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Tuesday, 24 June 2008 09:26

If You Build It...

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Every day an estimated 123 million people are using the Internet for all kinds of business including banking, paying bills, shopping, research, and entertainment. Some of the most popular sites include Ebay.com, AOL.com, MSN.com, Yahoo.com, Myspace.com, Craigslist.org, and Amazon.com.
The majority of people on the Internet are using it to research new products. If you’re not competitive in this market you are missing a significant opportunity! According to TrueLocal.com, 25-60 percent of people are searching the Internet for businesses and services in their community, with Spas and Health Clubs being top search categories. Is your spa/skin care center on the Internet, are you exploiting this new market growth?

If not, then I hope by the time you finish reading this article you will be well on your way to developing a plan of action.
Internet searching occurs 10 times to every one online purchase. This allows the buyer to be a much more savvy shopper, by utilizing the information they can readily gather to make informed purchasing decisions.
Are you providing information? Are you listed on Search Engines? And are you linked to other sites that can promote your business? Lets face it today more and more people are making online purchases and the number of people in the U.S. doing it shifts by thousands on a daily basis.
People research, search, browse, play, and socialize on the Internet, and then they buy what they see the traditional way. What this means is that people are using the Internet to find what they need or want. Internet users are searching for new products, and becoming smarter and much more educated consumers. Therefore, you need to get listed and linked so that, at the very least, your potential clients can contact you, and you can have the opportunity to entice them into your doors!

Fundamentally, everyone needs to know the following information and words as defined on Webopedia.com.

  • Internet (Net): A global network connecting millions of computers. More than 100 countries are linked into exchanges of data, news and opinions.
    The Internet is not synonymous with World Wide Web.
  • Browser: Short for Web browser, a software application used to locate and display Web pages. The two most popular browsers are Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Both of these are graphical browsers, which means that they can display graphics as well as text. In addition, most modern browsers can present multimedia information, including sound and video, though they require plug-ins for some formats.
  • Domain names: A name that identifies one or more IP addresses. For example, the domain name microsoft.com represents about a dozen IP addresses. Domain names are used in URLs to identify particular Web pages. For example, in the URL http://www.pcwebopedia.com/index.html, the domain name is pcwebopedia.com.
    Every domain name has a suffix that indicates which top level domain (TLD)it belongs to. There are only a limited number of such domains. For example:
    • gov - Government agencies
    • edu - Educational institutions
    • org - Organizations (nonprofit)
    • mil - Military
    • com - commercial business
    • net - Network organizations
    • ca - Canada
    • th - Thailand

Because the Internet is based on IP addresses, not domain names, every Web server requires a Domain Name System (DNS) server to translate domain names into IP addresses.

  • Search Engine: A program that searches documents for specified keywords and returns a list of the documents where the keywords were found. Although search engine is really a general class of programs, the term is often used to specifically describe systems like Google, Yahoo, Alta Vista, and Excite that enable users to search for documents on the World Wide Web and USENET newsgroups.
    Typically, a search engine works by sending out a spider to fetch as many documents as possible. Another program, called an indexer, then reads these documents and creates an index based on the words contained in each document. Each search engine uses a proprietary algorithm to create its indices such that, ideally, only meaningful results are returned for each query.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The process of increasing the amount of visitors to a Web site by ranking high in the search results of a search engine. The higher a Web site ranks in the results of a search, the greater the chance that site will be visited by a user. It is common practice for Internet users to not click through pages and pages of search results, so where a site ranks in a search is essential for directing more traffic toward the site.
  • Links: In hypertext systems, such as the World Wide Web, a link is a reference to another document. Such links are sometimes called hot links because they take you to another document when you click on them.
  • Web site: A site (location) on the World Wide Web. Each Web site contains a home page, which is the first document users see when they enter the site. The site might also contain additional documents and files. Each site is owned and managed by an individual, company or organization.
  • Banner: Also referred to as a banner ad, a banner is typically a rectangular advertisement placed on a Web site either above, below or on the sides of the Web site's main content and is linked to the advertiser's own Web site. In the early days of the Internet, banners were ads with text and graphic images. Today, with technologies such as Flash, banners have gotten much more complex and can be ads with text, animated graphics, and sound. Most commerce-related Web sites use banner ads.

Getting Online
There are a few ways to get online. The difference is mainly the speed of your connection. High Speed, DSL and Cable are by far, the best ways to connect to the Internet. The cost for this type of connection is typically around $30-40 per month, and you can subscribe to this service through your phone or cable provider. Dial-up Internet is the slowest connection, using your telephone line and a modem. The cost for this type of connection is around $10 per month, but you lose a lot of the Internet appeal using dial-up. You will also experience more limitations in regards to uploads and downloads because of the size of your files.

Ways to get an Internet Presence for FREE!
It is important to have an Internet presence, and if you are creative you can do it completely for free, but you have to look around and get familiar. If you are not planning to own a domain name, you can post your business information on any of a number of online communities. For example superpages.com, BigYellow.com, MySpace.com, MSN.com, Yahoo.com, AOL.com, Expage.com, Geocities.com, Lycos.com, Blogspot.com and many more. Even if you only list your contact information, something is better than nothing.
If you are going to create a complete web site, you are going to want to maintain a priority presence on the search engine results (see definition of Search Engine Optimization). Here are a few SEO sites where you can submit your site for free: http://web sitesubmit.hypermart.net/freesubmit.htm, http://www.submitexpress.com/submit2500.html, http://www.evrsoft.com/fastsubmit/.
Thousands more are available, but be careful to see that they are not spammers just trying to get you to sign up. There are also many companies that will do the SEO for you, or you can pay to get placement and click-throughs on the search engines themselves. However, this can get expensive.

