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Business on a budget: How to be a web wonder on a budget

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Andy Yates, entrepreneur and director of Huddlebuy.co.uk, the daily deals site for entrepreneurs gives Real Business readers regular top money saving tips to help business owners save thousands of pounds.

This week: How to create a successful website without spending a fortune

These days any business needs to have a good online presence. If people can’t find you online, you stand to lose business – whatever your business.

In this three-part series we outline some top tips on how to create a successful website on a budget.

Tip 1: A great Google freebie

Ninety-seven per cent of consumers look for local businesses online according to Google. But at the same time, most businesses don’t claim their free places page. By claiming your place page you get higher rankings on the Google Search engine and Google Maps – two vital sources of new business.

Start off by doing a Google Search for your business. If you see it listed, click the button to claim your page. If you can’t find your business listed anywhere will need to manually add this. Go to Google Places and follow the steps outlined. 

Once your business is claimed, you need to fill your page up with as much information as you can. This includes basic business information, images, videos, coupons and more. If you have regular clients, ask them to submit reviews directly onto this page. All this will help set you apart from other businesses. The more content you provide, the more Google laps it up and gives you a good listing.

Tip 2: Top of the list

It is not just Google that can help promote your business for nothing. If you click on this link, you can see a list of sites where you can enter your business details.

This is a win-win strategy. When determining its search engine rankings, Google scours the internet to see where else your business is listed. If it sees you listed in lots of places it will rank you higher. Remember to enter your business name, phone number and other business information in the same format on every listing. For example, if you business name is ABC Limited, stay with that spelling and don’t spell it as ABC Ltd.

Tip 3: Get in with the crowd

One alternative to spending money on expensive website designers is to use  “crowd sourcing”. A new breed of websites have sprung up in recent years which have changed the face of website design including 99 Designs and Crowdspring.

The idea is simple. You submit a design brief and pledge an amount you are willing to pay. Then the brief gets put online and “the crowd” – designers from around the world – submit their pitches to you.

Some top tips to make crowdsourcing work:

a. Work out a sensible budget that suits you. A quick tour of the site gives you an idea of the sort of pledges and responses websites get. It is fair to say the more you pledge the more responses you get.

b. Make sure you provide a very clear brief and really think about what you want so you don’t waste your time.

c. Be proactive. When you get designs in comment on them. Tell your would be designers what you like about their efforts and what you don’t and get them to give you revised versions.

d. Crowdsourcing websites typically charge a success fee of around 15% of the pledge. If you don’t find the right design then normally all you risk is a small listing fee – always double check the small print..

Tip 4: Do some DIY

DIY website solutions have come on markedly in recent years. They aim to take the pain away from building your own website and now many of them are certainly easier to use than putting an IKEA wardrobe together.

Basekit, which includes a simple-to-use website builder tool kit. Squarespace is a similar alternative and has plenty of examples of websites that have been built using its software on its site so you can judge if this is the sort of package for you.

WordPress is another popular solution. Originally a blogging platform, it has developed into a fully-fledged content management system. Once you have found somebody to host your website, you download the WordPress software and start building. And the online community of WordPress fans have created lots of additional widgets and plug-ins that can be added easily to any website. 

For example, tools to optimise your search engine rankings so that customers can find you easily online. These are usually free and can come in really handy when you need to customise and optimise your online presence.

Next time: More top tips on how to make big online savings.

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