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7 Ways to Build a Business Website that Works
By Linda Locke, Templates2go.com

The Internet is the best thing that has happened to small business since the fax machine. Unfortunately, with all the thousands of sites out there, how can one lone business site ever hope to stand out from the crowd? Well, fortunately, it's not that hard, if you take the time to build your site using these 7 guidelines.

1. Tell your own story.

The web can be an impersonal place. People can't see or hear you. All they know about you is what you include on your website about yourself. The only personal information most people include on their business website is their name, phone number and e-mail address. That's not much to base a relationship on, is it? So one obvious way to differentiate your site from all the others is to include more personal information about yourself -- in other words -- tell your own story. After all, people do business with people who they like and trust.

So go ahead and include a picture of yourself on your site. Tell them why you started your own business and why it's special and unique. Be sure to include any personal information that people can relate to -- if you are a stay-at-home Mom, for example, tell them about how your business helps you stay at home or helped you to quit your full-time job. If you have recently escaped your corporate job because of your business success, share that. If you have an extensive educational or professional credentials be sure to include that information too, along with anything else that is special about you, about the services you offer or about how you operate your business. The main idea is to personalize your website and help people to get to know a little more about you.

Special Tip: Add a audio welcome message to your site so that people can hear your voice.

2. Use a theme or target a niche market with your website.

Using a theme or targeting a niche market as a foundation for your site is another way to make it really stand out. What's a good theme or niche? Here's some ideas to get you started. Some niche markets are: stay-at-home moms, downsized middle managers, women, men, generation X's or Y's, baby boomers, seniors. Some themes are: home based businesses, boating/sailing, auto-racing, mountain-climbing. Use your imagination and come up with something that is truly unique and reflects you and your business. Chances are you'll find others on the web that will be interested in it too.

Special Tip: Pick a niche that you are are part of and really passionate about - this will make it easier for you to figure out what that group's needs and wants are and the products and services they might be interested in.

3. Publish a regular newsletter or e-zine with valuable information.

Offering a free newsletter or e-zine is a great way to keep in touch with people who visit your site. Make sure your newsletter has a good focus and theme, and excellent content. Make it clear to your visitors that you are offering more than just a sales pitch. Make it easy to subscribe and be sure that you stick to a regular publishing schedule.

Special Tip: If you need a list service for your newsletter check out the free ones on: yahoo.com and topica.com.

4. Use a dot.com name.

There is no doubt that using your own dot.com name for your site will increase its effectiveness. Using a domain name makes your site look more professional and is easier for people to remember. Unfortunately, a lot of people on the net have a perception that people who use free websites to host their site are not as professional or as credible as those with a domain name of their own.

After all who would you have more confidence in: someone with a site named yoursite.com/~sites/10666 or one called toyourheath.com? Unfair as it might seem, this is not a image that you want to project. People will wonder why you can't afford your own domain site. Also free sites often require you to host banner ads for other companies on your site and have annoying popup ad windows that open on top of your page which distract from your marketing message.

Special Tip: Be sure to pick a name that is easy to say and understand over the phone.

5. Do some market research and check out the competition.

Take the time to go to your favorite search engines and search for as many business websites in your particular market you can find. Then visit each site and look it over and write down what you like and don't like about it. Is it easy to navigate? Does it look professional? Does it make you want to do business with this person? Is the site attractive and does it load quickly? What kinds of information do they offer? Do they offer a secure way to order products online? Then can use this short list to create and/or modify your own website. You can't copy sites of course, but you can get good ideas that you can improve or change and make your own.

Special Tip: Use a search engine like dogpile.com or askjeeves.com to locate websites on lots of search engines at one time.

6. Use professional web design tools.

If you want to build an effective and professional-looking site, then you need to use professional web design tools to create and maintain it. Most professional web designers use Macromedia Dreamweaver and Fireworks for their sites and you should too. Spending a little extra money and time to learn how to use these programs will pay off in big dividends in the future.

Special Tip: If you are new to web design and Dreamweaver you might want to check out our Complete Dreamweaver Website Mastery Package, which includes 100 ready to go Dreamweaver Templates and the Learning Dreamweaver MX Video Training CDs.

7. Get the Word Out.

Now that your site is ready, you need to tell people about it. Be sure to list your site with the top 5 search engines -- yahoo.com, google.com etc. Participate in online discussion groups and bulletin boards. Become a regular on several boards you like and be helpful and answer questions and share good information with the other board members. Build a reputation as someone who is helpful and knowledgeable and people will come to you. Write articles and get them placed in other e-zines. Buy paid ads in popular online e-zines and online business publications that target your market niche. Set up a consistent marketing plan for your business and stick to it.

Building a business website that works is not easy, but once the hard work of construction is over, your business will reap the benefits for a long time.

About the Author

Linda Locke is the creator of the popular Dreamweaver Templates2go CD, which features 100 ready to use business website templates for use with Dreamweaver and Fireworks.

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