How to Put Your Small Business On the Web

Vintage storefront

If you’re a business of one like a consultant, or a smaller business looking to grow your presence, there are some basic steps you might take towards getting yourself into place on the web. In this example, I’ll assume that you have nothing and are starting from scratch, and I’ll list out steps I’d consider taking in order. (Please note: several of the links in this particular post are affiliate links, meaning that should you choose to purchase something via that link, I’ll receive a small payment. Note that I only support programs that I’ve tried and can vouch for.)

In order, we’re going to talk about setting up your home base (your main site), getting that home base to be known/seen, and then in subsequent posts, we’ll talk about your outposts ( more on this kind of thinking about home bases and outposts).

If this ends up seeming like too much work, just know that my company, New Marketing Labs, offers local services now. If you want to set something up, contact me.

Set up a Home Base – Domain Name

You need a website of some kind for people to land on, to get some basic information about your business and/or your offer. Though you might not choose to write a blog (sequential information posted over time), blogging software makes for a simple set of tools to set up a basic web page. But even before that, you need to choose a domain name (URL). I currently use GoDaddy (affiliate link) to register my domains. It might be tricky to get your exact business name, especially if it’s made up of common words. This one step takes some time, because finding the right domain name early saves you a lot of headache later on.

I recommend buying for 2 years or more. This shows Google (and other sites that try to determine the authority of the person buying) that you’re not a fly by night operation.

Once you have a name, you have to pick a place to host a site. There are a few options in this.

Set up a Home Base – Host Your Site

Hosting is only tricky insofar as you have to pick a place that makes sense for where you are in your business at that time. Because my site receives a very high volume of traffic, I use Rackspace to host my platform. This might be overkill for a beginning website. I noticed that GoDaddy also offers $1.99 Web Hosting, but I’m not sure what they give you for that.

You can host for free, if you choose a free blogging platform like WordPress or Blogger, but the only caution there is that you have a lot more restrictions on how you set up your site and pages, plus some very stringent terms of use on what you can and can’t do with a site there.

One possible solution is what my friend, Andy Quayle, offers at Tubu. He has a service called Bloghost.me, that supports $10 a year WordPress installs and hosting. It’s inexpensive, gives you your own hosted WordPress service (with no restrictions like using WordPress.com would have), and sets you up with a decent set of management tools.

Set Up a Home Base – Your Blog Software

Again, you don’t have to use blog software, but it’s a lot easier to set up a home base using that software versus doing old fashioned website design. For an example of a site that’s using blog software to run, but that isn’t a blog, look at my friends at StudioPress.

Should you choose a blog software for your home base, I want to make the plug for WordPress over most of the other software. The reasons I use it are that there’s a large developer community, a lot of support, and plenty of flexibility for adding plugins and other software.

Set up a Home Base – Blog Themes

Most blogging software comes with built-in themes (looks and feel of the site type stuff). These are decent and a good starting place. But before you jump from that into a $5000 design, a step in between might be to check out some premium WordPress themes (if you went with WordPress), because they’ll allow you a decent framework to build upon. Again, a simple way to start is to choose any of the built-in themes, but after a while, you’ll want to move into a theme that better suits the design aesthetics you want to portray for your prospective buyers.

Set up a Home Base – Your Site Content

I’ll cover this in a subsequent post, but know that you should at least put your business name, a picture of you (yes, you), an address if your business has a physical component to it like a shop or a storefront, and a way to contact you. This would cover the bare minimums. You might also consider adding a sense of what you do, and/or any products and services you want to talk about. We’ll get to this in more detail later, but those are the basics.

Set up a Home Base – Link your Domain Name to Your Site Location

Once you’ve set up the blog site to your liking (and it’s okay if you need help in this regard. There are tons of people willing to help. If you want help like that, leave a comment on this post and I’m sure someone in my community will offer up their services), you have to link the domain name you bought to the location of the site.

The cool news is, you can point that domain name at whatever you want, so even if you decide later to move your site somewhere else, or even if you pick different software for the site, you’ll have no problem directing your customers and prospects to wherever you choose to make your home base.

Get Your Home Base Seen

You’ll want to submit your site to Google and submit your site to Bing, and maybe even Yahoo! local. I also found this huge list of ways to submit your site to be noticed by local search engines and services.

If you’re a business with a physical location, you should consider adding it to Google Places:

Google Places

That will improve your search listings, and/or give you a spot on the Google Maps, which gives people an even better chance of finding you when they’re searching for you.

From here, it depends what kind of business you are. Some businesses benefit from listing themselves on Yelp (traditionally restaurants, but more types of business as time goes on). You might even consider placing posts and/or ads in Craigslist, so that people seeking out your services on that site would know how to find your home base.

So Far

So far, we’ve talked about buying a domain, buying hosting, putting a simple website together, possibly theming it, and then listing it in a few places. In the next post, we’ll talk about how YOU set up your own personal presence, an avatar that will move between your site and other sites.

If these seemed like a lot to ingest and too much hassle, my company, New Marketing Labs, now offers local services for small businesses. If you want to have one of my team set something up for you just drop me a line here.

guest posting is a great way to get attention

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