7 Benefits of Having a Web Site

Don't know why you need a web site? Read these seven web site advantages and see for yourself why web sites are important to small businesses.

1. Plenty of space
It can be hard to choose what to say in your limited-space print ads. One benefit of having a web site is that you have enough space to market all your services, announce events, display product photos, show maps and directions, list staff education and credentials, post client testimonials and industry awards—anything you feel will help potential customers make an informed decision.

2. Available 24/7
Another web site advantage is that it's available even when your business is closed or no one is available to answer your phone. You can encourage callers who've missed you to visit your web site for more information while they wait for your return call.

3. Easy to update
Printed material, while still very necessary, can be expensive and troublesome to keep updated. With a web site you can easily let the public know of changes to your hours of operation, product or service offerings, business address or phone number, staff, etc.

4. Adds credibility
One of the best benefits of a having a web site:  a well-thought-out, professionally designed web site can add credibility to your small business—no matter how young or small your business is. A web site can also convey a sense of stability—especially important if your small business operates without a storefront; potential customers will feel reassured that they could contact you if they lost your information.

5. Great word-of-mouth marketing
Another great reason for a web site (that is often overlooked!) is that's it's easy for someone to share your web site address with a friend in an email, a phone conversation or a meeting where none of your brochures or business cards are available.

6. Adds value
Your web site can become a valuable resource to potential and current customers. Post information on how to care for products you sell, referrals to related services, interesting facts, how-to's, tips, trends, mistakes to avoid or a glossary of industry terms.

7. Stay ahead of or keep up with competition
People use the internet to research everything from furniture to limousine service to preschools. If your competitor has a web site listed in their print ad and you don't, those online savvy people may check out your competitor's offerings first. That's especially true if you advertise in online "Yellow-Page"-style directories and don't have a web site. Hello! Your target customer is already online! If your competitor is just a click away, who do you think will get the first opportunity to serve that customer?

Why I Loathe Network Solutions and You Should Too

I've always considered myself good at separating the "real" from the "scam" when it comes to the web. I don't succumb to the lure of pop-ups, pop-unders, phony domain renewal notices, free vacations from "Dizney" nor the hundreds of companies in India and China that "really like my site" and want to be partners.

Punked By A Major Corporation?

But earlier this year I got swindled by the domain registrar giant Network Solutions. Here's how:

One of my clients began developing content for a new site. About a week into the project, I was curious as to whether she'd registered her domain name yet. I went to the Network Solutions website and looked it up — no, she hadn't, it was still available. I told her, "Hey, go register your domain name before someone takes it."

Missed It By A Day?

The next day, my client is distraught and her business partner is angry with her. Seems she went to Go Daddy to register the name only to find someone had bought it just the day before! In tears and kicking herself for missing it by one day, she went ahead and registered a slew of second-choice names.

Hmmm. I go to Go Daddy and check it out. Sure enough the name is gone. To double-check, I go to iChristianHost.com — gone. To triple-check, I go to Network Solutions — what's this? — AVAILABLE!!

I'm not sure why Network Solutions has special access to this domain name but, not wanting to waste another minute, I quickly buy it for my client — never mind that it costs over 3 times as much as the other domain registrars. I inform my client that I got the name for her. She is overjoyed.

Afterglow or Afterburn?

Hmmm. But now I'm curious. What just happened here? It took me only one web search on "Network Solutions domain names" to find several articles/posts — like this one and this one — of their recent practice of snatching domain names. Seems that when I looked up my client's domain name on Network Solution's site, they locked it down for 4 days preventing its purchase from any other registrar except them! They did this completely without my knowledge or permission! In effect, they "bought" the domain name on the sly (a who-is lookup on the domain name would have shown it as owned by Network Solutions for one year).

When confronted by these accusations of front-running, Network Solutions claimed it was perfectly legal and was a "service" to their customers to prevent them from missing out on their chosen domain name.

Wait, I have a shovel, here's their exact quote:

This protection measure provides our customers the opportunity to register domains they have previously searched without the fear that the name will be already taken through Front Running.

For My Own Good?

Legal via some technical loophole, maybe. But a service to their customers? Which overpaid corporate schmuck came up with that drivel? A worthy service provided on the down-low, unadvertised? And does simply using their free look-up service make me a customer of Network Solutions that needs their protection?

I thought I'd done my client a favor by obtaining her chosen domain name. In actuality, it was my innocent search on Network Solutions that made it unavailable to her in the first place, invoking the anger of her business partner and causing her to lose money by buying several second-choice names and then paying 3 times as much for her chosen name.

Free Crafty Pixel!

What could I do to voice my outrage? Seems a class-action lawsuit was already being done. Seems there were plenty of articles and blog posts about it already. Most of the domain names I own were thankfully not with Network Solutions. But my mainstay "craftypixel.com" was — for almost 10 years. So, of course, I transferred it. When the customer service rep asked why I was leaving, I gave him an earful and he gave me back an earful of the same corporate BS.

So, one irony is that I really was a Network Solutions customer — a long-time customer — to whom they did a huge disservice. They breached my trust to make a few extra bucks and I'm still hot about it. Don't they make enough charging 3 1/2 times the going rate for domain names? From what I can tell, they're no longer doing what I've described in this post. But what else are they cooking up to take its place?

So while all this may be old news to some — this Network Solutions deception broke almost a year ago — I find it even more relevant with all the recent news of corporate misbehavior. I loathe all companies that think tricking people is a great way to do business and a legitimate corporate strategy. So, I demand (hee-hee) the firing of all Network Solutions execs involved in perpetrating that domain snatching nonsense! And how about a refund of my client's fees! And throw in a free Disney vacation!

