Future May Be Online
By Peter L DeHaan
I have long been a proponent of the necessity for companies
to have Websites. In fact, I view a Website as a veritable
requirement for success in today's market. To the point,
organizations lacking a Website are quickly viewed as second-rate
providers and not worth the consideration of first-rate prospects.
With the current concerns over attracting new customers, now is the
time for site-less companies to embrace the Internet as a means of
marketing and validation.
I know that there are still organizations out there that have
not yet fully embraced the Internet revolution. Sadly, I hear from
them on a somewhat regular basis, claiming that they lack Internet
access. In addition, some business owners and managers are adamant
that they do not have an email address. Lastly are those who do not
have a Website or who state that “it’s not up yet.” Although this
is anecdotal evidence, it suggests that there are still companies
without Internet access, an email address, or a Website. How can
they serve customers, market to prospects, and stay in business? If
you are one of these organizations, take action today to embrace the
Internet before it is too late, with your business paying the price.
Website Basics: Although it can cost thousands of dollars to have a
whiz-bang, high-tech, professional-looking Website designed, there
are less costly options. After all, we don't all drive a
-- sometimes a Chevy will do. You can make an
inexpensive Web site yourself for under $100. The goal is for it to
not look cheap. Most hosting companies offer do-it-yourself
Web site templates that you -- yes, you -- can customize to
provide a basic, yet professional-looking site. However, there are
a few beginner mistakes that you will want to avoid:
Stay away from
line art graphics or any artwork that looks like it was
If you need to
resize a graphic, be sure to keep it proportional. Otherwise,
it will become distorted, either being stretched or squished.
Take time to
proofread the text, verify spelling, use correct grammar, and
employ commonly accepted punctuation. Have others double- and
triple-check your work.
carried away with different fonts. Use one or two at the most.
is strictly verboten; people will feel like you're screaming at
them. (The one possible exception might be listing your
company name at the top of the page.)
You might be
tempted to insert a page counter or some other nifty gadget.
Resist that urge. Just because those features are available
doesn't mean you should use them.
available with predesigned Website templates, you might think
you need to have a flashy animation on your home page. Don't go
there; the only ones who will be impressed will be you and the
person who designs it. Everyone else will be irritated, and the
search companies will dismiss you.
off someone else's domain name; get your own. This can be
inexpensively obtained from your hosting company. While you're
at it, set up an email account using that domain name.
Post that email address on your Website. If need be, you can
have this new address forwarded to an existing email account.
Now that you have a functioning Web site (which avoids all the
beginner errors), you want people to find it. Aside from telling
everyone you meet and listing it on every piece of literature and
stationery that you have, you need to be noticed and appreciated by
the search engines. This is called Search Engine Optimization
(SEO). Although this is more of an art form than an exact science
(since the search engine companies closely guard their
methodologies), here's some generally agreed upon SEO basics:
Each page of
your site needs a title tag, and each page's title should be
Each page also
needs a description tag; again each one should be different from
the other pages.
reasonable and accurate keywords is recommended. Although it is
generally accepted that Google ignores them, some search engines
will use them, so it's a good idea. Again, they should
not be the same for each page.
people still value reciprocal linking (that is, "I'll link to
your site if you link to mine"), the conventional wisdom is that
in most cases this no longer helps and may actually hurt your
visibility with the search engines.
Most of the
companies that guarantee you top search engine placement for a
fee, fail to deliver or can't do so for the long-term. There
are experts who can do this, but they are in a minority and
their skill is often hard to substantiate.
Search Engine Marketing: If you want people finding your site and contacting
you, the next step to consider might be Search Engine
Marketing (SEM). This is when you sign up with Internet advertising
companies such as Google, Yahoo, or a host of others. Basically,
you tell them how much you are willing to pay each time a person
clicks on your ad, and they place your ad on Websites where
potential prospects frequent. If you go this route, proceed slowly
and carefully until you have a good understanding of how this
works. I have heard stories of novices spending hundreds of dollars
in a couple of hours with not much to show for it. A key thing to
remember is that just because they clicked on a link that points to
your Website does not mean they will become a customer – or even
Given the current concerns over the economy and finding new
business, organizations need to do everything they can to help them
succeed. The Internet is a cost-effective and increasingly popular
method. It doesn't matter if you are a beginner in this area, have
experience, or are a veteran, there are always more opportunities
waiting in the rapidly growing realm of cyberspace.
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