Once you pay for the cost of the site design - which should absolutely, positively include optimizing your site for the search engines - you only need to pay hosting fees* and domain name registration fees* - both are recurring but very inexpensive.
And yes of course there are other online advertising options to consider but this article is just about the basics of why having a web site is good for business.
A clean, uncluttered, well designed website that's pleasing to the eye and that is positioned well in the search engines will help bring in enough new business to offset any costs to design the site and any nominal costs to maintain the site, pay for hosting and the domain name.
When people need something, be it a product or a service, they no longer go to the Yellow Pages book first (or at all).
They do a search online.
You're selling your business short if you don't have a website.
A search engine optimized website that is.
When you hand people your business card with your website address, you're handing them your complete sales and marketing package.
All they need to do is type your website into their browser and everything they need to know about your business is at their fingertips.
Or it should be.
While you'll be responsible for the content of your website, a reputable web designer will not be afraid to tell you if your content needs improvement.
You can really reap the benefits of having a website if your competition doesn't have a great web presence at all - they either don't have a website or do have one but it isn't showing up well in local search or in organic search results.
Organic search? Local search? What? Organic search results are listings on search engine results pages that appear because of their relevance to the search terms you used to find whatever you're looking for.
Go to Google.
com or Bing.
com, type in something you're looking for (a bakery in Berkeley CA for example).
In general, the results you see are organic search results.
When I write about local search, I'm writing about Google Places/Google Maps, Bing Maps/Local Listings and Yahoo Maps/Local Listings.
You'll want to use these local versions of the search engines to get your business found on LOCAL search results for your specific location.
These are separate listings from your website but getting a listing is free and if you do it right, it's like getting 3 additional websites for absolutely nothing.
For example, you own a bakery in Berkeley, CA.
Create a local listing on Google, Bing and Yahoo.
Your goal is to be in the top results when someone searches Google, Yahoo or Bing Maps for something like 'bakery in berkeley, CA'.
You hire the right web designer and they'll help you through the whole process AND they'll design a website that is professional, makes a great first impression and inspires customers/clients to contact you.
I know from experience what an online presence can do for a company.
Many years ago I started selling murder mystery games and scavenger hunt games online to supplement my income from a murder mystery dinner theater company I had.
My online sales took off and I was able to close the theater company (a DEFINITE goal) and just sell my games online.
I learned web design and search engine optimization by creating my own websites and now use my expertise to help others use the Internet to their advantage.
(Yes, I still sell the games - that business just about runs itself 24/7 and I've captured an international market thanks to my search engine optimized, well designed websites.
) *Definitions: Domain registration is basically buying a website domain name.
Once you have completed domain registration - or buying the domain name, it becomes yours for the period of one or more years.
Before registration expires you have to renew it or the domain reverts back to being available to the general public.
Web hosting: In order to publish a website online, you need to a web hosting company.
The web hosting company stores all the pages of your website and makes them available to computers connected to the Internet.
If you buy a domain name (www.
com), but don't buy web hosting, then your website will not be live or accessible on the Internet.