What You Need to Know About Your Own Website

Make sure you're well-informed about EVERYTHING related to the creation and maintenance of your website. That way, you'll be prepared if you need to modify your website and your web designer seems to have dropped off the face of the earth. With the right information, you or another web designer will be able to pick up where your old designer left off.

Immediately following completion of your website, be sure to request:

  1. Copies of all website graphics including LAYERED (that’s important!) graphics files (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) and any stock photos the designer purchased on your behalf.
  2. All access information (username, password, website, phone number, etc.) for your:

    • domain name registrar

    • hosting company

    • email

    • stats

    • shopping cart

    • any special applications needed to maintain elements of your site (like your menu or search application).

When your business needs to make an urgent change to the website, you will NOT want to be wasting days, weeks or months trying to track down the above information from a web designer who might be Missing in Action. And when you do get the information, remember to keep it in a safe place!

Web Design Contracts

I’ve heard enough web designer horror stories to emphatically tell you to ALWAYS sign a web design contract. Verbal agreements are for sucker wanna-bes, whether you're the client or designer.

What Should Be In Your Web Design Contract

I’m not a lawyer, so do NOT take this as legal advice. But, based on my professional experience, a good web design contract should at least specify:

  • Estimated project cost (in terms of hours or dollars)
  • Payment terms
  • Estimated project completion date (or something related to timely progress towards project completion)
  • Cancellation policy
  • Who owns the completed design and related graphics (logo, stock photos, etc)
  • Who owns the domain name (make sure it's YOU, not the designer!)
  • Non-disclosure terms (so your competitor down the block doesn’t see the final site before you do!)

Even if the web designer or client is a close friend or relative, you'd be wise to have a signed web design contract. That way everyone is starting on the same page -- literally!

Say Buh-Bye to Boring Email Addresses

One of the great things about owning the domain name for your small business website is that you have the freedom to create any email address you want.

Tired of boring, old "info" or "sales" or "customerservice" or "joesmith" @yourcompany.com? Come up with something creative and memorable that also delivers a marketing message:

  • fastsales@joesrealestate.com
  • getanswers@janeslegal.com
  • lookgreat@janesbeauty.com
  • luxuryrides@joeslimo.com

Didn't get the domain name you were coveting? Make up for it with your business email address. Let's say you own a restaurant and want the domain name "greatfood.com". Well, you can try to battle 1-800-Flowers for it, but you'd do better to find a domain name that is available—hopefully one with more brand appeal than "greatfood.com"—and then create the email address greatfood@yourrestaurant.com.

I know what you're thinking: your email address won't get as much exposure as your website address. Maybe not, but your business email address does get a LOT of exposure. And it should be displayed almost everywhere your website address and business phone number are displayed.

Obsessive Optimization Disorder

How the Disorder Begins

For me, it began the first time I actually did something that influenced my search engine ranking. Adjusted a title here, rearranged some body text there and voila, I moved from relative obscurity to a #1 ranking. Oh, the power!


How the Disorder Takes Over

Well, that #1 ranking is for a phrase that doesn't get searched on often: "Corona small business web site design". For the more competitive "Corona web site design" I'm not #1 but still on page 1. But for the even more competitive "Riverside web site design", I'm not so high at all. Try #56 on Yahoo, below an assisted living retirement community web site and a fly fishing motel web site. And Google doesn't even know I'm alive. (actually they do, they just don't care yet). So, I then became obsessed with getting the engines to notice me in all the ways I wanted to be noticed. After all, I wielded power once, right? And with that innocent question, I was sucked under.


Symptoms of Obsessive Optimization Disorder

  • checking your web site rankings several times a day
  • checking your link popularity several times a day
  • checking your web site stats several times a day (especially if they're only updated once a day)
  • wasting good money on a Google AdWords campaign when your site isn't ready for it
  • checking your AdWords campaign traffic several times a day
  • spending waaayyy too much time in Search Engine Optimization forums
  • changing your company name or URL to one that's full of keywords
  • believing search engines are conspiring against you
  • spending a portion of every day trying to get someone, anyone, to link to you

The Cure
Content Diversion. For 1 month, every time the urge hits to indulge in one of the above symptoms, stop and channel that energy into creating a new piece of useful content for your site or updating some old content. After 1 month: Stop. Analyze. Optimize. Repeat Content Diversion. After 6-12 months, you should have decent rankings and a site that will actually turn those search engine referrals into loyal paying customers.

Paralyzed by Feature-itis?

I've seen feature-itis strike, and sometimes paralyze, quite a few web site owners.



  • you hear about a new web site feature and you must investigate it before moving any further with your web site
  • whenever you see a feature on a competitor's web site you feel you must have it on yours too
  • you spend more time investigating new things to do with your web site than you actually spend doing anything with your web site
  • you often waste time or money on web site features that get little use
  • you'd rather endlessly tweak a feature to get more use out of it than just abandon it

The Cure
I don't know if there is a cure--I think certain personality types are just prone to it. But, rejoice! Symptoms can be relieved by realizing:

  • Feature-itis is usually just rank procrastination dressed up in business attire
  • Web site features alone will not increase your sales. You'll need good content, good people and good practices on the other side of those features--things you won't have time to develop if you're off to the next feature.
  • Your competitor's site may look snazzy to you but you don't really know how well its perfoming compared to what they've put into it.

If you don't get hit with feature-itis, be on the lookout for related diseases: design-itis and Obsessive Optimization Disorder. I'll discuss those in upcoming posts.