Here are some things to consider in starting your online business. The information applies to those starting a business in Florida. I'm sure there are resources available to you in your state concerning these same issues:
- Do I need a Business License For An Online Business?
- What is a Fictitious Name?
- How Do I File a Fictitious Name in Florida?
For those of you who have never had a web site created before, there are some basic things you will need to know and to obtain. For those who already have a business web site, but want a redesign, you can skip this basic stuff.
- Domain name-You will need to purchase a domain name at any ICANN accredited registrar. You can check out this site to find a registrar-http://www.internic.com/regist.html. Personally I would not pay more than $15 per year for a domain name.
- Hosting-You will need a web hosting provider to store your web site files on a server and make them available on the internet. Basically you will be renting space on a server and the host provides you with an assortment of features that can be used on or with your web site.
So, how do I choose a web host?
- You will need to determine what features and services you will need such as email accounts, server side scripts, web site statistics, databases, SSL certificates, website security features, etc. Talk this over with your web designer to clarify what you will need.
- Determine the cost of hosting and the features offered.
- If you are building an e-commerce site (online store), be sure the web host you choose can handle the server load and is compatible with the shopping cart software you will be using.
If you are planning on building an e-commerce site, you will also need a online merchant credit card account and payment gateway (unless you plan on using paypal as your credit card processing gateway), SSL certificate, and a dedicated IP. If you want to accept credit cards online without using paypal, we can offer some options for online payment processing. Just contact us about getting an online merchant account. If you choose a hosted shopping cart such as bigcommerce.com, your cart will already be on a secure server.
Planning Your Web Site
You need to plan, whether it is a one page online business card or a multi-page web site. This plan should be specific in regard to exact content, placement of information, interactive features and graphics so that you and the web site designer are on the same page and each knows what to expect from the other. It is important to create a plan for your web site for the following reasons:
- To make the design and development process run as smoothly as possible.
- The web site to produce the results that you want.
- To prevent any major design or development headaches along the way because you did not plan ahead.
- Not having a plan may cost the developer more time and you more money.
Have a well thought out plan and stick to it. Depending on the complexity of your website, this is very important, not only for you, but for those creating the web site for you.
The Storyboard-Your Web Site Outline
Having an outline and description of what you want your site to have helps:
- Solidify what content you will want,
- Who your target audience will be and
- How you want that content to be arranged.
Detail is very important. Especially if you want to obtain an accurate quote for your web site project. Your web designer will need to know specifics.
Purpose of the Web Site
Having a purpose specifically written down will keep you focused and on target. So specifically ask yourself: What do I want my web site to accomplish? In order for it to accomplish what you want, here are some basic questions to consider:
- What will my visitors want to know? In other words, what information will you provide that will address your audience's particular need when they come to your web site?
- What do my visitors want to feel? Generally people act on what they feel. Do your visitors want to feel empowered, successful, better about themselves, informed or ready to take action?
- What do I want my visitors to do? People go to web sites for a purpose, usually to fulfill a need or desire. Do you want them to purchase something? Do you want them to ask for more information or contact you? You will need a call to action so that they will do something.
- What benefits are my visitors looking for? Bascially when people visit your site, they want to know how they will benefit from your product/service/information. What benefit will they receive from purchasing from you, contacting you, receiving services from you? Decide what your unique selling point is. What do you offer that your competitors don't or is better or different than your competitors?
Determine Your Web Site's Target Audience
You will need to determine what audience you are trying to reach.
Make a list of who you want to reach out to.
- Potential customers
- Demographics of customers-where are they located?
- Current customers
- Corporate Sponsors
Once you have determined who you want to reach out to, then take the time to learn about your audience. Here are some things to consider and you may even want to write these out and answer these questions so you know how to effectively reach out to your audience.
- What information will your audience want to know?
- How detailed will the information need to be?
- What search terms will your audience use to find your products/services?
- What information will you need to provide in order for them to feel comfortable in purchasing services/products or contacting you?
In other words, think like your target audience. Get feedback from others as to what questions they would want answered if they were your target audience, look at other similar sites to see what information they provide.
So, do your homework. Yes, this takes time and effort, especially if you are just starting out.
Planning Your Web Site Content
The content is the actual written text, graphics and/or multi-media content that will address the purpose of your site.
- Gather the information you will need to put on your site, including any graphics that you want your web designer to use.
- Sort your information into logical topics or categories.
- Decide your flow of traffic. Where do you want your visitors to go once they reach your home page? Use a call to action here such as "read More Here", "Contact Us", "Order Now", etc.
- Create each page's content. You will need to create a title, any headings and/or subheadings and of course, your written content. Your content needs to have enough original information to engage your viewers and give them a reason to make a purchase, contact you, etc. Be sure to include relevant keywords and keyword phrases naturally within your written content for each page. Include a call to action where appropriate or the opportunity to click on a text link using one of your keywords.
Planning Web Site Navigation
- How do you want your information to be linked in regard to the structure of your site? The structure needs to be logical and make sense to the visitor.
- How about the layout of the menu? Where on the page layout and in what order do you want your menu links to be in relation to each other?
If you build it, they will come does not automatically apply when you build a web site. You have to plan your marketing strategy and then work on making your site visible on the internet search engines.
This also takes time and effort. There are many factors that contribute to getting your web site visible in search results.
Below are just some of the elements of a powerful SEO campaign:
- Researching your keywords for the best ones to use on your site.
- Knowing where your competitors are on the search engine pages when using your keywords.
- Knowing what keywords your competitors are using.
- Having relevant and frequently updated quality content and incorporating the keywords that will help you rank well in the search engines.
- Social media marketing such a Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and others that direct people to your web site will help bring in traffic.
- Blogs-provide dynamic content and give your visitors a reason to come back to read interesting information.
- Having a way to analyze your keywords and how your site is ranking in the search engines.
- The history of your domain name, in other words how long it has been on the internet.
- And more.....
You might be thinking, "Wow, I don't have the time or enough knowledge to work on this myself." If you are interested in this service, contact us so we can get you in touch with a few of our SEO partners.
Keep in mind search engine optimization is more than just adding keywords to your site in the content, having h1 and h2 tags and meta tags and then submitting your site to various search engines. We do provide this basic service for all our clients. But an effective SEO strategy is ongoing to make sure:
- You are using the right keywords by researching them for their effectiveness in your target market.
- Tracking the keywords and updating them and your content as necessary.
- Have relevant and frequently updated content on your site.
- Have incoming links to your site from quality outside web sites that are similar in content and topic. This is known as backlinking.
- Make adjustments to your on site and off site links and content as needed to be sure your website is getting the exposure you want.
- Use social media as a way to connect with customers and potential customers.
All this and more drives trafffic to your site and brings in more leads and/or customers.
Other Information Links On Web Site Planning