I know you don’t want to hear it, but a website is necessary these days.
When I was writing a shopping guide for the Aspen Daily News Summer Guide, the newspaper gave me a list of potential companies to include — at my discretion. So I did what any journalist on a deadline would do: I ran a Google search of each company. Those that did not have websites did not get included in my article.
Would your shop be one that got passed over because you didn’t have a website?
Seventy percent of travelers turn to the Internet to set their itineraries; the statistic is even higher regarding shoppers doing research before making a purchase. Whether you run a restaurant, a boutique hotel or a real estate agency, that website is your portal to 70+ percent of the market.
A website also allows your targeted demographic to come to you. With more than 8 billion websites registered with Google, the Internet does not discriminate regarding demographics. But users do — they are not interested in all 8 billion websites if they are specifically looking for an Irish pub in Boston. To that user, you want to be one of the Irish pubs that he or she finds online. That user may be a 23-year-old female or a 52-year-old male. The advertisement you run in a magazine that targets 20-something females may have been effective in the former scenario, but you would have missed out with the 52-year-old man.
But having a website does not eliminate your need to advertise. Let’s debunk a common myth: a website is not an advertising tool. It should be part of your overall marketing strategy, as you can include your website in your advertising, but it alone is not an advertisement for your business. If you try to create a website that serves as an advertisement, expect it to actually hurt your credibility with potential customers. A website should be a communications tool. If you sell product online, it should have a user-friendly shopping cart, but your content should be substantive and helpful to your clients.
I also suggest hosting a blog as part of your website. A blog will further your communication capacities with your clientele, but it also keeps your website updated with new material, an important strategy for search engine optimization (SEO).
Having a virtual presence is far cheaper than a brick-and-mortar one. Hosting a website typically costs less than $15 per month, and maintaining a unique domain name costs about $35 per year. As for building the actual website, costs vary depending on your needs. For most small businesses, though, expect to pay between $200 and $1,000 for your website. Yahoo! offers website-design packages that are reasonably priced and user friendly.
And here’s a gem: Headwebmasters.com will put together a custom website for your business… (drum roll, please) … for free.
Looking forward to your success story,
Have an issue that you want addressed? Leave me a comment with your suggestion, and I’ll tackle it on my blog entry!