by Devon Stone
We get many calls from contractors wondering how to get a website up and running.
It doesn't need to be expensive and it's not complicated. If you are own a construction-related business, and want to be in charge of your business identity while getting more leads, it's time to get started. A website will cost far less than purchasing leads from a lead generation company, and you'll get far better leads. (For more on lead-generating companies, read this blog post.)
First, an explanation of what you need.
You need a domain name. The domain name is your website address (ours is markupandprofit.com).
It's important that you own and control the domain name. If you paid someone else to purchase it, or if you're using a service that does everything for you (domain, hosting, website pages), there's a chance you don't own the domain name. If you already have a website and don't know if you own your domain name, visit whois.com and see who the registrant is. If it isn't you, someone else controls that domain name. If it's private and you didn't make it private, someone else controls that domain name.
- You need pages. A website is really just a collection of pages with your information, written in html language.
- You need a host. In simple terms, a host is a company who promises to put your pages on their computer and keep their computer running 24/7 so everyone else can see your pages whenever they want. Hosting can cost as little as $5/month. If you own your domain name, you can use any host you wish.
- You need to be found. Search engine optimization is a changing art, but there are basics to include in your website so when a potential client searches for your specialty in your town they find you.
You can find services that provide all of these - the domain name, the website pages, the hosting and SEO. These can be great services and often will get your website up and running sooner. They have three potential downsides.
- Sometimes you don't control the domain name, they do (even though you paid them the money to purchase it.) If you decide to move away from this service in the future, you might have to get another website name because you don't control the one you're using.
- When someone else creates your pages and they've created pages for 500 other contractors, you aren't going to look unique. This isn't necessarily bad - if your website looks similar to the website of a plumbing contractor in another state, that's not a problem.
- You'll spend a lot more money over time.
If you are looking for a lower cost alternative and want to maintain control over your website, the easiest and least expensive option we've seen is GoDaddy.com. They have a hosting package with a website builder that will help you get the domain name along with software to build a simple website for $4.49/month. If you don't want to use their website builder but want to create a more custom website, consider WordPress. It creates beautiful websites, but it does require more technical skill, especially to get started.
Here's what you need to do:
Purchase your domain name. If you expect to stay in business, purchase your domain name for longer than just one year. The cost per year is lower, and you'll look more stable when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. If you purchase from GoDaddy.com, 2 years is about $16. 5 years is about $40.
You don't need privacy protection. If someone can find your name and address on Whois, so what? It should be on your website, anyway. Privacy on a domain name isn't worth the extra expense. You also don't need email accounts - those should come from your host for free.
When you purchase your domain from GoDaddy, you can also choose hosting at the same time. If you're not sure, just get the domain name and nothing else - you can upgrade to hosting later. And you'll still get a great price on it if you upgrade later rather than buying now.
Find a host. Hosting can cost as little as $5/month. If you own your domain name (if you just bought it from GoDaddy or somewhere else, you own it), you can use any host you wish. Google "website hosts" and start shopping. When you are ready, they will help you transfer your domain name to their server and make your website live, and will provide email capability so you can use your domain name in your email address (i.e., Joe @ MyPlumbingBusiness . com). Our website is hosted by Lexiconn.com, and we've been very happy with them, but they are more expensive than some other hosts. The customer service is also top-notch and fast, even on weekends, so it's been worth the extra cost. GoDaddy has very inexpensive hosting if you want a lower cost alternative.
If you plan to use WordPress, make sure your host can install it and provide support, if needed, for free. Most can, but ask first.
Start those pages. This is the difficult part. This is also where you can spend the most money. Your pages need two things - they need to look good (design) and they need to be well-written (content).
Design. The look and layout of your page is called the theme. Website Builder (GoDaddy) offers 300 themes to choose from. WordPress has thousands of free themes, but you'll need to know how to upload them and manipulate them as needed.
You can also hire a website designer. It will cost between $1,500 and $5,000 to build a custom website. If it is important to you to have a website that doesn't look like any other, or if you have special needs in your website, you'll want a designer.
But for most construction-related businesses, having a custom design isn't worth the extra expense. Most construction-related businesses operate in a local area and are only interested in attracting local clients. So you can use a website template to build a website that will help you look professional and capable.
Content. If you aren't capable of writing decent content for your website, you'll have to hire a professional. You'll need to find someone who can clearly and succinctly tell your story. This will probably not be the same person who designs your website - it is a rare website designer who can also write content. Most designers have the ability to make the design beautiful but will expect you to provide the content.
Tess Wittler is a freelance copywriter we recommend who understands the construction industry.
Your website needs at least 3 pages - a home page that summarizes who you are and what you'll do, an "about us" page that helps a visitor know more about your company, and a "contact us" page that helps them reach you. (Basic contact info, especially a phone number, should in large print on every page.) Whatever you do, make sure your grammar, punctuation and spelling are correct. If you can add a photo gallery of jobs, that's even better.
- Work on your Search Engine Optimization. This is the tricky part. Our friend Brian Javeline of MyOnlineToolbox.com has been helping contractors with their SEO efforts. You can view the webinar we hosted with him here, (or just watch the parts that interest you here).
These are the basics. It's not magic, it's very doable and it's very affordable. In fact, it's cheaper than paying for leads from a lead-generating service. Can it be overwhelming? Yes. But you have to get started and that's up to you. Any questions, let us know.
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Crystal Robinson replied on 03/20/10:
This is a great article. I haven't been on your website in a little over a year and I've been missing out! There is some great information and some new materials which I plan to purchase.
Bruce replied on 04/05/11:
Nice Job. Well said.
Joanne Costin replied on 05/19/11:
As a content writer and B-2-B journalist I appreciate you recommending hiring a professional. A person outside your company can look at your business with a fresh eye and I think that is invaluable. Business owners are often so close to the business that they assume far too much. As part of my process in developing website copy, l will interview two or three customers to get feedback on what is important to the buyer, and often come back with a testimonial as well.
The Builders SW replied on 05/17/12:
What a useful and informative piece of work. Every roofer in South Devon, where were have our building business, should read this post before embarking on a website based marketing campaign. The links to external building resources and marketing and search engine optimizations resources are equally useful. Thanks