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Getting an online presence

If you’re a business owner or self-employed, having a digital presence — a website and matching email address — makes you look more professional and means customers can always find you.

Here’s how to get your business online and avoid common mistakes.

A website can be your shop window, retail outlet, information centre and marketing tool. It’s available 24 hours a day to customers around the world. 

No business, whether you’re part-time, self-employed, a start-up or you have a large staff, can afford to be without a digital presence.

Getting your own domain name — your unique online address — can also give you matching email addresses. Studies show customers trust emails that match the business name over those with generic email addresses, eg sales@smithsplumbing.co.nz instead of sales.smithsplumbing@gmail.com.

Before you start

Think about why you want a website. To keep costs down, your site should only do what you need it to. Ask yourself if your business is:

  • local or national
  • national or international
  • in retail or a service provider?

Also, think about the people you’re selling to. Ask yourself:

  • Who are my ideal customers?
  • What will customers want from my website — to make contact, find out more about products or services, buy something?

The answers will help you work out what you want your website for, including:

  • marketing your products or services
  • generating sales leads
  • selling products or services
  • telling people outside your area or country about you and your business.

Get a domain name

The first thing you’ll need is a domain name — a unique online address — before you can have your own website and branded email addresses. Ideally, this will be your business name or a keyword related to your business. If you are self-employed, it could be your own name and what you do, eg Johnsmiththebuilder.co.nz.

To get a domain name:

Use our ONECheck tool to see if one that matches your business name is available, then register it (do an online search to find a provider).

If you want to operate overseas or attract overseas customers, think about a domain name ending in .com or other country code, eg com.au or co.uk.

If you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to think about your company’s brand and business name.

Is your name available?

Is your name available?

Use ONECheck to see if your business name, web domain, trade mark and social media usernames are available — it only takes one search.

Case study

Case study

Beauty of email

For years Debbie has used the same email address for home and for her beauty products company Organic Beauty — debs21@hotmail.com. When her business takes off, Debbie realises she needs more professional-looking email addresses for work.

So she registers the domain name organicbeauty.co.nz, and sets up separate email addresses for sales (sales@organicbeauty.co.nz), admin and invoicing (accounts@organicbeauty.co.nz), and one for each staff member.

She sets up a website at organicbeauty.co.nz for local sales and also registers the domain name organicbeautynz.com to sell products around the world at a later date.

Having an up-to-date website is essential for modern businesses. Use this tool to reflect on how well your website is meeting the needs of your customers and how you could improve it.

At the end of this assessment you’ll get:

  • a better idea of your website’s strengths and weaknesses
  • practical tips and links to expert advice.

5 - 10 minutes

Self assessment: Your business website

Online presence

people at desk

Did you know...

75% of users judge the credibility of a business based on the design of its website, according to research from Stanford.

How important is your website to your business?

Online presence

woman at computer

Did you know...

As of January 2018, around three-quarters of people in New Zealand aged between 16 and 64 had recently searched for a product or service to buy online, according to Statista, The Statistics Portal.

How much does your business use a website (your own or another) to sell products or services?

Search and discovery

business woman

Did you know...

Consumers feel that companies with brand-specific email addresses are more likely to be professional, credible, responsible and trustworthy, research by Colmar Brunton shows.

How important is your domain name to your business?

Search and discovery

people at desk

Did you know...

If you’re not at the top of the search results, you’re missing out. Websites listed on the first Google search results page get 92% of the interaction from an average search, according to Chitika, Online Advertising Network.

When someone searches online for your type of business, how well do you rank in the results?

Up to date

Tool man at desk

Did you know...

Around 40% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unattractive, according to research by Adobe.

When was the last review of your business website?

Up to date

business woman

Did you know...

The majority of internet searches come from mobile devices, even if a desktop device is available, according to Google.

How mobile-friendly is your business website?


Tool group talking

Did you know...

Nearly 40% of people will stop looking at a website if the images won’t load or take too long to load, according to Adobe.

How would you describe the content on your business website?


woman business planning

Did you know...

Google encourages website owners to produce original, high-quality content, since that’s what’s best for web users.

How involved is your business in managing or editing the content on its website?

News, blogs and social

woman at computer

Did you know...

Businesses that blog 11 or more times a month get more than four times as many leads as those that blog half as much, according to HubSpot.

How important are regular news stories or blog posts to your business?

News, blogs and social

group of people

Did you know...

Almost half of the world’s population is on social media, according to Hootsuite.

How well is your business website linked with your social media accounts?

Tell us about your business

Just one last step before your self-assessment results. So we can shape future tools and services around your needs, please tell us about your business size, location, age and industry.

Developing your website

Your first website doesn’t need to be expensive. If you’re self-employed or a small business, you may only need a simple, clear and attractive homepage to start with. Several online services offer free and low-cost templates ideal for a site with just a few pages of information and images.

As you grow, you’ll want your website to grow too. When it’s time to build a new site, eg one that can take orders or requests for quotes, get a professional developer and designer involved. Before they start work, be clear about what you need the site to do and how much you can spend.

Whatever the size of your site, there are rules it pays to follow. Your customers and search engines will thank you for it.

  • Keep all information up to date.
  • Add new content regularly to keep the site fresh — search engines like Google rank sites better that do this.
  • Make content useful — not everything should be an advertisement for your business.
  • Use good quality images of what you do and sell — avoid generic stock photos.
  • Keep words to a minimum and use them wisely — it may be worth paying a professional writer.


Put important information — like your contact details — in an obvious place.

Put important information — like your contact details — in an obvious place.

If you offer after-hours services, eg for plumbing emergencies or IT support, include a call-out number on your homepage.

Social media can be a great way for small businesses and self-employed people to talk to customers. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram help you reach a vast potential audience, often more intimately than through your website. No wonder companies big and small use it to build their brand.

Social media can help you:

  • contact customers quickly with important information, eg competitions, offers, product recalls
  • get instant customer feedback
  • quickly grow customer numbers
  • sell through a business account, eg on Facebook.

Plan how you want to use your social media account, eg to offer daily specials or to encourage people to visit your website. Also think about how much time you or an employee can give to it, eg once a day or week.

Think about the tone of voice for your social media posts, eg a law firm may use a more serious tone than a party planning company.

Over-using social media can be seen as invasive, eg posting too many company updates or information customers can live without.

It’s worth remembering everyone sees feedback posted by your customers — good and bad. Also, you may have obligations if you’re collecting information about customers and storing it digitally.

Don't delete negative social media comments out of hand. A business page with no complaints can raise suspicions.

Don't delete negative social media comments out of hand. A business page with no complaints can raise suspicions.

But one where customer complaints have clearly been resolved can build trust.

Step-by-step: Handling complaints on social media

Mobile-friendly websites rank higher in search results.

Mobile-friendly websites rank higher in search results.

Design your website from the outset with both mobile and desktop users in mind. Think about what they will do on your site, eg quick visits to find contact details or longer sessions to compare products.

Tips for being found online

Customers must be able to find you easily online — if they can’t, your competitor is just a click away.

  • Check your stats: Google Analytics(external link) is a tool to help you understand how people use your website, which pages are most read, and who reads them. It’s easy to use and free.
  • Review and tweak: Ask customers what they want from your website — and what they like and don’t like. Be prepared to change what’s not going down well.
  • Promote your website: Look for opportunities to get your domain name in front of customers. You can promote yourself or your business with your website, address, and opening hours with Google’s Places for business service(external link).

Keeping track of key metrics

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