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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Are Newsletters Still Worth It?

A client recently asked my opinion of online newsletters. While blogs seem to be the main focus these days there are still benefits of offering a newsletter. It can be a great way to keep in touch with your clients and can help your prospects get to know you, and your business, better. You can use it to announce company news, new products and services or offer advice.

If you’re considering offering a newsletter keep in mind the following:

  • What’s in it for your readers? How do you make it compelling so that they subscribe – and read it regularly?
  • How often are you planning to send it out? Weekly, fortnightly or even monthly? Whatever you decide remember if you send it out regularly, and on time, your readers will come to expect, and look forward to it.
  • Make sure you give your readers the ability to subscribe/unsubscribe easily.
  • It’s vital you include a privacy policy. Make sure it’s easily seen and understood by potential subscribers.

Newsletters can be a great communications tool. Just remember your readers have chosen to read your newsletter so make it easy to subscribe, be informative and treat your reader’s details with respect.

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