Eric Caldwell is the owner and CEO of WebJIVE, a leading digital marketing agency based in Little Rock, Arkansas. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Eric has become a seasoned expert in web design, eCommerce solutions, SEO, and other digital marketing services.
A website is essential for small businesses. Here are some tips to help you create one.
- It is essential to create a website for your small business in order to educate your customers, present your value proposition, increase brand recognition, and drive sales.
- First, choose a domain name. Next, secure web hosting. Optimize your website for search engine ranking and traffic.
- Your website should be up-to-date and mobile-friendly. Your search engine rankings will improve if your website speed is high enough.
- This article is intended for small business owners who want to create a new website or enhance an existing one.
Without a website, it’s impossible to operate a business, even brick-and-mortar, today. The internet is the best place for consumers to find information about everything, from product research to operating hours and location. A simple website with a professional design can help you gain an advantage in your industry. If you have products to offer, you can expand your business quickly and cheaply by opening new markets.
Easy-to-use website design software has been developed over the decades to help with this process. To create a functional and attractive website, you don’t have to be able to code. You don’t need to know how to code any program. These basic tips will help you give your website a professional appearance, make it easy-to-find, and present your company in the best light.
This is our step-by–step guide for creating a website that works.
1. Determine the primary purpose for your website.
A business website is a place to give general information about your company, or a direct platform for e-commerce. No matter if you are creating a website that tells you a bit about your company or one that explains more about it, the most important thing is to clearly state what your company does on your homepage. Customers shouldn’t have to search around for information about your company in order to find out if it can provide the services they require. Think about the unique user experience and the journey they will take as they navigate your website. Users should be able to reach the main goal or focus of your website easily. This goal should also be reinforced throughout the site.
2. Decide on your domain name.
Your website’s domain name is an important feature. It is the URL that you will share with potential and current clients, and promote via social media. It should be clear and easy to remember. To avoid confusion among customers, keep it brief and avoid abbreviations, acronyms, and numbers.
Also, you will need to choose your top-level domain (or TLD). This suffix is at the end of your domain name. It can be .com, .net, or .biz., or many others. These TLDs may be based on a specific location (e.g. .nyc) or type of business (e.g.. marketing, law, agency, etc.). These TLDs can be descriptive but .com remains the most popular.
After you have chosen your domain name, it is necessary to confirm its availability before you can purchase it through a domain registry. WebJIVE has an easy-to-use domain search and registration system.
If the URL you prefer is already owned, you can either call the company that owns it to ask them to purchase it, or use a domain purchasing service like WebJIVE to reach the owners of the domain. The cost of this service is approximately $70 per domain.
Tip: Your domain name will be the first thing that users see when they search for your website. Choose one that is related to your business and services.
3. Select a web host.
Every website requires a host. This is a server that stores all data for public access. Hosting your website on your own is likely too costly for your small business. You will need to choose an external host.
You have two options depending on your budget. The cheapest option is a shared web host. This means that you will share server space with other websites. Although dedicated hosting is more expensive, it allows you to have your own server without sharing it with other sites. This will allow you to speed up your site and avoid any potential competition.
Hosting a website for free is not an option. To compensate for their hosting fee, they might use other methods such as banner ads to your site.
Jim Cowie, former chief scientist of cloud-based internet performance company Dyn, stated that it is important to consider whether the host can answer questions regarding server locations and reliability when choosing a host.
“It’s a good idea to ask, “Can you show me where you are located relative to major markets my customers will be going?” Cowie agreed. Cowie stated, “Any hosting provider that is good should be able to show you the… performance metrics of their service.”
You may need to upgrade your web host or work with multiple providers as your business grows. Cowie recommended that you keep an eye on the performance of your website and how customers use it so that you can decide what hosting services are best for your business.
