What does it mean for a business to go online?
Perhaps the first thing people think of when planning to go online is the look and feel of the website. However getting a business online is more than just designing the website. The website is only a small portion of the whole process.
Here are five important things you will need to consider when estimating the actual cost of getting your business online:
1. Domain Name
Domain name is actually the first thing you should worry about, as the domain name represents your company’s online identity. Some businesses use their own company name for the domain name such as closelycoded.com or facebook.com, while some others use the name of their business field or some common terms used in their businesses, such as webdesign.com or namecardprint.com. Both approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Using your company name for your domain name is good for your company branding. People will straight away know it is your company name. Also, provided your company name is a unique term, there is a high possibility your domain name is still available for you to purchase.
On the other hand, domain name using business common terms has less branding for your company name and are more difficult to get, but it provides additional advantage for SEO as keywords in a domain name is one of the many considerations for search engines to determine their page ranking.
Another question people might ask while choosing their domain name is: which domain suffix to use. You may be aware that some businesses use .com, while some others use .com.sg, .sg, .net, .biz, .org, or other suffixes.
.com is an international standard and the most popular domain suffix worldwide, while .com.sg and .sg are Singapore-specific domain which can only be purchased by Singapore registered companies. Other suffixes (.net, .biz, .org, etc) are also used worldwide, but some are normally used for specific purposes only. For example .org is commonly used by non-profit organizations.
Price-wise, worldwide domain suffixes (.com, .net, .biz, etc) are the cheapest which costs only about S$15 yearly, while .com.sg and .sg may cost around S$80 yearly (estimate was made on 14 December 2012). For most businesses, .com might seem to be the perfect option, but the major difficulty in using .com domain is that if your intended domain name is a popular phrase, some other people may have already gotten hold of it before you. In these cases, it would be cheaper to find another domain name for your business.
2. Email Address
Email here means your corporate email, and not your personal gmail or yahoo email. You may already have your personal email account e.g. email@example.com, but in business it is a professional practice to use a corporate email with your company name on the domain part, e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org. To use such email, first you will need to obtain the domain name (see step 1). The email account can only be created if you are the owner of the domain.
There are many of different providers which offer email service. Our professional recommendation is to go with Google Apps for Business Email Service. For startup and SME, Google Apps provides a good deal for email service, which is USD 5 per email address per month. All your emails will be stored in Google servers which are reputable for their very high uptime. Moreover you can access your corporate email the same way you normally use your Gmail, and you get access to other Google services as well including Google Talk, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and others.
Once you are ready with the previous two items, now it is the time to think about how your your website should present your business.
When you hire a web designer to build your website, it normally involves an one-time fee for design and development.
Your web designer will help you by coming up with a design that is suitable for your business and branding. Note that beyond the design, you will also need to think about the contents of your website. For example if you are in F&B business, you may need to provide photos of your food and drinks, which may require professional photographer service if you want your pictures to look appealing. And if you are looking for a well-written website, you may want to find a copywriter to help you have your way with words.
Keep in mind that your website will be like your company’s online representative. And you wouldn’t want your company representative to look messy or tardy.
(Read more about our web development process)
4. Hosting and Maintenance
Once your website is ready, you will need to place the website in a server to be accessible worldwide. To rent a server for your website, you will need to engage a hosting service. There are a lot of different hosting plans you can choose for your hosting service, from shared hosting to dedicated server. Before you choose, it is best to ask your web designer which hosting service you should subscribe to, as some websites may need certain system requirements which not all hosting packages offer.
Be also aware who will be responsible in case any problems happen in your website, or when security problems arise (e.g. being hacked), and make it clear if there is any maintenance service included in your package.
5. Online Marketing and SEO
Setting up a website is just a beginning of getting your business online. The next challenge is how you can make use of your website to grow your business. To do that, you will need to attract more people to visit your website. Depending on your marketing strategy, you may want to try to advertise your website online through Google Adwords.
One term that is widely popular in online marketing is SEO. SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization is one of the methods to improve your website traffic. Imagine if your website is listed as one of the top of these search engine listings for the keyword related to your business, you will be getting more enquiries from your potential clients, and possibly gain more sales.
So those are some of the basic elements you may need to consider when calculating the cost of getting your business online. Here is the summary in the order of importance:
- Domain Name
- Email Address
- Hosting and Maintenance
- Online Marketing and SEO
Are you planning to get your business online? Allow us to help you.
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