How to Put Your Small Business On the Web

Vintage storefront

If you’re a business of one like a consultant, or a smaller business looking to grow your presence, there are some basic steps you might take towards getting yourself into place on the web. In this example, I’ll assume that you have nothing and are starting from scratch, and I’ll list out steps I’d consider taking in order. (Please note: several of the links in this particular post are affiliate links, meaning that should you choose to purchase something via that link, I’ll receive a small payment. Note that I only support programs that I’ve tried and can vouch for.)

In order, we’re going to talk about setting up your home base (your main site), getting that home base to be known/seen, and then in subsequent posts, we’ll talk about your outposts ( more on this kind of thinking about home bases and outposts).

If this ends up seeming like too much work, just know that my company, New Marketing Labs, offers local services now. If you want to set something up, contact me.

Set up a Home Base – Domain Name

You need a website of some kind for people to land on, to get some basic information about your business and/or your offer. Though you might not choose to write a blog (sequential information posted over time), blogging software makes for a simple set of tools to set up a basic web page. But even before that, you need to choose a domain name (URL). I currently use GoDaddy (affiliate link) to register my domains. It might be tricky to get your exact business name, especially if it’s made up of common words. This one step takes some time, because finding the right domain name early saves you a lot of headache later on.

I recommend buying for 2 years or more. This shows Google (and other sites that try to determine the authority of the person buying) that you’re not a fly by night operation.

Once you have a name, you have to pick a place to host a site. There are a few options in this.

Set up a Home Base – Host Your Site

Hosting is only tricky insofar as you have to pick a place that makes sense for where you are in your business at that time. Because my site receives a very high volume of traffic, I use Rackspace to host my platform. This might be overkill for a beginning website. I noticed that GoDaddy also offers $1.99 Web Hosting, but I’m not sure what they give you for that.

You can host for free, if you choose a free blogging platform like WordPress or Blogger, but the only caution there is that you have a lot more restrictions on how you set up your site and pages, plus some very stringent terms of use on what you can and can’t do with a site there.

One possible solution is what my friend, Andy Quayle, offers at Tubu. He has a service called Bloghost.me, that supports $10 a year WordPress installs and hosting. It’s inexpensive, gives you your own hosted WordPress service (with no restrictions like using WordPress.com would have), and sets you up with a decent set of management tools.

Set Up a Home Base – Your Blog Software

Again, you don’t have to use blog software, but it’s a lot easier to set up a home base using that software versus doing old fashioned website design. For an example of a site that’s using blog software to run, but that isn’t a blog, look at my friends at StudioPress.

Should you choose a blog software for your home base, I want to make the plug for WordPress over most of the other software. The reasons I use it are that there’s a large developer community, a lot of support, and plenty of flexibility for adding plugins and other software.

Set up a Home Base – Blog Themes

Most blogging software comes with built-in themes (looks and feel of the site type stuff). These are decent and a good starting place. But before you jump from that into a $5000 design, a step in between might be to check out some premium WordPress themes (if you went with WordPress), because they’ll allow you a decent framework to build upon. Again, a simple way to start is to choose any of the built-in themes, but after a while, you’ll want to move into a theme that better suits the design aesthetics you want to portray for your prospective buyers.

Set up a Home Base – Your Site Content

I’ll cover this in a subsequent post, but know that you should at least put your business name, a picture of you (yes, you), an address if your business has a physical component to it like a shop or a storefront, and a way to contact you. This would cover the bare minimums. You might also consider adding a sense of what you do, and/or any products and services you want to talk about. We’ll get to this in more detail later, but those are the basics.

Set up a Home Base – Link your Domain Name to Your Site Location

Once you’ve set up the blog site to your liking (and it’s okay if you need help in this regard. There are tons of people willing to help. If you want help like that, leave a comment on this post and I’m sure someone in my community will offer up their services), you have to link the domain name you bought to the location of the site.

The cool news is, you can point that domain name at whatever you want, so even if you decide later to move your site somewhere else, or even if you pick different software for the site, you’ll have no problem directing your customers and prospects to wherever you choose to make your home base.

Get Your Home Base Seen

You’ll want to submit your site to Google and submit your site to Bing, and maybe even Yahoo! local. I also found this huge list of ways to submit your site to be noticed by local search engines and services.

If you’re a business with a physical location, you should consider adding it to Google Places:

Google Places

That will improve your search listings, and/or give you a spot on the Google Maps, which gives people an even better chance of finding you when they’re searching for you.

From here, it depends what kind of business you are. Some businesses benefit from listing themselves on Yelp (traditionally restaurants, but more types of business as time goes on). You might even consider placing posts and/or ads in Craigslist, so that people seeking out your services on that site would know how to find your home base.

So Far

So far, we’ve talked about buying a domain, buying hosting, putting a simple website together, possibly theming it, and then listing it in a few places. In the next post, we’ll talk about how YOU set up your own personal presence, an avatar that will move between your site and other sites.

If these seemed like a lot to ingest and too much hassle, my company, New Marketing Labs, now offers local services for small businesses. If you want to have one of my team set something up for you just drop me a line here.

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  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    Gotcha.

    My friend Andy does $10 a year at bloghost.me , and I suspect there are other people doing such.

