In today’s ever-changing world small businesses need to adapt if they want to compete within the market. According to a recent survey conducted by Zoomerang and GrowBiz Media the top five areas that small businesses plan to increase their advertising budgets in the year 2011 are websites, email marketing, direct mail, social media and print design (www.zoomerang.com, 2010) Out of the individuals that took the survey hosted by Zoomerang and GrowBiz Media, 17% of business owners plan to increase their marketing budget for website design, 15% plan on increasing their email marketing budgets and 13% plan on increasing their social networking budget. Overall the survey concluded that small businesses in 2011 plan to increase their overall online marketing budgets by 54% in comparison to offline forms that ranked at 46% overall. From these results it is safe to conclude that if a small business wants to stay competitive they will undoubtedly need to start gearing their marketing dollars toward the online form of advertising.
The main focus of this thesis will be to give a better understanding on the online aspects of marketing such as; websites, email marketing and social networking websites. Results of this thesis will give small businesses an understanding of what the advantages and disadvantages are in accordance with the various forms of online marketing, and will hopefully be used as a tool in the decision making process.
What is a website? Dictionary.com defines a website as “a connected group of pages on the world wide web regarded as a single entity, usually maintained by one person or organization and devoted to a single topic or several closely related topics” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/web+site). There are several factors to consider before making the decision that your company needs to purchase a website, as well as the many factors including cost that go into making a website functional. In today’s highly technological world having a website for your business can be an essential tool to have.
Before exploring the reasons why your business should or shouldn’t purchase a website let us discuss what the process of obtaining a website entails. The first thing to consider when making the decision to purchase a website is, what information do you want your website to convey to your target audience? Having a good plan for the kind of web presence before entering into the web design process is key. Once you have a plan set in place for what your website will convey to the public, you will need to decide what your domain name will be and then purchase the domain name from a domain name provider. A domain name is the URL address that the public will type into the search bar in order to find and look through your website. When choosing a domain name it is important to purchase a highly memorable name as well as a name that will be easy for your audience to type into the search bar. If you pick a long or complicated name people may not want to take the time to type it in and they may give up the search for your company all together. There are a great many companies that can assist in the purchase of a domain name which makes it very important to chose a highly regarded and trust worthy company. If the process is too daunting you can also hire a web designer to help you navigate the process. The design of your website and how the information is presented to your target audience will make or break the success of your website. Hiring a professional web designer will help ensure that your website looks professional and ensures to the public that your company is legitimate. You can opt out of hiring a web designer and purchase a subscription to a blog based “do it yourself” website such as Wordpress.com, but you will definitely need some technological knowledge to get the website completed as well as the time that doing the blog site yourself will entail. Once you have decided how your website will be designed you will need to decide what content will be included on the website. The content that you include within the website will be the determining factor of how search engines such as Google, Yahoo or Bing will rank your website on the search engine results page. Getting to the top of search engine sites is the key to maximum exposure of your business. The most common format of a website includes a home page, about page, products page, services page and contact page. The contact page is essential to ensure that your business will be included on the local business listings within the search engines (Ratra, 2009).
After the website design process is completed, you will need to make the decision as to how your website will be uploaded to the World Wide Web, this process is called website hosting. Most website hosting companies also provide domain names, and if you hired a web designer most times they will complete the entire purchasing process for your business. I would recommend having your web designer handle the entire process for you so that you have just one contact person to answer any of the questions you might have. If you choose to embark on the website design process yourself there are many companies that can help you with the purchasing of the website hosting process such as Godaddy.com but again you want to make sure that you chose a reputable company such as Godaddy.com that prides itself on customer service for all of the questions that will undoubtedly arise.