Whenever you are opening a new office or business, it is essential that you remember to include your online presence when planning your business needs. The two most important pieces of your online presence are a website and email account. I've seen surveys and studies that suggest that as many as 85% of people search for companies online -- even people looking for information on local businesses! That being said, it's extremely important that you have three things.
What makes a good domain name?
There are two trains of thought about purchasing (or renting, really) a domain name. First, you could go buy it yourself. Then you have complete control over it. But it also means you have complete control over it. If something breaks or goes haywire or you need to change settings on it, then you are responsible for taking care of that. It also means that it is up to you to remember to pay the bill each year or have your domain slip through your fingers. We like to take care of our customer's domains for them as part of our web and email hosting. We invoice our customers for their domains before they are due and work to take care of domain-related issues. Take care when registering domains and hosting websites through companies you don't actually know. I have heard many stories of people who wanted to change hosts and lost their domains in the process because they didn't register them for you, they kept the domain themselves.
Basically, a website is a bunch of files that you need to have hosted somewhere in order to have your website show up on the internet when a customer types in www.YourDomainName.com. This has two pieces -- first, you need someone to HOST the files for you so they can be seen, and second, you need to have the site built so that customers can find you. You can do this in two different ways, depending on how complicated you want your page to be. If your customers are not particularly web savvy or your business is pretty straightforward & the information won't change very often, you can probably get away with a simple 3-5 page site with a little bit about your business, where to find you, hours, directions, etc. Miller Embury PLLC is a good example. You can pay someone to design a simple site for you and update anytime you need it, or if you have the time and inclination, you can have your web hosting company set up a WordPress site for you. WordPress allows you to build and change the content of the site with minimal knowledge of how to make a website. You can upload different looks (called themes), for free or even pretty affordable but none of them will be unique to your business. You will need to know how to use an FTP client and be able to figure out the working interface for WordPress. Commonly used, you will be able to find tons of resources on making websites in WordPress. If your customers are pretty savvy and require lots of information on a fairly regular basis, including articles, pictures, downloads and other things, you will probably want a more robust site. Again, depending on how specialized your needs are, you can pay someone to build it and edit it for you as needed, or you can use a WordPress or Drupal site. You could also use a custom site & WordPress blog, depending on your needs and abilities.
The last piece essential to your minimum online presence is email. Many companies have email accounts through their internet provider or even worse, a free online company like GMail, Yahoo or Hotmail. These email accounts are okay and will work, but if you are trying to portray a professional image, it would look much more professional to have your emails come from joe@MyDomainName.com than email@example.com (as an example). You can still use GMail to send and receive your email if you want, but it looks more professional if it comes from your domain. For superior email, your web hosting company can probably offer email with virus scanning or other features as well as personal technical support. For more tips for opening a new office, see all the articles in this series:
Are you in need of upgrading your web presence? We can help! 877.404.8224.
Jen Steed writes about technology, travel and more. You can find her writing for various online and print publications. To talk to Jen or see all of her articles as they are published, you can follow Jen on Google+.
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