Before you invest a whole lot of effort into setting up your own website, check out what online resources are available that may meet your goals.
If your business is purely local, you might better spend your time joining the Chamber of Commerce and other local organizations such as the Lions Club.
If you want online visibility, it may be enough to make sure you are listed in Tripadvisor.com, merchantcircle.com, your local patch.com or Zagat.com (if you are a restaurant).
Here are some alternatives to setting up your own website:
Get listed in online sites
- If your clientele is local, get a listing on a yellow pages site such as Yahoo, YellowPages.com or Local.com that break listings down by location.
Sites like Yelp let people post reviews of local businesses. Get a friend or customer to post one for you. It's also worth it to pay a friend's (small) registration fee to get them onto angieslist.com, a subscribers-only site that's well marketed and features reviews of local merchants and service providers.
Add your business to Google Local. (You'll have to sign up for a Google account first.) Another way to do it is to go to Google Maps and search for your business. If you find it, there's a tiny link that asks "Are you the business owner?" Click on it.
You get to add details about your business to your listing, then when someone searches for — say — furniture
in Pleasantville NY, your business will show up.
- Create a business page on Facebook
You first have to sign up to be a member of Facebook.
(See this page for step-by-step instructions.)
Then on your Home page, click on "Create Page" on the left. Once you create your page, get all your friends and relatives to "like" it. If they're on Facebook, just send them the address of your page. They'll know what to do. If you're a complete novice when it comes to social media, here's a primer
If you want a really spiffy page, Wix offers help and designs for building Facebook pages.
Sign up for a basic listing at Best of the Web, a local find-a-good-local-merchant website.
- Professional Directories
If you're a professional, you might get more exposure for your practice by paying for a listing on a site that presents itself as a "resource" for members of your profession. For example, a lawyer may get more referrals from a page on attorneys.com than her own website. Even though there are other lawyers listed there, a small piece of a very large pie may be larger than a very small pie you bake yourself.
Other professional directories are:
- Yahoo Directory a listing of professional directory websites
CPA Directory for accountants
Viewpoints is a
review site, more focused on products, so if you have a great new widget,
get it listed there.
- Get an email account with your company's name on it
Did you know that you can have your own email address without having a website? If all you want is to be able to write email from email@example.com, try an email marketing account from GoDaddy. 1&1 also offers E-mail Solutions for just a few dollars a year.
- Email Marketing
An electronic newsletter is an email, usually formatted, which is sent out periodically to a list of people who've subscribed to it. It's a good way to communicate to people if you've got new things to say frequently, and you know who you want to say them to.
So-called opt-in email marketing tools like Constant Contact or StreamSend are easy to use and allow you to communicate frequently with your base. Email marketing is also inexpensive -- just a few dollars a month to send a couple of thousand attractively formatted emails. They also know the rules to prevent you from inadvertently breaking spamming laws, while still getting your mail into people's mailboxes. Most mailing services offer a free trial.
Express Email Marketing® from GoDaddy.com which provides tools to create custom emails and newsletters.
Email marketing is also good for reminding people you're there, sending news of weekly specials, or sending out notices of sales or new products.
- Online invoicing
If you don't need to market online but would like to simplify your invoicing process, try Blinksale.. For as little as $6 a month, you can send and track formatted invoices online.
- Online scheduling
If you're a dentist or a hairstylist, perhaps all you need is Online Appointment Scheduling from a company such as Schedulicity.
- Online meetings
ClickMeeting lets your coworkers or fellow committee members "meet" on the web. You can try it for free.
"Wiki" Sites: Sharing knowledge
Wiki's are sites that anyone can edit. The biggest is Wikipedia, which is an
encyclopedia. If you want to promote a town or an organization, or you want
to share your expertise on a subject, you simply go to
find the appropriate subject, click on "Edit" and start typing.
If your entry is worthwhile, it will remain.
a listing of travel related businesses. If you own a restaurant or a B&B,
just find your geographic location and enter your business for free. You can search for a wiki related to you or even start a new one
Auctions & Ads
If you are interested in ecommerce, but want to sell just a few items, such as a couple of novelty t-shirts,
you probably will find that EBay will meet your needs.
(If you need help eBay has a guide
to help you get started.) An alternative is eBid Online Auctions, where you can pay a weekly or monthly fee to post.
Sharing photos or videos
Film companies like
Snapfish.com by HP want you to store your photos on their site because they're hoping to sell you extra prints, coasters, calendars and so forth. These sites are a great deal. You're not obligated to buy anything, and you get free online photo albums for your friends and relatives to view. Most let you put up slide shows as well as organized albums. A good choice for clubs and organizations or just showing slides of your latest trip to Samoa.
If you want a wider audience, you can use Flickr for sharing your photos with everyone on the web. An account is free.
Sharing or backing up files
If you primarily want a web presence in order to have a way to send large
files back and forth over the web, you may just want to acquire some
FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software. There are free programs like
FileZilla, but even the ones
that cost money are pretty inexpensive. They do, however, require a slight learning curve.
For a simple online solution, try a company like JustCloud, which gives you unlimited cloud Storage for $4.95/mo and offers a free trial.
Livedrive. They offer a huge amount of online storage, accessible from PC or iPhone. They also offer a 30 day free trial with no credit card details required.
You can upload files to your own section of their site, and share files easily and
securely with others. They claim it's easier to use than FTP, which is the way large files are traditionally shared. There's also Egnyte.com Today! which offers a 15 day free trial
Another use for online storage is to back up your important pc files.
Online and Offline PR
Perhaps you're promoting an event, like a walk for a charity, or the opening of a
new shop. Will you need the website after the event? Perhaps you're better off
concentrating your efforts on getting publicity in your local news outlets, both
online and offline. Send press releases to your local news outlets and radio stations.
Join local blogs. Look for online calendars. Ask your town to post your event on their
website, newsletters, TV feed and bulletin boards. If you're not a good writer, you
can have a company like 24-7PressRelease.com
write your press releases.