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I’ve been wanting to have an updated small business website guide that would provide new small local businesses and non-profit organizations a helping start on how to enter the online world. From registering a domain, local/social options, hosting and design options. Here in Spruce Grove and Stony Plain Alberta, there are many great small and local businesses that may need a little guidance on what to do, and may not be sure where to start.

There are a number of items that you will want to start and prepare for to help get your physical store/business connected online to help with driving traffic/leads and sales.

Google Business Local and Google+

One of the first things I would suggest for you to tackle is Google+/Google Business Local. Reason being that it may take a few weeks for verification if you are only provided the mailing verification option. Listing your Business with Google Places will help you with showing up on Google maps and local searches. Even if you do not have a website yet, you can still have your business listed on Google Places and Google +, and help with getting your business found in your local area(s). Your business can show up for potential keywords related to your industry and thus help with connecting to customers. You can always add your domain name to your profile later on.

Google Business Local  https://www.google.com/business/  – This is one of the first things you should sign up for online. It’s very easy and a must for any business. This will help you with getting listed on local searches for your defined regional area. Make sure you use your official name and choose the proper category. When you start to type business related words, a list will show. Choose the most appropriate.

Bing Places for Businesses:

Don’t forget about BING/MSN. You can also add your business to BING for Places https://www.bingplaces.com/. Listing your business on Bing for free. All you need to do is find your listing, or add it if it is not showing initially in their results. While BING does not provide the same level of traffic that Google does, it should not be overlooked.

Going Social!

The next stage with our small business website guide is incorporating Social media into your business model. Social media is a must for virtually all companies, especially new local companies looking to get noticed amongst the main social networks. The main 3 are Google+, Twitter and Facebook. With Facebook and twitter, you can have these connected together, so you can have postings show up on either. With Google+, you will have to post updates separately. You may find your audience on one platform more than another. Aim to have profiles created in each and make sure to manage/check them regularly.

Choosing Domain Names

Next, choosing a domain name. Many times you will want to use your company/business name for your url. There are many good domain registrars. With the .coms and so on, you shouldn’t need to pay more than $20 per year, and always opt to register the domain name yourself so you have control over the domain. For a .ca domain name, then domainsatcost.ca is a good choice. For a .ca domain, you will need to have a physical Canadian address, and there are a few more steps to go through, than a standard .com domain, etc. Even though Google has targeted exact match keyword rich domains, if you are in a smaller less competitive market, having keywords within your domain name, can still be helpful, but remember that this can lessen in the years to come.

Choosing your Web Designer and Platform

After your domain name, comes finding a Web Designer to build your brand new website. This is one of the most important steps, and it is important to keep SEO in mind when creating the site just so there are no issues that will arise that will need to be addressed.

WordPress and Joomla are two of the popular choices. WordPress tends to be the most popular choice, and there tends to be more free plugins with WordPress than Joomla, and with Joomla there is a bit of a learning curve. So if you’re looking for something that is easier for yourself to manage, then WordPress would be a good choice. Many of the top SEO News websites use WordPress as their Platform.

Free and Paid Website Builders – The Options available

Out of all the free web Website Builders options, Weebly and webnode would be a good choices to test things out. You can test out on a free subdomain, and it is easy to change template designs. Ultimately going with a WordPress design enables more control and functionality in the long run. Weebly does not support WordPress. With Weebly, you do not have full and total control over the title tags, and it does lack all the cool customizations that WordPress or Joomla can provide.

If you are not design savvy, then the design customization options may be one of the main deciding factors with the Hosting Platform that you choose, and from there the range of design templates available may lead you into one direction or another.

Weebly.com

weebly_logo_copy

I have had a few clients use Weebly, and they have had success, some eventually changed over to WordPress for design options and further customization with the backend. Signing up and starting up a test site and design is easy. The one main issue is with the title tags. For the homepage, the title of the site will be displayed first then followed by your custom title tags, for the remainder of the pages, the title of the site will be displayed after the custom title tag. When contacting the Weebly support, at that time there were no options to change this.

