Best Practices for Creating an Online Presence

The following list includes the top-level basic steps for getting a business online. Getting these basic tasks completed will serve to get you up and running online in the most effective way. There are many resources on the Web to help you make a plan to get your business online. Remember that you are extending your professional brand to the Web. Maintain your company's identity by following these basic best practices:

  1. Choose a Good Domain Name – Your domain name is your online identity, the virtual big sign over your store door on the Web and your identity for e-mails. Review advice for setting up the best domain name(s) for your business in our step-by-step process. Most companies start with a .com or .net address because they are the most popular and recognisable.
  2. Brand your E-mail – It may seem like a big step to change your e-mail address, but our small business survey revealed that consumers are more comfortable working with companies that use a branded e-mail instead of more common Gmail, AOL, or Yahoo accounts. A branded e-mail lends a professional impression to potential customers. Moreover, you can use the same e-mail domain name for your employees or different divisions such as accounting or HR. Change your e-mail via your current e-mail provider or use the service your registrar provides.
  3. Build a Website – The most professional and convenient source of information is your own website – even if it is just one page with all the information a customer would need to understand your products and services and contact information. Remember the basics! A DigitalScape survey found that as many as 60 per cent of small business websites failed to post their phone number on their home page.
  4. Be Social – Setting up pages on Facebook and LinkedIn is easy – you might already have one of your own for personal use. You can redirect your custom domain name to one of these sites to act as your online presence and create an easy way for customers to find you. Social media sites offer free links to millions of people and a very local and personal way to network with your customers, community and other businesses. If you have frequent events, sales, or promotions, Twitter is a great way to blast out news to existing and potential customers. Sign up for a free Twitter account and start “tweeting” short messages (just 140 characters) to the people who follow you. They can “re-tweet” and create digital word of mouth about happenings at your business.
  5. Take Advantage of Free E-Marketing – Directory websites like Yelp and Google Pages allow you to set up a quick, free profile of your business which can serve as another way customers can find you as well as interact with your business. There are many free directory sites that specialise in a variety of industries such as restaurants, salons and other home services.
  6. Take It Step by Step – You do not have to do everything all at once. The most important step is the first one so that you stop putting it off any longer. The world is online, with a domain name and a branded e-mail – you can be too.

Resources for Getting Online

The following list defines many of the free and low-cost tools available to help you get started online.

Resources Purpose Definition
Verisigninc.com/register Find a domain name This Verisign site will tell you if the .com or .net domain name you seek is available and provide suggestions if the domain name is not available. Continue on to a registrar to purchase your domain name quickly and easily.
Registrar Registers domain names These are the companies with whom you can research and register a domain name for a low cost. Many offer additional low-cost services such as Web hosting, branded e-mail and Website building.
Google Maps Location tools Create a profile with directions and contact information so when people search – they will locate info about your business. Add your business to the Google Maps page so people searching by location can find your business.
Facebook Social Network Create a free page with contact and company info. Add announcements and photos and encourage your customers to “Like” your page and follow your updates
LinkedIn Professional Social Network Create a free profile for your company and link to other professionals, this is a business-related site, also good for hiring
Twitter Social Posting Network Twitter is a type of outgoing message board. Create a free profile and “tweet” short messages about your company, promotions and events to people who “Follow” you (then they can “re-tweet” to others)
Yelp Review Site Create a free page with your company information and respond to reviews and comments from customers. This site is often used by people looking for reviews on local restaurants and entertainment.
Google+ Page Google’s social network Create a Google+ profile. While not as popular as other social networks, Google+ is important as a tool in Google Searches and Google Maps. Also enables easy growth into paid Google ads.
Google Places for Business Business listing on Google maps Add your location and basic business information so it appears in Google Maps – great way to be found locally
Bing Places Directory for Bing search and maps Register your business and location with Bing to be listed in search and map results
Yahoo! Domain name, website templates, e-mail, search directory and maps Yahoo! offers registering a domain name, building a simple template website, e-mail and listing your site in Yahoo! directories, search and map results
YouTube Do-It-Yourself Video Site Create a “Channel” with your own videos and other related video content, ask customers to subscribe to your channel
Wordpress Domain names, Website builder A fairly easy website building Website, Wordpress has templates and tools for making simple to sophisticated Website and blogs.
Squarespace Domain names, Website builder A fairly easy website building Website, Squarespace has many templates and tools for making simple to sophisticated websites.
Etsy Local, unique products and storefronts eCommerce website For a fee, Etsy enables artists, crafters, and resellers to create an online storefront with images of their products, an easy purchase process and communication with customers.
E-mail tools Branded E-mail Many registrars and e-mail providers have “business e-mail” services that enable you to set-up your branded e-mail and have all e-mail directed there. You can also set-up multiple addresses at the same branded e-mail address.

Google Maps, Google+, Google Places for Business and YouTube are trademarks of Google, Inc. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, Bing Places, Yahoo!, Wordpress, Squarespace and Etsy are the respective trademarks of Facebook, Inc, LinkedIn Corporation, Twitter, Inc, Yelp,Inc. Microsoft, Inc. Yahoo!, Inc. the Wordpress Foundation, Squarespace Inc. and Etsy, Inc.

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