In keeping with my goal of Helping Small Businesses Navigate the Internet this article will highlight the steps required to get your small business online. There are many ways of doing this, but I want to show how you can do it yourself at a low cost while still preserving the professional appearance and functionality your business needs to stand out from the competition as well as rank well with the search engines. You do not have to sacrifice performance for low cost.
This not a 20 minute - click a few buttons instant online website promo that you may have seen on TV. Those do not provide the professional results you want. Be prepared to spend some time putting this together. However, you can build a professional website for under $30 and maintain it for under $5 a month.
Assumptions About You
As risky as that may be, I am going to make several assumptions about you, the small business owner, as we go forward.
- You need a simple website to showcase the services you provide.
- You are comfortable downloading and installing software on your computer, or have someone in your family or business who is.
- You are willing to learn something new.
- You do not have thousands of dollars to pay a web developer.
After we are done getting the basic website and email set up, I will post articles where you can learn how to add more functionality to your website. Even if you do not end up doing the work yourself, these articles will give you a better understanding of the basics so when your developer makes recommendations you will understand the level of work and associated costs that go with it. If you do hire a developer, please heed my advice about domain names.
What You Need to Start
- A computer connected to the Internet. The bigger the screen the better. I prefer Mac, but Windows will do.
- A good text editor. I use Sublime Text but there are many great free ones out there. The important part is that it has syntax highlighting.
- A secure file transfer (SFTP) browser. Cyberduck is awesome and free.
- Patience - this will take awhile but you will save thousands.
Tip: Setup a free Google account for your business. You do not have to setup Gmail to have a Google account. You will be using several of their services and you should keep them separate from your personal stuff. Also, get a good password manager. This will save you time and frustration. I use 1Password.
Steps to Creating your Small Business Online
- Follow this series of articles as a step by step guide on How to Build a Website.
- Register your domain name - This is your address on the Internet, for example
- Sign up for a hosting service - This is a system of web services that serves your website out to the Internet. I use Amazon S3.
- Select a template - A template comes complete with all layout and code that is needed for your website.
- Edit your template - Change the content and images that came with your template. This will be the most time consuming part.
- Upload you content to your hosting service - Very easy with the right software.
- Point your domain name to your hosted website content - You will use a Domain Name Service (DNS) to do this.
- Email - Not to be overlooked, you need a professional email address. Please don’t use AOL for your business email.
The details of each are covered in the separate articles, but in general, your uploaded content includes all the formatting, images, and words your customers will see. All this is uploaded to your account at a hosting company of your choice. When a customer types your domain name into a browser, or more likely, finds your business using a search engine like Google, they are directed to your account at the hosting company where they will see your content displayed on their computer or mobile device. This all happens in a fraction of a second.
Like your website, email is also dependent on your domain name, but is handled very differently. I will show you how to setup an email account and provide tips on using it effectively.
I recommend you start with the Register a Domain Name article, then follow the steps listed above. But it’s your choice.
I would love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below. You can also share this post on Facebook and Twitter.