Wyoming Business Tips for Jan. 27

January 22, 2013

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Elizabeth Parks, Wyoming Market Research Center researcher

“I am thinking of getting a website for my business. Where do I start?” Henry, Rawlins

Websites are unfamiliar territory for most business owners because they don’t know where to start.

There are two main options for getting a website. You can build your own using an online site-building tool or you can hire someone to build it for you. Either way, you should start by educating yourself about websites.

You can hire a Web developer to design a nice site with great graphics, but none of that will matter if customers can’t find you on the Internet. Some of the free site-building tools also are laden with images. They may look nice, but those images use valuable space where you could be explaining to your customers why they need your product. Search engines don’t see graphics; they only read the written content. While images do serve a purpose, you must strike a balance.

When considering a website, focus on two things -- usability and content. Starting with the usability part, get online and start looking at websites. They can be in the same business you are in or completely different. Think about sites that you have visited that have been easy to use. What do you like about the navigation? Are there just too many clicks to sort through or can you find what you want quickly? Having this knowledge will help when it comes time to talk to a developer or choose a template for a free site builder.

Now, start thinking about content. What will be the goal of your site? It could be to sell products online or educate people about products so they can call to place an order. Maybe it’s an informational site about a social cause.

The goal becomes important when you start to consider the direction the content will take. Each page on the site should be developed around its own theme and will have its own set of keywords that will connect to customer searches on the Internet.

Content is becoming increasingly important when competing for customers and to enhance search engine visibility. Customer optimization, or writing for customers, should always come before search engine optimization. After all, search engines don’t buy products; customers do.

Write your content with customers in mind, and then go back and insert keywords and phrases into the text that you think searchers will type into the search engine box. The goal is to build a relationship between the search engines and your customers through the use of content and keywords.

Considering the look and content for your website as a good exercise in thinking about the face on your business and how it will look to customers. How do you want customers to see you?

Free assistance is available to help sort all this out. Contact the Wyoming Market Research Center at (307) 766-5405 or email eparks@uwyo.edu.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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