A business is all about making money, and the best place for most businesses to make money today is not on some prime real estate but on the virtual landscape of the Internet.
Why is that?
The Advantages of Moving Your Business Online
First of all, just about everyone is online nowadays, thanks to more affordable and faster Internet access. People turn to the World Wide Web to get their information and even make their purchases too. By putting up your business online, you get to reach a much wider audience than just having a physical store.
Secondly, people can access the Internet just about everywhere. They can use their smartphones, tablets, or laptops, so they’re always connected even on the go. With WiFi hotspots and up to 5G mobile broadband speeds, they can do their shopping no matter the place.
In connection to that, having a website means business is open 24/7. Whether it’s at the dead of midnight or it’s a holiday, people can check out the website to read about the business’ products/services and even take out their credit cards to spend some money.
On the side of businesses, starting a website is a lot cheaper than starting a brick-and-mortar store. Essentially, all a business has to do is to pay for a domain name and the regular fee to keep the website up. There would be no need to look for a good location, hire construction workers to build a store or modify the space provided, and/or enlist employees to help run it.
Naturally, it’s also more affordable to run a website than it is to operate a physical store. Again, you just have to pay for the hosting fees, unlike dealings with overhead including electricity bills, water bills, and hiring plenty of staff to handle all sorts of jobs for offline businesses.
Once that decision to transfer your business online is made, here are the steps you need to follow:
1. Choosing a domain name and registrar.
To kickstart your business’ online venture, you need to look for a domain name. Not just any kind of domain name, mind you. Since it’s what people will be typing on the address bar of their Web browsers, it has to be something that will stick to your target audience’s minds. As a general tip, it’s the ones that are short and highly descriptive that has good recall.
More often than not, those types of domain names have already been taken, so unless your business’ name is totally unique, you’re going to have to compromise with a domain name that’s a little longer than most. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the name of your business. You can instead use words that relate to it, such as what your company is all about or a popular product/service you have.
Another part of the domain name is the domain extensions. These are the letters that come after the “dot” after the domain name. Since you’re a business, you’ll want to stick with either .com or .biz, but you can always use country specific extensions if your business is registered outside the US.
Once you’ve decided and they’re available, you then have to register it. Check out the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers website for a list of registration authorities.
2. Looking for a web host.
Next up is looking for a good web host. The web host is the company that keeps a website up online, maintaining all its files and pages to continue operations. There are three important factors that you need to consider – bandwidth, control panel, and technical support.
- Bandwidth is the capacity of a website to exchange data across connections, so the bigger the bandwidth available is usually the better. If you’re not expecting to have that much traffic, you can opt for more reasonable bandwidth to save money.
- The control panel is what you’ll be using to keep tabs on the website. If you’re not much of a tech guru, you’d be better off choosing a web host that offers a more user-friendly control panel.
- Technical support is there to help you with any concerns regarding how your website is being hosted, which includes troubleshooting for technical problems. Your best bet would be a web host that has a phone service that is available at all times, so you never have to experience having your website down with absolutely no clue as to why that’s happening.
3. Designing and developing the website.
With the technical aspects down, it’s on to designing and developing the website.
Having a website that looks good is as much an important factor as getting a good domain and web host. People who see an ugly website will probably not stick around for very long. Ugly can mean jarring fonts, a cheaply done logo, or text and links crammed into a confusing layout. If you’re not a designer yourself, you’ll want to hire a professional.
Web development is about turning that overall design into something that can be used efficiently by the site’s visitors. This includes everything from the registration forms, the flow of the purchasing process, the tools and widgets applied, etc. Again, it is better to hire a professional developer so that everything works smoothly.
Afterwards, you need to run some quality assurance to test out the entire website. This is to guarantee that everything is in order, and that people will have a good experience using the website.
4. Applying Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
You can be on your way to having some success if you’re offering a quality product/service and your brand is fairly known. But if you really want to get the most out of your website, you’ll want to apply search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO, as the name suggests, is all about optimizing a website so that it can rank higher in the results pages of search engines. Having your website show up in the first couple of pages in Google can help greatly, since a lot of people use that search engine to find things online, whether they just need information or they want to buy something.
Delving into its complexities is another topic on its own, but there are a couple of key things to remember about SEO.
- It helps define a business because of the strategy involved in building the business’ brand and reaching out to people, so it’s best done before the website is “open for business”. Having a good SEO foundation will help chart the website’s direction in the future.
- Start-ups have the most to gain from SEO because of the hurdles they face, including little to no public recognition and modest starting capital to draw from, keeping them from affording big marketing campaigns. SEO overcomes both these limiting factors.
5. Utilizing social media.
Lastly, you have to take into consideration the biggest influencer online – social media. Chances are, everyone who browses the Internet has an account on at least one social media site.
You need to register to the sites that will get you connected to your target audience. Facebook and Twitter are highly important, with their respective user base reaching up to a billion and more collectively. Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube are good if your business has good visual content to publish. There are dozens of other social media platforms out there, and it’s up to you to decide which ones can help your business.
Social media is all about relationships, and what are relationships if not meaningful exchanges between multiple parties? Because of this, you need to offer something of value to your followers. It could be awesome content, special promos and discounts to your products/services, or passes to exclusive events—anything that will catch and keep their attention. You’ll have a better chance of doing so if you make them feel special.
In conjunction with that is that once your audience expresses their opinion on social media (and they will), you need to reply. Social media allows for more immediate dialogue between a business and its customers, so capitalize on that and get to talking.
These two actions enable you to start building a community. By forming a bond with your target audience, you are establishing trust that leads to brand loyalty. From encouraging your followers to tell their own networks about your business, they will start doing it for you.
And there’s nothing more powerful online than good word-of-mouth spread throughout social media from people’s own friends, families, and colleagues.
This primer should have you all ready to make the big move from offline to online, but it’s all up to you to make the big decision. Let us know in the comments section if you’re up to the task!
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