We’ve all seen the web grow and grow over the last decade or so. Some of us were skeptical when we considered leveraging it to grow our business. Luckily, I have built a business out of helping people remove the skepticism and get going. Many of my clients feared the process and time and effort required to get online. So as a result, most of them just kept waiting and waiting, all the while the competition blew right by. Recently, we’ve witnessed the decline in print advertising and the rise in Internet marketing (also know as Digital marketing). It is my belief that print advertising campaigns are what most small businesses use to advertise. A lot of my clients worked on the usual methods of magazines, newspapers, Yellow Pages and realted forms of traditional advertising but never really got into much web oriented marketing.

Then came the decline and some would argue death of traditional print advertising. The leads slowed down, small business revenue dropped and everybody started looking for alternatives. Enter digital media, aka the Internet.

Recently I began working with a large company to design an digital strategy for our small business clients. This has placed me in a position to really get to know what challenges these businesses face. Most of them know they need to get online, they just do not know where to begin. Here are some tips to help you get started.

1. The first step is deciding what your goal is for your Website. Will it act as a brochure for your business? Will it be used for lead generation? Maybe you want to interact with your customers more via the website? There are dozens of uses for a small business website so try to narrow down what your goal for your site will be.

2. Define what your budget will be. This is an important step because this will help you determine what features and functionality your website will be able to afford. It will also serve as a negotiation baseline that can be used when contacting local web design vendors to help you get your project completed. Without a budget you may be persuaded to spend more than you really need.

3. Do what you can to make the website designers job easy. Start organizing content, pictures, videos, brochures, pricing information and anything else that you envision going on your website. Place these items in a folder and store them on your desktop to make them easy to find. Also include any passwords, user names or account information that may be needed to complete the website. An example would be the account information that was given to you when you purchased your small businesses domain name or URL.

4. Learn as much as you can about local search engine optimization. Many search engines are begining to focus heavily on local search results. By mastering local search engine optimization you can enhance your small businesses relevance in search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing to drive more visitors to your website.

5. Sign up for an analytics software package like Google Analytics. Google Analytics is free and when installed properly on a website provides incredibly valuable data and insight into your website’s effectiveness. You will be able to discover what website features visitors like to use, how they found you and what they did when they arrived at your website. This will help you refine your marketing approach and make improvements when needed.

Finally, stay with it and do not get discouraged. It is not unusual to want to give up. Due to the amount of information out there and the plethora of small business predators who look to take advantage of naive business owners, it is not uncommon for your project to get sidetracked. The most important thing you can do is work with someone you know or contact a vendor that has a solid track record helping businesses similar to yours. Stay the course and within a few months you will see sales go up and stress levels go down. Think of your website as an employee and manage it as such and you will be fine.

Jason Murphy has spent over 10 years studying and learning what it takes to become a successful Internet Business Executive. He has helped some of the most successful online retailers and most recognized household brand names learn more about eCommerce, mCommerce and technology to help them sell more each day. He has consulted for many of the Internet Retailer’s Top 500.