How to Build and Maintain a Working Website for Almost No Cost

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These days a website is as expected and critical as a calling card for anyone in any kind of business. The good news is that it substitutes for nearly all other marketing collateral that you will need to operate a business or individual service--except for the calling card actually. The bad news is that a website can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to create, and that’s only the beginning. Even if you can afford to invest heavily in a web presence and you are fortunate to have the right resources in place to support it, it still makes sense to economize and maintain control over your website, especially during periods of economic challenge.

  • Start thinking about the message you want to use for your business. You will need this when you begin building your site, even if you hire someone else to do it. The right name of a business is critical, so attempt to integrate the name into the unique selling proposition for what you provide. Think about keywords that relate to the service you offer, because you should plan to incorporate these meta tags into the text of your pages.

  • Spend some time looking at competitors’ sites. Notice what gets your attention and what annoys you. Identify the limitations you will have creating your own site, i.e., you need to be resigned to simplicity and functionality rather than all kinds of advanced and sophisticated graphics. The truth is these fancy applications rarely make a significant difference in attracting revenue. Elegance is simplicity.

  • Locate a service that provides a free demo that renders you a working web page that you can convert into full-scale site. Also, this kind of service hosts your website either under their domain or your own, creating all the links and allowing you to develop and maintain your own site by filling out forms and selecting features. The best one of these is Shoppingcartsplus.com. This kind of service allows you to do all your own work for no charge, then only charges you about $25 per month to host the site.

  • Do the due diligence to check out the history of the site you're considering. Check with the Better Business Bureau and also check references. The worst thing that can happen to your site is to suddenly lose it because your hosting provider fails often or permanently goes out of business without warning. Make sure the host has a dependable track record and no complaints from customers (or that the few they have are not their fault). Also make sure they allow you to use your own domain to navigate to your pages.

  • Reserve a domain with NetworkSolutions.com in which you can substitute for the service provider domain. The best domain is the name of your business (or the obvious short name). Your branding strategy should take this into account from the beginning.

  • Fill out the meta tag forms so that your site will begin registering with search engines.

Tips & Warnings

  • Develop the site over time. Plan on getting it up and running in stages. Then keep adding to it and improving it on a regular basis.
  • Don’t expect to have your site show up in search engines immediately or even in the top 10. This takes a lot of knowledge and effort that is much more advanced than the first step of going live.
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