For any business in 2013, it seems to be a given that having an online presence is required. But why? Valet companies have stayed in business for years based on referrals and traditional, offline marketing efforts.
Do you really need a developed online presence?
The short answer: Yes.
According to Reach Local, an industry leader in local online marketing: 85% of consumers search for local businesses online, Yet, almost 65% of small businesses don’t have a website.
Of those that do have a website:
- 25% don’t show up in search results
- 60% are missing a phone number on their home page
- 75% don’t have an email address listed anywhere on the site.
If you don’t have a solid online presence, you’re missing out on business opportunities. At the Valet Spot, we’ve been working for years to develop our online presence so we’d like to help you get started developing yours.
For most businesses, it’s tough to know where to start. There’s a lot of information out there and you don’t have the time to filter through all of it while you’re running your business as well.
If you want to take the first step to getting your business set-up online, but aren’t sure where to start, read on.
Register a Domain Name
A domain name is the website address where people will be able to find your site. For us: it’s http://www.thevaletspot.com.
Head over to GoDaddy or BlueHost and pick up a domain name and save yourself the hassle down the road. It doesn’t really matter which company you choose to register the domain with. GoDaddy is the most popular option, but other registrars like BlueHost are just as good.
You don’t need clever or fancy with the domain name. Use the name of your company as long as it’s not more than 3 words long. If it is excessively long, you should consider abbreviating it so it’s easier for people to remember and type in.
When you go through the checkout process, you can safely ignore all the additional up-sells they offer. The only one you should get is increasing the length of your registration of the domain name. Since this is your business website, go ahead and register for at least 2 years.
Get a Hosting Plan
Once you’ve registered your domain name, you now own your address on the internet. The next step is to buy the real estate: that’s the hosting plan. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a hosting plan for less than $10/month and it can be even less if you sign up for a longer contract. Hosting is a lot like domains. There are a lot of options and there isn’t much difference between them. I’ve personally used both Bluehost and Hostgator and have had good experiences with both of them.
If you chose to register your domain with GoDaddy, you can host your website through them as well. While their hosting is slightly more expensive than equivalent competitors, it’s painless to go ahead and set your site up through their 1-click install service.
If you want to use another hosting service, make sure they have quality 24/7 customer service. If you have any issues, you’ll need someone to walk you through sorting them out and nothing ruins a day like spending hours waiting on hold for someone to answer your questions.
Set-up a Professional Email Address
Whatever hosting company you choose, it should come with at least one free email address and instructions on how to set it up. If the instructions aren’t clear, now is a good time to start getting your money’s worth out of support. It looks much more professional to have firstname.lastname@example.org instead of email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org as your primary business email.
Build a Professional Looking Website
Finally, you need to set-up a website that will make a good first impression. If you’ve never set-up a website, I’d recommend you hire a web designer or agency to do it for you. The cost to build a good looking website have come way down from what they were five years ago. You can expect to pay around $1500 to $2000 for a basic website. Freelancers or people just getting started may charge less if you can find them.
If you’re determined to go it alone, choose WordPress as your Content Management System (CMS) and buy a premium theme. If you chose a major hosting provider, they should have a one-click install for WordPress to help you get going.
WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (basically just the technology your site works off of) so if you ever need help with it, you won’t have any trouble finding someone that can work on the site.
Simplybusiness.co.uk has an excellent guide to help get you started setting up the website yourself. Go check it out and feel free to email me (taylor [at] thevaletspot [dot] com) if you have any questions.
A Word on Themes
Once you follow the instructions and have WordPress set-up, you’ll want to install a theme to customize the look and feel of it. Think of your site as a car. WordPress is what’s powering it under the hood and the theme is the paint job and interior that make it look good.
You can find plenty of free WordPress themes, but you’re much better off paying for a premium theme. Premium themes are reasonably priced (usually $20-$80) and come with support and updates so you don’t ever have to touch any code yourself. I’ve used the Studio Press Themes ($80) and Elegant Themes ($40) and found them both to be good options.
Questions? Want More Information?
If you have any questions about getting started or want more information, email me at Taylor [at] TheValetSpot [dot] com and I’d be happy to help you out.