ResearchAccording to Internet World Stats, over 78% of Americans are online. About 110 million of those use the internet daily. If you want to reach this massive segment of the population your firm must have a presence online.

A website is an organization’s flagship marketing channel. It introduces your brand to the world and delivers your message. When potential clients search the web for your services or need more information about your firm, the website is the place they visit. An effective website gives your firm credibility and compels the visitor to become a client.

Before you plunge into creating a website, list the goals you want your website to accomplish. Who do you want to reach? What actions do you want them to take? Think about your potential client’s problems and how to communicate your expertise in solving them.

Once your website’s goals are established, decide how your website fits into your overall marketing plan. Offline and online messages should carry consistent tone and look. For more information, see our article on branding.

When you are ready to build your website, you can hire web designer or do it yourself. When you create a DIY website, there are three basic choices: (1) Your domain name (2) your website host and (3) your content management system (CMS).

Your domain name is the address that a user will type into their browser when accessing your site from offline marketing collateral such as business cards or print ads. It is best to keep it memorable, descriptive and as short as possible. Because most users will use .com as the suffix, it is recommended that you choose it for your domain. GoDaddy is the most popular domain vendor. Many web hosts offer free domain names for your first year or longer, so before you purchase your domain, check for this option.

A website host is where your website will be housed. The least expensive option is shared hosting, and is sufficient for almost any firm. Bluehost, 1&1 and HostGator are among the many choices. GoDaddy also hosts websites. Choose one with good customer service. They will guide you through the process.

With a CMS it is easy to create and manage an effective website. There are two basic types of CMS: Proprietary and Open Source. A Proprietary CMS is tied to the host. Wix is one example of a host with an easy-to-use proprietary CMS. The hosts listed above all feature their proprietary CMS that provide tools to easily publish your website, but if you decide to change web hosts, you can not transfer your website to the new host. You would have to start all over again. If this does not appeal to you, use an open-source CMS.

The simplest and most popular open-source CMS is WordPress. You may think of it as a blog platform (that is WordPress.com). WordPress (WordPress.org) is a powerful and user-friendly tool that makes it possible to build your website – even if you have no coding skills. Mashable has an article on the basics of using WordPress to build your website. Other open-source CMS options are Drupal and Joomla! All are free of charge to download and use to publish your website. Another advantage is transferability. If you ever want to move your website to another host server, you can take it with you.

In future posts on websites, we will expand on topics in this article. If you want to see more on any of the basics here, please let us know by commenting below.