Online lead generation is a lot like the produce department at your local grocery store: we all check fruit and veggies for slight bruising and color, but normally these factors don’t relate to the quality of the fruit. As a result, farmers compost millions of pounds of perfectly good food every year just because it’s unattractive. We’ve heard the phrase don’t judge a book by it’s cover since childhood, but we don’t have the time to read every book either. Luckily, you don’t need to read a book to learn whats important about generating leads online. You just need to read this blog.
*Yes, I’m aware that this post contains only 2 steps, but the other 3 will be coming in follow-up posts, I promise!
1. Own Your Web Property
The problem: It sounds pretty basic, but creative companies and digital agencies often host websites that they build for you. Since they host your website on their servers, the website is technically their property and you don’t have full control. Even worse, if they bought your domain name, you risk losing your web page’s address if you decide to switch services.
The solution: Most importantly, buy a domain name, do it yourself and don’t allow anyone else to purchase it on your behalf. Super Bowl commercials and ill-advised hijinks have made GoDaddy.com famous, but I’d rather take my $10/year to a firm that doesn’t make me cringe every time I see them mentioned in the news. I buy/manage my domains at NameCheap.com and there are a myriad of other good providers in this market. And, despite my personal preferences, we won’t judge you if you buy your domains at GoDaddy But while it’s OK to keep your domains at GoDaddy, I promise you, you’ll be sorry if you use GoDaddy to host your site. Their online management tools are terrible and their customer support is the worst in the business.
Rule of thumb? Don’t buy hosting from any company whose primary business is domain registration. You can (and many people prefer to) keep their domains with one provider and their hosting with another, but you might also consider deals like the one at HostGator.com. HostGator will allow you to buy a domain name WITH your web hosting in one easy package and for a very low rate.
What about the designer who wants to do everything for you? Obviously hiring the designer/agency to build your site is a best practice. But insist on using your own hosting/domain registration services.
2. Use WordPress
There is the front-end of a website, the nicely designed part that visitors see when they come to your page and there is the back-end where you login to edit and update a website. Combined, these are called a content management system (CMS). The front-end designs are built on top of the underlying back-end. No website in 2012 should be built without a CMS, but because it can be difficult or impossible to transfer a site design from one CMS to another, you need to choose your CMS wisely.
The problem: There are two basic categories of CMS: closed-source and open-source. Closed-source CMS’s are either sold on a licensing model like desktop software or they are proprietary platforms that are created by the companies who design your website. For specialized solutions and enterprise needs, these custom platforms are sometimes a necessity, but for the majority of small businesses who just need a simple website, they are an enormous burden. Like buying a customized car, you can’t just take your site into any mechanic or developer in this case. With custom CMS’s, you are forced into an ongoing service model with your agency and it’s difficult to leave that relationship without having to rebuild everything from scratch.
The solution: The best-adopted and most widely recommended open-source CMS is WordPress. Sites built on WordPress can be redesigned, upgraded, and maintained by any of a myriad of digital agencies that use it. It’s the most popular CMS platform in the United States and for good reason: WordPress performs well in search engines, it’s easy to install, and easy to use.
Next week we’re going to cover basics of design and maintenance and in the following post, marketing. Stay tuned!