You want your branding to be consistent with your business name, website, social media accounts, and any other elements that make up your overall online presence. There should be no chance left for branding confusion. After you complete the following steps, you should have your desired business name, domain name, and social media account names.
- Brainstorm some ideas for your business name and come up with a list of your favorites.
- From your favorites, narrow your list. starting with the shortest names that still make sense for your business and will make sense to your potential clients/customers.
- From your narrowed list, research whether or not your potential business names are already taken, especially in areas where you might incorporate your business.
- From the potential business names still remaining on your list, run each of them through namecheck to ensure a desirable domain name is available.
- From the potential business names still remaining on your list, run each of them through a brand reputation tool to verify if a domain has a bad history or is currently suspected of containing malicious code, harmful programs, or is a suspected phishing site.
- From the potential business names still remaining on your list, run each of them through namecheck to ensure social media account names are available for all the platforms that you do business in or will potentially do business in down the road.
At a minimum, procure your chosen domain name as soon as possible. If you need to protect the privacy of the person or business that is registering the domain, make sure domain privacy is included in your purchase. (Note: Depending on your situation, it may be advisable to grab other variations of your domain. This not only prevents the competition from jumping in and creating brand confusion.)
Domain Name Variations:
- Helps visitors find your website when/if they accidentally enter your domain name incorrectly. (ex. myfavoritepizza.com vs. favoritepizza.com)
- Prevents your competition from driving a wedge between you and your audience. (ex. myfavoritepizza.com vs. myfavpizza.com)
- In rare occasions, some companies want to have shorter email addresses domains while maintaining their full (longer) domain name on their website. (ex. myfavoritepizza.com vs. mfp.com)
We recommend Namecheap for registering domain names.
Domain registrars and web hosting vendors often include email solutions with their packages, at “no cost”. This may seem like a good deal, but these solutions are often riddled with SPAM and various limitations such as low storage quotas. We recommend a business-grade solution and Microsoft Office 365 is our go-to. As Microsoft Partners, we’re happy to help you get started.
- Sign up for a Microsoft Office 365 plan
- Add your domain to Microsoft Office 365
- Configure your email and create a signature that includes your new logo
- Start using your new Microsoft tools to collaborate and to build your online presence
Before you set out to create your various online accounts and your website, you need to know what your color scheme will be from here on out.
When considering your color scheme, you should consider your audience, the mood you’re trying to set, and of course work in what you like as well. Think about how you feel when you see certain colors on a screen or on a page.
One tool we recommend for helping to generate your color scheme is Colormind, which allows you to generate random schemes or even upload images to pull colors from.
Now that you have your color palette in hand, the next step is to get your artwork (logo, favicon, illustrations, etc.), whether you are going for custom designs or purchasing ready-made elements. We can help with your designs and/or offer guidance on resources for finding your own.
For any custom design work, please make sure to request that all artwork be delivered in vector format, that all fonts be disclosed, and that all colors (e.g. color palette) be disclosed.
Google My Business Presence
Google My Business is a crucial online, digital tool service from Google that is available to local businesses, true brick, and mortar businesses, or service area businesses. You have to have a business in a location to claim a profile for that location, but when you do, it does unlock some powerful tools.
If you’re an online services business, you can use your home address. If you run multiple online businesses, you can use that same address and simply add a fictitious suite number to each business address.
See what’s currently out there:
- Using your new Gmail account, log into Google My Business.
- Start typing your business name and as you type, look for your business name to come up.
- If your business comes up, select it and even if it doesn’t come up, you’ll want to proceed with extreme accurately (it must be exact) filling in your business information.
Claiming your listing:
- If someone has already claimed the business, you can follow the instructions on the dialog box to gain access to your account, using the “this listing has already been verified by” email address or you can continue with your new account as request ownership from the previous “owner”.
- Using either your new Gmail account or the account from the previous step, continue filling out your business profile with extreme accuracy (it must be exact).
- Google will send you a postcard with your new identification PIN. Once you receive it, enter it into your Google My Business account.
- While you wait for your postcard, fill in your business information as completely as possible, filling in your business hours, area(s) your business will serve, etc..
- Go through each and every section of your listing so that you know what’s available to you and consider turning on certain options like appointments, messaging, etc..
The accuracy of your listing is absolutely critical, as the information will (must be) listed consistently across your listing, other social media accounts, your website, etc.
Remove duplicate listings:
During your initial search, you may run across additional (duplicate) listings for your business. You will want to remove all listings except for your primary listing.
- Select the business that is a duplicate listing.
- Click Edit.
- Click the close or remove this listing drop-down arrow.
- Click mark as permanently closed.
Branding your listing:
- Cover Photo: 1080px x 1080px, .png format and “Art Optimized” setting via Adobe Illustrator.
- Profile Photo: 250px x 250px, .jpg format and “Type Optimized” setting via Adobe Illustrator.
