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When speaking with new business owners who are just getting started, who sometimes may have little more than an idea for a business, we frequently recommend that they get started with the very basics of online presence before deciding on their website investment.
There are many aspects of building an online presence that can be put in place before the final decision is made about investing in an extensive website. We highly recommend this approach when you are testing the waters and looking for proof of concept for your new business or have a very limited budget initially.
There are many aspects of building an online presence that can be put in place before the final decision is made about investing in an extensive website.
How to establish an online presence without building a whole website:
1. First Things First...Purchase Your Domain Name
Go ahead and register the domain name for your business. In the short term, your domain name can be forwarded to any location on the web including a temporary website or even a social media profile.
2. Establish a Facebook page for the business.
Establishing a Facebook page for your business plants a flag in the sand and says "I'm here!". This is especially important for B2C businesses, but is also recommended for most B2B businesses as well.
3. Create a free Google My Business profile. This step is crucial for a local business.
Establishing your business with Google lays the foundation for building the credibility of your business with Google.
For a local business, you can select whether you provide your services at your customer's location, or if you have a physical location for your business. You can set your profile so that the address is not made public to customers on the Google My Business profile, but Google still knows where you are.
Take full advantage of Google My Business by using the additional features available there:
- Complete your profile including images and a description of your business.
- Google Services - Post your services to your GMB profile.
- Google Posts - Post news about your business to your Google My Business profile.
4. Optional: Use the free one page website that Google My Business provides in the interim.
This free website from Google My Business uses information from your Google My Business profile to create a simple one page website. You can redirect your domain name to it.
5. Optional: Sign up for booking or scheduling tools that will help you conduct business.
Booking/Scheduling software: Google My Business has a feature to allow you to add a "Scheduling URL" which will show a link directly to your booking software service from Google My Business and Maps so it's easy for people to book without even visiting your site.
Other Options for Starter Websites
We build all of our websites as self-hosted WordPress sites. A self-hosted WordPress site offers the greatest flexibility for creating customized themes and functionality. Because content is kept separate from the styling, a self-hosted WordPress site allows for easier redesign in the future.
WordPress websites are SEO-ready out of the box, and offer robust plugins for easily optimizing for search engines. For an established business, WordPress is a great option.
However, with a self-hosted WordPress site comes the ongoing responsibility to keep the software and plugins updated. It's an investment that requires upkeep and monthly website maintenance, and has other costs associated with it such as the cost of hosting.
If your business is not quite ready to make that investment, if you are brand new or still testing the business concept before going all in, there are other options for getting a starter website online.
WordPress.com offers a quick way to get online at a very low cost. It is also easy to export your WordPress.com website content to a self-hosted WordPress site if you upgrade in the future.
DIY web design at WordPress.com goes better if you have the time to invest in learning how to set up your theme and a working knowledge of HTML and CSS....it's not required, though!
Drag and Drop Website Builders
These services are also relatively low monthly cost, and offer a quick solution to get a stylish website online fast. One drawback to consider when using a website service, is that when you decide to move your website, content must be transferred manually. If you have a relatively small site, however, these are good options for starter sites.