On the Web, and In It

graphic of Small Business Websites - Effective, InexpensiveInexpensive, effective websites for small business: I hadn’t planned on the topic of small businesses and Websites turning into a two-part series. But after I wrote the post on why using a strategy advocated by The Wall Street Journal was a bad idea, I thought I needed to expand on it .. so much so, that I’m soon going to be publishing an eBook on it.

From that original piece, the WSJ said:

… [I]f you’re starting a business with limited funds, a flashy company Website isn’t a must. For little or no cost, you could put your fledgling enterprise on a third-party site such as a blog-hosting service, social-media outlet, business directory or marketplace.

While I agree with a lot of that statement (and that comes from someone who makes their living at creating Websites for all sizes and kinds of businesses), I strongly disagree with some of it. Which part? And what to do about it?

The part with which I disagree is the “flashy company Website” part. To find out why, go back to Part I of this now-series. I’ll wait.

Back? Good. Now that you’re convinced that totally outsourcing your Web efforts to third parties isn’t the way to go, let’s talk about getting you set up with your own Web presence and blog. I’ll soon publish an eBook for small businesses to build their own Websites. Creating for your business a very basic site that includes a blog is a bit detailed, but you don’t need a Web designer and developer for it. All you’ll need is our eBook, and the same amount of money that would buy you a small ad in a community newspaper. But you’ll get a lot more exposure than that little print ad.

Here’s the highlights of getting the process started:

Brainstorm potential Website names. In other words, the part that goes between www. and .com. If you don’t yet have a company name, write down several variations of the name you want. Don’t sweat it if your company already have a name, though.
COST: $0

Find and register your domain name. Go to GoDaddy and start searching for your name(s). When you find one you like, register it. If your first choices are already taken, GoDaddy has a nifty suggestion box for alternative names that already are available. If you also find that your name can be easily duplicated in another form, register that one, too. With our Hand to Mouse Networking site, for example, we registered both handtomousenetworking.com and hand2mousenetworking.com. You can have that (or those) alternate names re-route to your primary domain.
COST $24 for 2 years for each name. GoDaddy always has discount coupons floating around the Web, too.

Sign up for a Web hosting account. DO NOT host your site at GoDaddy. Please trust us on that one. We like HostGator for our own sites, and we recommend them for our clients as well. You can sign up at HostGator for a single site for two years for just $4.76 a month (payable up front). HostGator has other payment and hosting options as well.
COST: $115 for 2 years w/20% off coupon. HostGator usually has 20% off or other discount coupons at its site, and you may be able to find better coupon deals by searching the Web.

Point your domain to your Web hosting account. If you use the GoDaddy/separate Web host route, you’ll need to let GoDaddy know that a different company is actually hosting your Website. Most Website hosts, including HostGator, have step-by-step directions for this kind of thing, especially in coming from GoDaddy, one of the “biggies” in Web domain hosting.
COST: $0

Pick a Web platform and content-management system (CMS). For beginners who want simplicity at first, yet know they’ll want to upgrade in the future, I recommend WordPress. Not WordPress.com .. but the actual software that comes from WordPress.org. Download it, but don’t unzip the file; you’ll need it later.
COST: $0

I’ve written this post so you can at least get started with developing your own site, and you have a general idea of what comes next. If you’re looking to maximize your investment … and, who out there doesn’t want to do that? … I recommend first performing steps 1 and 2 (pertaining to buying your domain name), and then wait for my guide to be published before doing the rest. After all, you don’t want to start the clock on your Website host-contract any sooner than you have to, right? But you do want to register your name as soon as you know what you want, because those type of things are first-come, first-served.

I’ll be publishing the eBook in the next couple of weeks, and giving it away via both this Website and Hand To Mouse Networking (.com). Will the wait be worth it? I’ll put it like this: By following the steps in the eBook, the total cost for all of this (for a  2-year presence on the Web) is around $220, as well as your time.

For that price, though, you’ll get a good-looking Website with which you can blog, add your corporate content, and even perform basic search-engine optimization duties. What’s more, it’s ready for you to upgrade later with all kinds of neat features. And because you’ve worked with WordPress and our system, you can even hire an outside person to add to it without any worries. Why? Because that’s how we build Websites around here, and we wouldn’t short-change or limit you on something like that.

Plus, who knows? You may become enough of a WordPress maestro to implement the higher-end stuff yourself. I’ll also recommend some great books for WordPress development in my free eBook.

One other thing … you won’t sacrifice security with this site, either. The guide will walk you through all of the items from our recent post on WordPress security, as well as give you some additional tips and hints. While no site is absolutely safe from the most determined, educated and experienced hacker, you can make sure your site is about as secure as it can be from most people who try to crack it.

Until then, happy Website planning!

** The only time you may deal with ToS changes with your own site is if your Website hosting provider changes theirs. Chances are very good, though, that you’ll be just fine .. as long as your business is on the up and up, and you’re not crashing their servers with too much traffic for your account level with them.

This is the final post in a two-part series, regarding a business and its Web presence, and having one in an inexpensive, yet effective way. Here’s Part I.

Speak Up! Speak Out!