Not too long ago, if you wanted a website for your business you needed to hire a web designer or computer programmer. Nowadays there is a plethora of free and paid platforms to easily communicate with your potential market.
And communicating with your potential market should be the goal of your digital marketing efforts.
NOTE: even though some of the sites in the list that follows can be described as “blogging” platforms most of them, with a little thought, can be used to build a website that does not look like a blog.
This is the most popular platform and is free. Your WordPress site will be hosted, for free, on WordPress.com and will have a url like http://webdesignirelandhq.wordpress.com/
Using the free WordPress software to publish your own site on your own hosting account is one of the most popular ways to go. You choose your own domain name and simply publish what you want when you want. Web Design Dublin is an example of using WordPress.org.
Blogger is a publishing platform owned by Google. Similarly to WordPress.com you will end up with a site with a url like this: http://businessonlineireland.blogspot.ie/
Posterous also allows you to create your own website. Here is an example: http://web-design-dublin.posterous.com/
One of the most famous users of Typepad is Seth Godin, a true internet marketing genius.
His blog/site is well worth signing up for and you can find it here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/
(This blog/website is a page rank 7-to put this in context the Irish Independent and RTE websites are also page rank 7)
All of the above sites allow you to quickly and easily, with little or no tech skills, communicate your message to a potentially gargantuan audience.
This should be the goal of your internet/digital marketing investment-come to think of it shouldn’t this be the goal of all your marketing efforts?
These 7 common mistakes with your website can really hurt your search engine optimisation, rankings, traffic, conversions and branding.
1. Read my interview with the local newspaper
Being interviewed by your local newspaper about your business may well be an exciting event for you-but publishing a blog post exhorting your visitor to leave your site and read the interview is not very smart.
Everything you publish on your site should contain some value for your visitor and answer the question “what’s in it for me?”
This type of post fails to do this and smacks of self indulgence which will have your visitor clicking off your site like a bat out of hell.
2. White text on a black background
The text on your site should be black/dark grey on a white background.
Take a look at
- Irish Times,
- Irish Independent,
- -the list goes on..
White text on a black background or other strange color combinations may seem like a good idea.
The top 10 sites on the internet are in the list above and black on a white background works and looks professional with no distraction.
3. Broken links
Broken links on your site are a big negative, both for your human visitors and the search engine robots. Be ruthless in checking that all your links work, especially links to critical pages such as your About page, your Contact Us page and your home page.
4. No contact forms
Your site should encourage your visitors to contact you and the easier you make it the better.
Only having a telephone contact opportunity is a mistake-ensure that you have plenty of prominently displayed contact opportunities as many people like to contact by email.
Email works around the clock and you will never have missed calls.
5. Sending people off your website
Getting traffic, in sufficient numbers, to your site is not easy-don’t send them away gratuitously to other sites that don’t need your traffic like you do unless there is a very good reason for it.
Common instances of this is through YouTube videos and links to mentions of you or your site in newspapers for example. It’s understandable that you are excited by the notoriety but you don’t need to send traffic away.
6. Different fonts on your site
Your choice of font is important for a number of reasons-
- Making it easy for your readers to read what you have to say
- Giving a professional appearance to your site and business.
Different fonts to differentiate between ordinary text and titles and h1, h2, h3 are fine. But different fonts in the text in the same page or post smacks of amateurism and a botched copy and paste job from a Word document.
7. Poor titles
Your titles are of critical importance for both humans and search engines. They can encourage visitors to read your content and let the search engines know what you are writing about.
Titles which are devoid of keywords or which are boring and uninteresting will do nothing for your traffic or rankings in the search engines.
General titles for your content such as “Start now” or “It’s never too late” could apply to just about anything.
So make your titles interesting and let your readers and the search engines know what the piece is about.
So, if you ever come across a post on this site encouraging you to read my interview in the Leinster Leader or Liffey Champion feel free to click away..
If you are a small business owner and don’t currently have a website but you are thinking about taking the plunge there are a number of essential factors you need to consider.
