Friday, January 28, 2011

Small Business Owner on a Budget? Ready to Set Up a Website? Questions to Make the Process Easy

Ok, so you're thinking about your business growth and marketing it online with a profitable website. Now what? One question answered, seems to spit out dozens more. So what do you do? Give up due to lack of time? No - You start calling those web developers you know or have searched out online. When you do you find out that they cost more than you can afford and want lots of involvement from you. They want you to submit Content, Images, Pages, links, etc. etc. etc. And then even more questions arise from these conversations. You then think to yourself, "Oh my, what can of worms did I just open up? " There is a solution. I promise.

At this point, most people do one or two of several actions. 1) is to give up. You are busy and have too many other things on your plate. You'll get back to it in your slow time. Or 2) Throw some money at someone hoping they will take the project and just do it for you. Or 3) venture out into the world of thousands of free or low cost do it yourself website design, start the project, something comes up and suddenly you are month's down the line with a website that is STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION 3 years later.

Which one are you? Has it helped or worked to increase your sales any? Did it create a return on your investment of time and or money? I am going to bet that it is a resounding, NO! Or you wouldn't be sitting there in front of your computer reading this article. So with that in mind, I am assuming you are in the phase of looking for help with your online web development or looking to increase the sales you get from your current site. Right?

Let's get started on figuring out what it is you are stumbling over. Let's give you back the control of what is holding you up and get your site headed in the right direction, creating funds for your business. But to do that we have to back up and start over a bit. Don't worry, it won't hurt too much.

Over the past few years I have developed a few tools to help my clients to help me create a site that works to sell them online at a much higher rate than before or at all. Work books that you can do when your thinking about your marketing online. These work books have been a source of relief to many of my clients to help them when going through the arduous process that ensues when embarking upon a project such as this. They help them to stream line and accumulate the things you or your developer will need from you, when you start on the project.

Ready to get started on a few of the very first questions you need to answer before you embark on web development yourself or with a designer.

1) First and foremost you need to decide upon the "purpose" of your website. Now don't cop out and just say I want a site. Actually think about what the site's end result should be. What is the goal actions you want your clients to perform from this site. It is helpful if you are VERY descriptive here.

2) What do you expect this site to create for you in dollars and cents. And what kind of a budget have you allocated to complete those goals. Are they a reality or will you actually achieve those goals with that budget? If not, then start with one goal in mind and work progressively towards the rest of the picture. But set time lines to achieve each part of those, and the ultimate end goal. Some web developers will work with you on this, by setting in place a plan to get each goal achieved in your time frame that meets your budget. I know that is why I do what I do.

3) Are you planning to sell products online? If so

4) Are you planning to ship the products yourself or hire a company to do this for you? Do you have one in place?

5) Do you have a "shopping cart" in mind? This is your Point of Sale System (POS) for your website. If you hire a web developer they may already have one they use regularly and may require you to use it to use their development programs. Some may require extra money to use yours as it will take more time for them to gain the learning curve of your system. If you are going to develop your own site, and are planning to sell products online you may need to learn this as well. Fair warning: this may take time, and trial and error. You just need to decide if you are willing to pay someone to do it or if you would rather save money by doing it yourself. A couple of suggestions here: 1) PayPal has a great shopping cart that is pretty user friendly and 2) many of your local community colleges have a web development program where students can work on your site for you at a much reduced cost. Note: if you have LOTS and LOTS of time to wait this may work for you.

6) If you are an MLM your Company may allow you to link images of products to your Point of Sale site. (a page where your clients can buy and you get the commissions from) The down side of doing this is that you are more than likely only going to get to link to the full catalogue site and your customers will have to search once again for the products. Upside you will not have to worry about your POS system, including shipping costs, shipping and handling of the products to the customers, no shopping cart set up on your site, and you will get paid through your company. Easier yes, less effective yes. My opinion, yes.

7) Every website needs content! EVERY WEBSITE! Both, Seo and humans need to read your website. It can mean a Higher placement in the search engines as well as a much higher conversion to sales rates. So you have to think about and write a minimum of 250 words for each page. 3 Paragraphs or more. With a call to action. Meaning that every page needs to show the visitor why they should buy from you over the millions of others that do the same thing you do, how you solve their problem (what every that may be) and then how to buy it. Many people leave that up to the "contact us" page. Statistics have shown us that if you leave it up to the "contact us" page you are asking for the visitor to flip through several links to buy. Um,..... this does not work well and can break the deal. Make it EXTREMELY easy for them to buy from you by putting that call to action on every page and several places on the page. You'll be happy you did. Of this I promise you.

