Creating a Web Presence
Your Company’s Online Presence
Websites can range from very simple information-based websites to more complex e-commerce websites that are well integrated with your business.
Increasingly, potential customers will look at your company’s online presence before doing business with you - regardless of whether they plan to close the sale online.
Your website should be compelling enough to increase customer interest resulting in increased revenues for your business.
This website typically provides information about the following: your business; products and services; location and business hours; technical information to help customers and suppliers understand new products.
• Appropriate for providing information about your business, products and services.
• Typically requires a small investment.
• Appropriate starting point for adopting e-business using a phased approach, starting with a basic website.
• A good vehicle for promoting your business.
• A good vehicle for expanding your business beyond the local market.
• A good method for improving customer service for your existing clientele.
• There are effective marketing strategies to ensure enough people visit your website.
• There are cost-effective solutions for maintenance of information-based websites.
Examples of interactive features include:
• A “Contact Us” section that allows users to send e-mails to the company
• Online forms
• A section where customers can provide regular commentary (e.g. forum, blog).
• Customers and suppliers would be receptive to these features.
• Appropriate for enhancing customer service.
• You would like customers to be able to send e-mails to your business through the website.
• Appropriate for providing quick access to forms.
• Existing tools are available to implement these features.
Allows customers or suppliers to place orders and make payments online.
• Consider how e-business fits with your sales cycle and business needs.
• Check out what your competitors are doing. Take a look at their websites.
• Check out whether suppliers are actively using the Internet for transactions.
• Plan how you will distribute the products and complete the sale.
• Consider that there are some low cost e-commerce software packages that may meet your needs.
Integrating web systems and transaction processes with other systems such as accounting, inventory, sales, etc.
• Your website has e-commerce capabilities (i.e. allows customers to buy on your website).
• Your company is doing a lot of extra work to make sure its regular business systems and operations are consistent with its online system. For example, you are finding it hard to keep track of both phone and online orders.
• Requires greater degree of investment and maintenance of systems.
Success of Website
The success of your website will depend on the appropriateness of its design, how it is marketed and ongoing maintenance.
Make your website’s purpose clear: explain who you are and what you do.
Start the main page with a one-sentence tagline (which is like a sub-title for your domain name) that summarizes what the site or company does.
Write a window title (the text that is displayed at the top of a visitor’s browser) with good visibility in search engines.
It is also good practice to include corporate information in one distinct area, such as “About ” to provide more in-depth information about your company and increase credibility.
Create a basic website that describes your business and products/services.
Long-term Strategy: Continue to build your website in such a way that it is an integral part of your company’s strategy.
Also consider expanding your web presence beyond your website using Internet advertising and social media.
Steps to Creating a Web Presence
There are five main steps to creating a web presence.
1. Selecting and registering your domain name
2. Developing the website
3. Hosting the website
4. Marketing your website
5. Maintaining your website
Selecting and Registering Your Domain Name
A domain name identifies your website on the Internet. Domain names typically end with .com or other extensions.
Selecting and registering your domain name does not have to be your first step. Some web hosts do this service for you. However, if you are looking for a distinctive name that will set you apart from competitors, it is important to think about this upfront and to reserve your domain name.
A domain name is important for promoting your products and your business. The key words in your domain name can help people find your website. Try thinking of words that best describe your business.
The domain name you select has to be unique. The following considerations should help you select a domain name:
• The domain name should relate to your business.
• The domain name should be easy to remember, preferably short, and use common words.
• Try to pick a domain name that is easy to distinguish from other domain names on the Web.
• The domain name should help to brand your business. Your domain name should establish your online identity.
• You may choose to buy more than one name to protect your brand and encourage more Internet users to visit your website.
• Once you have chosen a number of possible domain names, you can check online to see if those domain names are already taken. Domain registration sites usually have a search function that allows you to do this.
Renewing Domain Name
You must renew your domain name(s) periodically (usually yearly). Some domain providers will allow your domain to “auto-renew” so that when the domain comes up for renewal, you do not have to go through the renewal procedure manually.
If the domain name is critical to your business, it is a good idea to have the domain set to renew automatically each year. If you do not renew and the registry removes your domain name from the zone file (such as the .com zone file), then your website cannot be seen by potential visitors
Developing the Website
There are two options available to you with respect to website design:
Design the website yourself using desktop or online software (many web hosts provide software with templates or charge a nominal fee for website design).
Outsource the design of the website to a website developer/designer.
Consider that developing your own website is time consuming. It is more than a ’weekend’ project. A professional looking website is critical in providing you with a marketing advantage. Think carefully before pursuing this option.
Look and Content
Regardless of whether you choose to create your own website or hire someone to create it for you, you will need to decide on your site’s look and content. The site may be purely informational, or it may allow you to sell your products online.
Keep in mind that you can also opt to develop your own website content even if you have hired a web developer to design the site (e.g. to determine the look and organization of the website).
To promote access to your website and expand your market reach, you may want to consider the option of creating your website content in more than one language.
Desktop software typically offers fixed templates and no advanced features (e.g. e-commerce, animation). It is best used for simple websites.
For simple Do-It-Yourself website development templates try wordpress.com.
Problems to Avoid
Just as important as knowing what to do to create a website is being aware of problems to avoid. A list of five common pitfalls and some tips on how to avoid them are highlighted below.
1. A Cluttered Website
A website should have a clean, uncluttered appearance. There should not be too much text on each page. The website should have a consistent look (i.e. consistent use of colours, fonts and text sizes).