Here are 21 things to think about when making the smart investment in a website for your small business.
1. What content management system to use to publish your site (we recommend WordPress although you could use Drupal, Joomla or others too)?
2. Have you a plan or strategy in mind to generate traffic-targeted traffic especially?You will need to ensure that your site content, once published, is indexed by the search engines, particularly Google?
4. If you opt for WordPress it is essential to install some important plugins-do you know which ones are best?
5. Have you decided on a theme for your site, one that is professional looking and fast loading with plenty of white space?
6. Have you thought about how you will install plenty of contact forms on the site to make it easy for visitors to contact you?
7. Do you intend building up a subscriber base and possibly publishing an ezine to let your subscribers know more about your business, special offers and so forth?
8. Have you thought about building a site map for your site and submitting it to all of the major search engines?
9. You will need some way to monitor how you are doing, how many visitors you attract, how long they stay on your site, where they come from etc. Google analytics is ideal for this-have you thought about installing it?
10. Will you be putting social media buttons on your site to allow visitors to connect with you on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and allow visitors to share your site’s great content?
11. Speaking of content-have you thought about what you intend publishing on your site and who will write your content, how broad or deep you will go etc.?
12. Have you a plan for distributing your RSS feeds to popular RSS feed aggregator sites?
13. Have you a strategy in place for ranking your site well in the search engines?
14. Will pay per click advertising play a role in your online business development?
15. Have you any plans to have video and/or slideshows on your site?
16. Have you given thought to search engine optimisation (seo)?
17. Have you given consideration to how often you will have the site updated?
18. Have you thought about who will maintain your site?
19. Have you decided on who you will get to host your site?
20. Have you picked a great domain name?
21. Have you decided who will build your website? You or a web designer?
Now, you may well be thinking “screw that for a game of cowboys-it’s too much hassle”.
This would be a tremendous mistake if you have aspirations and ambitions for the development of your business.
Because the benefits to be derived from a good website are tremendous.
But it does need to be a good website-one that is capable of generating significant amounts of targeted traffic and there is really no shortcut to be taken here.
However there is really no point in spending money on a website that nobody will ever find so think clearly and make sure you make the right decision for your business.
The essential and critical task is simply to get your products and services in front of interested eyeballs.
Hopefully the check list above will be of assistance to you in coming to your decision to do the right thing.
You may also be interested in reading websites for all budgets.
You have written a great post for your website.
Before your content can be ranked in the search engines it must firstly be indexed, that is listed in the index of web pages maintained by the search engines.
Getting your website content indexed is easy provided you know that the search engine robots crawl the internet from one url address to another. So as Googlebot, the Google robot, crawls a page it will follow each link on that page to the next destination.
This is how we can quickly and easily get our new content or website indexed.
You simply need to submit your link to highly trafficked, regularly crawled authority sites that Google loves. Once Google finds your link on these sites it will follow the link back to your site and place the url of your webpage in their index.
It then crawls your webpage and will eventually rank this page for various search terms that searchers use and if you have done a good job in creating your content then your page should be capable of ranking well for many search terms, not just one keyword or phrase which is a lame and ultimately poor strategy.
Digg and StumbleUpon
Two sites that Google crawls many times per day are
These two sites have huge traffic numbers, high page rank and authority and Google loves them.
To ensure your web content gets indexed quickly you simply need to open accounts at both of these sites and then submit a link to your website or new content.
Once the search engine robots find your link, and they will quickly, they will follow the address back to your site and index your page or post. (It will also crawl your site so internal linking and navigation on your own site is important to ensure that ALL of your content has the best chance of being indexed and ranked)
Both Digg and StumbleUpon can deliver a surge of traffic to your site also provided your content or title is interesting so the benefits of opening free accounts on both of these sites go beyond just getting your new content indexed.
Creating great content for your website is time well spent and a great investment in your site.
It would be a shame therefore if the only people to find it were friends and family..
“What should I put on my website?”
This was the question posed by Robert on LinkedIn this week in one of the group discussions. Robert’s new site is apparently geared towards the services that he can provide small business owners in Ireland.
