The World Wide Web, also referred to as the Internet, offers businesses yet another media through which to educate, promote or sell their product or service, giving businesses and consumers instant access to one another 24/7. Can you believe it was once projected that the Internet would peak in the early 2000s? Today, statistics show that nearly one million new web sites are launched in the U.S. every year.
Having a web address and online presence has become as common place, and expected, as having a logo and business card. Business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing places a great demand as well as dependence on having a domain name (web address), company email address and web site. Why? They instill consumer confidence just like a physical office or store front, mailing address, phone number and business card.
It is a mistake for any business to overlook the value and importance the Internet plays in business success, not just globally but regionally too. Free web email addresses are acceptable for personal use but using them for business undermines credibility. Many businesses can exist and be successful without a web site however few can operate without email access. It is highly advisable that all businesses purchase a domain name and set up and use a company email address. Free web mail providers such as Yahoo.com make it easy and affordable to set up an online business identity without the cost of hosting, developing a web site or buying an email program.
At some point your business will be ready to enter the World Wide Web. When it is, be aware and prepared that your web site, if used to generate traffic and sales, is like running another business. Planning and preparation are both critical in setting up your web site, maintaining it and marketing your business online. Do your homework or you will be sorry. Research web hosting providers, packages and web design firms, know the fair market rate in your area and for the type of web site you desire. If possible consult with a marketing professional to determine your goals for the web site before your purchase hosting or web design services. Acquire a basic understanding of internet marketing before your web site is designed. Both design and content are critical to your online marketing, especially in Search Engine Optimization.
If your web site is going to be heavily content managed consider purchasing a web site building software or select a hosting provider and plan that includes a free web site builder. Note, this advice is not for everyone. There is a huge learning curve and time commitment to do it yourself, many free web site builders will not allow full customization of the template or graphics, and you will need to learn how to use web administration tools. This is not a feasible option for everyone.
If you select a web design firm or freelance web designer for your web site get everything in writing, all components and details of the design services, hosting and domain name registration as well as time frame to complete the project. It is the consumer’s responsibility to know and understand what services are provided by the web designer and what items you are expected to provide, such as content and graphics. Be aware that not all web designers are graphic designers, and vice versa. Do not expect the web designer to educate you on marketing your web site, including keywords and search engine optimization. These services may, however, be available through the web designer at additional cost.
Once published, your web site becomes a living, breathing entity that you will need to take care of: market, update or refresh, and maintain. If used correctly, your web site will continue to evolve as an integral part of your business, if not your sole business.