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Stop leaving your business out in the cold. Get it online.

As the cold weather continues, small business owners might be found locked away in the warmth, working away to ensure the year gets off to a good start. Results of this hard work can be accelerated by developing a strong online presence for your business. Failing to be online – no matter the size of your business – carries a high risk of losing custom to competitors.

As of 2015, small businesses make up 99.3 per cent of all businesses in the UK, yet a staggering 60 per cent of businesses with five employees or less do not exist online in any form. This is astounding when you look at this in the context of the online world. Retail sales were up in December 2015, but the high street is losing to online. Additionally, the recent Internet Matters report by McKinsey showed that companies using the Internet with a high-intensity grow twice as a fast as those with low-web-intensity.

So why do some small business owners get cold feed about promoting their trade online?

Perhaps some people assume that launching a website requires them to possess experienced technical prowess. Maybe there are so many other things to think about when managing a business that the website gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list.

However, with inexpensive and simple tools available, there’s never been a better time to spend an afternoon with a hot cup of tea getting your business online.

Thanks to the availability of hundreds of domain name extensions and an array of easy-to-use tools to launch a website, it’s possible to give your business a distinct and customisable identity online. Today the choice is endless, so the first step is to really think about how you want your business to be perceived in the long-term and start your domain selection from this strategic angle.

For example, opting for the geographically descriptive .LONDON literally puts your business on the map, no matter where you are based, while .PHOTOGRAPHY sets expectations about what you provide. Domain names are an excellent way of implying a professionalism that your business deserves to be recognised for.

Really, no small business has to go out and buy hundreds of domain names across their brands to help protect themselves. However, you may want to think about what domain names you would not want your closest competitor to have, and register those handful of names.

A small investment of five to seven domain names could be sufficient to help ensure your core brand territory is covered. A small extra cost can also help protect your personal data, in an effort to help keep it inaccessible to competitors.

The next step is to actually create your website. Think of it as a shop window with an ‘open all hours’ sign on the front. Customers can visit whenever they want, so it’s vital that they are greeted with a user experience that is as good as it can be.

It’s important to design your website as if you were the customer. Remember, when looking for a new service, we want to find the right information as quickly as possible. Details such as your location, operating hours and contact information should all feature prominently.

Keep your website simple to navigate by avoiding clutter. Cutting down on unnecessary information ensures that visitors can explore without getting lost.

Technology has evolved to give us more flexibility in how and where we work and interact, proven by the fact that mobile now exceeds PC Internet usage. It’s therefore certainly worth taking this into account when designing your website. We all know how frustrating it is when browsing a website that isn’t mobile-friendly; keep each page of the site consistent to ensure a feeling of continuity as users scroll through on their phones.

Services such as GoDaddy continually work to support the website-building process, at any hour of any day. Available assistance means that you have a team of technical experts at your disposal to help you meet your needs and work through questions you may have along the way.

With GoDaddy, launching your online presence comes in the form of affordable, introductory packages, such as the Get Online Today package which is priced almost the same as a cup of coffee per month, or free trials of specific products to help customers fully understand and meet their needs. This gives small businesses the same opportunity to be as heavily present online as larger corporations.

Ultimately, being online is a simple way of generating business. Your business – however big or small – should not be hidden from the world. Opportunities arise from people seeking a service; if they can’t find you, they won’t engage with you. Getting your business online will turn cold leads warm.

You work too hard for your business to be invisible.

Stefano Maruzzi, VP of EMEA at GoDaddy

Image Credit: Yuriy Boyko/Shutterstock