Cheap Websites that Work for Testing a Potential New Small Business

Free websites
Google + Homestead provides free 3 page websites
Recently, a client asked me how she should go about testing the market for a new business she was considering. She wanted to create a website, but not invest much money. Cheap websites like Wix, Webly and web.com have hidden costs. Since the cheapest I can do a search-engine-optimized, visitor-conversion-focused website for is $1,895, (a.k.a. “real money”), I gave her the following steps for her new low-cost adventure.
  1.  Start with the joint venture by Google and Intuit’s Homestead arm of a free 3-page website: Get Your Business Online. The only problem is that 3 pages gives you only a home page, a product page and maybe an about page—not great for search engine optimization purposes. You certainly can’t blog. Intuit’s Homestead hopes to hook you in with the 3 page site and then sell you a bigger site with blog capability for $20 per month. Google is hoping you’ll eventually buy ads through Adwords and pay-per-click. Still not bad, especially if you are just doing this as a little side business.
  2. To make it look professional, pick a template that allows for a banner. To find one, call the support line. You have 30 days free use of support when you sign up with www.gybo.com.
  3.  Rather than just putting your business name up as directed by Homesetead, try doing a banner with Right Banners. (A banner is the top of the website page that usually stays static on most pages.  Check out this page of website header/banner examples.) BUT these examples are more artsy than practical. Make sure to get your phone number in the banner. You may also want to consider going to Fiverr to see if someone will make a banner for $5. It’s a site where designers display their services, again hoping to hook you in. For a “five-r” they’ll give you a sample.Give either Right Banners or the Fiverr designer the name of your business.  Give them a photo of you, whatever images you want, colors you prefer, your logo (possibly get a logo at Fiverr, too), the contact phone number and some examples of other websites that you like. If you look at Informed Web Content, you will see these elements. Rightbanners.com will put a banner together for you for whatever size you need.
  4. Which reminds me . . . hang on and back up. You’ll need to give the banner “measurements” to the people at RightBanners. You get those measurements from the template you choose at Homestead/Google. Again you can call customer support to
  5. Choose a template that has space for social media icons. The online support at Homestead should be able to walk you through it. If the templating process is too much of an ordeal, I can quote doing it.
  6. You can then set up pages on FB, G+ and Twitter and mircoblog before you start blogging on your site. Take a look at how my client Francesca at www.healthfullivingsd.com does it. Social needs lots of photos, but don’t forget to add your site pages in link form to get a backlink.
  7. It’s at this stage that you may need me to come up with your best keywords, page titles, headlines, meta-descriptions, etc. That’s the SEO part. If you can get a draft of what you want to say on each page, I can revise it pretty inexpensively. For now, too, consider putting up a Facebook page with this little side business. If you already have one for your current business, you can still add another..

If you don’t want to go this inexpensive way, my designer and I can make a simple site for $1895. Then you get all the pages you want and lots of other features, too. For an experimental business though, Homestead/Google thing may be the way to go.

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