A recent Wall Street Journal article, A Web Presence Without a Website, offers many suggestions for small businesses establishing a cheap or even free web presence to market their business.
…if you’re starting a business with limited funds, a flashy company website isn’t a must. For little or no cost, you could put your fledgling enterprise on a third-party site such as a blog-hosting service, social-media outlet, business directory or marketplace
The article provides good examples of businesses using internet sites to market their business, like, facebook or etsy. While the article touts that these businesses do not have a “website” they certainly have a web presence, but if you want to own your business then you must have your own website.
Using other sites as a way to market your business is imperative, like being on facebook or twitter, however, that should never be your only use of the internet since you have no control of it. If you build your entire business by using facebook and then facebook decides you have violated a term of their agreement and takes your page down – what will you do? Can this happen? sure, see Redmond Pies or Complexion Spas
The one thing you need on the internet is a “place” to call your own that you have full ownership of and control of the message. Your own website is the place to bring it all together – you can show all your social media and you can create your own business identity. Creating unique content on your site will help educate and inform your customers which builds trust in a way that social media cannot. Your site’s content will also establish you as an expert or authority in your field which in the long run is very important from a search engine perspective.
You are creating a business and your business must have its own identity. Not an identity shaped by someone else’s website. While you may think that facebook is here to stay, I am sure the people who put their business on MySpace many years ago thought it was too, but the image of MySpace has certainly changed.
The huge game changer today is how easy and cheap it is to get your own website. I am not only an advocate, but probably an evangelist for using WordPress to manage a business website. WordPress may be known as a blogging platform or content management system, but it can easily be classified as a business website management tool. The cost to set up a WordPress site for your business is about $10 per year to register your domain name and about $7 per month to host the site. While you could get away a little cheaper by letting WordPress host the site for free, I do not recommend that for the same reasons stated for not using other third party sites for your critical business image. Instead pay a hosting company to host your website and they provide the WordPress software for free, but the content you develop is always yours and you can back it up and download it to your own computer so you always have a full copy.
WordPress is incredibly easy to use to not only write blog posts, but also to write entire pages for your website with images, videos, etc. The current version of WordPress with the TwentyTen theme makes putting a navigation menu and setting a home page for your site very easy, so your site will function like a business website and also have a blogging component.
Where WordPress really excels is the free plugins that are available to add to your site. Plugins are tools that make your site have the features and functions you want. For example, you can add a facebook plugin that shows your fans or a twitter plugin so your tweets are always on the sidebar of your website. As of today there are 14,380 WordPress Plugins available and new ones are created everyday.
Throw away the notion that a business website is expensive or difficult and grab your own place on the internet. Get started today crafting your business’ unique identity and give it a place to call home.