Poor Man’s Guide: Website and internet advertising on a budget (Part 1 of 3)
Building a website and doing your own SEO on a budget
Starting a business is a tough task for anyone. Starting a business on a shoe string budget is even tougher.
Many new business owners save money by doing a lot of start-up tasks themselves, including building their first website, designing their own business cards, doing their own bookkeeping, and so on. If you’re starting a new business, and don’t have the capital to invest in a professionally designed website and SEO services, the below points will help guide you to developing the best website and strategy possible, without a huge investment in time and learning.
1) Choose your website building program
Notice we didn’t start with registering your domain? We often see small business owners get excited about starting their business and rush off to register their domain with the first recommended registrar. If you’re like most small business entrepreneurs, your expertise is in your field, not in web design, so chances are you will need to use a website building program, often many of these companies will offer you free website url registration for the first year if you use their program to build your website. Choosing the right website builder is the first step to do-it-yourself website building success. Savings: $10-$40 first year
Before making any recommendations on DIY website building programs, I should let you know that most DIY website programs, often referred to as WYSIWYG editors (what you see is what you get) have limitations, eventually at some point down the road you may need to move you website to another website program such as WordPress, Drupal, or another if your expectations exceed the chosen programs limitations.
1) Squarespace – I’ve used Squarespace in the past, when I used it it seemed a little clunky and hard to make needed changes, recently however they have seemed to up the usability of the website and user interface. I would say it’s looks a lot easier than it did before, so if you have some experience with any type of web stuff (myspace type customization for us old folks) it will probably work good. Their website layouts are responsive, so that will save you money and time on separate development of a mobile website. It looks like as of the publishing of this article the’re offering a 14 day free trial. www.squarespace.com
difficulty level: 4 out of 5
2) Weebly – Weebly has quickly become known for it’s ease of use, and a super easy to use tools. It’s also known for being one of the easiest website interfaces available, requires absolutely no coding experience, and allows you to drag and drop just about any element to wherever you want on the webpage. Weebly is free, and doesn’t require a credit card to be on file, so they’re counting on you liking the program to pay for it, more than 20 million websites use Weebly. www.weebly.com
difficulty level: 2.5 out of 5
3) Homestead – I’ve had a fair amount of experience with Homestead. The program is super easy to work with, and if you’re one that’s not technical at all, Homestead may be your answer. Homestead (owned by Intuit Quickbooks) is nothing flashy, but with a little creativity, you can go a long way. Out of all three choices I’ve listed, they’re my least favorite because of limitations, but they’re the easiest for the non-technical user. www.homestead.com
difficulty level: 2 out of 5
I know there are many website building programs out there, the above are just a few that I have had experience with and have had experience with their tools. The difficulty levels are just best guesses of an average person, with average experience, using the internet and computer. They’re in no way scientific, and I’m not being paid to endorse them, use them by your own choice.
Last task, make sure to register your website address (url).
2) Building your website
Building your website sounds easy right? But most business owners find it easier said than done. Structure of your website, content, and pictures are key to a good website that performs and converts visitors into customers. If you think about your website as being a 24/7 spokes-model for your business, the importance of what you put on it seems pretty clear.
- Define your website structure – obviously you will have Home, About Us, Services, and Contact pages, but what else? Start thinking about what services you offer, and build pages specifically for each of those services. For example if you’re a roofer, it would be easy to put together a 5 page website consisting of home, about us, our services, specials, and contact us; but you know as a roofer tile roofs are different than asphalt roofs, sloped roofs are different than flat roofs, and all roofs need gutters and periodic cleaning. Build pages for every one of your major services, and put content and photos on each page to back up the fact that you’re the expert you say you are.
- Content is KING – this has been said so much that it’s just about a cliche’ in the SEO world, but it is true. Quality and original content works. Don’t skimp on what you’re talking about, and selling why you and your methods are the best. Quit looking at your competitors websites, focus instead on why everyone should want to choose you, your guarantees, your superior products, your experience, etc. Make sure the content on each page is at a very minimum of 500 words (BTW this article is already 880 words). When writing your articles, use headings, bold, italics, and bullet points to make key areas stand out, envision a newspaper – your content should read the same. People tend to skim when reading, make sure they see what you want them to see.
- Use your own pictures – you should want to showcase your own work, helpful hint; it will also help in closing sales from your website if you can talk specifically about the pictures on your website, because people will ask. Resist the temptation to just “borrow” pictures for other websites.
- Make it easy for people to contact you – all too often we see websites where the phone number is only on the contact page. Why???? If I’m ready to call you, or send you a form submission give me your phone number right then! Don’t make me hunt for it. Your phone number(s) should be at the top and bottom of every page of your website, as well a quick contact form is a great idea on each page as well.
- Update your website often – I think we’ve already established you’re on a budget right? How much do you have to pay a website? Just your time, and the rewards it can reap are huge. Keep you website up to date with changes in your business. Update your website with new pictures of your latest projects, and write what your challenges were on that project, let your website know about new services/products you’re offering. Keep your website up-to-date with staff changes. Share these changes on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and others. Savings $1200 – $4000 for a 10-15 page website
- Pro-Tip: Google and the other major search engines grade on how often, and the magnitude of your website changes. Give them new pages to index every time they come back to your website, you’ll show up more in search results.