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OVHcloud’s tips for small businesses moving online

Build a strong online presence in four steps

OVHcloud, global, hyper-scale cloud provider, helps entrepreneurs find online success.

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Building an online presence can be intimidating. Studies show that as of 2017, almost half of Canadian SMBs did not even have a website. There are so many decisions to make, from deciding which social media platforms to join, to choosing a website provider – that even getting started can be difficult.

But the fact of the matter is online traffic is taking precedent in our current climate. Studies show that following the COVID-19 outbreak, online learning has increased by 122 per cent, online fitness has increase by 54 per cent and 53 per cent more Canadians are buying online for in-store/curb side pick-up, not to mention the incredible increase in videoconferencing and web chats for personal (increased 46 per cent) and professional (increased 58 per cent) reasons.

People are looking to online services, here’s how to take your business online in five simple steps:

 Step 1: Register a domain name

A domain name is the address an Internet user types into their browser to visit a website. Before selecting a domain name, you need to choose a registrar. To do so, first you need to take cost into consideration. Often, registrars will offer domain names for a very low upfront cost. But look a little closer and you might find that the cost spikes from year two onwards. The second thing to consider is the experience and reputation of the registrar. There are literally hundreds of registrars to choose from, but remember, they are NOT all equal.

Now it’s time to create your domain name. Domain names are broken into 3 sections: « www. » is the first one – this almost never changes. Then comes the domain name: « mywebsite », this is your domain ‘body’. Finally, you choose the extension: « .com », or your Top Level Domain (TLD).

When selecting your domain body, go for something concise and easy to remember, as well as to say and type. Avoid including symbols or hyphens, as they will add complexity, and make sure what you choose doesn’t infringe on anybody else’s trademarks.

For your TLD, you can choose between a legacy one, a generic one or a country code. Legacy TLDs are the original domain suffixes, including .com .net and .org. Generic TLDs (gTLDs) are used to indicate a particular industry or niche, such as .blog, .agency or .shop. Finally, country code TLDs (ccTLDs) are used to indicate a geographic location, for example, .ca, .uk or .fr.

The cost of registering a domain name depends on how “in demand” it is. Generally, shorter domain names that contain popular phrases could cost more than longer, less-specific domain names. If your domain name is already taken, you can contact the current owner to see if they are willing to sell. You can find out who owns the domain name by using a WHOIS checking tool. Alternatively, you can check if the domain “label” you’d like to register is available with a different TLD.

Step 2: Set up a business email address

Once you have your business domain registered, getting a business email address will be much easier. Most domain registrars offer email solutions, ranging from very basic packages for individuals and solo entrepreneurs to more comprehensive packages for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Email options range from simple webmail solutions to more advanced packages that might include secure backup, dedicated hosting and collaborative functionality, such as shared contacts and calendars. To make the right choice for you, ask yourself what you need from an email solution. For example: Do you require access from your smartphone? Will you need to share contacts and calendars with your team members? How easy will it be to migrate existing email and contacts to a new email service?

No matter which solution you choose, pick a memorable, professional email address that you can keep and use for as long as you need. A common format for business email addresses is  Your name @ your domain name.

Step 3: Use Social Media

Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are a great tool for entrepreneurs and businesses to connect with customers and take control of their image online. A recent study shows that 64 per cent of Canadians have a social networking profile, and over half the country is registered to use more than one social media platform. Considering that 70 per cent of internet users say they are regular social media users, setting up a Facebook page for your business should be much easier than setting up a website, making it a natural first step.

Do you need to join every social media site? No. Different businesses have different needs, and it’s usually best to pick one social media site and stick with it, at least to start with.

If you don’t have a website, a redirect service allows you to connect your domain name directly to your social media page. This makes it easy for customers to find you and helps make your social media page look more professional. Redirect services are typically provided by domain registrars.

Step 4: Build a website

About one in five Canadian small businesses say they don’t have the time to create a website. However, unlike a decade ago, setting up a basic website doesn’t require specialist skills or professional web designer. You can have a website up and running within a day or two if you follow these three steps:

#1 Choose a website provider. When it comes to website providers, there are hundreds to choose from. You need an experienced, reputable provider to keep your site up and running 24/7/365, provide essential functionality (e.g., account management tools, remote backup and security features) and charge a fair price.

#2 Choose a hosting plan. On the face of things, choosing a hosting plan is perhaps the most complicated part of building a website. Hosting plans vary in price based on a number of factors, including: the amount of server space offered, availability and regularity of automated backups, and which website platforms and technologies are made available. Other factors include levels of in-built security, the level of expected monthly traffic and, finally, availability and quality of security features and services. Most reputable website providers offer guidance to help customers choose the right plan for their needs.

#3 Choose a content management system (CMS). A CMS is the underlying software that powers a website. The most popular platforms are WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal – they are free, and hundreds of pre-made website templates are available to make the setup process easier for first time builders. By choosing WordPress, you can take advantage of the 1-click setup facility to complete the installation automatically. You’ll still need to select and install a template, and add content to your new website, but the most technical part of building your website is already done.

Finally, remember the key is to build a website that’s easy for customers to find. The big search engines are great at finding new websites and serving them up to potential customers. However, you can maximize the success of your website by installing a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plugin for WordPress or by doing some basic keyword research to find out what potential customers are searching for. Optimizing a website for the big search engines takes a bit of time, but it does significantly improve your chances of being found.

Now that you have your website up and running, make sure to keep it that way.

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