The answers, good and bad, rolled in and included
- Case studies
- Who you help
- How you help them
- Special offers
- The services that Robert’s business provides
- Contact details
- And so on.
Let’s assume that Robert takes all of these suggestions on board and includes all of them on his website.
And let’s assume that Robert puts a nice, exclusive video of Enda Kenny and Angela Merkel singing the Fields of Athenry from a nice bar in Brussels..
.. or a covert tape recording of Aongus O’Snodaigh selling printer cartridges at a car boot sale in Harolds Cross Greyhound Stadium.
It will be all to no avail.
Because if Robert’s site is never found by his potential target market it really doesn’t matter what he puts on his site, does it?
If nobody finds his site, nobody cares.
The key question
What Robert should be asking is how he can get his offering, his goods and services, in front of his target market.
If he does not succeed in doing this then his website will be a vanity project.
Maybe he will be happy with this..each to his own.
But if you are a small business owner who intends using your website to drive your business in terms of new leads and new clients, then a website that is never found by searchers won’t really add any value to your business and will just be a time suck.
As a website owner seeking to get your stuff in front of your target market you firstly need to sit down and think about the types of phrases that your target market use when looking to solve their problems or fulfil their needs.
Then you need to create a website which will target all of these phrases and which is capable of ranking well in the search engines, especially Google. (In Ireland Google has a figure approaching 90% of the internet search market)
Some people (including me) call this content marketing..
Most of the suggestions Robert received were good ones..and some are essential inclusions for his site.
But without attracting organic search traffic for his services he runs the risk of having icing on a cake..but no cake.
The thoughts of losing your WordPress site files and/or database is enough to reduce a grown man to tears (this one anyway ).
WordPress based websites are actually divided into two broad sections:
- The database which contains all of the content on your site
- The site files which includes plugins, themes and the WordPress software installation.
This means that if for some reason you managed to make a complete mess of things and somehow wiped out your site, or someone else did, you can still install your database (which contains all of your content) on a new installation of WordPress.
You would simply need to reinstall the theme and plugins to have your site up and running again.
Hopefully this will never happen to you but it is good practice and incredibly prudent to back up your database and site files on a regular basis to ensure the worst does not come to pass.
WordPress Backup Plugins
Thankfully there are a wide range of WordPress Backup plugins which you can install on your site and which will backup your site on a regular basis-daily, weekly or monthly depending on your choice.
The plugin I recommend is the Automatic WordPress Backup plugin from Volcanic. You simply install this plugin and make your choice as to what you want backed up and how often.
This plugin will then automatically backup your entire site on autopilot and store the file on your Amazon S3 account. There are various other options such as deleting backups that are older than a month and so on.
Obviously you will need an Amazon Simple Storage Solution (S3) cloud computing account but I would recommend this strongly in any event as it is the perfect solution for storing video and audio files from your site.
There is a wide range of WordPress backup plugins to choose from in the WordPress plugin repository which are free. It would be irresponsible and silly to create a great website with great content and then to run the risk of losing it all simply because you have not thought to back up our website on a regular basis.
Other backup plugins include
- WordPress Backup to Dropbox and
- XCloner-Backup and Restore.
So don’t take risks with your hard work and ensure that you use some of these popular plugins to automate the backing up of your website regularly.
If you want to build a great website with more visitors than just your wife/husband/partner/mother the Google Keyword Tool should be your best friend.
This free tool, originally provided by Google for the benefit of it’s potential advertisers, is a rich source of great data when it comes to building a great website.
Put simply it provides up to date statistics and data as to what people are searching for on the Google search engine.
To any small business owner this data is pure gold as it allows you to build your website based on what people are actually searching for.
This is worth repeating-“what people are actually searching for” on the internet.
It allows you to build your website in whatever market you occupy based on real searchers numbers..
..not speculation, hunches, guesses, conjecture or any of that good stuff.
To put it at it’s simplest-you know what people are looking for in your market because they actually tell you and Google serves up this data for free.
