities later in the article and you can also view our online resources (link at end of the article) for more information.

When it comes to setting your online budget I often find it’s better to look at your budget in terms of what you are prepared to spend in the first 12 months as opposed to just budgeting the initial development of your website. By having a budget for the first 12 months you and your web designer can look at the best way to allocate your money. It may be that you spend 60% building and hosting your website and the remaining 40% to promote it.

Choose the Right Web Design Team

Ok you’ve defined your online goals and set a reasonable budget. Now you need to find someone who can help you achieve these goals. Enter the web designer.

With so many web design firms available the biggest problem will not be finding one but making sure that you find the right one for you. The right web designer will not only make a website that looks good but will understand your site is a business tool that needs to perform for you. In order to find the best web designer for your project you’ll need to spend some time researching the market, looking for potential design firms and talking with them to make sure you are a good fit, that they understand your needs and can deliver a successful solution.

Ideally you want to become a team with your web designer, developing a long term relationship where they can help with your ongoing efforts to create a successful website.

Put Time & Effort Into Marketing Your Website

Once you’ve got your website online you need to market it to attract targeted prospects. A mix of the following internet marketing efforts will be a good start:

  • Search Engine Optimisation – usually best done in conjunction with building your website. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of creating a website that ranks highly in the search engines for keyword phrases related to your business. A motel in Cairns would want to rank well for phrases such as “cairns motel” for example.
  • Link Development – links from credible, related type websites will not only bring targeted prospects to your website it will also help you with your search engine rankings.
  • Advertising & Sponsorships – seek out other websites that you can advertise on. Look for sites that attract an audience you think would be interested in your products and/or services. Consider banner ads, sponsorships, competitions and newsletter advertising, to name a few.
  • Pay Per Click Advertising – the two main players in the Pay Per Click (PPC) market are Google and Yahoo! PPC allows you to create advertisements that only display when specific keywords, chosen by you, are searched on. When your ad is clicked on you pay an amount (or bid), set by you. Bids start from about AU$0.10 and a campaign can be up and running in a few minutes.
  • Online Newsletters – online newsletters are a fabulous way to communicate with prospective customers. It’s an opportunity to showcase your knowledge, provide information about your products and services and promote special offers.

Ongoing marketing and promotion takes time and money but on the plus side you’re able to track and measure your results accurately which will ensure the money you spend is returned twofold.

It’s the old adage, you’ve got to spend money to make money. With the right approach to developing your website and creating a positive return on your investment (ROI) your online efforts will help you build a successful site and help you ride out these economic down times.

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Linking Up to Boost Popularity

You’ve no doubt read that in order for your website to rank well in the search engines, such as Google, your site needs to attract links. However there is so much information online on how to get those links that it can become overwhelming – and if you follow the wrong advice your site can be penalised by the very search engines you want to rank in. This guide is aimed at providing you with simple, step by step information on how to attract the right links to your website – links that not only help you rank highly in the search engines but will also help you attract targeted visitors to your website.

What is Link Building?

Link building is an exercise in getting another website to link to your website. Google were the first search engine that deemed that the popularity of a website would be partially determined by the number of links that website had from other sites. The more links to a site, the more popular it was thought to be, and the more highly ranked it would be in Google. It didn’t take long for people to realise that in order to rank well for their chosen keywords they needed to get links to their site and hence the beginning of the link building revolution.

Link building has evolved over the years. In the beginning a link from almost any site would help you, especially if the link contained the keywords you were targeting. So if you ran a car hire website in Brisbane a link with the words “car hire Brisbane” in it would go a long way in helping your search engine rankings, especially for the term “car hire brisbane”.

All good things must come to an end and it did with link building. As more and more people started manipulating links the search engines fought back and upped the ante on what constituted a valuable link. These days not all links are created equal. Links from more popular, reputable websites carry far more value than those from smaller unknown sites. In addition links from websites within your theme carry far more weight than links from a site with no relevance to yours. So again if you ran a car hire business in Brisbane links from a Queensland Tourism website and local B & B accommodation operators would be far more valuable to you than a links from a crocheting hobbyist websites in Arizona.

Benefits of Link Building

There are two main benefits of getting other websites to link to you:

  1. Links help you rank highly in the search engines; and
  2. Links from relevant websites can send targeted visitors to your site.

1. Boost Your Search Engine Rankings

As I stated above the more links you have to your website the higher your search engine rankings will be. This in turn means that you should attract more visitors to your website – more visitors that you can convert into sales, leads, customers or subscribers.

2. Attract Targeted Visitors To Your Website

A great additional benefit of getting links from high quality, on topic websites is that they should send targeted visitors to your site. Visitors who are already interested in what you have to offer and are ready for conversion into customers.

So How Do I Get Links To My Website?

There are hundreds of ways to attract links to your website. I’ll detail some of the more popular methods below and also provide links to some great resources which will help you further. One thing to keep in mind. If you have a fantastic website full of valuable content in your chosen field you’ll find your website attracts links without you even trying. This is a strategy I recommend to all our clients.

Website Directories

Website directories have been around for as long as the internet. In fact Yahoo! started as a directory long before search engines became the place to find what you are looking for.

Directories aren’t the most popular way of getting links but I always recommend you focus on getting links from at least the most important. There are both paid and free directories that you can list your site in – try for a mixture of both.

Local directories, focusing on your immediate are is one area to explore. It’s also a good idea to try and list your website in niche directories focused on your business’s theme. Searching Google for your theme plus “directory” is a good place to start.

Reciprocal Links

Reciprocal links are links that you generally swap with other websites – you add their link to your website and they do likewise. Getting reciprocal links can be a time consuming process but one that I definitely recommend.

To get started I recommend finding websites within, or that compliment, your niche. Spend some time on the sites and make an effort to see how our sites can compliment each other.

When you are fully informed it’s time to craft an email to the site suggesting that you swap links. Try and get a contact name so you can make your approach more personal. If at first you don’t succeed don’t give up. As I said above reciprocal linking takes time and patience but the results are well worth it.

Links From Clients and Suppliers

A great place to get links is from your clients and suppliers. You already have a relationship with them which should help the process go smoother. The links cold be in the form of testimonials, client list or recommended suppliers.

Local Business Links

Are you part of a local business organisation that you cold ask for a link from? Are you or could you sponsor a local sports team, radio station or the like and request a link as part of the deal. What other local relationships do you have that you could use to get links to your website?

Create Link Worthy Content

Finally as I said above if your website has interesting, unique content you should naturally find other websites linking to you. Another benefit of this content is it should also help your prospects learn more about your business and skills, can show that you are an expert in your field and can help them choose you in their decision making process.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Create a newsletter.
  2. Write a blog.
  3. Run a promotion or competition.
  4. Create an industry glossary.
  5. Write articles and create other information of use for your prospects.

A Note of Caution

Finally you need to keep in mind that not all links are desired. When researching potential sites to get a link ask yourself whether you would feel proud or embarrassed about having a link on their site. Are they a website you would do business with? If the answer is no they do not, I repeat do not put your link on their website. As much as links from good, reputable websites can help you links from “bad” websites can hurt you.

Summing It Up

Building the links to your website are a great way to help boost your search engine rankings. However getting those links is a time consuming task. Don’t let that daunt you. Treat it as a long term strategy and spend a few hours a week working at it. Over time you will see, and reap, the rewards of your labour.

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