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It’s hard to believe, but true: A recent Ad-ology survey found that a whopping 46% of small businesses still don’t have a website. Without an online presence, you may be missing out on the millions of customers who search for your product or service each day. A website can help you promote discounts and specials, generate interest in events, provide location and contact information and increase sales – it’s a great way to reach new customers around the world.

You may think getting online is difficult and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many affordable options designed for business owners on a budget. So what’s the first step to building a professional Web presence?

For starters, you’ll need to register your domain name. A domain is your address on the Web – it can be a .COM, .ORG, .NET or any other dot-extension. Most domains can be registered for as little as $12.99 per year from registrars such as GoDaddy.com. Registering is easy – simply use a trusted domain name provider to search for the name you want. If you find the name you’re looking for, consider purchasing all of the top-level domains (TLDs) available, so no one else can do business in your name. Top-level domains include .COM, .CO, .INFO and many more.

Once you’ve claimed your domain, let’s talk Web hosting. Web hosting is the platform on which you can build your website – you can’t lay the foundation for a solid website without good hosting. Choosing the right hosting plan can be confusing, so beginners should focus on the basics: bandwidth & uptime capacity, the amount of space (GB) available and the ability to scale as your business grows.

After you’ve secured a domain name and hosting, it’s time for the fun part: building your website! There are many easy, do-it-yourself site builders available, such as WebSite Tonight® from Go Daddy. These types of website builders provide custom-made templates designed to help a wide variety of businesses build their own custom site. Themed templates allow you to simply choose the design that best reflects your brand, insert your own content and images, then publish your site to the Web. Most site designers offer point-and-click functionality so basic users can create a simple, attractive site without a lot of hassle.

For those who’d rather leave the design to the professionals, there are many talented designers available for hire – finding one is as easy as doing a simple Google® search. While this option is considerably more expensive than building a website yourself, a Web design pro can create a site that meets your exact specifications and needs, leaving you free to focus on your business.

If your website includes an online store and shopping cart, be sure to keep your customers’ personal information safe with an SSL Certificate. An SSL provides the security your website needs to protect your visitors. Many customers look for the trusted green browser bar and padlock icon when they perform online transactions – these indicators help ensure that the website is protected with an SSL Certificate and safe from hackers.

Getting online is one of the best ways to stay connected with current customers and to attract new business. We’ve just touched the surface of how you can start to build an engaging Web presence. For an even more robust online profile, consider adding email & social marketing to your online marketing strategy, researching ways to increase your visibility on search engines and creating a personalized email account in the name of your business or domain. Wherever you decide to take your business online, it all starts with a domain name, hosting and a website.