Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Part IV: Deployment (Building a small business website)

Summary: How to publish and promote your small business website.
In this section, I will explain how to improve visibility of your new small business website on the web. For other topics, see:

Table of contents How to publish your website?
Instructions for publishing your website under your custom domain will differ (they will mostly depend on the particular website builder and domain name registrar that you use), e.g.: After publishing and making sure that you can access your website using the custom domain name, test it to make sure that it looks and works as expected.

Getting the website indexed by search engines
Once your website is visible at your custom domain, submit it for indexing to Google and Microsoft Bing: To submit your new website to a search engine for indexing, you will need to create a free Google and Microsoft (Microsoft owns Bing) accounts (unless you already have existing ones). (NOTE: Don't forget to submit the sitemap URL to the search engine.)

Verify your website
Once you add a new website to a search engine you will need to pass the site verification process to confirm legal ownership. Your website builder should have instructions explaining how to verify your website, e.g.: I could not find good instructions explaining how to verify your website hosted at Wix, or how to verify a website hosted at any of the preferred website builder against Bing. If these options are not available, you can just submit your website to the search engine for indexing: Check if your website is indexed
It may take a few days for your website to appear in the search engine index. To check if your website is indexed, go to the search engine's home page and run a search for site: followed by the domain name of your website, e.g. site:myverysmallbusiness.com. If the search returns any results, it means that the website is indexed. If you do not see your website indexed after a week or so from submission, check the search engine's webmaster tools page for articles explaining common problems.

Set up Google Analytics
Google Analytics will collect site usage and statistics from your website. The steps will vary depending on your hosting platform, e.g: Add your business to Google and Bing Places for Business
If your business has a physical address, you can advertise it on Google Places for free. The process will be complete after you enter verification code (Google will send it to you via a postcard addressed to your business address or your business phone number). After verification, Google will display your small business information in the search results. You can use Google Places portal to monitor your site statistics, create coupons and promotions, and do other useful things. Do the same on Bing Places for Business.

Create a Facebook (and/or Google+) business page
If you do not have a fundamental opposition to using Facebook (as a marketing tool), create a Facebook page for your small business. Then share it with your friends. Here are some examples of a few Facebook pages created for local small businesses: As an alternative (or in addition) to Facebook, you can create a business page at Google+.

Write a blog
This advice is not for everyone, but if you are passionate about your business, can write reasonably well, and are eager to share insights with the world, create a blog and use it to share stories, ideas, tips, and tricks. You can create a free blog at Google's Blogger or WordPress.com (between the two, I'd recommend Blogger because its free version comes with fewer limitation; on the other hand, WordPress.com has a better editor, but it will also display ads to unsuspected viewers). You can also create a blog at most website builders, like the one that hosts your small business website, but I would keep your blog separate from the website in case you decide to move your website somewhere else. It would help if you name your blog after your website (e.g. myverysmallbusiness.blogspot.com). Keeping a blog requires dedication, so if you are not sure if this is something you want to do, then do not bother.

Get people talking
If you have satisfied customers, ask them to post honest reviews on social commentary sites, such as Yelp, Kudzu, Google Places, etc. If you get negative reviews, follow up with the unsatisfied customers so that the issues are resolved and corrections are noted.

<< Read Part III Read Part V >>

See also:
How to Use Google+ for Business (eBook)
Facebook for Business
50 Ways to Get Your Site Noticed
4 Easy Steps To Promote Your Business On Facebook

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