Local business owners learn the basics of building and managing a website

This post by Chuck McCumber

Posted in Advertising, E-Commerce, Education, Marketing, NSBDC Services, Technology, Tools

It’s a sign of the times when, as counselors at the Nevada Small Business Development Center, we either remind our clients of the importance of a strong online presence or are approached as to how to tackle this challenge. While businesses seem to understand the need for a website and social media profiles, they don’t often have the in-house knowledge to build or use them effectively. Thankfully the tools currently available make building and managing a website much easier than it’s been in years past, but there’s still a knowledge gap to overcome.

With the rise of social media as a viable communication and advertising tool, companies have changed their marketing campaigns to include (and sometimes rely upon) social media and interactive blog websites. This paradigm shift in advertising and communication takes advantage of nearly free advertising tools and, perhaps more importantly, does well to satisfy the two biggest “recommenders” out there – Google and your friends.

We survive on recommendations

We trust Google to recommend the right websites. We tell them what we’re looking for and (after a few milliseconds of complicated algorithms) they serve up what they think we’ll like, and they do a good job. Remember they’re a business too, and if they didn’t do it well we’d all have switched to another search engine. Thus it’s important that we make Google happy with the information on our websites so that Google will choose to present our site to a searcher when related search terms are used.

Making Google happy is simple, but it takes work. Because Google knows that what people want is valuable information, your site better have that. There are techniques to do this, but providing consistent value is the essence of “organic” search engine optimization (rather than artificially increasing your search result rank by playing with keywords and meta tags).

Apart from Google, we trust our peers (especially our friends but even people we don’t know) to give us personal insight into the value of a product based on their thoughts and experiences. In fact, we trust peer reviews much more than traditional advertising. Social media allows for this desired exchange of information by providing everyone who signs up with the ability to connect, chat, comment and recommend.

Theory in practice

So while all the tools are there, the understanding required to use and run a website and social media profiles comes with practice. We felt like while we could continue just talking to our clients about how to use a program, we didn’t get traction if they weren’t physically doing it themselves.

So we developed a Digital Marketing Workshop to teach the basics and give people hands-on experience. The class is two hours per week for four weeks, and we walk our students through the entire process of purchasing a domain name, hosting, and building a WordPress driven blog-capable website. We show them how to integrate their social media profiles to drive traffic to their sites, and then how to satisfy visitors once they get there.

It has worked really well (we’ve taught four series over the last year), and many of our students are actively using their websites and social media profiles for their businesses. And while you can’t expect to be an expert after eight hours of class time, you can understand the basics and run your own site to achieve significant improvement in consumer awareness and communication. Additionally, we’ve given our students insight into the web-building process so that if they choose to deal with web designers they can have a better chance to not only get the website they want (with the features and style they prefer) but save money as well.

Here’s the link to the workshop.

If you have any questions, feel free to call the NSBDC (784-1717) and ask for Ben or Chuck.

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