Whether you’re transitioning an existing “bricks and mortar” organisation to the web, developing a new online presence or optimising an existing one, it can be hard to know where to start and ensure you cover all your bases. Deciding to build or develop a new website to represent your organisation is just the first step and making sure it succeeds plus covering off all the other tools available to help you boost your web presence, can be quite daunting.
In this feature, we’ll cover off all the steps you’ll want to cover one by one to really maximise your Internet footprint and the potential value you can bring to your organisation. We’re going to assume that you’ve already done the basic things such as choosing a company name, setting up the basic infrastructure, defining your brand and registering with things such as Companies House etc as appropriate.
Here’s our step by step guide to the best way to get your business online and up and running:
- Register a domain. If you’re not familiar with what a domain is, think of it as the address on the Internet that you want your customers to visit. These days it’s incredibly easy to register a domain to use for your organisation and whilst there usually is a small cost it’s often not a massive one. Whilst we’re including this as step one, there are times in which you won’t bother to do this – if you’re using blogging sites such as WordPress and so on they can take care of this to some extent for you – but as a general rule we’d expect you would. If you’re using a self-building website tool such as Wix or GoDaddy you can often select and buy your domain name during the creation very easily. If you’re not going this route, there are plenty of places you can easily and cheaply buy your domain from such as 123 Reg or even Google
- Create an email account. There are a ton of ways in which you can create email at no cost such as Microsoft’s Outlook.com, Google’s Gmail or com all of which you can create in very little time and at no cost. If you just want to use this type of email account they are all very easy and straight forward to create and each site has a step by step guide to help you do this. Of course, if you want your organisation to have a more professional feel to it then it’s an absolute necessity that you create a professional email account for your customers and audience to contact you with. For example, if you’re organisation is called Kitten Calendars perhaps create a generic email@example.com (or whatever your domain is) along with personal email addresses for the members of your team. If you’re using a 3rd party to host your website such as those mentioned above or any other to host your email most easily. You can also setup hosting just for email service as well with the same companies or others.
- Decide how want to host your website. Understanding web hosting can seem like a complex subject but it really doesn’t have to be. In general, you have 2 real options when it comes to how to host your website on the Internet and they both have their pros and cons. Options one is to let your site creator such as WordPress or Wix to both create your site design and also take care of the hosting of it. The benefit to this is it’s very easy to get it sorted and setup with only the one account and cost to take care of. The other option is to use a 3rd party that specialises in web hosting to run your site from – such as Fasthosts or Bluehosts. The benefit here is you get more dedicated hosting, often increasing load times, better security from downtime and a range of other things.
- Build a website. Ok so just saying “build a website” might sound like a massive step in itself and it can of course take a huge amount of time – however it can also be very quick and simple to do. It depends on your organisation and what you want to create. When it comes to deciding how to build your website you’ve again 2 main options to go with in order to do so. Option 1 is you outsource the work and have a specialist or an agency to create and build it for you (and often help maintain and update it) in conjunction with a brief you will give them. The real benefit here is that it that you can have an expert helping to do this for you and get you online using their own expertise and experience. This is particularly valuable to do if your site is more complex than something quite basic, you’ve got a lot of functions you want to add or you don’t have the time or desire to do it yourself. The downside of course to this route is that it will cost you money. Website design and creation can cost anything from a small charge from a known acquaintance to thousands and thousands for highly specialised experts. The 2nd option is that you choose to create, build and manage the website creation and upkeep yourself. This might sound like a daunting proposition but you’ll be amazed at just how easy it is to do this these days with a range of great tools and sites available to help. You can read our special feature on this if you want to learn more. There’s a lot of considerations to keep in mind when it comes to how to build your website to ensure it’s successful but always keep in mind things from your customer or audiences perspective – will be it be easy to use, valuable to spend time on and useful for them?
- Boost your SEO. SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the core way in which search engines such as Google, Bing and so on will discover and report your website in search results. There are tons of ways in which you can SEO your website but doing so is a key part of how you will generate organic traffic and visitors through to it. We’ve written a top SEO tips feature if you want to learn more around the subject of SEO as this is an incredibly complex and detailed subject. One of the best ways to boost your SEO though is just by having great content on your website that your audience will find valuable – Google and other search engines will read that and reward you for it we promise. You can also use outsourced agencies and specialists that help organisations to increase their own SEO. Sometimes these will be the same person or organisation who builds your website or they could be separate and someone who works with your once the site is built to optimise it.
- Get registered and listed on key sites. The more places in which you can have your website listed the better, but there are some key places that you’ll want to get your company “registered” with to help increase its awareness and visibility across the Internet. One of the first we would recommend is the biggest of them all, Google. Even if you’re not technically located in a physical address, registering your organisation with Google can add a lot of value from visibility but also through things like reviews and ratings. Registering with Google is a very easy process and you can do it in just a few steps by going to their specific site HERE. If your organisation is related or relevant to specific organisations or “governing bodies” we would highly recommend trying to get linked to via them. Perhaps call them, email them or write to them and enquire what the methods are in order to get “affiliated” or listed on their website. If you’ve already got some sort of official membership you might already be listed, you’ll just want to get them to add your weblink. It’s also valuable to link back to them from your website if you can as it will add a feeling of professionalism and endorsement to your audience.