Bing Places for Business
Bing Places for Business is Microsoft’s version of Google My Business. While Google dominates the search engine world, Bing does have an extensive reach. Since there is no cost to use this service, it makes sense to invest some time creating a listing on this platform.
General Business Directories
These directories allow you to create a listing for your business, at no cost. They also offer paid options to further extend the visibility of your business. We recommend that you create a listing with ALL of these directories. Often times, the no-cost listing is enough for most businesses.
- Yelp for Business Owners
- Yellow Pages
- Facebook Places (Applies primarily if you provide a place to eat, drink, shop or visit.)
- Foursquare (Applies primarily if you provide a place to eat, drink, shop or visit.)
Important: Your business must satisfy the following criteria in order to qualify for a local business listing in any index.
- Business name or a DBA (Doing Business As).
- Dedicated physical address. (Shared, virtual, and PO Box addresses do not qualify)
- Phone number that matches the location city. (Toll free, shared, numbers and call tracking numbers do not qualify)
- Face-to-face contact with customers. (Virtual and online store only businesses do not qualify)
Pro Tip: You can check all of your current listings, using the following method:
- Open your preferred browser
- Do a Google search by entering the name of your business in quotes
Specialized Business Directories
These are directories that focus on a particular business niche. For example, a dentist office will want to get listed on the top dentistry-focused directories. To find these directories, simply do a Google search for something like “dentistry directory”. We recommend that you create a listing on all directories that appear on the first and second page of the search results and as time permits, those directories that appear further down the search results list.
Before you engage a website professional, you will want to have some idea as to the purpose of your website and the contents it will take to make your website a success. Depending on how much work you outsource (e.g. website design, copywriting, etc.) there is a good chance you will have some work to do yourself.
- Copy/Wording/Verbiage: You can hire a copywriter to do most of the heavy lifting, you can split duties with the copywriter or you can write up everything yourself. (Bootstrapping Note: Write the content yourself to start and then reassess in the future if needed.)
- Images: You can hire a professional photographer, you can purchase photos from premium photo websites (e.g. Shutterstock), you can use the many no-cost premium photo websites (e.g. Unsplash) or you can take the photos yourself. (Bootstrapping Note: We find it rare to have the need to pay for photos.)
- Design and Functionality: Take to the web and identify websites that fit your style, either as a whole or for certain elements. Write down the website URL (web address) and list out what you like about that website. Do this for any websites you like and be prepared to share this info with your website designer.
Check out our Outsourcing WordPress Blogging guide to get a more in-depth look at what elements are needed.
- We recommend you start your search by asking your existing network (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) if they have any recommendations. Of course, we would love for you to pick us to work on your project!
- Shoot your potential designers an introduction email and kindly request a link to their portfolio. Narrow down your search by identifying designers that have a style similar to yours. If you like clean and minimal, look for a designer that designs in that fashion.
- Narrow your choices further by any factors that are important to you.
- Make sure to share your website content ideas (not the actual content) with a potential designer. This is important for many reasons. You want to find out if the designer has the required skill set or even the desire to work on what you have in mind. If the designer fully understands what you’re after, they can also help with recommending additional solutions or alternative methods.
- Choose your designer. Go with your gut!
Website Pre-build Summary
At this point, you have the following items in place:
- Business Name
- Domain Name(s)
- Social Media Accounts
- Artwork (Logo, favicon, illustrations, etc.)
- Social Media Presence (Facebook, Twitter, Googe My Business, etc.)
- Business Email
- Website Content (Does not need to be 100% ready)
- Website Designer
It’s time to purchase website hosting. We recommend you start by consulting with the website professional you’ve selected for your project. By now, they should have an idea of what your project will entail, and from that, they should be able to recommend website hosting that meets your requirements. Our recommendation is to NOT sign up for hosting that the website professional provides themselves. While it may sound convenient, it’s a good idea to keep these entities separate, and more in your control. Instead, we recommend going with hosting providers that are well-known and have a good reputation. (Bootstrapping Note: Unless you or your designer is 100% sure that a high-powered hosting package is needed, start with a lower-priced package and then upgrade as needed.)
Here are the elements we recommend, for building a professional website that does not break the bank, and is easy enough for self-starters. We work exclusively with the WordPress platform, so that is what we will be recommending here.
Please do your own research to find out which one is better suited for your project, but we recommend the self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) platform over the hosted WordPress (WordPress.com) platform. We can also answer any questions you might have and explain why we may prefer one over the other in different scenarios.
WordPress Theme / Page Builder
We recommend the Elementor Pro page builder plugin, first and foremost. Elementor Pro has almost eliminated the need for traditional WordPress themes. Until that happens, we recommend the Astra Pro theme. It’s powerful, easy to implement, and works perfectly with Elementor Pro.
Choose only reputable plugins that have good reviews and ratings, are used by a large user base (e.g. 10,000+ installs), and have a responsive support team. Do your research! Only install plugins that fit a need, keeping the number of installed plugins as low as possible. Don’t try to solve a problem you don’t yet have!
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