Whether you own an existing brick and mortar business or you're building an ecommerce brand, properly establishing your internet presence is one of the most significant responsibilities you'll ever be tasked with. Unfortunately, many business owners either don't know what they're doing or fail to follow best practices.

In this article, we're going to take a look at a handful of the basic steps you need to take in order to put your business in a position to be successful. Without further ado, here are five specific things you should focus on:

Choose the Right Website Host

For businesses that are just getting started online, the process of developing a website is often confusing, but it's really not a difficult concept. Simply put, you'll need two partners to develop a site: a website host and a content management system (CMS).

As the name suggests, the host is the company that provides the technologies and services needed to store and display your website for the world to see. The CMS platform--which will be discussed in the next section--is used to actually develop and design the site.

Finding the right website host (e.g. HostGator) is all about determining which service provider meets your needs. There are three basic types--individual plans, dedicated servers, and reseller accounts--and you should research the details of each to find out which will work best in your situation.

Find a CMS Platform

Next comes the CMS platform. While there are a number of ways to build websites, a CMS platform makes it easier on those who don't want to deal with all of the coding and technical aspects. You can research as many CMS solutions as you want, but the following three are the most popular:

WordPress
Joomla
Drupal

If you want a side-by-side comparison of these CMS solutions, then check out this handy infographic. As you'll see, each comes with its own pros and cons.

Design Your Website

Think of your website host and CMS solution as the foundation of a house. You can't build a strong home without a foundation, but the foundation itself doesn't make the structure a house. You also need walls, windows, doors, siding, and thousands of other elements to create a visually pleasing home. This is where design comes into play.

Start by deciding the purpose of your website. Will it be a static website with the main goal of providing a reputable front for your business, or will you actually use it to sell products? You can always pivot in the future, but deciding the purpose of the website up front will help you choose a design.

Once the purpose is established, you'll either need to find a pre-designed template or hire a web designer to create the site from scratch. Both options are suitable and your choice will likely depend on cost and experience.

Develop an SEO Strategy

With your website built, it's time to start driving traffic to the site. Since most customers aren't going to type your website URL directly into their browser--at least in the early days--you need to put your site in front of them. Search engine optimization (SEO) plays a vital role in this.

"Search Marketing is vital for any business trying to succeed online," says expert Chris Alley. "Potential customers are looking every day on Search Engines like Google and Bing for the products and services that you offer. Getting your website in front of this audience will undoubtedly lead to new customers for your business."

SEO is a very complex topic--and it would be impossible to even scratch the surface in this article--so you'll either want to spend some time researching the ins and outs of the industry on your own, or hire an expert to develop a strategy for you.

Invest in Content Marketing and Social Media

With your website squared away, you'll want to expand your online footprint by investing in content marketing and social media.

Content marketing.
Social media.

Content marketing and social media should be your major focus in the months to come. They frequently work in unison to engage your target audience and direct them to your website.

Give Your Business a Strong Online Foundation

Virtually all modern businesses and brands have some form of an internet presence. However, only a small fraction of these businesses have a strong foundation that's conducive to long-term growth.

If you want to position your business for the future, then it's critically important that you gather your key decision makers and develop a concerted plan for getting started.

By outsourcing certain tasks and handling others internally, you can develop an online presence that you're proud of.

Published on: May 11, 2016