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Put the Right Foot Forward When You Step Online

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Most new business owners know the importance of establishing an internet presence. Indeed some become so eager to launch a site that they dive too fast and too deep into its development, resulting in costly problems down the line.


Before embarking on your company's launch on the web, familiarize yourself with some of key decision areas you'll face and be aware of common pitfalls so you can avoid falling them.

1. Tap a web expert and avoid doing it all yourself. Entrepreneurs are often forward-thinking, take-charge types who assume many responsibilities. At times, though, it’s wiser to leave some tasks in the hands of others, and building a website is one best left to the professionals. Hiring a website designer to undertake a site's development is a smart choice.

Discuss the overall plan with the web professional, including the site's look, offerings and special features, and then let him or her do the heavy lifting. Keep abreast of the efforts, of course, but avoid micromanaging, especially by trying to impose yourself into the process to cut costs.

Related:  3 Strategies to Keep Your Website Relevant to Google

2. Your website designer should be cognizant  of SEO. A showy, media-rich website may grab the attention of users but might not grab Google’s. If Google can’t find your site, all the effort that went into developing it went to waste. Google must be able to crawl a website to index it (so it will appear in Google search results). If, for example, your site is built entirely in Flash, Google will be able to index the text content -- but nothing else. Some search engines do not have the capability to index Flash sites at all.

When hiring your website designer, ask a few questions such as these:

1. What kind of search engine optimization (SEO) do you employ?

2. How will the website’s traffic results be monitored?

3. How do you effectively avoid a Google penalty?

The designer should aware of basic SEO principles and Google's guidelines for best practices to ensure that your site can do its job (drawing a wide audience) and avoid problems.

Related: Why Your Ecommerce Site Is Losing Money (Infographic)

3. Choose a website platform that's suited to your needs. There are dozens of platforms that can be used to build a site, each with advantages and disadvantages --  and different price points. Understanding the differences between them is important.

A slew of shopping cart solutions are available for business owners seeking to create a successful online store. Magento is growing in popularity and has been adopted by firms like language-learning software company Rosetta Stone. Volusion has been around since 1999, making it one of the first ecommerce platforms. Shopify is among the simplest to get running; BigCommerce is fairly popular but expensive.

Platforms like Drupal, Joomla and WordPress are powerful enough to support a business site that will publish lots of content. Drupal and Joomla can be a little more complex than WordPress, but they are all worthy contenders and have their benefits.

Have a basic understanding of what you are looking for in a platform when you speak with your website designer. If he or she isn’t familiar with the platform you favor, make sure that person is a fast enough learner or discuss other options. A knowledgeable web designer might be able to help you with the decision.

4. Use social media wisely. Having your business involved with a variety of social media platforms will boost its visibility for sure, but pay attention to the ones you select. For example many business owners eager to get on Facebook have created profile pages intended for individuals rather than business pages.

Hire a social media company or an experienced in-house social media manager (or team) to create your company's profiles. Regularly updating them on several of these sites -- such as on Google +, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr -- is a whole job in itself and ideally should be handled by a social-media savvy manager.  

Related: Web Design 101: How Typography Affects Conversions

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