While pictures and graphics are great, avoid having too many. Break up the text with appropriate headings and subheadings. If you have too much animation, this could be distracting and slow down your site.
2. Not being able to find information
Customers should be able to find the information they need easily. Buttons and menu items should be apparent and self explanatory, and links should look like links.
3. Not having the right information
It is frustrating to visit a website and not find what you are looking for. Customers usually want to know about a company’s location, business hours, contact information, products and services.
4. Failing to highlight the benefits of your products and services
People want your products or services to help them in some way. Be sure to highlight the advantages and benefits of your products or services.
5. Outdated information about your business and products
Regularly update information about your products, services, prices and other key information. Make sure all links are working properly.
Hosting the Website
A web host houses, services and maintains files for websites. You will need to select a web host in order to get your site online. Your host can also serve as your registrar, thus avoiding contracting with two different companies for these services.
There are many different web hosting packages available online, and prices vary widely. When deciding on a web hosting package, evaluate your particular business needs prior to purchasing. As your business grows and your needs change, you can update your plan accordingly.
Marketing Your Site
It is not enough to just create a website. It is important to market your website to ensure you attract enough visitors to your site.
Marketing your site may simply involve displaying your URL on all your promotional materials.
You could also monitor the number of visitors your website receives (i.e. “traffic” to your site). You could also market your business through online advertising.
Developing Marketing Strategies
The marketing strategies you use depend on your target audience and the nature of your business. While there are some low cost e-marketing strategies, online advertising can be very expensive. It is important to shop around for strategies that suit your budget and your business needs.
Some forms of online advertising are cheaper than traditional forms of advertising. For example, some search engines provide tools to monitor and advertise your website. They also allow you to determine a ceiling on your costs per day.
The following is a list of strategies for marketing your website.
1. Traditional Marketing
You can market your website offline (traditional marketing).
For example you can put your website address on your print-based promotional materials.
2. Search Engines and Directories
You can submit your website to search engines and directories. Directories generally review your website to ensure it is relevant to their site. Some directories charge you a fee for this review.
3. Search Engine Optimization
You should build your website with search engine needs in mind. If your site contains the right keywords, then more people will visit your site.
If you already have a website, consider using e-business service providers such as a web developer or web host to modify your website to increase your website traffic.
The term Search Engine Optimization refers to improving a website so that it is ranked highly by search engines, resulting in increased number of visits to your site.
4. Link Building
Consider strategies for link building. Ask other businesses and community and industry associations to include your website address on their site. Be prepared to do the same for them (referred to as reciprocal links).
Links are a critical method of online marketing, as links are an important signal of quality to search engines. However, avoid adding too many links, links to sources that are not credible, and links to undisclosed advertising. These poor practices will leave visitors with a bad impression of your site and will negatively affect your site’s ranking by search engines.
5. Search Engine Advertising
You can advertise through search engines. You can buy guaranteed search engine listings by purchasing keywords.
According to several reference sites such as Interspire, Allbusiness and Softpedia, the most popular search engine listing is Google’s Adwords.
6. Third Party Advertising
Advertise your website through third parties. You can pay a fee to have image or text advertisements appear on other websites. Costing models can vary. For example, you may pay a fee every time someone clicks on your advertisement, or every time you make a sale as a result of the advertisement.
Submit articles about your business to e-newsletters or to information-based websites. Be sure to include your website address.
8. Social Networking
Consider using blogs and social networking sites to attract interest in your website (e.g. facebook.com, twitter.com, pinterest.com, linkedin.com).
9. Social Media Integration
Social media efforts can include integration of your website with Facebook and LinkedIn, through, for example, Facebook fanpages and “like” buttons.
Maintaining Your Website
Website maintenance includes a variety of tasks such as modification of website content, regular submission of your site to search engines, software updates, checking to ensure the links are functional, etc.
You can opt to set up a maintenance agreement with your ISP or website developer. There is generally a monthly or annual fee associated with this service.
You might consider this option if your website requires frequent updates. You can also hire a service provider to update your website when required. This is feasible if you require infrequent updates.
Content Management Systems
Updating the website yourself can be a labour intensive process. However, there are a number of user-friendly content management system (CMS) tools that can help you update your website.
A CMS is a software program that allows non-technical users to create, edit, update and maintain a website using built-in templates. There are many good open-source or “free-to-use” content management systems available.
Some websites provide descriptions of open source CMS software and customized CMS applications. CMS may also be provided as part of the maintenance agreement with the service provider.
Measuring Website Success
The success of the website as a business tool depends on its design, promotion and ongoing maintenance, and the extent to which the site attracts users and makes it easy for them to do business with you.
A good way to monitor the success of your website is through the use of website analytics, such as Google Analytics . Google Analytics offers tools for measuring the performance of multiple aspects of your website.
Types of Analytics:
Content analytics - This helps to identify a website’s top content, and provides information such as how often people visit each page of your site, how long they stay, and how often they convert (a conversion means taking action, whether it’s clicking on a link, filling out a form or making purchases on your website).
Mobile analytics - This helps to measure the effectiveness of mobile websites and mobile applications (also called “apps”). Information provided from these analytics includes number of visits from web-enabled mobile devices, and measures of the ads that lead people to use your app and find out whether they prefer ads on their desktop or mobile.
Social analytics - This helps to identify how your social media outreach is working, including information on the ways in which visitors from social networks reached your site, how visitors interact with sharing features on your site and engage with your content across social platforms.
End of Unit:
Click Next to proceed to next Unit.