I hope you can see that if you have ambitions to dominate your market or niche with a good, content rich website (and you should) that the starting point should be the Google Keyword tool.
Google Keyword Tool Options
If you take a look at the image below on this page you will see what the 1st results page looks like when I do a search with the keyword “wedding”.
As indicated on the image there are a few options that you need to choose to get the most relevant data for your small business if you are in the wedding(s) market.
1. Setting the Match Types on the left hand side to Exact
2. Choosing Ireland in the Locations filter in the middle of the screen
3. If you are concentrating on the Irish market then base your decisions on Local Monthly Searches on the right hand side (not Global Monthly Searches)
4. The Sorted by Relevance is a default setting which can be changed.
If you want to have a good website in the wedding market then you might consider creating content and categories on your website in the following areas:
- Wedding dresses
- Wedding venues
- Wedding ideas
- Wedding insurance
- A wedding checklist
- Wedding invitations
- Wedding shoes
- Wedding planners and so on.
Clearly how many of these categories you will use on your site will depend on how wide and how deep you wish to go with your website and this will depend on what area of the weddings market your business actually occupies.
But let’s take a simple example of how this might work with a content rich site with content covering all of the topics/categories above.
Say you are a wedding planner. You may be wondering is there any sense in writing content about wedding shoes for example..
..it is not too big a stretch to expect that anyone searching for wedding shoes may well have an interest in what you have to offer as a wedding planner. And so on with searchers for “wedding venues” etc.
Creating a great website with the assistance of the Google Keyword Tool is essential..using your own commercial nous and savvy ranks right up there too.
And unfortunately (or fortunately) there is no tool for that..
Developing your small business on the internet through great internet marketing with a well structured, content rich website is a tremendously cost effective and smart strategy.
Once you have your website up and running you will need to keep an eye on some key metrics and sources of data.
This will allow you to tweak your site and online marketing strategy, if necessary, or perhaps target new and related content topics
There are three free tools that will assist you greatly and provide you with rich sources of data and feedback. These three tools/services are
- Awstats (or Webalizer) in your cPanel;
- Google Analytics
- Google Webmaster tools.
Awstats is my preferred log program which comes as standard with most good hosting packages. The type of information you will get from Awstats includes
- Unique visitors
- Number of visits
- How many pages have been visited
- The countries from which you are getting your traffic
- Your most viewed pages/content
- What sites or search engines sent those visitors to your site
- And most critically of all, the search keyphrases which those visitors used to find your site.
This latter data is of huge benefit as it shows what your site is currently being found for and can be a great source of ideas for new content creation.
Google analytics will also provide you with great information about your
- most popular/most read content,
- the source of your traffic,
- your bounce rate (how long someone stays on your site once they land),
- how many other pages they visit,
- the amount of time spent on your site,
- the keywords that people found your site for(entrance keywords),
- the way people find their way around your site and so on.
You can also set up Goals within Google Analytics and track how many visitors carried out a predefined goal or conversion that you will have set up. This could be anything ranging from how many signed up as a subscriber to purchasing a product.
Another cool feature of Analytics is the In Page Analytics which shows you in graphical form where people clicked on any given page of your site. This can provide great feedback to allow you to move stuff around (for example sign up forms) if the existing location seems to be ignored.
Google Webmaster Tools
Webmaster tools from Google provides great information about
- Backlinks (sites linking to your site)
- Search queries (and your average position and click through rate for those queries)
- Information about your sitemaps, number of indexed pages and any errors in your site maps
- Crawl errors such as pages not found when Google crawled your site
- And much more.
Submitting a site map for your site will ensure that your site is crawled by Googlebot and you can submit sitemaps for images, videos, your rss feed and the regular site map.
The feedback and useful data that you will receive from the 3 resources above should not be ignored by any website owner who is serious about his/her internet marketing and growing his/her website traffic and conversions.
My favourite episode of the Simpsons is the one in which Bart befriends a gay man down at the shopping mall. What freaked Homer out was that when he met the guy he looked and dressed so..well normal.
