You would think by now every small business would have a website. This is 2012 after all. Surprisingly, various studies show that roughly 50 percent of small businesses don’t have websites. In my home state of Minnesota alone, Google estimates the number to be about 60 percent.
Sadly, these businesses are losing a lot of money. Consider this, 97 percent of consumers actively look for products and services online and 1 out of 5 searches on Google relate to searches for locally-based services or businesses. (sources: Google, ComScore). Here’s another statistic that should grab your attention. 82 percent of people who do a local search online follow up with an online inquiry, phone call, or visit to an offline local business they found on the Internet (source: TMP, ComScore).
I don’t have to tell you the Yellow Pages is dead. These statistics speak for themselves. If you’re reading this and your small business doesn’t have a website, you’re toast.
Some of you might be saying, “I don’t need a website because I have a Facebook page.” Don’t get me wrong, social media is great, but without a website to anchor your online marketing efforts, you’re building your online presence on quick sand. Your website is the hub of everything you do online. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, FourSquare, etc. are the spokes.
Your website is the cake. Everything else you do online is icing on the cake so if you don’t have a website by now, drop everything you’re doing and get one!
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive to get a website up and running for your business. There are paid and free options. Let’s take a look at both…
Option 1: Paid Websites for Small Businesses
Hiring a Professional
Website design and development doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg but it’s not cheap either (do have it done correctly). For example, my team designs and builds quality websites for my clients all the time. Our website and design packages start at $999.
If your budget doesn’t allow for a professional to design and build your website, you can always do it yourself. The first thing you’ll need is a web host. I recommend HostGator for its reliability, great pricing, and outstanding customer service. It’s the only hosting company I’ve used since I started my Internet Marketing profession back in 2005. You can get hosting from HostGator for less than $4.00 per month if you go with their Hatchling Plan. Another hosting company I’ve heard good things about is Bluehost. Like anything else, shop around and choose a company you are comfortable with!
The next thing you’ll need is a domain for your website, which should ideally be your business name. There are many registrars you can register your domain with but I recommend GoDaddy or NameCheap. I have used them both for many years and have never had an issue with either one. They both are affordable, easy to use, and have solid customer service.
You shouldn’t spend more than $10 for the first year of your domain and no more than $15 for every year thereafter. You will often get a price break for the first year of registration. That’s why the price is different after the first year.
Once you have your web hosting in place and your domain registered, you can start on the website. I use WordPress exclusively and I HIGHLY recommend you do the same. It’s great for SEO and as a content management system you can easily manage the site yourself. If you can use a word processor like Microsoft Word, you can use WordPress (not associated with Microsoft by the way)!
You can install WordPress with a single click of the mouse from your web host’s cPanel. WordPress has a free default template, which is called a “theme” in WordPress, but you’ll probably want an unique theme for your website. I recommend you install a premium WordPress theme. There are literally hundreds of premium themes and most are under $100. Some popular WordPress themes include Woo Themes, InkThemes, iThemes, Thesis, and StudioPress.
Side Note on Cpanel:
cPanel is a control panel that allows you to manage various aspects of your website through a web browser. While many web hosting companies provide their customers with cPanel, not all of them do. I strongly recommend you use a web hosting company that provides cPanel as it makes it so much easier to manage your website. HostGator provides cPanel which is another reason why I recommend them.
If all of this seems overwhelming or you simply don’t have the time or interest doing this yourself, it’s best to hire a professional. If you decide you’d rather have a professional take care of getting a website up and running for your business, I would love the opportunity to talk to you!
Option 2: Free Websites for Small Businesses
There are many options for getting a free website. You could get a free Google Site, for example, to get a website up fast. You could also go to www.wordpress.com and set up a free site there.
Many registrars also offer free website builders. GoDaddy is a registrar that provides a free website builder. There are free templates all over the Internet as well. There are static HTML templates and thousands of free WordPress themes.
While “free” might sound great, there are some drawbacks to be aware of. Some of these sites that give you a free website don’t allow you to have your own domain name. On WordPress.com, for example, your web address will be: yoursite.wordpress.com. That doesn’t look as professional as “yoursite.com.”
You also have less flexibility when you set up a free site. In most cases, you’re restricted by the templates you’re provided. You’re also hoping the company that’s hosting your site doesn’t go under. Things can get pretty sticky too when it comes to deciding who owns the site or its content. And if you go the template route, you need to be sure the free template you downloaded isn’t riddled with adware or malware.
Free websites are o.k. for personal use but I would never recommend a business owner use a free website to represent their business. If your online marketing budget is that tight then spend what little money you have on getting a website that you own. The online marketing stuff can come later.
The gist of this post is simple. EVERY small business today must have a website to compete. With so many paid and free options, there are no excuses. Hopefully I’ve provided enough information here to get you started. And as always, if you have any questions on anything covered here, please contact me. I’m more than happy to help!
To Your Success,
(Travis Van Slooten)