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Website 101: Promote your business online.

Seventy-four per cent of Canadian consumers research products online before purchasing them in a store. Yet surprisingly, less than half of businesses have a website to promote their goods, according to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority.

If your company doesn’t have an online presence, you may be missing out on key marketing opportunities to gain new customers and retain current ones.

Building a website may not be as complicated as you think. Several content management systems, such as WordPress®*, can help you easily create and maintain a comprehensive website for less than $10 a month. Not sure where to start? Follow these 6 tips:

  1. Find a design and publishing tool that works for you: First, you’ll need to choose and register a domain name (i.e., your site’s address). Next up: find a service that will host your site on its servers. Some services, such as Squarespace®†, will help you register, host and create your site all in one go. A few options include:
    • WordPress: Create and maintain your site for free or up to $299 per year for a business plan upgrade; click for plan details.
    • Squarespace: Get a custom domain and 20-page site for just under $10 per month. Or, choose a business package with unlimited pages and an e-commerce option for $24 per month.
    • Shopify®‡: Sell products online through one of three packages, ranging from $29 to $179 per month (each package includes different credit card rates and file storage).
    • GoDaddy®**: Enjoy free hosting, domain name registration and unlimited pages for $7.99 per month.
       
  2. Don’t want to DIY? Hire an expert: If you don’t have time to create your site, or your site requires complex features, consider hiring a designer or web development team. Expect to pay a median base salary of about $50,000 for a general full-time developer, according to PayScale®***, or an hourly rate of $50–$100 per hour. To find temporary help, try a service like Freelancer, which charges $3 per listing or 3 per cent of the total project cost (whichever is greater).
     
  3. Build it, and they will come: Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to build your site. According to Smashing Magazine, the main phases of building a website include:
    • Research and planning: Deciding what you want your site to contain
    • Design: Determining the user flow, and look and feel
    • Development: Adding any online forms, JavaScript or other features
    • Content entry: Uploading the images and text you want for each specific section
    • Testing: Your last chance to make sure everything works before you show your site to the world
    • Go-live: Your site undergoes a live server setup and becomes visible to the public
       
  4. Create relevant content: Your website should essentially be a promotional tool, providing information about your products and/or services. Be sure to include a company overview (“about us”), contact information (“contact us”), relevant credentials and links to social media. The design should be user-friendly and intuitive, while the copy should always focus on the customers’ needs first. Also, to strengthen customer relationships and loyalty, regularly post on social media. For tips on developing website content, look to this guide from the Canada Business Network.
     
  5. Include a strong call to action: It may seem obvious, but be sure to include copy that tells customers how to obtain your products or services — or you risk losing them to the competition. Examine your site content from different target visitor viewpoints to ensure each group you’re marketing to can easily find pertinent information and complete purchases and other tasks.
     
  6. Plan for site management: Who will make updates to ensure content is current: you, another employee or an outside contractor or company? You may want to save time by using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to follow up with prospective customer and sales leads, according to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s small business website Where Local Means Business. Also, determine who will be responsible for updating content and ensuring everything is current. Depending on your company size, this could be you, an employee or a content management system.
     

For additional tips on what to include — and what not to include (such as that blog you’ll never update) — on your company’s website, read Inc.’s Build a Killer Website: 19 Dos and Dont’s.

 
®* Registered trademark of Automattic, Inc.
®† Registered trademark of Squarespace, Inc.
®‡ Registered trademark of Shopify Inc.
®** Registered trademark of Go Daddy Operating Company, LLC.
®*** Registered trademark of PayScale, Inc.

 

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