Having a website built for your business is only the start of an ongoing journey, as you need to take an active interest in it and support it throughout its life if you want to get the best out of it (just like your pet chihuahua). Here are a few things to think about.
The set of files which makes up your website need to be hosted – essentially what this means is that they are stored and configured on a server which enables them to be accessed on the web.
Reliability is critical here, as you want to make sure that your website is available and doesn’t suffer too much “downtime”. External technology changes can lead to occasional outages with any hosting services due to maintenance and upgrades but what would happen in the event of an extended outage? It’s important to have a clear means of communication in the event of any problems. You can arrange your website hosting directly, but it usually makes sense to arrange hosting through your web developers – it will cost you a little more but will ensure that the hosting service is managed for you and any problems will be managed on your behalf.
Email accounts will often be provided as part of a web hosting package although there are other services e.g. gmail that you can use. It’s always based to have a domain based email address that matches your web address – it looks more professional. Managing email accounts has become more complex in recent times, as people send and receive more and more mails, send photos and other attachments more often, and want to manage their emails on multiple devices (PC or lap-top, phone, ipad etc). If you aren’t particularly technical – or perhaps you’re just too busy! You may need help with setting up your email accounts, managing them so that your mailbox doesn’t run out of space and configuring your mail programme (e.g. outlook) to send and receive your mails. A managed hosting and email service may be a worthwhile investment as everything can be taken care of for you by one supplier.
Keeping your website up to date
When you initially created your website, you probably spent a lot of time thinking about how you wanted to describe your products or services and if you used the services of a professional web developer, they will have helped you to present the information well on your web pages. But nothing stays the same for ever and your website needs to evolve with your business – which means making sure that the information is up to date and that new products and services are added as you introduce them. Case studies, testimonials and articles or blogs are all good ways to include fresh content on your website, so you should factor in some time to do that. If you have a content management system for your website, you may be happy to make changes yourself – if you don’t, or are short of time, you might need to use the services of your web developer or a marketing agency to write your web copy and make the changes for you.
Website revamps and upgrades
Websites have a limited life span, just like any other business asset. Internet technologies are changing at a rapid pace – just think about how you view websites now compared to just 2 or 3 years ago. Whereas in the past people typically viewed websites on a desk top or lap top PC, now they can use a range of devices including mobile phones – how good does your website look on a mobile device?
There are other external changes such as browser changes (Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome for example) and upgrades to the technologies used in building your website, all of which could affect the way the site displays or functions. Fashions change too and this applies to websites – what looked cool and contemporary a few years ago may look dated now and could give the wrong impression of your business. So some technical updating may be needed from time to time and you should budget for a possible re-design every 3 or 4 years or so.
Marketing your website
Having a website built, hosted and maintained may not be the end of the story as, depending on how competitive your market is, you will probably need to think about marketing it so that you can attract visitors to and enquiries from your website. There are several strategies you could employ, including Search Engine Optimisation, Pay-per-click, Email Marketing and Social Media – there isn’t space to cover that in this article but suffice to say, it’s something you should take advice on, and factor into your budget.
How to sum this all up? Well it is quite possible to run a website very cheaply – but to make sure it continues to be a valuable business asset, you may need to allocate some budget and time to ensure that it’s well looked after. It all comes down to return on investment and the potential gains to your businesses from managing and promoting your website effectively. A good web marketing agency should be able to help you to assess what’s needed for your business based on your market and your business goals so that you can set a realistic budget and increase your business.