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[ 0 ] Dec. 3, 2012 | SBO Editor

Questions For The CEO: Why you need a website and how you can make it successful.

By Oliver Mauss, CEO
1&1 Internet, Inc.

Getting Online: Why is it important to have my business online? Venturing into the online world has proven to be a daunting task for most small- to medium-sized businesses. One of the most common concerns of businesses is that they do not feel that a professional website is necessary for their business. What they do not realize is that the Internet is a powerful tool which businesses can use to increase visibility, accessibility and credibility.

Currently, 40% of small- to medium-sized businesses are still without a website. Therefore, if you create and maintain an effective website, your business will be more accessible and visible than two out of five of your competitors.

What are three tips for maintaining a successful website? There are many elements and tactics to consider when creating and managing your website. However, once your website is created, some strategies will help ensure you are maintaining a successful Web presence over time:

Customize – A business’s website should be unique to their specific area of expertise and offerings. Incorporating important company information like company name, email and location onto every page of the website makes it easy for visitors to clearly identify the business. Some do-it-yourself website design packages offer layouts with pre-filled text and graphics specific to the desired industry providing a starting-point for website creation. Though it is helpful for initially getting online, be sure to only use the suggested content as a foundation to your Web presence. Customize the site with your specific skills and images.

Update – A business can freshen the look and feel of their website while providing the most relevant information to visitors by ensuring all content is current and accurate. Regularly updating information can keep visitors interested and encourage them to explore deeper into the website. Additionally, search engines are attracted to new and fresh content.

All internal and external links used throughout a business’s website should be checked for accuracy. Overtime, some links included on your website may change or stop working. If information on a website is found to be outdated or links are broken, potential customers may be deterred by the lack of attention to detail, thus reflecting badly on the business. This can severely diminish your reputation as a reliable and reputable business.

Synchronize – Many businesses manage professional social media pages. Connecting both the website and social media sites together is a great way to improve your visibility and create awareness for your customers. Some website design tools provide you with social media widgets that you can include in your site in order to integrate the two. By adding these “Like” and “Follow” buttons, you can ensure website visitors are fully aware of every means to access you and your business’s information.

How can I promote my business by using my website? Once your business website is live, begin promotional efforts to help create traffic. Offline, communicate your website to the public through printed materials. Not many businesses realize how many opportunities there are to promote their business within already existing materials. For example, make it a point to communicate your website as a reliable resource for customers by listing the domain on business cards, receipts, company stationary, brochures and any all other material that reaches your customers.

Within the Web, you can establish a reputation and strong Web presence by listing your business on online directories and local search engines. Many inquiries for particular businesses like contractors, dance studios, or restaurants, for example, are searched locally. Therefore, include direct links to your website, as well as contact information such as the phone numbers and the physical address.

Use your website in conjunction with other Web-based channels to increase coverage. Twitter and Facebook allows you to offer your expertise to a more targeted audience. If you choose to advertise, you can specifically target users with certain interests or geographical location.

How do I know that my website is effective? As the foundation to a business’s online strategy, the effectiveness of a website is the main driver to its success. Website statistics are perhaps the most valuable method to measure this as it evaluates important data like traffic to the site or particular pages, geographic locations of visitors, and time spent on the site, to name a few. With 1&1 Internet’s SiteAnalytics tool, for example, you can clearly identify your website’s effectiveness through these targeted measures.

Found in the 1&1 Control Panel, graphs and charts provide a clear, statistical analysis of how successful your website is performing and which elements are contributing to it. Perhaps most importantly, the analytics tool illustrates which features are lacking or negatively effecting your online representation. Therefore, you can examine what you need to do or change in order to increase its value. These types of tools provide statistical facts of the success of any professional website.

Businesses can also ask their visitors for feedback by providing surveys, polls, and contact forms on their website. This is a great way to encourage communication, gain valuable insight, as well as collect visitor information for newsletters.

About 1& 1 Internet

Founded in 1988, 1&1 Internet is a leader among the largest Web hosting providers. Internationally, 1&1 maintains approximately 11 million contracts with both consumer and business users and has registered more than 11 million domain names. It operates 5 highly-secure, green data centers housing 70,000 servers that process over 5 billion monthly emails. Visit www.1and1.com

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Category: Features, Magazine, Small Business Opportunities, Small Business Opportunities March 2013