Chapter one: setting up your Website.

Author:Sandlin, Eileen Figure

If you're serious about being successful in today's economy, you need a Website. A well-designed Website is as integral to your business as a telephone number, business cards and e-mail address.

"I can't think of a single industry that shouldn't be on the Web," says Carl Hartmann, owner of Zland, an Applications Service Provider (ASP) based in Farmington Hills. "Websites are used today not only to market your company to the world but for supply-chain management, purchasing, selling, communication and collaboration."

No matter whether you're selling products or services, you'll want to make your site as professional and user-friendly as possible. The best way to do this is to hire a company that specializes in Website construction. Of course, the cost can be high. It's not unusual to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on the complexity of the site.

Attracting prospects to your Website can be as easy as registering your site with the right search engine. Making them buy from you is another story.

First and foremost, your Website should include enough information about your products and services to pique prospects' interest. If you sell products, consider having an on-line catalog with detailed product descriptions. Then make sure it's easy for customers to browse the catalog and make a purchase.

Another critical element to include on your Website is contact information--and it should be provided repeatedly and prominently.

Put your name and Web address in the footer of each page, just like a magazine puts its name at the bottom of each page. That way, when your customers have found the best product for the best price and print out the page, they'll be able to find you again later. Without contact information there, a lot of sales are potentially lost.

Anyone who's ever logged onto a Website is probably familiar with those little counters found on home pages that indicate the number of times the page has been viewed. But counters are essentially useless because they log "hits," or the number of times a page has been opened. But if the page contains, say, 10 pictures, opening that home page constitutes 10 hits, which is not a true measure of the visit.

Instead, e-business people should track user session information. This identity is embedded into the computer itself when it's manufactured, and enables Web hosts to track data (for a fee, of course) like how many pages a user viewed during a visit, how long the user spent on...

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