Every business needs an online presence. A blog or a website is necessary, and it is preferable to have both at once. Social media is optional, although some would have you think otherwise.
The principle purpose of your social media, if you have it, should be to help boost the profile of your blog or website. The opposite is not true.
The importance of having a website or blog is so determinative in terms of reaching the full potential your business can achieve that it’s really not something you should delay implementing for too long.
Before you can sell or persuade, people need to be able to find you. The easiest way to get found is to have a website telling people who you are, where you are, what you have, and why they should do business with you.
You need that online presence established now. So what’s the best way to achieve that goal as quickly as possible? That’s the topic of this article.
First, have some idea of what you want to say
Far too often business owners rush to get their website online without actually having anything meaningful to say. As mentioned above, the minimum your website should contain is:
Who you are – the company name, and optionally the names behind the name
Where you are – the physical location of your business (city, at least)
What you have – description and images of the goods and services you offer
Why people should do business with you – there are thousands of other businesses competing with yours for attention. You must have some competitive advantage to help you stand out from others, and you’ll need to make it as obvious as you can.
illustration courtesy of deomis
Those are the bare minimums you should include on your website or blog, but you can certainly include more information. You can never have too much content on your site, you can only have too little.
But quantity of content is not what you’re really aiming for. Quality is the most important factor, and that is in terms of:
The usefulness of the information to your audience
The presentation of the information
The user experience (UX) factor
Should you fail on any of these criteria, the success of your site will suffer, and in turn the success of your business will be affected.
The golden rule of business websites is you should publish quickly, but never without a plan.
Site should be adapted to fit the content
Another common mistake many people make is to choose pre-made templates and then massage their content to fit the style of the template. This is a wrong approach for many reasons.
The main reason is because it limits what you can show, which will diminish the usefulness and presentation of the information (two of our main criteria listed above). The other reason is because your site risks being too generic. It won’t stand out because it lacks sufficient customization.
If you’re not great at coding and design, go ahead and use a generic template, but choose one that is very open and easy to modify later. A template that is too complex may look “impressive” but it will make it much more difficult for you to update your site in the future.
illustration courtesy of DAN Gartman
Keep your focus on the content
Everyone wants a good looking website, but that should not be your priority in the initial stages. Your priority should be to get your content online so Google can start indexing your content as soon as possible.
Once your content is published, you can go back in and add things to make it look more beautiful. Getting page rank is more important because Google is more likely to see your page before any humans do, and the robots from Google care more about things like quality content and accessibility than they do about aesthetics.
In fact, they’ll possibly rank you higher initially for a website that doesn’t have a lot of background design because the page will load that much faster. After genuinely improving the look of the site, it’s unlikely you will lose rank.
Getting attention from Google early is good for you because apparently Google keeps the rank of a new site artificially low for some time after it is created. Once your site has been online for sufficient time, Google allows it to rank naturally. For some reason, Google equates longevity with trust.
In general it takes around six months for Google to stop thinking of your site as a “new” site, and at that point you will normally see some improvement in your page rank as long as you haven’t ignored any other SEO factors that would be detrimental to your rank.
Choose an appropriate publishing technology
There are plenty of different ways to publish a website, but remember that our goal is to get our site online as quickly as possible. You don’t want to rush it too hastily and publish without a plan, but you also don’t want to be waiting weeks to get online because every day counts.
With it taking approximately six months to attain rank, every extra day is costing you potential business and page position. So let’s cut to the chase.
You need to choose a publishing platform that will allow you to get up and running in the fastest time. Currently the two leading contenders in this category are SquareSpace and WordPress.
Rather than going through all the details of comparing them here in this article, we’ll just link you to a comparison that already exists. Go check out this excellent side-by-side comparison of SquareSpace vs WordPress and then come back to read the rest of this article to find out what to do next.
illustration courtesy of Kevin Yang
Build the site
Now that you’ve chosen an appropriate technology to help you get your site online quickly, and you have a solid plan of what you’re going to create, it’s time to actually build it.
This doesn’t have to be your final website design. In fact, what you create at this stage may look nothing like your eventual website will look. The important thing is getting your content online and indexed by Google. All the beautification can be done at a later time.
You’ll simply begin adding your content in an appropriate way to the site template you’re using. Ideally we think it should be the simplest and least feature-rich template possible, so you can come back later and customize it heavily (and you’ll avoid that generic website look), but it’s fine if you find some awesome template that you can’t resist.
Just remember to make it sufficiently different to what everyone else using the same template has done, or you’ll look like you don’t care about creating a good site.
If you have skills to design and code the site yourself, go right ahead and do it. If you don’t have much confidence in your skills, consider hiring people to help you out
You’ll save time by getting help, so your site will be online faster. You’ll also have the chance to use the time you save to learn the skills you need to learn, which could be valuable in the future.
Test the site
Launching without testing is a fatal mistake. This doesn’t just mean opening it up in a browser and looking at it. You need to actually have somebody read the site and give you feedback. The more people who do this, the better.
Take notes at this stage, but don’t do anything with them. That’s for your redesign stage that comes after launching your site.
illustration courtesy of Anton Fritsler (kit8)
Launch the site
Congratulations, you are ready for your site to go live. Remember this is not your actual site that you’ll be keeping in perpetuity. It is your early version site that you’re just publishing as quickly as possible for a robot to read.
Once you’ve launched the site, the clock starts ticking on your first robot read, and the six month wait to get a proper Google rank begins reducing from that point forward. But this is no time to rest on your laurels.
Start your redesign immediately after launch
This is the time you will return to the feedback you received and start making improvements. You’ll update the design, add new content, fix and extend the navigation, create internal and high value external links, and you’ll do all this while following the best practices to avoid the wrath of Google from descending upon you.
The three reasons you waited until now to do the redesign include:
You need the content up quickly. That’s the priority every time, as long as the content itself is correct and not full of errors. Do spend some time to craft that, and also consider hiring a professional copywriter to create compelling content for you.
Google rewards you for updating your content, and the more regularly it’s updated, the better. The exception is if you update your content with duplicate content that was lifted from another site. That will have negative consequences.
You have plenty of time now to relax and do the job properly, crafting an incredibly good design with no pressure. You’ll get the best result and you can easily slide that clever background design and extra functionality in behind your existing content.
Publishing your website quickly is a great idea, and if you follow the advice above, you’ll get the best results while avoiding the common mistakes that lead to failure.
header image courtesy of Sean Farrell
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