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A website may be one of the most important marketing tools for your business, but it can be overwhelming to get started. If you need one, why you need one, where to start, what is hosting, what the heck is SEO? Well, take a breath, we are here to guide you and keep the process simple!

Let’s bring it back to the basics. What is a website?

Web·site (/ˈwebsīt/) noun

A website is a location connected to the Internet that maintains one or more pages on the World Wide Web.

What should you include on your website?

When someone lands on your website they are looking to learn more about your business. Your audience has an attention span of about 8 seconds. Build a meaningful connection with your audience. Before you start to look for a website development company or start your website yourself (if you are going the DIY route) you need to answer some basic questions:

  • What you are about? What is our value proposition?
  • What do you sell/offer? Overview of services & product features.
  • Do you need e-commerce?
  • Why should people hire you?
  • How to reach/contact you?
  • Where are you?
  • Who are you?
  • Social Media links/feeds

People research before they buy.

88% of consumers pre-research their buys online. Before purchasing a product or service, customers would like to know and see more about your company, and the perfect platform to showcase these is a professional website.

Make a great first impression

Your website is your digital ‘brick and mortar’ shop. It is where people come to browse, check out your prices and decide to buy. Just like a brick and mortar, you need to make a good impression the first time people visit. Make sure your window display is dazzling, easy to understand and easy for people to find what they are looking for. Use short, powerful sections of content and images that are sectioned off by clear concise headers.

Domain names

Aka ‘www.greenmonkeycreative.com

How to choose a domain name.

Choosing a domain name is similar to choosing a company name – it requires a lot of thought and consideration… sometimes your business name comes from finding the perfect domain name.

  • Make it easy to type (don’t use slang)
  • Keep it short
  • Avoid numbers and hyphens
  • Research it (make sure no one else has it)
  • Register both .ca and .com
  • Ensure it is owned by you!

Where do I register & what does it cost?

It costs approximately $9.88 USD a year per domain. We recommend whois.com for domain registration. WHOIS is one of the world’s top and most affordable online identity provider’s.

Again. Make sure your domain is registered in YOUR NAME. Not your website developers. It is one of your business assets and you need to have it in your name.

Web hosting

Websites are hosted on special computers called servers. Your domain points to the host so when a website user types in your domain name their computer will connect to your server and your webpages will be delivered to them through the browser.

Speed

Why does speed matter? User experience and search engine indexation. End users are impatient!!! If your site loads 4x slower than your competitors, who do you think you target market is going to shop from? You know how annoying it is to go through a site that won’t load – don’t be slow. Plus Google penalizes for site speed. A slow page speed means that search engines (Google) can crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budget, and this will negatively affect your indexation.

Hosting Support

When your site goes down or has a problem, how reliable is the support that you will receive from your hosting company? Can you call them/access them 24/7?

Security

Security not only affects you – it affects every single person visiting your site if they are unknowingly downloading a virus from your site. A hacked site can get you on the blacklist with Google.

Ensure your site has SSL authentication and is secure so that your visitors know they are visiting a site that has a secure connection. This protects your potential customers when making purchases or submitting their personal information online.

Who we suggest

We recommend SiteGround.com. We feel that SiteGround is one of the best hosting companies out there. SiteGround is remarkably good at offering quick, helpful, and knowledgeable support to their customers.

Don’t pick the cheapest solution… pick the best solution.

Choosing a platform.

Okay so now you have your content, domain and hosting… what’s next? You need to determine what platform to actually build your website on.

Things to consider:

  • Budget
  • Can you build it yourself.. Do you want to?
  • Determine your needs today vs. the future
  • Do you need e-commerce?

Consider future growth

If you plan or hope to grow your business, think carefully before choosing a low-cost platform aimed at very small sites. Platforms like Wix and Squarespace can work great for businesses that plan to stay relatively small & use just a few features.

Drag and drop platforms

Drag and drop platforms such as Wix, Squarespace and Weebly may be a good entry level DIY option for small businesses. They are powerful, simple to use and offers great all-around flexibility when creating your site. You can create a website for your small business in hours and get online really quickly and smoothly. Each platform has it’s own pros and cons to consider so please do your research and find a platform that will work best for your business.

WordPress

An astounding 26% or a fourth of total website around the world use WordPress. WordPress allows you to build a website that meets your unique needs. A great option for a blog, business site, portfolio or online store.

 

 

Shopify

Whether you sell online, on social media, or in-store, Shopify has many options.

 

E-Commerce

Depending on budget and what you have in mind, you can use a drag and drop option, WordPress or Shopify. There are many things to consider when picking your e-commerce platform.

