Get Your Business Online Easily

Microsoft and domain registrar Godaddy recently teamed up to offer small businesses a service called Get Online Today, that helps you establish a Web presence “in just a few minutes.” The cost is just $1 per month. Check out this offering, and some other ways to draw online eyeballs to your business, for free or on the cheap…

Get Your Dot-com Online Today!

It took me more than “just a few minutes” to figure out exactly what’s being offered with the Get Online Today package. Godaddy is particularly good at obscuring facts with buzzwords. The “upsell” is also a Godaddy specialty. In a nutshell, you a custom domain name, tools to set up a Web site with email, contact manager, and calendar services “powered by Office 365.” All of that costs just $1.00 per month for the first year, and $11.99/month thereafter.
Let’s start with the domain name registration included with this bundle. It does not include “domain privacy,” which is absolutely critical if you want to avoid spammers. Without domain privacy service, your personal name, phone number, and email address are available to anyone who wants to look up your domain name using whois. Domain privacy service is a $7.99/year add-on per domain.
business website builder
The “email starter package” is one email address at a custom domain name. The only “power” supplied by Office 365 seems to be a calendar and online contact manager; you don’t get online versions of Word, Excel, etc. Normally, this minimal email address option costs $3.99 per user per month.
The Web site builder is Godaddy’s Personal plan. It includes a scant 1 GB of server storage space; your choice of 50 themes; and 150 GB of bandwidth (bytes in and out) per month. It does not include an ecommerce platform or payment processing services. Bottom line, it’s a personal Web page builder that will support a basic online business.
What you get with Get Online Today is a good deal at $12/year plus $8 for that essential domain privacy service. But I would not pay $152 for a second year of it. I guarantee that Godaddy plans to spend the first year selling upgrades to you every time you log on to your Godaddy control panel to upload a Web page.

Other Options: Free and Cheap

If the Microsoft/GoDaddy offers doesn’t seem right for you, see other hosting and website builder options in my article Web Hosting for Small Business.

The “new” offer from Godaddy and Microsoft (mainly Godaddy) is nothing new; every domain registrar on Earth offers similar starter Web pages and storage space, a “simple” Web page builder, and domain service, often for a tempting introductory price that goes way up after the first year. If you really want to go deeply into e-commerce, such packages are a good, inexpensive way to learn the ropes of doing so. But you may not have to.
About half of U.S. small businesses – some 24 million, mostly sole proprietorships – do not have any Web site. The thought of all those domains going unsold pains Godaddy executives. But it may be that half of small businesses just don’t need a Web site to call their own. It’s important to be findable on the Web because the Web is where people look for businesses these days. But nobody gets a haircut on the Web. Nobody drinks a cup of coffee on the Web. You don’t have to do business on the Web, necessarily. But you must be findable on the Web.
Google Plus for Business is a powerful way to get a Web presence for your business that is effective and free. It works with Google Search and Maps, arguably the most popular means of finding “what’s near me” among consumers. It includes consumer reviews and ratings, too, but Google keeps hands off of them. If the Google Street View cam-car has snapped a photo of your storefront, that will appear in your free listing, too. In addition to location and phone number, your listing can include hours of operation or “by appointment only.”
FourSquare is a mobile-only service that tries to pinpoint “the perfect place” for each of its users. Its Android or iOS app uses the user’s current location, travel patterns, locations of businesses, and recommendations of the user’s acquaintances as well as the user-specified search criteria. You can sign up to create or manage list business listing on FourSquare. From there, you can add photos, publish your business address, phone number, hours of operation, menu (if applicable) and links to social media sites. FourSquare Analytics give you insight into your listing’s visitors.
In the good old days, a listing in the Yellow Pages was all you needed. The thick yellow doorstops full of tiny print are in the recyclables bin now, but the Yellow Pages brand survives on the Web. You can still get a free listing or spend as much as you did on the dead-tree version of the Yellow Pages, too.
You’ve probably heard of Yelp from fellow businesspeople, a name often prefaced by a colorful adjective. It’s likely that your basic business listing – name, address, phone number – is already in Yelp; the company compiles its listings from publicly available sources including the Yellow Pages and list brokers. If you haven’t checked your Yelp listing, you really should.
Yelp touts itself as a “reviews” site, inviting consumers to rate and describe their experiences with businesses. Yelp is very popular with people seeking not only to find a certain type of business in a certain location, but also to get others’ opinions of each result. A bad Yelp rating or several negative comments at the top of your listing’s page can dramatically impact your bottom line.
Yelp’s salespeople may call you offering an “upgrade” of your listing that costs money. Many businesses have accused Yelp of demoting or deleting positive reviews and promoting negative reviews after they declined to spend money on Yelp “upgrades.” The issue has gone to court in several jurisdictions. In the most recent case, a federal appeals court said Yelp has every right to manipulate listings and reviews because it owns them!
So, you do not have to spend lots of money to be found on the Web, nor do you have to learn HTML, Web analytics, and other technical skills that may not be of much use if all you want is to let people know where to find you.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below…

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