How to Boost a Construction Business with a Website - Fine Homebuilding

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How to Boost a Construction Business with a Website

comments (3) August 19th, 2011 in Blogs
ScottG Scott Gibson, contributing writer

Things are looking up for Stephen Hazlett. Although asphalt shingling contracts are fewer and farther between, slate, tile and carpentry work is picking up. He's fast approaching the "tipping point" where those jobs become his mainstay.

To help him through the transition, Hazlett thinks he needs a web site to get the word out. But for someone who finds downloading photos from his camera to a computer a real adventure, the prospects of launching his own web site are daunting.

"I suspect this will be the first in a series of evolving websites over the next few years," he writes in the Breaktiime Business Forum. "It's a tool, right? Was your first router the LAST router you ever bought? I need some guidance--because there is SOOOO much I don't know about web sites and computers."

Hazlett has three big questions: can he take his domain name with him if he changes hosts, how much will it cost him, and does he really need to pay for key word hits to generate traffic at his site?

The name is yours

"Yes, your web address is yours and transferable," writes JMadson as well as others.

Meaning that if Hazlett registers the name "Slate Roofs by Hazlett" with one internet host, he can take the name with him should be move to another host down the road. The domain name goes with Hazlett. "Just make sure you register it yourself," writes FatRoman, "so that there aren't any ownership issues down the road."

The question is where to register the name.

Hazlett says his phone company will set him up with a "small, basic 5-page site for zero $ up front and $50/month."

Fiftty bucks a month sounds high, says JMadson, who suggests Hazlett take a look at www.register.com. The site offers offers a variety of web services, including hosting, web design and online marketing. Web site hosting starts at about $9 per month.

"I steer many clients (including me) to Go Daddy these days," says FatRoman. "Their cheesy advertising drives me nuts, but when it comes to registering a domain, no company is really doing anything differently than another. In other words, the $9.95 for a year's registration at godaddy is getting you the same thing that Network Solutions would like to charge you $30 for."

Designing the site is extra

Buying a domain name is one thing, but that doesn't get you much -- just a Web destination where propsective customers may someday go.

And the cost?

"Well," FatRoman adds, "how much does a house cost? :)

"The design/development costs are all dependent on what you are trying to accomplish," FatRoman says. "A little brochureware site like you are thinking of might run somewhere between $2-3K to design and program, but it's really dependent on what your needs are."

Will Hazlett want to change photos on the site from time to time? Will he have to write his own HTML code when he wants to make modifications? That will figure into the cost.

"Hosting a small site isn't expensive," FatRoman says. "Maybe $20/month. Sounds like what the phone company is giving you is going to be a template that you can place your info in. If that's the case, it's most likely not going to be very elegant."

Metaxa suggests Hazlett visit a local community college that offers courses on information technology. He's likely to find a "wealth of eager, bright kids there who will work with you."

"You get a well designed and working site," Metaxa says, "they get course credit (maybe) or at least something for their portfolio."

And this word of advice: "Watch out for allowing any personal, political or sexual thoughts, images, ideas or what not to be incorporated," Metaxa adds. "You may have strong ideas on Made in the USA or Buy American or like pictures of scantily clad women holding up tile samples but remember, the customer may not always be right but the customer is always the customer and they have the money. Make it easy for them to give it to you even if they don't hold similar values."

Seeyou thinks the process is going to be easier than Hazlett thinks. He suggests Homestead as a place to start and adds this: "Get a simple site up and running and then decide if it's worth it to get a professionally done site. It probably is, but right now, it's about like if your business phone number was not in the phonebook ten years ago."

Other suggestions included Fatcow and Jimdo.


RELATED ARTICLES

Breaktime Business Forum

More from Michael Strong

Pay extra for keywords?

 

 

Not a chance, says JMadson. "Key words are a part of every site," he says. "You add them when it's built. You don't have to promote them in some way if you don't want. When it's done, you can see where you end up when you search from different sites, i.e. google, yahoo, bing, etc.:"

Robrehm has considered services that help promote his site on search engines, but he hasn't gone that route yet. "I'm generating work and leads with what I'm doing so I'm not ready to tamper with it just yet," he says.

"Don't pay someone for this," says FatRoman. "It used to be that you could stuff the keyword tag on a site with a ton of stuff and it would generate some search results. Now, Google is wise to that behavior, and it doesn't work. Best thing you can do here is to spend some time thinking about what terms your potential clients would use to find you, and write the headline tags with those terms."

TrimLogic figured out how to make search engines work for his site. "I read a book "The Idiots Guide to SEO (Search Engine Optimization)" and have implemented the things I learned into the site," he says. "Now I come up number one on MANY Google searches including "crown molding chicago" which is something that has lead me to many jobs!"

Our expert's opinion

We asked GBA advisor Michael Strong for his reaction to Hazlett's questions. Here's what Michael had to say:

Hazlett, these are all great questions, and you are not dense. You are an expert at installing slate and tile roofs and don’t know much about web sites.  No big deal.  Most of us are just like you!
 
Let’s hit your questions in the order you listed them:

Domain name: You register it, you own it.  Check out www.godaddy.com and follow the simple instructions.  I would do this yourself but your web designer can do this for you if you like.  One year is less than $ 50.

Fees: A fee of $50 per month does not sound bad to me, but who wants to pay that for life? I prefer a flat rate paid once and for all.

On guaranteed hits: I agree with what's been said. Ignore the “guarantee.”  Website and key word optimization should be part of the package regardless of who builds your site. It should be updated every year.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



posted in: Blogs

Comments (3)

spinoza2 spinoza2 writes: "I wonder how people would react if there was an article advising people to just get some college student to roof your house so he can add the job to his portfolio."

The problem is a basic, professionally designed Website goes for at least $2000 these days, and I don't know many independent builders who understand that such an outlay would be a strategic advantage for them.

I decided to test the idea by radically bringing the up-front costs down to around $500 for a basic Website, and at this price the interest was much greater. The site gets their 'foot in the door' with Google indexing, so people searching for a local builder can quickly find them. It works well and my clients have been very satisfied with the result.

You can see an example at: http://www.mlduval.com/_/Welcome.html
Posted: 6:12 am on September 19th

Dreamcatcher Dreamcatcher writes: Need a website quick? or not sure IF you need a website but want to give it a try?

Check out Weebly.com

It's free, it offers 100's of fully customizable templates that can be edited using HTML and/or WYSIWYG (easy!), and it doesn't "feel" like a free web host although there is a discreet Weebly logo at the bottom of each page. For no cost you can have a sub-domain under them; that means your site address would look like www.weebly.dreamcatcherdb.com or you can buy a custom domain as described in the article above and have a proper web address like mine www.dreamcatcherdb.com (you can buy the domain name from Weebly too and make website building even easier).

They do offer a "pro" version for only $50 a year that will get rid of their logo at the bottom of the pages, allows unlimited sites, pages, videos, site tracking, and a few other tools that I don't see a need for.

With site building this easy there is no reason that every carpentry company or freelancing carpenter shouldn't have a site - if only to post a few work pics and a resume. While Weebly makes it easy to have a good looking website, it really doesn't have to be a work of art....... it is after all just another TOOL!

DC


Posted: 7:28 am on August 24th

JAstuccio JAstuccio writes: I wonder how people would react if there was an article advising people to just get some college student to roof your house so he can add the job to his portfolio.
Posted: 8:16 pm on August 19th

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