Have a plan

Don’t just start designing your website. You want to make sure that you are effectively meeting the needs of your visitors. Map out your buyer’s journey from the first time they visit your website to the moment they become a customer.

Plan it right

You are designing your website for the next step, not the final step. Design your website for your customers NOT you! What pages are they going to view, what content are they going to read and what offers are they going to convert on?

Mobile friendly facts

80% of internet users own a smartphone. It is almost suicidal not to have your small business website mobile responsive because Google uses your mobile version of your website FIRST when it indexes your site. Google says 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead.

Navigation

When designing your website, navigation is key! It is essentially the map that displays the core places users can visit. There is nothing worse than a site with disorganized or confusing navigation.

Once your visitors land on our site, do they know what to do next? You need to guide them through your website. If visitors cannot find what they’re looking for, they have absolutely no reason to stay on your site. More times than not, they will certainly bounce and find a competitor that offers a better user experience.

Keep the navigation bar clean, have navigation hierarchy and responsive design so it doesn’t change drastically from desktop to mobile.

Call to action buttons

Call to action buttons are many elements that indicate the next step the user should take.

Inbound leads

One of the most important functions of any small business website is to focus on the inbound leads & capture as many as possible.

Contact details are key

Don’t overlook the fact that you have to make it easy for visitors to contact you! Contact page, email address, phone number should be found everywhere!

Images are important

Choose your images wisely. Do they fit with your brand? Don’t use extremely stocky images Don’t leave the watermark on – BUY THEM!

If you are selling products please ensure that the product photos, images and descriptions should be crisp and appropriate. You only have a few seconds to win or lose a potential customer.

Basic SEO

So you’ve launched a great site… but can anyone find it? Basically Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is when you make your website more attractive to search engines, like Google, come along to index and rank your website.

Make sure you take into consideration the search terms your visitors/audience will use when searching for your product or service. This strategy should include creating content that’s relevant to the needs of your visitors.

An uncluttered site, clear content, proper URL’s, sitemap and relevant keywords will allow search engines like Google to index your website with ease.

Content is king

GOOD QUALITY CONTENT IS KEY!

This goes way back to websites 101. This has never changed. Providing high quality content is still one of the best ways to influence page rank.

Don’t be irrelevant

Your content must be relevant on your website. This plays a major role in getting indexed by search engines. Poor or irrelevant content is a game changers when it comes to attracting or putting off viewers.

Get your pen ready

You should be the one starting the content creation for your site. Even if you plan to hire someone to edit or polish it, you know the basic message of your company more than anyone else will. Tell that personal story. It makes people feel more connected to your business through your website by telling your story.

Ongoing website maintenance

There is one phone call that I hate to get. The one where a prospective client calls to tell me that their website is not functioning properly. They can’t update it, they have been hacked or worse yet, it crashed. I think about all the money they have invested in their main digital asset, their website is now gone or they will have to spend more to get it working properly again.

Think of your website like a car. You need to do regular maintenance such as WordPress plugin updates or things will break if not updated.

Wrap Up

Your website is an investment. It should always be up to date as it is your one sales tool that never sleeps. Getting started can be quite intimidating for those that have never done one before but in the end websites really do matter. The lack of a dedicated and updated website can impact your business. Without a website you may not only fall behind your competition but may also miss the opportunity to connect and engage with prospective customers. A website can build trust among clients.

Contact us to download our website basics worksheet PDF to help guide you through the website creation process!

Ready to make the most of your small business website? Email hello@greenmonkeycreative.com, let’s chat!

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There is one phone call that I hate to get. The one where a prospective client calls to tell me that their website is not functioning properly. They can’t update it, they have been hacked or worse yet, it crashed. I think about all the money they have invested in their main digital asset, their website is now gone or they will have to spend more to get it working properly again.

website maintenance notes on desktop

The analogy I like to explain to my clients when they see a Website Maintenance fee in their proposal is this: You buy a brand new car (my second love is cars, so bear with me). You drive it. You never change the oil, the filter, or rotate the tires. A year goes by. The car isn’t driving as nice, things keep breaking down and now you are faced with a hefty repair bill or the cost of buying a new car.

If you never, EVER maintain your car it will break. Same goes for your website. You spent a lot of money building your business’ website and you must invest in it to keep it going! There are updates all the time for WordPress and any additional plugins. Things break when they are not updated.

So please, do me a favour, either call us to help you out or call your web design person and ensure they are doing this. If they are not, it is time to go consider other options!

That is my two-cents and I hope it saves you a thousand-cents.