8) Do you want to write it yourself or hire a "content writer" Some people find it simpler, faster and cost effective to hire a content writer. Many of these are out there and some are relatively inexpensive. I have several that I use and offer out to my clients to choose from. If you would like one I would be happy to send you their contact info.

9) When thinking of Content for your site. Do not forget to add in what makes you stand out amongst the millions of others who do the very same things you do. Use this to your advantage. And use a 'testimonials' page. Many stats are showing us that a 'testimonials' page builds that trust factor as others have used your services and like what you did for them. My suggestion is always to use this page to link to their site if possible as this can help your Page Rank (PR) and your client will be appreciative to have a link from your site to theirs. Plus, it gives the testimonials credibility when your surfers can actually contact the happy client.

10) Target Audience: Who do you want to find your site? Consider this: if you are a Heating and Cooling Co. you may not want to get a contract that hundreds of miles out of your district. But if you are a Company that sells Widgets online and it does not matter if you ship hundreds of miles away then it won't matter to you that your site is being found 2 thousand miles away. But if your site is found in another country are you ready to deal with shipping across borders? All things to consider when developing the SEO (Search Engine Optimization or Placement of your site on the www.) of your site.

11) What Keywords do you believe that your Customers/Clients would search the www. For your products or services? (hint: Google AdWords is a great tool to compile this list) Don't assume you know either. Ask your network this question as well. They may have a different idea and are probably more accurate than you)

12) Where do most of your Customers/Clients come from? Think Locality.

13) Domain name: Many people believe that their business name is the best domain name for their site. Why not, many people know your business for that name right? Think about that last statement. Are you trying to get their business again or do you already have them in your client book of business? My suggestion is to yes, buy that domain name if you can and have several others that are SEO worthy. (want to know what that means? You can wait until this comes up in another article or you can contact me directly to ask about this as it would take a whole article to give you the why's of this one.) Suffice it to say it is VERY beneficial to your results to get this right.

14) Hosting: Who do you want to host the site? Your web developer probably will handle this for you if you use one. They have servers or they contract this out to a professional hosting co. and have various options according to your needs, and goals. Or are you planning to find a hosting service to utilize yourself? If you are there are things you need to consider.

a) Price for services

b) ftp access

c) down time (don't skimp here) GoDaddy has the best Customer Service available 24/7, very low prices, almost non-existent down time, and the technical help dept will talk to you on your level.

15) If you are considering hosting it yourself you should understand, a website file structure, the FTP process, and that this may take loads of time out of your day to maintain. If you are willing to put in the time to do-it-yourself, it could be a budget saver and it could also be a nightmare you may not wish to embark upon. To make this decision you may want to ask around of your network of business owners what has been their experience and weigh out your options vs time.

16) What would your site navigation look like? Make sure it is easy to use. Make everything you do on your site easy to find and utilize. (ask for a free website mapping work sheet by emailing your request to us) See Signature at bottom

It may help you to educate yourself in the definitions of at least the simplest of website terminology so that you understand what the Web Developer is saying to you. After all he is the techno geek you are hiring to create this online brochure of yours. But he is a techno geek and he knows that. But to give yourself a better understanding and a clear idea of the communications he is sending you, take a few minutes and educate yourself on what it is he is asking for so that you and he are on the same page. And Yes, I am one of those techno geeks myself. I am not just a member of the techno geeks anonymous, I could be the President.

When you get into actual development there are more things to consider for the optimum conversion rate of your project. These are just to get you started on the things you should think of when embarking upon a Profitable Website for your business.

Remember: Each step of this process is time consuming, but is a very integral step in a successful site that builds your business. These can take time to create the maximum return from your site. Don't get in a rush to just get something up as your website in today's world is your first impression. Do you want them to see "site under construction" and hope they come back sometime down the road? MOST WILL NOT> Plan carefully, integrate the best of you, and create a huge return on your investment, whether it be your time or your money. Stay involved in the project from start to end if you hire someone else to do it. And MOST OF ALL HAVE FUN WITH IT! Life can be too serious. Many people are repulsed by sites that are dry or too techie. They love fun, so give it to them even if you are a Financial Advisor or CPA. Give us all a bit of you and they will love you for it.

I always love hearing from everyone on how they found me. Drop a line letting me know how you found me.

Wishing you the highest successes possible,
Cheri J. Williams
Where your results are our business

Web Design and Internet Strategies
To request the work book - send to
Don't just trip over your success, grow it!


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