Taking your business out onto the World Wide Web
can often be one of the most daunting tasks for a
committed business owner, even more so when it
seems that everyone has a different opinion on
the best way to approach this difficult step.
Many business owners still believe that a website is a website is a website.
Although some may look better than others, simply having a site somewhere out there on the Internet isn't sufficient to be seen as dynamic and 'up with the times.'
With this thought, many businesses have ended up with websites that do absolutely nothing to generate business or revenue.
How can you avoid this? Here are the first five things to avoid and remember when taking your business to the web.
1. 'If I build it, they will come!' syndrome
This is probably the most common mistaken belief regarding the Internet. Except in the minds of web designers who want to make a sale, this could not be further from the truth.
The Internet embraces the whole world - every country, every state, every city. Is it in any way reasonable to assume that out of the millions of businesses on the web, with probably at least hundreds selling an identical product or service, a buyer will find you?
Websites take hard work and a great deal of time and ongoing commitment. Search engines are crucial if you want to make a single sale on the internet, and they take a lot of patience. In a great many cases, it can take between six months to a year to reach a position toward the top of the search engines.
2. No name gets you nowhere!
In order to save money on hosting, some businesses opt to place their sites with one of the many free web space providers, such as Tripod, MSN or Geocities. This practice, while it may save $10 a month, does not help the business' image. With a free host, your web address is something like: http://geocities.com/heartland/garden/7210/mikesroofing/. Not only is this a lot to remember, but it does not give as legitimate an image as would http://www. mikesroofing.com.
The same is also true of e-mail addresses. Always match your e-mail address to your domain name. For instance, firstname.lastname@example.org gives a far more professional and consistent feel than email@example.com.
3. Feel the Need for Speed!
It is far too common these days for websites to take ages to load, especially on a dial-up connection. If your site takes longer than 25 seconds on a 28.8k modem, you are seriously running the risk of losing prospective sales. Rather than dragging your site down with 50 pictures on a page or that Flash intro that takes two minutes to load, get your designer to keep things simple and fast-loading. Also, make sure that your site can be seen by all visitors. It is extremely easy to get caught up on just Internet Explorer and forget about the people who use the Netscape, AOL or other browsers.
4. Don't hide your information!
How many times have you wasted time looking for a way to contact a company? Always put a telephone number on your site. Put it, along with your office address, on every single page of the site. That way, someone who wants to reach you can do it within a few seconds.
5. Banners, Banners Everywhere!
Although your web designer may suggest that you join an affiliate program to get some passive income from your site, don't do it!
Banners and pop-ups will more likely damage your small business website than help it. Even if a prospective client finds you, there is no bigger turnoff than being barraged by advertising, especially in pop-up form.
Unless yours is a site where people would expect such advertising, for example, a listing or directory site giving links to useful resources, this will do more damage than good.
Next month - 10 Things to Avoid - Part Two.
Terry Young is the founder and CEO of Internet Marketing and Design,
the award winning web and multimedia design agency in Chesapeake.
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