How to start a web presence for free and why you shouldn’t

You can start a web presence for zero financial investment. But you probably shouldn’t.

An effective web presence connects you with your audience in many different channels on the web. With your website as the hub of your web presence, your participation on social media creates a connection with people and feeds traffic to your website.

Website/Blog

There are many free hosted blogs such as WordPress and Blogger that give you a good level of control with a range of layout and theme options.

Blogger hosted site
We use Blogger for our technical support blog

These are ideal for informational sites, but they usually have limited features and limit the interactivity.

Website Content

Your website content needs to communicate what your audience wants to know about you or your organization. Your content needs to be relevant and unique because search engines give more authority to unique relevant content and this is what your visitors will be looking for.

We recommend that you don’t build your own website. Many websites are focussed on what the owners want to say, instead of focussing on what their audience wants to know.

A third party to help you create your website with a fresh perspective and provide the professional technical expertise you need. This is especially important when your website needs to provide interaction as well as information.

Content Management Systems

Many content management systems are open source and available for free. We use WordPress or TYPO3 for many of our customers. You will need to spend time customizing these and install extensions/plugins to suit your needs. You may need coding skills.

Website Design

You can get free design templates for content management systems, however these tend to be generic and for a unique look to your website you will need to customize these with your branding. This can be time consuming and requires skills in HTML/CSS/Javascript.

Email

You can register an email account with many webmail service providers (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo etc.) but piggybacking on another domain is not as professional as having your own.

It is usually easy to set up webmail services to use your own domain name for email.

Domain names

You can get a free domain name from http://www.freedomain.co.nr.

.nr is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Nauru, a tiny island nation in the Pacific. “co.nr” is not an official hierarchy; it is a domain (www.co.nr) owned by a company who offers free subdomain redirection services.

Free, but only for individuals and so it is not as professional as a top level domain (like .com, .org, .info etc.) or other ccTLD that is easily recognized by your audience.

You could get a free subdomain from a provider, but you are reliant on them continuing to provide the service and again it is less professional.

We recommend that you purchase a good domain name that is relevant to your web presence. It will become part of your online branding.

Security Certificates

Securing the communication with your website builds trust not only with your website visitors, but also search engines. You can get free security certificates from Let’s Encrypt, however, these have some limitations.

For higher level security you should purchase a security certificate that meets your needs.

Social Media

You can join most social media sites for free and these allow you to create personal profiles as well as pages that you build about your products/services or website.

Many people get social media wrong or miss opportunities by doing it themselves. We recommend working with an experienced web presence agency so you get the maximum benefits from social media.

Need help?

If you are confident that you can do it yourself and have the time to invest, you can build a web presence for zero or low cost. For a quicker path to success, work with a web presence provider you trust and ask for help where you need it.

Vista Interactive provides a one-stop-shop for your web presence needs. Contact us for help with your project.

What does it cost to make a website and get online?

When you view someone’s website or social media content, you don’t see all of the hard work that goes into delivering that to you.

Creating a strong web presence requires multiple disciplines of expertise working on several layers of technology. A typical modern website is the result of many hours of creative thinking, research, planning, content development, graphic and data design, programming, configuration and administration by highly skilled people. They use many different technology platforms to design, develop and serve content for you to interact with in your web browser on your desktop, tablet or phone.

Because a lot of the work is done behind the scenes, many people underestimate the amount of investment they need for establishing their web presence.

We have created this infographic as a guide to web presence investment based on our years of pricing projects for customers.

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Personal marketing

Recently I read that business interactions are no longer being defined as B2B or B2C. Instead the latest buzzword for business relationships is H2H – Human to Human.

I am surprised at how impersonal many businesses are. Large businesses can get away with being impersonal – it can get creepy when they use personalized information.

Screenshot from 2014-02-05 18:33:41

However, for a service oriented small business, building trust (and consequently sales) is based on knowing who you are dealing with and what their strengths and skills are.

Too many “about us” pages (our own included) consist of <company name> was founded to <unique selling point buzzwords>.  <Corporate jargon> <buzzword> <more corporate jargon>. A lot of words about what they do. Not so much about who they are. We seem to forget the humans in the organization, the personality of the organization.

Are you missing business opportunities because your web presence is too impersonal?

Here are some tips to make your web presence more human friendly:

  • Join social networks and be real on them – don’t just push your own products and services, but genuinely interact with others
  • Use relevant photos and stories about the members of your team
  • Present your products and services with people using them and their genuine reactions to the experience
  • Ask for feedback from people visiting your website and personally respond to it