About two years ago, one of my relatives sent me a link to his business site. The turnkey site acted as a virtual business card, but didn’t do much else. It was also expensive, and used almost no meta tags or search engine keywords for his profession. The biggest insult to injury was despite the expense, the company who built his site, offered very little in ways to change or update the site. They now also own his domain. Which means he has to pay extra if he wants to keep the domain if he switches to a new host.
Yesterday, I got a message from a friend, who went through a freelance designer. While the service was more personal, he was shocked when the designer took his deposit and ran. My buddy is still without a web page, and I’m afraid to ask how much his deposit was.
Many people are scared to create web pages for their small business. Which is sad, because not only is the code easy to learn, but thanks to things like Wordpress, you don’t even need to know code or programming. The pricing has also dropped dramatically. So let’s debunk some of these myths and settle some of your fears.
#1: Web sites are expensive, especially for your business. I just got spam from one turnkey company offering to build my site for $500. That is outrageous! Prices have plummeted to set up your own hosted site. Hostgator.com charges less than $4 per month, and they ask you to pay for three years in advance. That means for less than $200, your can pay for your hosting and forget about the bill for three years. It’s far cheaper than many turnkey companies that charge to set up business sites.
Too cheap to pay even that? Create a blog instead. You’re reading this on a free blog, courtesy of WordPress. There are many other blog sites out there, but I’ll stick with the nod to WordPress at the moment. If you want to own your own domain, it is simple to purchase your domain, then forward it to your blog. I did this for years. If someone enters the domain into a browser, they are then sent directly to your blog.
#2: All the good domains are already taken. Nothing could be further from the truth, and new extensions make creating custom domain names even easier. It is also easy to buy multiple domains and forward them to one site or blog. Once again, Hostgator has a domain service, NetworkSolutions.com was one of the first big names in purchasing domains, but most people go through GoDaddy.com, which is one of the best priced domain services out there. Go over, start experimenting, and see what isn’t taken.
Also, don’t get too caught up in using your personal name as a domain. Unless you are a big celebrity, people are not searching for your name, they are looking for the service of what you do. For example, if you are in Los Angeles and sell real estate, instead of JohnDoe.com, you should use JohnDoeRealEstate.com, or better yet, LARealEstate.com or BestLosAngelesRealEstate.com.
#3: It is too hard and expensive to build and maintain a site. If you can update your Facebook page, or use Twitter, you can build and maintain your web site. In fact, it scares me a bit that people who do highly technical and specialized things are intimidated by the web. If you’re forwarding to a blog, half your work is done.
Most major hosting companies, especially Hostgator offer what’s called a Content Management System. This very intimidating name is actually a technical way of saying they have simple software like WordPress (yes, you can also get your own personal version of WordPress on your web page), Joomla, or Dupal that let you build and manage your site. Hostgator has tutorials and instructions that make help make this easy. This software often comes with free templates, and you can also find customized templates for low prices.
#4: Huge companies use big design firms and require serious customization. Wrong! Many use WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, because they allow for multiple employees to log in and make updates. You could easily be in charge of your hosted site, and create logins and passwords for different employees to post press releases, updates, and photo galleries. If this easy to use software works with CNN, People, and Fortune magazine, why not use it for your business?
#5: You need a big company to get good SEO results. These guys say they’ll get me on Google and Yahoo. The letters SEO can be some of the biggest snake oil you’ll ever see. What is at stake are key words on your site, in the title of your post, and in your meta tags. I’m using a simple plug-in I got for free through WordPress.org for my site. It asks what words I want people to be looking for, and checks to see if I’m using the search terms in my titles and content. I’m also given options to add search words in meta tags. Many free blogs also already generate SEO, especially if you’re using their tag features.
Google and Yahoo results are how I get most of my visitors. Changing my domain helped increase those results, and including key words in my titles, posts, and meta tags mean I don’t need a snake oil company to improve my search rankings.
You can also increase results for free through sending out press releases, interviews, and doing link exchanges. Most hosts offer SEO services, but you should check out their free services like Webalizer first. These let you gauge how many visitors are finding your site, what they’re looking for, and where they came from. From there, you can customize.
I should also add that paying a third party for expensive SEO services is foolish when you can buy ads directly on Google instead. Google Ad Words let you experiment by choosing your budget, and making adjustments from there. Hosting services often have deals with Google Ad Words. With my host, I can get $100 worth of ads for $25.
#6: I just don’t have time. How are you reading this article? I think it took us about an hour to set up my Hostgator account with WordPress. It would most likely take less time to start your small business site, than it would to go through an expensive turn key site. And, don’t forget, by building it yourself, you keep the domain. Turnkey web companies often reserve the right to the domain you choose. Building it yourself lets you be in control.
It’s OK to be a little afraid, but don’t let that stop building a web site for your business. You’ll be amazed at what you can do, and how professional the results look.