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Do you need a website?

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

create a free facebook page
  • If your clientele is local, get a listing on a yellow pages site such as Yahoo, YellowPages.com or Local.comlocal that break listings down by location.
  • Sites like YelpYelp 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.

Using Email

  1. 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 myname@mycompany.com, try an email marketing account from GoDaddy. 1&1 also offers E-mail Solutionsemail address for just a few dollars a year.
  2. 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 Contactemail marketing tool or StreamSendemail 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.

    There's also Express Email Marketing® from GoDaddy.comonline newsletters 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 Services

  1. 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.
  2. Online scheduling
    If you're a dentist or a hairstylist, perhaps all you need is Online Appointment Schedulingschedulicity from a company such as Schedulicity.
  3. Online meetings
    ClickMeetingschedule meetings 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 Wikipedia.org, find the appropriate subject, click on "Edit" and start typing. If your entry is worthwhile, it will remain. WikiTravel is 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 Auctionsecommerce auction site, where you can pay a weekly or monthly fee to post.

  Sharing photos or videos

Film companies like Snapfish.com by HPphotos 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.

filezilla

For a simple online solution, try a company like JustCloudcloud storage, which gives you unlimited cloud Storage for $4.95/mo and offers a free trial.

There's also 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 requiredonline storage. 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! filesharing which offers a 15 day free trial

Another use for online storage is to back up your important pc files.

Online and Offline PR

PRWeb Press Release Newswire 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.compress releases write your press releases.