Arlene Soto

Q: How important is having a website to my business success?

A: Having a website in today’s business climate is synonymous with having a yellow page ad 20 years ago; It’s where potential customers will research buying from your business. A website is available 24/7 to help market your products or services. A website has global reach as well as providing information to local customers. And the cost of creating, hosting, marketing and maintaining a website is relatively low compared to other forms of advertising. As with all marketing initiatives, it’s important to look at the return on investment, not just the cost, to determine if having a website is right for your business.

The first step in this process is to decide what you want a website to do for your business. Are you simply looking for a web presence or a website that allows customers to buy from you online from platforms that range from computers to mobile devices? What is the budget you have to spend on this form of marketing both upfront and ongoing? There will be costs for registering a domain name, hosting, design, tools and features and maintenance of the site. Web design options range from do-it-yourself, simple, low cost web presence sites to sites with many features, that are professionally designed, have search engine optimization (SEO) built in and may cost thousands of dollars. Research at this stage is critical to make the best decisions about what level of web presence is the right fit for your business.

Choosing a domain name will take some effort. Domain names should always have some relationship to your business name and website so they are easy for customers or potential customers to find. This is part of branding your business. You’ll need to think of several possible domain names just in case your first choice is already taken by someone else. Once you have some options, be prepared to purchase one or more of those domain names to protect your favorites from being registered by someone else before you have the chance to buy the name. Registering a domain name typically costs between $10 and $15. If you purchase the name from someone who purchased it first, it could cost hundreds of dollars.

Finding a host for your domain will also take some research. Hosting fees can be monthly or annual and amounts vary widely. Research the reliability of the host. How often have they experienced downtime that might impact your business? Ask questions about data speed, site backup, technical support and the ability to support many different access devices. Also, find out what the costs for renewal will be after the initial contract period.

If you decide a website is important to your business goals, good advice for creating a web presence is available on the website to help as you work through the process.

The SBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network, the Oregon Business Development Department and Southwestern Oregon Community College. Arlene M. Soto has been the Director of the Southwestern Small Business Development Center since July 2007. To ask a question call 541-888-7001, e-mail, or write 1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay, OR 97420. Additional help is available at the OSBDCN Web page