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I got a call yesterday from a small business owner in Hawaii. She was a total newbie to Internet Marketing. I actually LOVE these kind of calls (and clients) because I get a genuine kick out of helping people. And this poor women needed help desperately. My conversation with her demonstrates why building your website should be the first and only priority for any business owner wanting to market online.

This woman didn't know any better so she got sucked into some deal with a company that was charging her $350/month for a basic 4 page website that she didn't own. When she realized she couldn't afford it anymore, she canceled - but she lost her website in the process because it was owned by the company and not her.

Then she called Google to get signed up for Google AdWords Express. She asked the Google rep if she should have a website first. The Google rep told her that all she needed was a website of any kind and that the free Google sites would be just fine. She signed up with AdWords Express and proceeded to stumble through building a website on the free Google sites platform.

I spent almost 2 hours on the phone with her educating her on the very basics of Internet Marketing with my emphasis being she had to build her OWN website first and foremost. I told her that her website was her Internet Marketing foundation and that everything she does after that will build on that foundation. She thought a website was a website. Why did it matter that it was on Google's platform, she asked.

I told her aside from the fact that the domain isn't branded for her business (it had a really long ugly Google sites url), it is very unlikely that a website on a free platform will perform that well from a SEO perspective as you don't have the flexibility to do all the things a SEO professional would normally do with a website. But more importantly, I told her that even if the site was a smashing success, she doesn't own it. Google could do away with the service tomorrow and then what? She'd lose everything and she'd have to start all over.

For the first time she realized that it was imperative she needed her own website. And after I told her she could get hosting for as little as $5/month and that a domain cost about $13/year - and that she could even build a site for free using WordPress, she was in total shock. No one had ever told her this stuff before. She decided she was going to stop her AdWords Express campaign for the time being and concentrate on getting a website up and running first.

If you are a small business owner reading this, please learn from this. You have nothing if you don't OWN your own website - and I don't care if you have a Facebook page with thousands of friends or a Twitter following Ashton Kutcher would be jealous of. If you don't have a website, you're building your online empire on a house of cards.

And don't let any company tell you it costs hundreds of dollars every month to have your own website. You can literally get hosting for $5/month and your domain renewals should be no more than $13/year. You're talking having your own website for under $100 per year. Granted, there may be some costs involved in getting your website designed and developed but as I told the woman from Hawaii, you can use WordPress, which is free and has literally thousands of free themes (i.e. templates) to pick from.

Travis Van Slooten
 

Linda Buquet

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If you don't have a website, you're building your online empire on a house of cards.

That's a great way to put it Travis. I have the question come up a lot at my affiliate forum too. "Do I really need a site? Can I just use a free site?" If you can't afford $5 a month for hosting and $13 for a domain, then I wonder if they should even be trying to start a business. :p

But you are totally right a lot of small business owners just don't understand any of this or have been lead down the wrong path by someone just out to make a buck.

Thanks for posting a great story and important advice!
 
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Applause, Travis! Couldn't agree more. Your website is not only your foundation, but it is the thing over which you have most control (if you own and control it).

It sounds like you did an excellent job of turning on the light bulb for this SMB. The only thing in your post that I think requires further clarification is this:

and that she could even build a site for free using WordPress, she was in total shock.

An SMB can do this, but they need to know what they are doing or they aren't going to do any better than they would with any template. Remember, lots of business owners don't know a title tag from a head tag, and without that knowledge, they are going to build a mess, despite WP's intuitive qualities. And, if they want a unique website, visually speaking, they would need to know PHP & CSS to fully customize the design of their site to avoid looking like thousands of other businesses. So, the SMB is then back to needing an expert to work with if they don't have the time to learn this themselves.
 
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