If you want to be taken seriously, particularly in the online arena, your website must have a professional look and feel. A professional-looking website will lend you credibility and legitimacy, and it will make your visitor feel more confident in you, your products and your services.
Whether or not you have a designer or you go the DIY route, you want to make sure that you add the following to make your website reflect the professionalism of your business.
1. Have a dedicated domain for your website and your email.
First and foremost, have a domain name that reflects the name of your business. For example, my business is ClientAbundance.com and my domain name is www.clientabundance.com. If you can't register your company's name, seriously consider changing it or making it work so that you can register it. For example, if your company is "Your Life, Only Better" but www.yourlifeonlybetter.com is taken, you will avoid any conflicts down the road if you rework your business name now.
With registering a domain comes a dedicated email address that you can set up to work with your current email software, such as Outlook. For example, one of my email addresses is firstname.lastname@example.org. It looks much more professional that email@example.com. Nothing looks less professional than a Yahoo or Hotmail email address as your business email.
2. Have a really good logo.
This is important because it helps increase your credibility and makes you seem more real in the online world. It will also make you feel more legitimate to have a tangible object attached to your business.
www.LogoYes.com is a do-it-yourself site and it's cheap. If you can spend a little more, hire a designer to create it for you. A good source is www.mylogo.com, where you can get a custom designed logo for $299. If you're new in business, don't spend a ton of money here, though, as it's likely you'll go through some transitions before settling on a design and message that feels uniquely you.
3. Make your contact info prominent, and include a physical location.
People want to know that they can contact you if they need to, and they don't want to have to search for this information, so don't hide it. Include your email, phone number and physical location at the bottom of every page, and include an email address link at the top of every page as well (incorporating it into your logo can work nicely).
By law, any email marketing you do (ezines or other broadcasts) must have a physical address displayed within it. Don't use your home address or a PO Box if you can help it. Rent a mailbox from your local UPS store for about $12 a month and use "Suite" instead of PO Box.
4. KISS - Keep It Simply Sophisticated.
By this I mean, keep your site clean and elegant. No flashing things, no annoying animated graphics, please. Give people the information they came for with simple navigation and easy to read text.
5. Have an opt-in form for your freebie offering.
Whether you have this on your site or not really doesn't make you look more or less professional, BUT - and this is a big BUT - you must capture people when they visit your site if you want to be able to SHOW them (through your ezine or other freebie offering) that you are a professional and that you do know what you're doing. Nothing will make your visitors come to know you faster and learn to like and trust you than your continuing to "speak" to them.
Create a simple opt-in script and add it 'above the fold' on your website. Most hosting companies have these scripts available to you, or you can search online for a free script to enter into the code on your website.
Are there sites that you visit often, just to see what that person or company is up to? Well, the same goes for your website. If your visitors like your site, they will come back over and over again to see what YOU are up to. And isn't that what you want?
Copyright 2005 Alicia Forest
About The Author
Alicia M Forest, MBA, Multiple Streams Queen & Coacha??, & Founder of http://www.ClientAbundance.com, teaches coaches, consultants, online entrepreneurs and solo professionals to attract more clients, create profit-making products and services, make more sales, and ultimately live the life they desire and deserve.