The owner of a small business website should look for ways of growing it that are free, quick and simple.
The Internet is loaded with experts who talk about big ways of making money online, but they often leave out the cost and effort required to get there.
The Internet also is loaded with services for sale that are beyond the reach of a small business.
Even worse, some businesses end up paying thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars on something they could have bought for hundreds of dollars instead. That statement is not an exaggeration. I have talked to the owners of many such companies.
In some cases, certain products and services are even available for free.
Time and money are two of the most precious resources available to a small business owner. Each one must be used carefully to maintain the business if not grow it.
Priority One: Free
The most basic requirements for a website are the server and software that display it.
Any business can set up a site for free on WordPress.com, Tumblr.com, Blogger.com, Wix.com and other free site companies.
All of them provide basic site building tools that are somewhat easy to use.
What is the catch? In some cases, such as WordPress.com, the hosting company may place display ads on the bottom of the page. Others try to upsell the business into related services such as a unique domain name.
The sites available from these companies also may suffer from limited flexibility.
A business owner who wants more flexibility, independence and a site with a unique domain name will have to pay just $8 to $10 a month for a quality hosting service plus about $10 to $15 a year for that unique site name.
But free services are still available. The domain hosting companies such as GoDaddy and others usually provide site software such as WordPress for free. WordPress comes with hundreds of free design templates that can be implemented with just a few clicks of a button.
The site can use free audience tracking tools such as Google Analytics. It can use free search engine optimization tools from Bing and Google.
Tools such as OpenOffice and Gimp are free to use for creating articles and developing digital graphics and photos that go on the site.
Marketing the site for free comes in the form of social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and others.
Some of the largest providers of email newsletters — MailChimp is one of them — have free introductory levels of their services.
Priority Two: Quick
Time is precious, so moving quickly is an important priority with maintaining a small business website.
Arguably, the amount of time that goes into a website is less important than being consistent about the time that goes into it.
Search engines respond to regular updates. A small business might start by spending 30 minutes a week on developing and promoting a site.
The first 20-25 minutes can be as simple as posting several paragraphs about a topic related to the business. For example, a law firm might post advice on dealing with court proceedings for divorce or driving under the influence. In future weeks, that law firm could either post new topics or add content to existing ones.
The next 5-10 minutes should be dedicated to posting links to those articles on the social media accounts. Five minutes doesn’t sound like much time. But logging into Facebook and simply pasting a paragraph from a site topic shouldn’t take even that much time.
Such a small amount of effort won’t produce big immediate results. But the growing of content and social postings over a period of months or years will eventually attract more and more attention.
Being consistent has another advantage related to getting things done quickly. Work that is done habitually is work that is done efficiently.
Priority Three: Simple
It is far better to do five things well than 50 things badly.
The law firm example above could easily publish articles on hundreds of topics related to the law. Those articles would join the millions of similar articles already online.
Instead, the firm might pick one narrow topic and be great at communicating about it. The in-depth volume of material will convince site visitors that it is an authority on the subject.
It may even convince the search engines that it is an authority on the subject and rank the firm higher in search results.
Likewise, the firm can test various social media accounts for their effectiveness and narrow the weekly postings to the one or two of them that get the best responses.
A small business that keeps its Website efforts free, quick and simple will develop the skills and knowledge necessary to grow profitably and confidently in a digital world.
Then and only then can that business start spending time and money online in the right ways to grow even more.