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If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll know that this is part four of a series with tips and advice for getting out of full-time employment and “going it alone”. In part four, we look at what’s involved in launching a website which people will visit.
A question which goes around LinkedIn quite a lot is “Should I have a website as a freelancer?” and the answer is invariably “yes”. Sure, some people get by without one, relying on networking through LinkedIn, Instagram or a Facebook page. However, I always feel these people lack a little of the credibility that comes from having a professional-looking website. It does depend on your product or service, but, certainly for any business-to-business services, I would strongly recommend a formal web presence.
There are many options to choose from. Some people choose to just have a one-page website stating briefly what they do, along with contact details and a couple of images. Others prefer a high-tech solution, including online shopping carts, visitor tracking and marketing solutions built into the structure of the site. When I set up Navanter, I went somewhere between the two with a website I built myself. It probably took me longer than it would have taken a web design company, and doesn’t look quite as glossy, but I like the control it gives me, that I can make minor updates free of charge. Take a look at Navanter’s website here to get an idea of this option.
Whichever route you go down, there are a few things to get in place first:
Choose a domain name that you’re happy with, and which either mentions your business name (as we have at Navanter), or explains what you do (possibly more powerful for SEO purposes). Domain names are cheap, at under £20 per year, so you might want to register a few. We have 3 – a .com, a .co.uk, and another: europe.navanter.com – but don’t triplicate your website, as this will lead Google to penalise you – just redirect the others to your main website in case people try the wrong address, or if you’re trying to sound more “local” to a part of your market.
These vary massively depending on cost and functionality. At the top end, there are companies like GoDaddy, which are global giants. Or you can go mid-range. I use Heart Internet who are pretty good. They have a useful website with lots of advice and tools with pretty quick support. There have been a couple of reliability issues and it’s not as user-friendly as I’d like, but overall it works out pretty well for me and at a good price. This is an area where recently online reviews can help you make your decision.
Whether you go DIY or get a web design company to build your website, keeping regular, up-to-date content on your website is vital to appear fresh, modern and relevant. It can be a great tool to attract users through Google, particularly if you put some “how-to” articles on there with key-words which people will search for. We have just a couple so far, but take a look and you’ll see what I mean at https://www.navanter.com/how-to-articles.
Search Engine Optimisation is one of those areas which is constantly evolving. Google is by far the biggest influencer here. They want people to use their search engine and people will do that if they find the results they need when they search. For that reason, Google will reward sites with quality content and informative resources. The days of artificially stuffing keywords onto a page are long gone. In 2018, Google rewards sites which do what they’re supposed to. There are plenty of online resources for SEO. My tip is to be natural, informative and relevant.
If you go to the trouble of creating a website, you should use if to begin to nurture your prospective customers. A great way to do this is with an email mailing list. Offer quality content free-of-charge to people who leave their contact details (although be careful of GDPR regulations as you do this). It doesn’t have to be too high-tech – take a look at our sign-up page for a simple-yet-effective solution: https://www.navanter.com/e-tips
If you feel you’re not technically qualified to build a website, and don’t have the budget to pay someone, there are plenty of other options to create a site with little-to-no technical knowledge. The most popular are:
It’s easy to get bogged down in a website, but it’s important to remember that this is only part of your marketing mix. My advice is to get something you’re happy with, then leave it alone, except for adding new content. And if you have more than one brand, don’t feel the need to re-invent the wheel each time. Take a look at https://www.naturallyspreadsheets.com for an example of how we’ve created a second site just by changing the colours and domain name from the first.
I hope this has been helpful. Next time, we’ll look at promotion and marketing for your business.
*Neil Shorney, Principal Training Consultant, Navanter Ltd.