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DIY Web Presence

Some basic information for those who would venture out and create their own website.

Web Hosting ...

Every web site needs to be hosted on a Web Server which is connected to the internet 24 hrs. a day. Options for hosting companies include (please note that prices change and reflect the costs at the time of this writing):

  1. Purchase your own internet connection and set up a computer on your premises to be your web server in-house. This will give you the most control over the setup, access, and operation of your web server. The cost for the high speed internet line to your computer (a T1 for example) will be up to $1500 per month, or more in some parts of the U.S.
  2. Find a company which has a full time connection and co-locate your server with them. This method uses your own hardware and server software. You then share the cost of the high speed internet connection. You are still responsible for the operation of your server, the installation of all software, etc. Monthly costs are $200 per month and up.
  3. Rent a server from a company which has a full time connection. This is often called a dedicated server. In this case you can arrange with the company supplying the dedicated server to have spare parts for your server. They can have the advantage of having the same spare parts available for many similarly configured servers. You are then expected to provide the software (often software can be bundled with your server), software maintenance, and administration of your server. You also pay for the use of the high speed connection to the internet by buying bandwidth (size of connection usually measured in kbps) or transfer amounts (usually measured in GB per month). Costs are $200 per month and up
  4. Rent space on a server which is connected to the internet and maintained by another company. This is the most popular for small businesses. Your hosting company handles the hardware and server software maintenance. You pay for a portion of the space available on the server and for some of the services you may need for your hosted account. As you needs grow additional services can be contracted for with the hosting company. They spread the cost of the additional services over many accounts on one server. Accounts cost from $10 to $100+ per month depending on services desired.
  5. Utilize no-fee (often called free) server space available with some companies. The price of the free space is usually an advertisement which is posted on your web pages. An address to your company's web site can take a few different forms:
    • YourAddress.TheirAddress.com - Referred to as a subdomain name. There is usually no registration fee because the hosting company has already registered the Top Level Domain (TLD) TheirAddress.com
    • TheirAddress.com/YourAddress - In this form YourAddress may sometimes be preceded with a tilda (~) and may also contain additional slash (/) characters. Many popular free hosting companies use this method.
    • Note: In each case above the address may be preceded with a www.

The option that you choose will depend on how much time and on-staff expertise you have available. Most small businesses utilize the hosted account because of the time and cost intensity of an in-house, co-located, or even dedicated solution. Also, many small businesses have moved away from the no-fee services so that they may gain control over their own advertising and content displayed alongside their products or services.

Domain Name ...

Your domain name may be one of the most important advertising methods for your web site. While some traffic will come from links from other sites many of your customers will need to remember the name of your site in order to return.

A company can choose to have multiple domain names which all point to the same web site. This allows a company to implement all of the strategies listed above. Some large multinational companies have over 100 (one hundred) names registered, all pointing to their web site. (Common mis-spellings are also registered in an attempt to bring a customer to the site even if they make a mistake.)

The most popular domain name to register uses the dot com (.com) extension. Choices of .net or .org are usually considered much less useful. Numbers or hyphens (-) in the name usually have less value due to the confusion which arises when attempting to convey the name over the phone, radio, etc. i.e. Was that 4Sale.com or ForSale.com; 800-Home.com, 8Hundred-Home.com, or 800DashHome.com? Dashes or numbers are considered more useful in links from other sites (when the user does not have to remember and then spell the name). In this case the name may stand out more than others in a listing, numbers could be listed first in many alphabetized lists. These advantages could be worth adding another name to point to your existing web site.

When choosing a .com name there are a few strategies used in deciding on the name: Name of Company; Name of Product; Name of Broad Category of Product / Service.

YourAddress.com - This is the standard TLD naming method which we are the most accustomed to. A registration fee must be paid to a registrar who will make sure that no one else has registered the name. Up until recently there was one registrar, Network Solutions, and they charged $70 for a two year registration. It is now possible to have names registered for less than this. This may be one of the least expensive ways to gain new customers to your web site!

E-Mail Setup ...

The importance of directing email to your company's domain name is often overlooked. Many people have an email address which is given to them by the company which provides their internet access (nnn@AOL.com or nnn@ATT.NET). This is a convenient address to use and provide to your customers and friends up until the time when you, for what ever reason, switch to another internet access company. When that happens you must contact everyone who has your old email address and provide them with the new address and make sure that they have it before your old address goes away!.

Alternatively some business owners or employees have started to use free web-based email services (nnn@HOTMAIL.NET or nnn@FREEMAIL.COM). Because of the many fly-by-night operators who use these addresses some of your contacts may not even read the email if it has an address from one of the free services.

Most web site hosting companies can re-forward all mail which is addressed to yourEmail@YourAddress.com to your email account of your internet access company or free web-based mail system. This solves many problems:

  1. If you change dial-in providers you simply need to have your hosting company change the forwarding address. Your customers will never need to know of the change. No new business cards, product brochures, etc.;
  2. You have removed the uncertainty surrounding the use of a free-for-all email service;
  3. When your customers send email to yourEmail@YourAddress.com they are reinforcing your domain name address at the same time;
  4. If you have employees who make customer contacts and use an address such as TheirName@YourAddress.com you will still be able to handle all customer requests even if the employee moves on to another company. All email being sent to the old employee can simply be re-forwarded to someone who can handle the request. The customer will see a smooth transition in your company and the contacts which you paid the old employee to make are still your business contacts.

Your email address is a very important part of creating a professional image for your company. A few easy steps are all that is required to put it to use.

Content Creation ...

Content creation requires information about your company and the image that your company would like to project. Standard company information should be included in a format that is easy for a viewer to read and find. Graphic images need to be small in file size so that they do not take an inordinate amount of time to load into the viewers browser.

Over time a web site can become large and expensive. Plan an approach to your site, for example, we suggest that small businesses who do not have an internet presence should focus on a progressive approach and to move onto the internet one step at a time. First, gain a presence! Have an account set up with your own domain name and create some useful content. Content which will explain your product / service and provide a viewer with your contact information. Second, add depth to your site by adding additional information, photos, product applications, useful product hints, links to product reviews, etc. Continue to promote your site on your business cards, letterhead, envelopes, mailers and any place that you advertise your business. Utilize customer feedback to make changes to your site so that it fits their needs. Third, if the product lends itself to selling without customer interaction then set up an online ordering system. Even this can be handled in stages to ensure your effort is not wasted on an expensive system which will never be used.

Your web site will need ongoing attention just like any advertising method. Make sure that you have set up a mechanism to handle additions to your site, maintenance of date sensitive material, and customer feedback. Lastly, don't forget to have a back up copy of your web site content.

Advertising ...

One of the ways that other people find web sites is through search engines. There are a handful of major search engines and thousands of additional sites which can provide searchable links to your site. Online advertising can also take the form of banner ads, link exchanges with other sites, email newsletter ads, affiliate programs, and other promotional campaigns.

We recommend to all of our customers that in addition to online advertising they be sure to include traditional advertising to get the word out about their new web site. This traditional advertising includes, adding a line on their business cards, letterhead, envelopes, display ads that are currently running, etc. Also consider a small brochure which can be included in all bills (or other correspondence) which are being sent out on an ongoing basis.

Additional information:   Let us Handle the details, call us at 800.696.4250.