Internet Presence for Small Businesses: 10 Strategies to Avoid
Internet Presence Tips for Small Business Owners
by Derick Schaefer
If you are starting a new business, you have a list of hundreds of things to concentrate on in order to make your launch successful. Many of the items on a startup small business owners’ “to do” list make perfect sense to him or her. Creating entities, setting up bank accounts, filing for permits, and signing leases are a few examples. When it comes to Internet presence or a website the world can become a little fuzzier; and unfortunately, poor choices in this space can put an unnecessary dent in startup budgets and potentially impact marketing moving forward.
As a volunteer and regular speaker for both the Collin SBDC and The State Bar of Texas, here is my top 10 List of strategies to avoid:
DO NOT: Let someone else “own” your domain name.
Domain names are the equivalent of your social security number on the Internet. Everything from search engine history to printed marketing materials refers to it. Acquiring a domain name costs $10. Even though your web developer or hosting company says “I can do that for you”, every small business owner should make this purchase on their own from a reputable registrar and complete all information in their name or the name of their business.
DO NOT: Use Hotmail, AOL, or Yahoo email for your business email
Your domain name is your brand and your email address should represent this. When you receive a business email from a free Internet account, doesn’t that cause you to raise an eyebrow in terms of the legitimacy of the business? It will for your customers and for potential customers as well.
DO NOT: Use a phone number for your business that will change
Phone numbers get indexed by search engines and stay out in cyberspace forever. The classic situation is a small business that starts in an executive suite. When said business is ready to expand into a new office, many business owners read the fine print of their lease agreement and find it stipulates that the phone number belongs to the executive suite company. Virtual phone numbers are $20 a month and, per federal law, give the owner the right to transfer the number to whatever service provider they want. Onebox by JCom is a major player in the industry that should be considered.
DO NOT: Build an initial website that is too fancy or too large
Could you have a 100-page website with a customized ecommerce infrastructure? Sure. It is simply a matter of money. Start off small with your website and add to it as your business evolves and grows. There is a lot of learning in the first two years of a business and many business owners invest far too much into a website before they have a clear indicator of the ROI they can achieve from it. One strategy to help lessen that initial investment is to use ecommerce facilities from PayPal and other providers before building your own shopping cart. When you have so many orders that you are losing potential incremental sales due to up-selling and cross-selling functionality not being available from your own site, you can then justify the custom path.
DO NOT: Build a 100% Flash-based website
Granted, flash sites are pretty. However, sites built with Flash are also expensive. In addition, most sites that are primarily Flash-based are a complete disaster for search engines, which can hinder your ability to drive natural search traffic to your website. Do not build a flash site unless you have to!
DO NOT: Let a web developer build what you can buy instead.
Before a web developer talks you into customized blogs, newsletter sign-ups, and shopping carts, look on the web and explore solutions that are already built. You will likely find more cost-effective options with better functionality.
DO NOT: Have a web developer build you a dynamic site if it is not necessary
With dynamic sites or “content management systems”, the content is created on the fly from a database that someone maintains. The simple way to detect a dynamic site is the presence of variables in the URL. More simplistically, if the site you’re developer is creating for you does not have pages that end in .html or .htm, ask questions. Search engines can have trouble with dynamic sites.
DO NOT: Overpay for hosting and email
If you are paying more than $25 a year for an email account and do not have some specific government regulation that is responsible for a cost higher than that, ask questions. If you are paying more than $20 a month for simple hosting or $100 a month for ecommerce hosting, shop around.
DO NOT: Use PayPerClick if you aren’t good at it.
PayPerClick advertising (Google Adwords, etc.) takes professional knowledge and generally 1-3 hours per day of interaction to be successful in competitive marketplaces. Moreover, your click-through history stays with you forever. If you are not proficient at managing PayPerClick, it will cost you more over time; and you cannot erase that history. Do not just sign up and play with it. Start with natural search engine optimization first and move on to PayPerClick with the engagement of a professional firm.
DO NOT: Use Email for Sensitive Information
Before you send social security numbers, Quickbooks files, and other sensitive information over email, think first about the security of your customers’ or partners’ information. Then think about the security of your own company’s information. There are many services out there, such as FilesAnywhere (a Mark Cuban Company) that provide a secure infrastructure for sharing information.
Derick Schaefer, Managing Director of Orange Cast
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Derick Schaefer and Carol Thompson delivered an Internet Marketing seminar titled "Driving Action on Websites" for the Colin SBDC in Plano, TX.
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