Recent research published by 1&1 reveals that 46% of the UK’s smallest businesses have no website in place. Of those surveyed, 41% agreed that a website could increase their sales but are put off by the time and cost involved.
Significantly, those small businesses that do have a website recognise that it is an important way of generating new business.
As the owner of a small business you have to be responsible for a large number of issues to keep things moving along. Sales, marketing, accounts, personnel and admin to name just a few. Many small businesses that we have spoken to find it difficult to know just who to go to for advice on setting up a website.
It can at first seem quite complicated with decisions needed on domain names, email addresses, web servers and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). But to those with experience these are actually quite simple matters that form part of the overall tasks needed in setting up a website. We recommend that all businesses have a website but the size and complexity of each website must reflect the business itself and its budget. Even a simple 2 or 3 page website can attract new customers and we have proof that this works with one of our clients.
If you are a small business owner who needs advice on setting up a website please get in touch. You may be surprised at how little it can cost.
Read the full article here.
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When choosing a domain name for your business, it can be difficult to know what your first consideration should be. Should you give priority to finding a name that will help you rank high in the search engines? Or should you be more concerned with a name that describes your business?
One thing you should probably not do, unless you are very famous – i.e. a household name – is use your exact company name as a domain name. It can be tempting to do this, as you can be sure it will be easily available. However, if you are just beginning to establish a web presence, people won’t be looking for you as they won’t know about you. They will be looking for the service you provide. So you need a domain name that will help them find you easily.
The other thing you absolutely must not do when choosing a domain name is deliberately use a name that is similar to that of a famous competitor. For instance, suppose you are a financial adviser, and there is a very well-known bank called Parker Finance. You might be tempted to choose a domain name like ParkaFinance.com, in the hope that people looking for the famous bank might arrive at your site if they made a typing mistake, as often happens. However, you would find that the big companies are on the look-out for this practice and would have no hesitation in taking action against you.
So your main decision in choosing a domain name is: should you use a highly-searched keyword or phrase, to help your search-engine ranking? Or should you use a name which characterises your business as accurately as possible? Opinions differ. Some say using a keyword or phrase is a good idea. For instance, if you are a financial services provider, and you found that a highly-searched keyword was “leading financial services” you could choose a domain name like “leading-financial-services.co.uk” (if it was available). Others advise against it as the search engines keep changing their criteria, and recommend that you find a name that represents your business, such as FinanceForYou.com
What is important is that your domain name should be clear, memorable and as short as possible. You are very unlikely to get a one-word name as most of those have been snapped up long ago. But avoid hyphens if you can, and also letters mixed with numbers e.g. Finance4You or Finance4U. Remember that you or your staff will often have to tell people your web address over the phone, so the simpler you can make it, the easier it will be for people to find your site.
The other main question is, what top-level domain (TLD) to use – that is, the suffix at the end of the domain, e.g. .com, .co.uk, .net, .org etc. Most people advise going for .com if you can, as that has the most prestige. The .net suffix is also a good one. The .co.uk suffix is fine if you are a UK company, but you should probably still go for .com if you can. A lot of new ones have recently become available, such as .biz, .info. These are less prestigious, but cheaper if you are short of cash. However, if cash is not a problem it can be a good idea to buy up as many as possible of the other TLDs on your domain to prevent other people using them. If your site is called FinanceForYou.co.uk, and someone else sets one up called FinanceForYou.net, it can cause endless confusion.
Finally, bear in mind that even if you arrive at the most perfect domain name, you can’t have it if someone else has already registered it. When you go to your domain hosting site to type in your choice of domain, they will tell you if someone else has already taken it. They will then provide a list of suggestions for similar domains that are available. Remember – keep it clear, memorable and easy to spell, and you won’t go too far wrong.
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The process of buying a domain name starts with a domain hosting company. They do vary, both in price and reliability, so your best plan is to ask friends who have web sites to recommend a good one. Some companies provide web hosting services as well, which can be a big advantage.
The main thing to remember is that, although we talk about buying a domain name, you are not actually buying it, you are “renting” it – that is, registering it to yourself for a period of time. Many of the domain hosting companies are US companies but there are lots of UK companies as well. When your domain name is due for renewal, they will contact you, and if you fail to renew in time, you will lose the right to use it.
There are two or three approaches you can use in buying a domain name. The simplest way, once you have found your hosting company, is to think up the most appropriate domain name to describe your business, and type it in to the search box on their site. They will then tell you if the name is available or not. If it’s a good name, it probably won’t be! The site will then come up with a list of suggestions for similar names that are available, and you can usually find one that suits you. Be careful. You may have set your heart on the domain name “MyWidgets.com”. You may find that this isn’t available, but “MyWidgets.net” is. You can take this if you want, but it isn’t usually a good idea to use a name that’s so similar to someone else’s. Once you have chosen your domain, you can proceed to purchase on the site.
Another approach you can use is to go to one of the sites that list expired domain names. Sometimes you can find some really brilliant names that have been allowed to lapse for some reason – it may be that the owners have changed their e-mail address and forgotten to inform the hosting company, so they didn’t know the name was due for renewal. Or they may just have gone out of business. If you find one that you like, you can try registering it and see if it can be registered in the normal way. However, some of the expired domain sites put a price on these domains as they are considered more valuable.
A third possible way of buying a domain name is to join a domain auction service – these services are offered by one or two of the domain hosting companies. These work in a similar way to other Internet auction sites. You can either bid on the name, and wait to see if you have won the auction, or pay the “buy it now” price and snap it up straight away. This is only really for you if you are in the business of buying up domains in large numbers.
Whichever method of buying a domain name you use, don’t lose sight of how important it is. Your domain can come to represent your business in the minds of the public and potential customers. It’s worth taking trouble and making sure you get it right.