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5 things every small business should know about their website

5 things every small business should know about their website

In the life of a small business it is quite common for a business to out-grow their web-designer, or for the design company to no longer be able to serve the needs of the small business. I have recently received some calls from small business owners that for one reason or another are not happy with their online presence and do not know what to do. Often they cannot get a response from the designer and feel trapped because they do not know if anyone can step in to take over their site. There are five pieces of advice that I continually offer that would have saved the business owner from this feeling of being out of control and it starts with a basic understanding of how the web works.

In layman’s terms, the web is an interconnected network of computers called Servers, and a website is a series of files stored on the hard drives of these computers.  A server could be dedicated to one website, or host many websites.  The server has physical constraints in terms of hard drive space and bandwidth – how much data can transmit per second from the server to the internet.  Anyone who has tried to load a video knows that the bandwidth of their internet connection can allow that video to download in seconds or hours.  Slow loading websites may have lots of images, video or heavy contnent, or their server’s bandwidth may be supporting several thousand websites.  Additionally, therewill be a dedicated amount of space on the hard drive to support your website, your e-mails and your back-ups.  Each server has a dedicated name, called an IP address and in the old days, the address used to access these files were the actual numbers, but that prove difficult for anyone but an engineer to remember.

One of the great changes of the World Wide Web ( the www in a web address) was introducing web address names to find a website rather than a series of numbers. These web address names are called a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) and each URL connects to a physical IP address. There is a group, called ICAAN, that keeps track of which URL connects to which server. In order to get a URL, you need to register the name with a registrar, such as GoDaddy.com or Register.com, and provide the server name that hosts the website. When you register the URL, you will define the period of time that the URL is registered – and most registrars will notify you to renew when your registration is due to expire. Once you have registered the name, no-one else can use it. Therefor the person who registers a URL identifies where your website will be hosted and controls the gateway to your Internet presence. If you want to change servers where your website is hosted, reduce your hosting costs, or even make changes to your website, you may need access to your URL registration.

The number one thing I recommend to small businesses is to take ownership of your URL

 If you have a website currently, go to Whois.com and see who registered the URL. There will be an owner, a technical contact and an administrative contact listed. If your website becomes slow, or outgrows the space alloted for on your server, you will need access to the registration to provide the new host server names.  Make sure the business is listed as the owner or you may be held hostage if you want to move your site to a new host or have another web designer work on the site. 

The second thing that I recommend to small businesses is to make sure they can analyze their website traffic

Analytic Programs will allow you to find out how many people are visiting your website, what pages visitors are going to, how they found your site, where they are located geographically, and a lot more. I usually recommend Google Analytics as it is free and there is a lot of information online about how to interpret the information. Google Analytics can be set-up to automatically send you a report each day, week or month with key indicators and a comparison to prior periods. Without Analytics, it’s impossible to know what is working and not working with your website.

The third thing that I recommend is to establish a goal for each page of the website

Many websites do not connect well to the sales process. Sales people need qualified leads in order to work their sales process. Your website should be the best source of leads, but if there is no way for the site visitor to be converted into a qualified lead, then you have lost a great opportunity. This step usually requires familiarity with the sales process, web design, marketing strategies and building a flowchart of the steps a visitors should take to become a prospect and a customer. Your website should be a key component to your marketing plan, being updated when there is new information about your business or industry, building social proof through case studies and testimonials, outlining your value proposition, and providing answers to frequent questions, product or services updates to simplify the sales process. You do not need to have a revolutionary state of the art Content Management System website, but you should have a Content Management plan.

The fourth thing that I recommend is to provide a way for visitors to share information with their friends

If you have spent the time and money to build a website, create relevant and interesting content, and set-up a process for converting visitors to customers, you want to make it easy for people to refer your website and information to people in their sphere of influence. The people who get the benefits of your services, who identify with your ideology, who become your best customers, they are connected with people they identify with, people who are similar to them. Your customers’ contacts are your best prospecting pool, so make it easy for your customers to refer you to their contacts. Each web-page of content should have a way for visitors to easily share the content on their Facebook profile and to e-mail the content to their contacts. If there is a way for the visitor to comment, rate or respond to the content, even better, because now they are personally invested in the page content.

The fifth item for a small business is to automatically update your prospects when new information is available

Whether it is through a RSS feed to an online reader, a newsletter sign-up, or through a social media channel, give your fans a way to keep up to date with your information. This will build a relationship that will make the sales process easier, and help a customer come back for repeat sales. As we know, it is much easier to recapture a customer for a second sales, then it is to win the customer the first time.

These are my top recommendations to take control of your internet presence. What are yours?

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