  • http://gregcryns.blogspot.com/2010/08/esignature-electrifies-your-email.html greg_cryns

    That is a good question. They changed that page. I believe before it said “don’t bother submitting” – words to that effect.

    I do know that when I start a new website for myself or a client, I never submit it to any search engines and within a short time those sites get indexed. I’ll do more research on this and get back.

  • http://gregcryns.blogspot.com/2010/08/esignature-electrifies-your-email.html greg_cryns

    That is a good question. They changed that page. I believe before it said “don’t bother submitting” – words to that effect.

    I do know that when I start a new website for myself or a client, I never submit it to any search engines and within a short time those sites get indexed. I’ll do more research on this and get back.

  • greg cryns

    Chris, I asked some top SEO folks about site submission.

    The concensus is you can do it but it won’t help or hurt much. I still remember seeing Google discouraging it but maybe that is just my faulty memory. Google says if you do submit, just submit the main URL and nothing else. Even Yahoo and Bing will pick up the new sites and quickly too if you obtain a decent link back to the website early.

  • http://www.groceryalerts.ca/ groceryalerts

    Nice post, but new companies need to offer exclusive content or visitors will look elsewhere. We offer free printable coupons for companies that gives them exclusive coupons to use for their brick and mortar stores.

  • Anonymous

    Do you really think registering your domain for more than a year gives you ranking? Ir never heard that before.

  • http://twitter.com/goelajay Ajay Goel

    How about Facebook? Is it a bad idea to point your domain name to your Facebook page? For beginners and people a bit scared of creating a full blown web site, creating a Facebook page seems a much easier task. Is it not very effective to spread the word about your business using Facebook?

  • Gbonalde

    Good Post. Gracias.

  • http://twitter.com/AjevaCom Ajeva

    This means you must know HTML and CSS – which may take some time if you’re not really into it. Having a professional-looking site that’s optimized for the Web doesn’t come in cheap these days, unless you opt to pay for a monthly subscription fee to have one of those pre-designed templates which you can tweak, like adding your logo and stuff. I think if your budget is really on the low, you can use Facebook to promote your small business and get instant access to networks of people out there — and their pay per click campaign costs next to nothing.

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  • http://www.webdancers.com Greg Falken

    Really good article and exactly the type of services that I’m trying to market to small businesses here in rural central California. Many of them, particularly the service businesses, still don’t get the need for an online presence or the benefit of upgrading from an old, static website. Anyone have any ideas on how to present the benefits to a service business?

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  • http://www.netwitsthinktank.com frank barry

    What? you charge for something Chris? :)

  • http://www.phoenixcommercialrealestate.com Marc Brodeur

    Great advice Chris. Now if one is there (where you suggest we start), and one wants to move their web presence along….other than daily blogging, changing content on one’s site, and daily link backs, what else can one do to move up the “google” tree? I assume this will be in your next post (I hope!)?

  • http://www.ladiesshoesworld.com/ Just like

    like your article forever

  • http://www.ladiesshoesworld.com/ Lovenike

    like your article forever

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    Coming up in a subsequent post. : )

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    Coming up in a subsequent post. : )

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    I know very little of either. I paid for someone to pretty up an already nice design and I was in business. You don’t need to know a whole heck of a lot to get a site in place.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    I know very little of either. I paid for someone to pretty up an already nice design and I was in business. You don’t need to know a whole heck of a lot to get a site in place.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    It’s a bad idea to point your domain to a facebook page in the larger terms. That’s like putting your main address as a hotel room. You’re only renting the space.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    It’s a bad idea to point your domain to a facebook page in the larger terms. That’s like putting your main address as a hotel room. You’re only renting the space.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    The future of blogs are printable coupons. You’ve got me there. : )

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    The future of blogs are printable coupons. You’ve got me there. : )

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    I learned that at Hubspot’s http://websitegrader.com . I never knew, but that’s where I got that.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    I learned that at Hubspot’s http://websitegrader.com . I never knew, but that’s where I got that.

  • http://eileenlonergan.com Eileen Lonergan

    GoDaddy tells you that the length of your domain registration is a Google ranking factor. Maybe it hasn’t always been or won’t always be, but for the past 12 months it has been topical.

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  • http://twitter.com/KarenRosenzweig Karen Rosenzweig

    FANTASTIC analogy. Perfect.

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  • http://twitter.com/rsmediahouse R&S Media House

    This was a great post Chris. Simply and straight-forward. Thanks.

  • http://www.findahandbags.com/ Chanelbags

    Take advantage of the 6 default layout options, comprehensive SEO settings, rock-solid security, flexible theme options, cool custom widgets, custom design hooks, and a huge selection of child themes (“skins”) that make your site look the way you want it to.

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  • http://businessonlinesolutions.net Vahur

    Nice article, well clarified. Thank you.

  • http://www.blackfridayplanet.com/ William Hushburn

    What about Facebook’?

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  • KAL

    Amazing. I’m an aspiring ad copywriter about to create a personal website to display my portfolio. This post just saved me hours of research. Great direction. Thanks!

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  • http://www.vividhaircolorextensions.com Carmen

    I’ve recently started up an ecommerce business selling individual hair extensions and colored extensions. Reading your article really gave me some direction. I found it very informative and will absolutely check out your advise – thanks for sharing!

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