As the leader of a business, a constant concern is always increasing revenue. Of course the two primary ways to do this are to either increase the revenue current customers provide, or to increase your total number of customers. The simplest and most direct way to reach your audience, and allow them to reach back, is through online media. Through this 5 article series, I hope to enlighten you on the 5 most important facets of online media and how to leverage them to benefit your business.
We’ll start with your Website.
Many people believe just having a website is enough for their business. Unfortunately that isn’t the case anymore. With increased competition and noise within the marketplace itself, your website has to stand out above the others to give you a chance. Think of a website as retail space – you need to have a good location (domain name,) you need visibility (search engine rank,) it has to be easy for shoppers to navigate (user experience, design and layout,) a professional and courteous staff (instant contact options, email, livechat, callback and phone number) and much more.
Your website is as much a sales tool as it is anything else, and you need to remember to treat it as one. Technology is always moving forward, and a site that was cutting edge in 2006 is quite aged by now. To make better use of your website there are two paths you can follow. If you have an available budget to invest in your website, hire a professional web design and development firm. Take your time, talk with several of them and work with the one that best matches your company in attitude and understanding. Beware of instantly siding with the cheapest firm. Remember the old adage “You get what you pay for.” Your website is your most visible marketing tool and you only have one chance to make a great first impression.
If you don’t have the budget to hire a firm and would prefer to do what you can yourself to get started, there are a wealth of tools available to help you do just that. These tools will help you cover the basics from selecting a domain name to building the website itself, as well as reviewing analytic reports and monitoring user interaction. Some of our favorite tools are outlined below and will give you a great start to establishing your web presence.
To start, select your domain name:
Domainr – http://domai.nr/ – a great tool to help you find the domain name that best fits you. If the name you want is taken, this will help you find usable alternatives as well.
To purchase your domain name:
GoDaddy – http://www.godaddy.com – while there are several registrars available, GoDaddy is one of the cheapest and easiest for most users. If you ignore the additional services they attempt to force on you during the checkout process, you’ll find yourself quite happy with your transaction.
To build a basic website for free:
There are many options, and again the best will generally be to have a firm of your own custom build your website to meet your needs. These are two of our favorite free services for basic website creation.
Webs – http://www.webs.com – Formerly Freewebs, Webs allows you to build your website in a simple manner and offers more complex options that Moon Fruit doesn’t. If you need a simple shopping cart added to the site, or want to attach social or email elements to it, Webs supports those. Unfortunately, they also place ads on your site unless you cough up the dough for a “pro” account.
Tracking your visitors:
While Webs and Moon Fruit offer limited analytics of their own, if you’re looking for more advanced options there are several available to you. If you have no experience in dealing with website analytics, the two options we suggest here will help you get started.
Google Analytics – http://www.google.com/analytics – Google offers a number of great free services and their Analytics package is one of the best around. Easy to learn, difficult to master is the best way to put it. With the simple reports they provide, you’ll quickly gain a visual understanding of how your website is interacting with the world, and make the changes that will best benefit your business.
StatCounter – http://www.statcounter.com – While Stat Counter isn’t quite as polished as Google Analytics, it has been around for a long time, and offers a simple way to learn a lot about how users use your website.
We hope these tools get you off to a great start building your online presence, and remind you not to neglect your website! If you’d like to share your favorite tools, please share them in the comments.
Author Chris Yoko is the president of Yoko Consulting, an interactive marketing firm that helps clients make the most of their web presence, from website development and social media to email and mobile marketing.