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I know I want a website - so what do I do first?
Here is a checklist to help you out.
- Search Words: This is Critical. Use Google and try out all the ways you think someone would search for you. Write down this as a list. These may be 1 to 6 word phrases.
- Competitors: Look at your competitor's websites. What do they do well? What do you like? Is there functionality on their sites that you would find critical to the efficiency of your business? Write this down and consider it when you are getting quotes for your site.
- Write your content: Open up Microsoft Word (or similar) and start by typing in the various pages you want to have on your site.
- Put in a heading.
- Put in a separate page title (8-12 words) - this is for Google.
- Put in a page description (15-20 words) that is a précis of what your page will be - This also is for Google.
- Now review this and ensure it has the 1 or 2 search word phrases emphasised. Do Not try to put in every search word. You have other pages in your website to use the other on. Each page can and should be considered separately. If you don't consider them separately, then Google won't. And you lose the 'Google' benefit of a multi-page website.
- Now write your content for your page. Try to use at least 200 words, more is better. Incorporate links to other pages in your website; images, bullet lists as well as text. Now bold words to place emphasis on search words. Make sure you DO NOT overdo the use of your search words. Only use them a maximum of 2 times per 100 words.
- Note: you can get professional website copywriters to help you write your content for your website.
- Images: Find images relevant to your website content. The adage "A picture is worth a 1000 words" is not wrong. Your visitors will respond to the 'non-verbal' message your images will convey. You can use your products, or other photos. Either get someone who is a professional, or excellent amateur to take them, or consider stock photos. Make sure you have the copyright licensing to use these images on your website.
- Design Style of site: Look around on the internet - find websites you like. Make a list by copying the link. Make comments about the site/link. It may be that you particularly like only certain features on a website, include that in your comments about that site. What are the colours you want to use? What colours are already used in your logo and other branding for your business?
- Products Information: If you are going to have a product catalogue or e-commerce site - get photos of each product; decide on your pricing; put together a short description and a long one; are there 'specification' that need to be shown; what products is each related to in your range (this helps with cross/up-selling); what categories do you want to use? Think about and get all the information regarding taxation, discounts, shipping and other charges. And ensure you consider your payment methods & look into the costs of the various methods. These days it is easy & inexpensive to setup initially both with PayPal (which also takes credit cards) and allow 'direct debit' payments too.
- Budget: How much do you want to spend? Look at what you want to do and prioritise the functionality. This will help you later to work out what you MUST include and what could be delayed until later.
- Long Term Costs: Think about your long term maintenance. The most cost effective way to minimise your on-going costs is to look at having your website built using a content management system (CMS) as these allow you to add/edit your content yourself. Make sure the CMS you choose has a good support network besides your web designer and has training material to get you started. Also consider how often it is upgraded for security improvements and future proofing - this is a sign of a product that will be around for some years to come. There is no point investing in something that is here today & gone tomorrow. You don't want to have to re-build your website 12 months down the track.
- Domain name: Have a look and see what you can get that relates to your business name and/or products. If the name has 'search words' in it, consider getting a 'hyphenated' name to help google use these search words to your advantage. For Australian domains, if you pay more than $30 for 2 years, you are being overcharged!
- Hosting: To some degree you get what you pay for. Beware of hosting provides that are doing MASSIVE deals. Often they overload the servers and your site runs very slowly. That being said, there are some very good professional hosting providers who are very reasonably priced for the space - make sure you look carefully at this - if you are going to have a lot of images or blogs or other information on your site, then make sure there is space for this to grow over time! Always get a referral - and look at the referred website that is actually using the provider to see if you are happy with the speed.
- Find a web designer: Ensure they have the technical skills to deliver a website that does everything you want. And critically, is designed and implemented with a focus on "being optimised for search engines". A lot of websites are done by Graphic Designers, who make the website look really stunning, but fall down when it comes to getting your site ranked well with Google and they can have trouble delivering the functionality that you want in your site. Websites today need to be much more than just pretty pictures and words.
Now take all of your notes and materials to your Web Designer - discuss all of the above and get the site you really want & deserve!