- It’s time to get social. Now first off we’d only recommend that you link to a social media website from your own website if you’re actually going to regularly use the account. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other platform it’s tempting to just create accounts and link to them on your website to expand your reach. If you’re not going to regularly post on them and update them it’ll actually result in a more negative result than anything else! If you went to an organisations page on Facebook and noticed they hadn’t posted anything in 6 months you’d be thinking perhaps they weren’t in business anymore right? However, if you’re committed to using social channels – and they definitely can bring huge value – the next stage is to get your accounts set up. We’ve got a number of articles dedicated to setting up Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter that you can read if you want more specifics. Create a schedule of content that you’ll post across these channels and be sure to stick to it.
- Go and get connected. Once you’re live with your website, you won’t succeed unless people actually reach it and visit your pages. SEO and digital advertising are just some of the ways in which you’ll drive more visitors to your website, but another great way to help amplify it’s presence it’s through relationship and “link building” with other websites. If your website blogs about bird spotting, then perhaps you could try and build relationships with other websites that sell outdoor clothing for bird spotting enthusiasts, a bird watching association or maybe just with other similar sites to yours? Take some time to research other websites and organisations that are relevant and start to reach out and contact them to explore the subject of connecting. Ask for ways in which you could build links between your 2 sites and share traffic and value – it’s a 2 way street here though, you want to give value as well as get value. There are other types of connections called affiliates that can be added if you’re looking to find ways to monetise your site by effectively selling/ promoting someone else’s services or products. We won’t cover this here as it’s a separate subject and normally relates to creating a different type of website.
- Add ways to contact and capture information. Hopefully when you built your website you added obvious ways to let your audience engage with you or contact you as appropriate. Adding things like email address/ phone numbers or anything else relevant is great as long as they can see it and easily use it, but that shouldn’t be where the process ends. If you’re planning to send out emails, newsletters or the like, how are you going to build your database to send them to? You can’t just rely on contact data provided when someone buy’s or transacts with you in order to help you build that out. There’s a ton of great ways to get more data from your visitors and allow them to engage with you – as well as getting their info it can also make them feel more connected if they are able to do so. Perhaps add fields on your pages for people to “sign up” to your mailing list. Perhaps add a pop up doing the same that’s triggered at certain times or places in the site. Perhaps ask for information to be completed in a form to access certain parts of your site. The last part here is called “gating” and usually applies to a process of putting a form or “gate” in between access that means someone has to provide information to get something or perceived higher value. For example if you offer trials, ebooks, or demos as just a couple of examples, then gating this content can both ensure it’s value is understood as well as give you value in return. Don’t just gate everything on your site – unless it truly is of notable value – and think about what the right balance is.
- Keep your content updated. So this is always going to be something you’ll want to focus on doing as the better quality your content is and the better your website appears to visitors, the more they will keep coming back. There’s also more chances that you’ll get advocated or shared to others and of course ranked with search engines. Even if you’ve already created your site and think that it’s looking great, always think of other ways you can add more value to your audience, make it easier for them to navigate. Perhaps block off an hour or two ever few weeks to set aside time to review or create content for your website. If your site is a blog type website, then ensure you regularly add new and (more importantly) quality content to your site. It’s also easy to miss mistakes, spelling errors and other bugs that can appear in your site so take time regularly to check things over and ensure that all is working as it should be.
- Report and review. So website analytics might sound like something that could put the average person to sleep, but it’s also one of the most important ways to help make your website perform at it’s peak. Google Analytics is probably the best known tool for website tracking and reporting and it’s probably the easiest one to use and add to your website. If you’ve built your website on a self built platform such as Wix and WordPress you can usually get your analytics live through them. Alternatively just visit the Google Analytics site, register an account for free and you can add a tiny piece of code to your site. This will give you a ton of hugely powerful information on how your website is performing and help you to optimise it’s performance. Whilst it’s great to know how many people visit your site and how long they spend on it, other stats such as specific views on pages (allowing you to know the most valuable parts of your site) and the pages you most often “lose” people from are incredibly important. Trust us when we say that analytics for your website are both interesting and easy to use at their core level! Of course Google Analytics isn’t the only tool available, others such as Omniture also had hugely powerful insight to name just one of the many out there. If you’re confused by this part of the journey there are tons of fantastic agencies and digital specialists available that can help you with this part of the process.
- Digital marketing investment. We’ve purposefully left this until last, as spending money on digital advertising isn’t actually necessary depending on what your goals are for your web presence and organisation in general. A few examples of digital marketing activities you can invest in to drive traffic and conversions include:
- One of the easiest ways to drive “paid for” visitors to your website is probably Google AdWords which is a way in which you pay a fixed amount for visitors to your site or specific pages based upon a specific series of words or terms. If you’ve got certain subject or product/ service you want to drive visitors to for you to sell or “convert” them, AdWords can be an easy way to invest.
- Sites such as Facebook also offer a very easy way to create and promote adverts to specific audiences very easily. Perhaps you’ve got a local pet grooming business that you want to promote, with a pretty simple process, you can select the geographic region and audience type and get an advert display specifically to possible customers in that region.
- Display advertising is another way in which you can invest into marketing to promote and drive more traffic to your website by purchasing online adverts on other websites and resources. Typically this is purchased from either a media/ digital marketing agency or sometimes direct from the website themselves and involves creating a specific size advert that then appears on one or more websites.
- There’s a ton of methods, types and budget sizes that digital marketing involves and we’d highly recommend taking your time to define your goals, your audience and your budget before rushing into spending precious funds on paid for campaigns.
We hope you’ve found this guide useful and we’re confident that if you can follow these steps you’ll have a strong start to your online journey up and running. Check out our other guides if you’re looking for specific articles and tools on the more specific elements of online marketing and social media.