The last of this round of Hastings and District Chamber of Commerce sponsored workshops is going to be held on Wednesday, May the 16th, at Bridgewater Coffee and Pizza, starting at 6:00 pm. Originally called “What’s Wrong with Your Website?” I decided to broaden it out just a little, to spend a few minutes talking about why you need a website, and what purpose it serves.
Websites do serve multiple purposes. Check if you have any of these needs.
- More customers
- A showcase or catalogue for your products or creations
- A need to educate consumers about your products or services
- A need to educate consumers about you or your company
- A need for credibility as an authority in your field
- A way sell your product, or information products about your field or niche online
- A way to provide customer service – FAQ’s, “contact me” info, product instructions, etc.
- A way to promote yourself or your services/products
- A way to provide access to additional information – interviews, videos, reports etc.
A website really levels the playing field between the little guy and the big corporation, in terms of appearance, at least. If you want to go all out, you could elect to spend $5,000 and have an all singing, all dancing whiz-bang web presence that looks fabulous and competes right up there with larger companies. The advertising budget for many small businesses could handle this with no problem. Especially because a well designed website, used strategically, could allow them to cut back on their other marketing efforts.
But it is not necessary to spend that much. A domain name costs about $10-12 a year. Hosting for your website is available for $5 – 10 per month, depending on your needs. So ongoing costs are $72 – $156 per year. You can get a very nice website built for $1500. That is a one time expense, so assuming your business lasts at least 5 years, you could say it costs you $300/year for a total expense of $372-456 every 365 days. Of course, this is a business expense that you claim against income. I hope I have convinced you, with this little numbers game, that you need a website.
There are do-it-yourself options out there that allow you to put up a website for free, if you don’t mind somebody else’s advertising on your site. I wouldn’t recommend that unless you have a good eye for design. If all you want is a relatively plain vanilla, say a 3 page website, you can probably find someone to build you one like this one (Survive the Bridge Repairs Hastings) for $350. Again, that’s a one time expense. If your business lasts five years, your cost is $70 a year for your website. Overall, it is possible to have a web presence for under $150/year, over 5 years. At this price, you need a website if you are in business. You will not find any cheaper way to get information about you and your business out there.
What Your Website Needs
We have already talked about keywords. You should have done research on what terms people are using to look for your product or service. Those words or phrases need to be on your site. Since it is likely that your business is not strictly internet based, but has a physical presence, then your keyword phrases need to have a geographic locator included in them. “Hastings Used Books” is an example of a geographic oriented keyword phrase. “Hastings coffee shop” is another. Read over the Keywords page on this site for more information.
Most websites are missing a “Call to action.” What do you want people to do when they get to your site? Contact you? Leave an email address? Ask for more information? Buy a product online? Whatever it is, you must ask them to take action to get it done. This is the equivalent of the car salesperson saying “Why don’t we get started on the paperwork?” Sometimes you want to offer something to get them to act. It could be a coupon or special offer. It could be information like a special report or video. It could be a free consultation. Whatever it is, it needs to be prominently displayed so there is no mistake about what the visitor is expected to do next.
Contact information, along with your address if you have a physical location, needs to be on every page. In addition you need to have a separate “Contact Us” page, with a form people can use for email. I cannot over-emphasize how important it is to get a list of people who are interested in your business. Once you have a list, you can maintain a relationship with people. Many who do not buy initially will become customers over time, if you do your marketing correctly.
Those are the big three, in terms of what your website needs. Keywords, Call to Action and Contact information – really the fundamentals of any seller/customers interaction, whether on a website, or even in-store. Miss any one of these, and you can bet you are giving up business.
There are also other things, including some technical on-site requirements, if you want people to be able to find you, but I will talk about them at the workshop where I will have a chance to show you examples to make it easier to understand.
As always, happy to see your comments or answer any questions. Just fill out the comments box and I will get back to you.