At which point Homer exclaimed “I like my music loud, my beer cold and my homosexuals flaming!”
Homer liked things simple and straightforward.
So it is with building a website for your business or organisation with the WordPress publishing platform.
The good news is that there are only two requirements to build your own website:
- A domain name and
- A hosting account.
Choosing a domain name
There are a couple of broad approaches you can take to choosing a domain name. (See choosing a domain name considerations).
The importance in the initial success of your site will be greatly enhanced by the choice of a keyword rich domain name; however if you don’t take this approach you can always overcome the absence of relevant keywords in your domain name over time.
What is important is that you do give some thought to your choice of domain name and what your geographical target market will be. If it is to be Ireland solely then a .ie domain name is strongly recommended.
If your target market is not solely confined to Ireland I would recommend a .com followed by a .net or .org.
In summary a domain name is the first requirement for building your first site.
Website hosting account
The second requirement for your website is a hosting account-this is the place where your website files and software will reside.
Just as with the domain name choice being important depending on your geographical target market so too is your choice of hosting account.
If you are targeting an Irish audience I would recommend an Irish host like LetsHost.ie who we use ourselves along with BlueHost and Hostgator who are based in the United States. (Where we host our sites depends on where our target market is located and we have sited hosted on servers in Texas and Florida but this is unlikely to be necessary for your site if your potential audience is predominantly an Irish one).
Many hosting companies are also domain name registrars but if you want to use a .ie domain then we recommend LetsHost.ie as the Irish domain name extension, ie, is managed by the IEDR which is a not for profit manager of the .ie country code top level domain (ccTLD) and it has a list of accredited registrars, of which LetsHost is one.
Building a website with WordPress
Regardless of who you choose as a hosting provider just make sure that they provide an easy installation of WordPress such as Fantastico or Simple Scripts as this makes life so much easier. (You might be interested in these 3 videos showing you how to build a site with WordPress)
Just like Homer would appreciate..
(The links in this piece to Lets Host are affiliate links-click on the link to see what this means)
Having a content rich website which contains a lot of video and/or audio files is a smart strategy for a number of reasons including
- Providing great content for your visitors in an alternative format from text only and
- increasing the amount of time that visitors spend on your site which will reflect well in your Google analytics statistic concerning bounce rate.
However there are a couple of considerations you need to keep in mind when you follow this strategy.
Firstly if you simply upload your videos to a video sharing site like YouTube, Vimeo, Revver, Daily Motion or any of the other popular video sites you will be given a nice, convenient video player which you can place on your site to show your videos.
You will just need to grab the code from Youtube and insert it in your post or page.
The problem with this convenient method is that there will be a link to YouTube in the player and once the viewer is finished watching the video they will be prompted to watch related videos..on YouTube. This will obviously take your hard earned visitor away from your site and to either YouTube or someone else’s related video.
It can be difficult enough to attract visitors to your site without then allowing them to leave through a link to an external site that you have inadvertently placed on your site.
Amazon Simple Storage Solution (S3)
A solution that I use for this problem is the Amazon Simple Storage Solution (S3). This is a web based storage solution provided by Amazon which allows you to store your files, video, audio or anything else for that matter, in the “cloud” on Amazon servers.
Once you upload your video or audio to Amazon S3 you can simply place the url to the video stored on your Amazon storage files on your site which solves the problem of visitor leakage. You need to open an account for the S3 service but it is incredibly economical as you are only charged pennies for each time someone downloads or accesses your video or audio files.
You will also need some type of player on your site-for either video or audio or both-but this can easily be created with any of the many free plugins available for this purpose such as Audio Player (aka 1 Pixel Out) for audio and the video player plug in called FLV Embed.
Signing up for an Amazon S3 is simplicity itself and there are plenty of free video tutorials available on the web which will show you all you need to get going.
It will be well worth your while setting up an Amazon S3 account to show your video and audio on your own website as it will remove the difficulty of visitor leakage and allow you to enhance your site greatly with different forms of great content.