For small businesses, a website can expand your audience, increase brand recognition and provide a valuable platform for your marketing efforts. Because a small business’s website can take many different directions, defining your goals and narrowing down your initial focus helps you craft an effective means for reaching customers. As you plan your site and look for a hosting provider, consider how your design and content can help you achieve your marketing goals.
Narrowing your Focus
Before you begin devising ideas for your site, think about your specific goals. Will your website be informational? Articles, blog posts, newsletters or white papers may help you promote your business while disseminating information. Will your website sell products? If so, then a good e-commerce portal is a must. Knowing what you need can help you identify the right hosting service that meets your needs and fits your budget.
Once you’ve taken this first step, define what the conversion or the end goal will be. If you have an informational site, you may want customers to sign up for your mailing list, follow you on Twitter or download your e-book. With an e-commerce site, your goal will be for users to purchase a product.
As a final step before getting started, create an outline or a site map for every page your site will feature. This will come in handy when you create specific content and develop a clear navigation system so that users can efficiently move through your site.
Evaluating Business Web Hosting
Not all web hosting providers offer the same services, so you’ll want to know what you need before you begin shopping. The typical requirements might consist of the following:
- Templates for web design: If you’re designing your own site, some easy-to-use templates or themes will take the guesswork out of getting started.
- E-commerce capabilities: This is essential if you want to sell products online. Security and speed are the major concerns here, and a reliable hosting service should be able to provide both.
- Email auto responders: If you want your website to send welcome emails when customers make a conversion, you’ll need a host that offers auto responders.
- Catch-all email: A web host with catch-all email capabilities will forward any email to any address at your domain, whether or not that address has been created. This way, you receive all communication and won’t miss any conversions.
- Adequate bandwidth: Every time you upload or download files or folders to your website, you use bandwidth. A hosting platform that limits bandwidth will slow you down and hinder your progress.
- Customer support: This is another essential component, and customer support, including technical support, is invaluable when you’re getting started with website development. Look for a web host that offers 24/7 technical help via telephone, chat or a ticketing system.
Knowing your needs will help you define—and create—your website. Once you have the initial site created, spend time testing it out. Make sure all the links work across the major browsers, that the size and colors of font are clear and easy to read, and that the organization of information makes sense. Once you’ve checked, double-checked and made any last changes, then it’s time to launch your site and let your hard work pay off.