The Domain Name
People buy domain names for many reasons. The most important reason is to have a website built with your company’s name or brand. That website could have an e-mail address you’re your company’s information, such as, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Some people will buy similar or variations of their domain name in order to direct their clients to the main website. If done correctly, this too will help your SEO. Domains can be purchased for around $10 a year. It involves registering or owning the domain name. Places to get domain names include Goddaddy.com, Yahoo.com, Networksolutions.com, Directnic.com, and Register.com.

Web sites
When you buy a domain name and build your web site, you will need to have it hosted with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) they will also host your e-mail for an additional $10-50 per month. Once you buy a domain you can either build a web site yourself, or you can hire a web designer who can create a highly complex and expensive web site.

Building Your Site
Site objectives might be:
• Establish a web presence, increase marketing and branding
• Increase sales
• Generate business leads
• Increase international presence
• Generate requests for information
• Support existing advertising, promotions
• Offer customer service
• Build store to sell products or book appointments
• Provide latest product/service/sales/special promotions etc
• Build a database for e-mailing
• Position the company as technologically advanced
• Provide directions to customers
• Survey customers/prospects
• Recruit new employees
• Provide a sample portfolio or case library

Content
Make an outline of the content that you will need to accomplish your established goals. Think about what your clients need to know about your business, products, and/or services. Keep the content short and sweet. Summarize and offer ways the customer can find out more if a short description is not enough. Have others look at your outline. Share your goals and how you think they will be accomplished. Fresh eyes will point out things that you may not have thought of. Create a site map of what you want on your site and draw a tree of the navigation buttons and sub-buttons.

TIP: Content creation is one of the hardest parts of developing a web site. If you are going to employ a web designer, start this before you begin working with them.

All web sites built over the last 10-15 years were mostly built from scratch, and you had to pay a lot to get one. Now "Do it yourself" sites have been exploding.
You can get a do it yourself site for $10 to 50 a month depending on the web hosting package you choose. Internet users can see when they hit a site that is presented professionally and when they have come across a site that is not so good.
Several good site builders have come along. Godaddy.com and Yahoo.com are now leading the DIY web site market. They offer hundreds of choices in web site look and feel. They offer templates based on the type of business you have. If you simply want to get your company information and products online quickly and affordably, you may prefer to do it yourself. One of the biggest issues facing one who wants a web site built is interaction with the web developer.

Contact Management
Use the web site for collecting and storing the personal information (address, phone numbers, and e-mail) of your clients. Some websites will have e-newsletter or e-mail blast programs included. If not you can upload your collected e-mails into Outlook or a larger scale online newsletter system to send mailings to your clients for things, such as, appointment scheduling, travel arrangements, promotions, etc.

Online stores
Want to push your company’s retail sales? Put your products, gift certificates, promotions, etc. on your web site and watch your profits grow. Your clients will love the convenience of restocking their favorite products online, and you receive the added benefit of continued connection with your clients.
There are several ways one can do e-commerce online. You could have a web designer set up your own SSL, which will secure your site, and then use a merchant account that you set up with a creditor or bank of your choice. Usually the company you utilize to process credit cards can offer you such an online solution.
An alternate option is to set up an account with a online processing website like Paypal.com, 2checkout.com, or monstercommerce.com. These sites are great at establishing a sense of security for your clients. They will process the transactions through their sites for a small fee. The remaining monies are put into your account, and paid out to you monthly. You can use their site builders to create a whole online store or set up just the processing transaction part depending on your needs. Whatever you choose to do make sure you research all the cost and fees for their services. You may find that they offer you a lot of services you don’t need, for a lot of fees that you don’t want or have to pay.
When you decide what direction you want to go, it can take as little as a few hours to be up and running. Just make sure that you have collected all the business information, photos, product descriptions, pricing, and related information before you start the process so that it will go smoothly.

Web Presence
Some of you are sitting on mounds of valuable information unique to your business, and you’re not exploiting a wonderful method if you are not using the web. Make your business stronger by increasing the public’s awareness. This will result in increased sales and a better relationship with your customer. If you will be establishing your web presence then know the following:
You can start with an e-mail address; you can even use free e-mail addresses. Having your own gives a much better perception, but it is not necessary. Some of the best free e-mail accounts include Hotmail.com, Aol.com, and Yahoo.com. When you register your domain with a well-known domain name provider such as godaddy.com or yahoo.com they will provide e-mail services for you at yourdomain.com

Conclusion
We have covered a lot of ground in this article, and it may seem a little overwhelming. The point is, the Internet isn’t just a fad, or a thing of the future – it is a viable avenue of commerce today! So no matter how simple or elaborate your presence on the net may be, it should no longer be optional. Here is another way to look at it, would you ever consider not having a reception and retail area?

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