Getting your company’s name out on the Internet doesn’t have to be difficult – or expensive.
By Eric Barger
Eric Barger is president of CR Barger & Sons Inc., a precast manufacturer located in Harriman, Tenn.
The Internet is knocking, so go ahead and answer the door. Having a presence on the Web is more important for businesses today than ever. However, the process involved in creating and maintaining a website remains a mystery for most precast concrete manufacturers. It is a fact in today’s economy that businesses must take advantage of every tool they can in order to stay up to date on current technologies and remain active in their markets. Keeping those proven business practices from days gone by is not necessarily a bad thing, but not changing with the times can be a fatal mistake for companies. Old habits do die hard.
Creating websites is as easy as you make it. Creating a good website requires thought and proper guidance before even starting a design. With a brief overview of how the process works, a business will be ready to establish its presence on the Internet ahead of the competition.
Choosing a domain name or website address is the first and most critical part of the process. If you have not purchased your “dot com” real estate, hurry up and do so before someone else takes it. A relevant domain name is key to getting potential clients to your virtual office. No one wants to remember www.joeschmoesepticandsewerserviceontimeeverytime.com when a simpler www.joessepticservice.com is easier to remember, pass along in a conversation or write down on a business card.
It is essential to select a domain name to accurately and simply represent your company then purchase the name as soon as possible. Register.com, networksolutions.com and godaddy.com are perhaps the most used and possibly the most reliable companies from which to purchase a domain name. When purchasing your domain name, you can also purchase any other variations of the name you feel may protect your investment. For instance, if you purchase www.joessepticservice.com you may want to purchase josepticservice.com or joesepticservice.com since people searching for your website may quite possibly misspell your company name by accident. You can expect to pay $35 per year for each domain name, or you can save a few bucks by purchasing multiple-year registrations.
The cost of hiring a Web designer can be expensive and more time consuming than creating the website from within your organization. In fact, hiring a consultant might be a waste of time and money. It is not necessary to have a flashy high-tech website to represent your company. A simple, straightforward design that makes your site easy to navigate and find the important information the customer needs is all that is required.
Do not make the page too busy with graphics and words scattered haphazardly all over the page. Just like your office is organized (or should be organized), your website should be clutter-free as well. Any place you do not have a graphic or text on your site is called white space. White space can be a good thing when used properly – it lets the content “breathe.” Having the correct mix of white space and information will give an uncluttered feeling that radiates professionalism.
Decide which Web design software you are going to use to create your website. If you use a PC and are new to Web design, you will probably want to stick with Microsoft Front Page. Many of the tools in Front Page are the same as Microsoft Excel and Word. Mac users new to website creation will want to look at Realmac Software’s Rapid Weaver, iWeb by Apple or Sandvox by Karelia. Any of these programs will get you a site that will continue to serve your needs for years to come.
Do not get caught up in buying the best and most expensive program on the market. Web design does not require the latest or most powerful software or hardware for a site that is simply there to get the job done.
To create your website, it is cost effective and easier to search online for website templates (generic design layouts) compatible with the program you are using. Templates are available from websites such as networksolutions.com, templatemonster.com, templatesbox.com and perhaps your domain name provider. You can choose a template and customize it around your needs using one of the above-mentioned programs. This is the fast and easy way of creating a professional-looking site with the look of a contemporary design. Templates range in price from $5 to several hundred dollars. The good thing about templates is that they are customizable, quick and easy to set up, and give instant gratification to the person designing the website.
Secrets to a great website
There is no easy way to attract visitors to your website. Some people make it out to be black magic and sorcery to accomplish this goal, but it is really a combination of several key items that together can lead to a high ranking on the big search engines. Good content, proper grammar and spelling, and external site links all play an important role in moving your site ranking up the ladder.
First, your website can be of no use to you if it is not listed in the major search engines, such as Google. Find out if your domain name is listed in Google’s search engine by going to google.com and entering “site:www.yourdomain.com.” Leave out the quotes, and in place of your domain type in your company’s Web address. This will list every page that Google has in the search index. If you do not find your site listed using this method, you need to add your site to Google’s search index by going to www.google.com/addurl.
Having your site added to Google’s search engine is a great first step to getting recognized on the net. The next step is to realize what makes your site show up above others when searching on Google. The rank of your page will drop based on misspelled words, bad grammar and long paragraphs (usually longer than 10 sentences), so pay particular attention to these areas.
The next big factor in getting recognized in the search engines is link referral. Link referral is a term used to describe when others link back to your site. This plays a big role in verifying that the big search engines rank your site high on the return list when customers are searching for products you have listed on your website. It is well worth the time and effort to find other sites that will reference your site. You can go to Google and find out how many sites link back to yours by entering “link:www.yourdomain.com.” Some suggestions include local utilities or other industry-related business to link back to your site from their websites.
The last thing you can do to improve your ranking among search engines is to include metadata, or key words, in your site. Metadata is one of the hottest buzzwords to drop these days when talking about website creation. Metadata is simply data to describe other data. Google uses website metadata to help index sites. In most programs, you can enter your metadata keywords in a field and the program will place the metadata in your site where Google can find it. If your program does not have this feature, it’s certainly not a
Now that you have created your site, you need to upload the files to a host or web server. You can purchase storage space from Web design companies that will store your files on Web-accessible servers. In other words, you have to store your files on computers that are set up for website hosting. Just search for “web hosting company” and you will find thousands of businesses ready to offer their services. Most Web host companies cost less than $10 per month for hosting your site and providing e-mail service.
Who knows about the messages and values your company wants to convey to your customer base better than you? Try and develop a website on your own before you go out and hire a consultant to do a job that you are very capable of doing yourself. Once you complete your site, you can build upon it a few hours a month, making sure to keep it up to date and relevant to your product line.
Get busy and create the website that transforms your company from local to global.