Web sites 101

This is a quick guide to obtaining a web site.

What is a web site?
There are many different types of web sites, but the core purpose of any web site is to provide information. A commercial web site is a vehicle to describe your products and services. Web sites contain multiple web pages that use text, graphics, sound and video to provide information. A small web site could simply be a single web page providing contact information for your customers. A large web site could interact with a database to allow your customers to place their orders online.

Why do we need a web site?
There are many reasons to have a web site, depending upon your business needs. One of the most popular reasons to get your web site is to advertise and support your products and services. Web sites are very cost effective to your advertising budget. Your web site typically costs less than other forms of advertising, including yellow pages, newspaper, magazine, radio, or television ads. Plus, your web site can provide much more than these other forms of media. Can your customer learn everything about your business in a small (or even a large) newspaper ad? Can a radio or television ad give your customers a demonstration on the use of your product? Even if radio or television could do this, your customer would have to wait until the ad is broadcast to experience it. We aren’t suggesting that you stop using other advertising. Your web site is an inexpensive supplement to your marketing strategy.

Availability is an advantage to your web site. Your web site is running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This means your customers can visit your web site any time of the day or night to learn about your products and services. Your customer may be up late at night visiting your web site. Or, your customer might be visiting your web site at unusual times because they live in a different time zone. Either way, your web site is providing your customer with the latest information about your business.

Another important advantage to your web site is that your customer always sees the most current information you provide. Any printed material (brochures, schedules, etc) may become outdated quickly. When your web site is updated, the new information is immediately available for all of your customers to see.

A common misconception is that your business may be too small to need a web site. A web site can give a tiny one-person business the same prestige as a large corporation. No matter what size business you have, your competitors probably have a web site or are considering one. Wouldn’t it be better to stay ahead of your competition than to catch up with them?

Can’t I get a free web site?
There are many services on the Internet providing free web sites. However, these “free” web sites do come at a cost. Some of these “free” services require your web site to display banner or popup ads. This may not seem too bad until you realize that your web site might show an ad from a competitor or conflict with your business in some way. These forced banner ads prove that a web site is a powerful advertising tool. Do you really want to subject your customers to annoying banner or popup ads? Another problem with “free” web sites is that the URL (the web address) is very long and obscure. If your business sells bee’s wax, are your customers more likely to remember and relate your business to www.TheBeesWax.com or www.WorldCities.com/EasyStreet/1213/TheBeesWax/index.html? Plus, the “free” web sites don’t provide email services. This means that you must use your personal email address for business contacts. Which is easier for your customer to remember and relate to your business Sales@TheBeesWax.com or FredAndBetty@hot-email.com? When you have your web site hosted, you get a prestigious, professional domain name and email address.

How do we get a web site?
Now that we know what a web site is and why we need one, we will talk about how to get your web site. There are 3 basic components to getting your web site. First you will need a domain name. Your domain name should be easy for your customers to remember and relate to your business. Domain names are purchased through domain name registrars. A popular registrar is Network Solutions. You can check the availability of your domain name at the Network Solutions web site. If your domain name is available, you may purchase it at that time. Registering your domain name with Network Solutions costs $35 for the first year with discounts for subsequent years. Owning your domain name means that you control what business hosts your web site.

This leads us to the second component you will need - a subscription to a web hosting service. Web hosting services provide a “parking space” for your domain name. All of your web site files will be stored at the hosting service. Hosting services typically charge a monthly or annual subscription fee. Web hosting packages vary in price depending upon how much space and the type of services you need. A small hosting package usually provides more than enough space for most businesses. Upgrades are available if you need more space or services in the future. The physical location of your web hosting service isn’t important. Your business may be in Illinois, but you can host your web site through a web hosting service in Virginia. Neither you nor your customers will know the difference. The important thing is to get the best value for the space and service you need. ExcellentSite is an excellent value for hosting your web site.

The final component you need to get your web site is a design service. There are many web design services available. You can even design your web site on your own with tools like FrontPage, DreamWeaver or even a standard word processor or text editor. The cost of designing your web site varies depending upon your needs. Obviously, a small web site consisting of 4-5 pages will cost substantially less than a large web site that processes orders online. When designing your web site, consider your audience. Examples of what you might put on your web site are: business hours, locations, location photos, location maps, contact information, services information, product information, product photos, product documentation, pricing, answers to frequently asked questions, etc. An easy way to start is to put your contact information and product brochures on your web site. You can expand from there.

Now I have my web site. Is there anything else I should know?
Ok, you have your web site, but you need to promote it to let people know about it. There are several ways to promote your web site. First, you should include your web site on all of your correspondence (letterhead, business cards, newspaper ads, magazine ads, radio ads, television ads, etc). A common mistake is that a business will get a web site, but use a personal email address on all correspondence. It’s much more professional and prestigious to use your domain name’s email address. It’s your domain name, use it. Any reputable hosting service can automatically forward email to your personal email address. So, you’re not going to miss any email. Which looks more professional, is easier to remember and relates to your business Sales@TheBeesWax.com or FredAndBetty@hot-email.com?

Another way to promote your web site is to submit it to search engines. There are many search engines available and each has its own way of indexing web sites. Nearly all search engines are free and it takes very little time and effort to submit your web site to the top 10 search engines. Most search engines provide tips to improve your rank in the search engine results.

Can I switch hosting services?
Yes! Since you own your domain name, you can control who hosts your web site. You may want to switch web hosting services for better service, more capacity or a lower price. The best time to switch web hosting services is when your current subscription comes due. ExcellentSite is an excellent value for hosting your web site.

Why ExcellentSite?
If you’ve ever investigated the cost of your web site, you may have noticed that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) charges $50, $100, $200 or more per month to host a business web site. ExcellentSite provides better service at a lower price. How does ExcellentSite provide better service at a lower price? It’s because ExcellentSite only provides web hosting and design. We don’t provide Internet connectivity. We don’t provide a toll free number for you to call if your browser locks up. We don’t have the overhead that ISPs have. Why do ISPs charge so much to host business web sites? It’s because they can. They know that they are the primary Internet contact for most businesses. The ISPs know that most businesses simply go to their ISP for web hosting. Businesses pay the higher price because they do not realize that they can get better service at a lower price through ExcellentSite.

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