HomePage: Website Title – Custom Title

Other Pages: Custom Title – Website Title

  • User Friendly – Yes
  • User Customization – Yes
  • Custom Title Tags – Yes
  • Custom Meta Tags – Yes
  • Easily Change Designs – Yes
  • IOS APP & Google APP – Yes

Paid Plan Options –

  • Free -. $0/mo (includes an ad on the footer of your website) subdomain from weebly.com
  • Starter – Connect your domain – $4/mo
  • Pro -$8/mo
  • Business – $25/mo

 

Wix

wix

 

 

 

Wix tends to be a  top choice (with over 40,000,000 users) for new startup businesses due to Wix’s marketing and advertising push. I have noticed a few local companies using WIX. While the designs can look great, one of the main issues there are with Wix at this time is that when create a website design, you cannot just switch design templates. You have to start over from scratch. So, on that alone, is a major drawback (you may want to check up on this as they may change this option in the future). Imagine in a few years, you will most likely want to change the design, and that would lead you to a complete overhaul. The bigger your site has grown over then few years, the bigger the task.

A local 24 hour gym here in Corner Brook CounterBalance Conditioning & Fitness Inc. uses Wix, and they’ve done a great job with the site.  Wix did a great job with allowing for nice clean urls. When originally writing this article, they didn’t have that option, and they didn’t have an IOS app. Great to see them make improvements. Wix is now higher on the list. If it makes your life easier not having to rely on a designer and you like to work on things yourself, give them a try.

  • User Friendly – Yes
  • User Customization – Yes
  • Custom Title Tags – Yes
  • Custom Meta Tags – Yes
  • Easily Change Designs – No
  • IOS APP & Google APP – Yes

Free Option? Yes (subdomain off of wix.com)

Paid Plan Options – starting at $4.08/Monthly up to $29.90/Monthly. Some of the smaller plans may have ads located on them.

Now, what does John Mueller of Google have to say regarding using Wix? His response is below.

WebNode

webnode

 

 

 

WebNode is another popular online website builder that provides personal and business website options. With the personal and business packages, you have more designs to choose from with the Business package. Setting up an initial design is very easy, urls are search engine friendly.

  • User Friendly – Yes
  • User Customization – Yes
  • Custom Title Tags – Yes
  • Custom Meta Tags – Yes
  • Easily Change Designs – Yes
  • IOS APP & Google APP – No

Free Option? Yes, on their subdomain

  • Mini – US$2.95  per month
  • StandardUS$9.95  per month
  • ProfiUS$24.95  per month

 

WordPress.com

wrd

WordPress is one of the top platforms available, and going with WP themselves, leaves less room for back-end troubles that can arise with other hosting companies. Also with the pricing, you get a Custom domain included.

Free Option? Yes under their subdomain

Pricing: $99 a year

All upgrades in a single purchase. More design, videos, and space (no ads).

Register your very own domain name, or use a domain you already registered.

What you’ll get with this upgrade

  • The included domain credit allows you add a custom domain to your blog
  • Upload HD videos directly to your blog with VideoPress (No Ads).
  • Choose custom fonts and colors with Custom Designer, or go under the hood with the CSS editor.
  • No Ads
  • Extra 10GB of storage space will give you ample room for images, audio and video.

 

SquareSpace

SquareSpace is another favorite and one that is recommended by Moz (formely SEOmoz). There are no free options, and pricing starts at $8/monthly.

http://www.squarespace.com/ Squarespace is the easiest ways to create exceptional websites. Pages, galleries, blogs, e-commerce, domains, hosting, analytics, 24/7 support – all included.

Pricing information can be found at http://www.squarespace.com/pricing/

Tour Overview can be found here http://www.squarespace.com/tour/overview/

  • User Friendly – Yes
  • User Customization – Yes
  • Custom Title Tags – Yes
  • Custom Meta Tags – Yes
  • Easily Change Designs –
  • IOS APP & Google APP – Yes

Sign up for Webmaster Tools

This step is for when/if you have a domain and hosting setup.

Sign Up for Google Analytics

To help with tracking your online traffic, you will want to have Google Analytics. http://www.google.ca/analytics/

Hopefully you have found our local business website guide helpful for your business. If you don’t want to deal with any of this, then just contact us. We deal with complete setups and can help you through the process.