By Rakesh Raman
Youâ€™d agree that most micro and small businesses donâ€™t have a website because either they donâ€™t get time to build and run a site or they lack knowledge to create it. This fact holds true not only in developing countries, but also in advanced parts of the world.
According to a recently released report by Google, 97% of Americans look online for local products and services, but just 38% of California small businesses have a website. (Read: How Tech Biggies Plan to Help Small Businesses)
Itâ€™s estimated that in developing countries, eight out of every 10 small businesses donâ€™t have their website, though in the current information-driven world itâ€™s extremely difficult to do business without a website.
So, small businesses must have their presence on the web. But how? Here are the three main steps to bring your business on the web.
1. Hiring a Website: It can be a cumbersome task, because the market for website hosting is utterly unorganized â€“ full of small and fly-by-night operators. But you can find a hosting service provider in your local area by looking at ads in local newspapers or through search engine sites like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.
To ensure that itâ€™s a genuine service provider, you can even visit their office to get some idea on the quality of their service. Take a look at their other clients and if possible talk to a couple of them to know about the vendorâ€™s service quality.
If you are satisfied after your brief research, you can choose your website name. Take care; it should be a simple, easy-to-grasp name â€“ preferably containing only alphabets with a dot com (.com) extension.
A normal website with storage space of about 100 MB to 1 GB (sufficient for a small business), e-mails, etc. will cost you nearly US$75 (or equivalent) per year and an additional about US$10 for your siteâ€™s exclusive domain name.
In any case, you wonâ€™t spend more than US$100 (or equivalent amount in other countries) on your site hosting for a year. Most service providers would promise 99.9% uptime, but itâ€™s likely that they wonâ€™t deliver on this promise. But never mind. Go ahead and get your site hosted.
Itâ€™s okay if your siteâ€™s uptime is anything above 95%. As itâ€™s a cheap hiring option, you should be prepared to face about 10 â€“ 15 days of downtime over a period of one year. Normally, it takes less than 48 hours to get your site hosted after making the payment for it to the service provider.
2. Building a Website: After getting your site hosted, you need to design the site by creating different sections: about your company, your products and services, chiefâ€™s message, contact, etc. Site design is a technical work, which requires certain software skills to do it.
If you think, you canâ€™t do it yourself, you can hire a website designing agency for this work â€“ which shouldnâ€™t charge more than US$100 as a one-time design fee for a basic site design.
But you need to provide the information including text, pictures, etc. to the design agency that will go in different sections of your site. You must ensure that the language that you write is flawless and engaging for the online readers because your website is the face of your company that will be seen by your buyers and others in all parts of the world.
You can even hire the services of content writers who can take the raw information from you and write readable content for your site. The cost for content writing work will depend on the volume of content and the skills of the content writers. But for a website of 5 â€“ 10 web pages (one web page is up to 500 words), the writing charges can be somewhere between US$100 â€“ 500. Your design agency can upload this content on the site. And now itâ€™s available for access in all parts of the world.
3. Operating a Website: Itâ€™s not enough to just hire and build a website. You must ensure that your site gets updated regularly with fresh information. For this, you can make a content updation plan for uploading fresh content for at least some of the sections on the site. As a rule of thumb, you can update your site at least twice a month.
The fresh information can be about your products, services, CEOâ€™s message for the customers, or some opinion on the market in which you operate. Here again, you can take the help of professional content writers, and your site design agency can again upload the content on your site.
These are the basic steps that you can follow to build and run your website. Then you can get it renewed after a year from your hosting service provider. If you still have some doubts or queries, you can contact us.
In the next article of our Tech-Wise series, we will take up another topic of your interest. You can even tell us the topic that you want us to discuss here.
Letâ€™s meet again, right here.
By Rakesh Raman, the managing editor of RMN Digital.
This article is a part of our initiative: Tech-Wise Knowledge Center for SMBs.
You can also read: More Articles by the RMN Editor, Rakesh Raman