Julie
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I don’t know how many times I am asked, “Can you measure ROI when it comes to social media?”.  Yes, and you should. We want to share with you a successful social media campaign we recently did for a golf course located outside of the GTA: Shelburne Golf & Country Club.

Shelburne website design

 

We were approached in February 2017 to plan and execute all social media for Shelburne Golf & Country Club.  Our client, Megan, didn’t have time or the expertise to take on the task of managing their social media.  One of the biggest things that we pride ourselves on, is that we are here as part of your team and to make your life more simple.  Not add to your already busy workload, nor make it complicated.  At all.

So, a couple of things were going on.  Their new website was phenomenal, but how were they going to get the word out and expand their clientele?  Newspaper ads weren’t working.  Radio wasn’t working particularly well.  They knew that they were not executing social media as they should be.  They were relying on automatic postings that also fed into their newsletter.

Goal: Brand Awareness = Sales = Growth

Simple?  Yes.  In less than a year, we have increased their brand awareness.  We focused on golf, weddings, catering and lessons.  We went from zero followers on Instagram to 269 followers.  Facebook’s reach was up 230% within the first month!  Their fans were listening and responding!

The best part?  Sales!  With every event, they have seen an increase in attendees.  Mother’s Day Brunch had a nearly 50% increase in bookings.  For Father’s Day we didn’t discount golf, we built a day package with lunch and a gift and they were booked solid!

Weddings?  Their goal going into 2018 was to at least book 4 weddings.  With some Facebook and Instagram ads alongwith a strong campaign on social media, we have already achieved that goal!  (so you better go book your 2018 wedding so you aren’t disappointed).

Next stage of Shelburne Golf & Country Club?  Update some things on the website, get their wedding marketing materials designed and printed and keep promoting this hidden gem.

Do you know why I say ‘we’ when I mention the successes?  Because it is reflective of what we are doing as a team with our client.  We are part of their team along this journey and we are darn proud to be!

We hope that when you measure your social media success do look beyond just the insights and really get into your sales $$ and how people are responding.  Engaged fans are the best fans.

– Julie
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Who Owns Your Domain & Hosting?

When you set up your website you paid the previous web guy for your domain registration, you pay them annually for hosting, your website is live… but do you actually own it? The unfortunate and surprising answer may be no.

We ran into this recently with a new client of ours…. the sad fact is that this happens too often and we honestly said ‘Ack! Not again…seriously…not again.’

laptop with website

I hang my head when I am talking to a new client and they tell me that their domain name was registered by their designer.  WHAT?  (Designers/web peeps please listen as well…..).  Never, ever, EVER should your domain name or even your hosting be registered to anyone else other than YOU!

That is right.  Walter the Web Guy that you had design your webpage years ago registered your domain, your hosting and heck, even your premium website templates.  And where the heck is Walter the Web Guy now?  Out of business?  Or you no longer speak to Walter the Web Guy, so he isn’t about to give you what you need.

Our #1 Rule

If we had one rule of thumb to ANY business, big or small, please, please make sure your domain name, hosting, premium template elements are in YOUR name!  I can’t say it enough.  And after you are done reading this,  you are going to email your amazing Walter the Web Guy and tell him that you need to transfer all your digital assets to your name now.  Like right now.  Like go.

Why Is This SO Important?

Well, glad you asked! If you want to make changes to your website and don’t have access to your domain and host information…. you can’t. You could completely lose access to a domain, website and emails you have invested in, a domain name you have added to all of your marketing assets and has possibly become part of your branding. If you have a great relationship with the company or person who registered this for you then you likely won’t run into a big issue… the headache starts when that relationship breaks down and they go MIA – which sadly is a reality.

This is one reason why Green Monkey Creative encourages clients to register their own domains and hosting. We completely understand that the process can seem complex for non-technical people, and we’re happy to help you do it!

Who Owns My Stuff?

Domain

Don’t know who your domain name is registered to?  Head  over to whois.com  and have a look.

Hosting

If you don’t receive a hosting invoice at all, check if it is even in your name and if that isn’t, get it moved over.  From the bottom of my heart, please do this.

Other Digital Assets

Also, your digital assets don’t just end there.  Don’t forget about these:

  • Online accounts registered to your business (like your hosting)
  • Online store that you manage (etsy, ebay, etc)
  • Mailing lists, newsletter subscriptions (Mail Chimp, Constant Contact)
  • Social media accounts (everything you own should have you as an admin or you have the recent login creds….)
  • Online storage accounts (Dropbox, Google Drive)

Now that you have some organizing to do with your digital assets, I am going to try and figure out how to get these domains for my client, as her Walter the Web Guy is MIA.

– Julie