4. Your pages should be built.
A website is not just a static page. Multiple pages will be needed to present different aspects of your company, such as a comprehensive catalog of products and services or a blog section to keep you updated. Your website should have a clear goal and each page must include a call-to-action (e.g. “learn more”, “sign up,” or “contact us”)
Contact pages are your customers’ direct connection to you. Make sure you include all information (email address, phone number and physical location if possible) on the contact page. A good idea is to include information about your founding team on an “about” page. This will allow customers to put faces and names to your brand.
Hire a graphic designer to create your logo or hire one. This will allow your clients to quickly identify your company online.
Justin Zalewski is the director of product design at Studio Science. He shared some basic tips to help you create content-rich, efficient pages for your website.
- Make sure you are clear about the purpose of your business.
Make a concise, clear statement about what your business does and then lead with it. Within seconds of landing on your homepage, visitors should be able understand what you do. Few pages written well are better than many poorly written ones.
- Make strategic calls for action.
CTA buttons perform better when they are consistent with the information on the page. A “buy now” button is appropriate for a product page. However, a button that allows you to “contact us to find out more” might be better suited for the “about us page.” A page that lists customer reviews may have a button that directs the reader to pricing and plans.
- Automate speed improvement.
As many speed improvements as possible can be made. Installing the right plugins to cache your website’s parts will make it easier for visitors to not have to download them all at once if you use a CMS. Zalewski suggested WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache for WordPress users. These plugins compress files and allow visitors to browse your website more quickly. If you are not tech-savvy, a partner in web development may be necessary to help with some of the more technical aspects such as caching files and compressing them.
- Avoid stock photos.
Stock photography can quickly turn a great website into a terrible one. It’s best to take photos of your team members or offices when you are looking for photos to put on your page.
Pheil said that good images of products can increase sales. So invest in quality photos of products and services.
Tip:Create engaging and informative websites that provide a positive user experience. Strategically place CTAs in order to encourage users to perform specific actions.
5. If applicable, set up your payment system
This step will not apply to all businesses websites. However, companies who want customers to be able to pay online must integrate electronic payment systems into their websites. This can be done using e-commerce software, or third-party payments processors.
Many web hosts offer integration with ecommerce programs or an in-house shopping cart. Make sure to do your research and find a solution that is both easy to use and flexible enough for you to meet all of your future needs.
Did you know? E-commerce businesses must make payment processing accessible on their websites, through their ecommerce software or a third party processor.
6. Before and after taking your website live
Before you announce that your website is live on the internet, ensure it works with all major browsers like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Edge, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Microsoft Edge. To ensure that images, links, and formatting are correct on all browsers, click through each page. It will take time but it will save you from future complaints from users who are unable to access certain features.
Make sure your website is responsive on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. This is an important step that Google and other search engines have made. It’s mobile-first indexing. This means that search engine rankings will be based on the mobile version of your website.
Analytics programs are another important feature that should be included from the beginning. Shaoolian stated that by setting up this program before the website goes live you can fix any problems and coordinate a proper setup. You can track page performance and analyze analytics to determine whether a page is performing well or poorly once the website has gone live.
“You can examine which marketing campaigns are converting the most and look at any metrics like city, browser, etc. Shaoolian stated that this will help you understand how your audience interacts with your site. You’ll lose valuable data if you don’t implement it [after] your site goes live. Also, you won’t be able to see which parts of your site have been successful or not.
7. Social media marketing is a great way to market your website.
You can increase your reach on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and notify customers about what’s happening with your company via Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You can update your website by posting about it on social media. But, you should also balance this with genuine, non-promotional engagement.
Include links to social media accounts on your website. This is best done in the footer (or the ancillary menu) which often contains login and contact links. Our marketer’s guide explains more about social media and how it can be used for business.
8. Invest in search engine optimization (SEO).
Potential leads will be directed to your website by submitting it to search engines. It is also important to implement a strong SEO strategy throughout your site. Shaoolian stated that defining meta descriptions, title tags, and Uniform Resource Identifiers, (URIs), that are relevant to your company, as well as aspects of your industry, can help you rank higher in search engines for products and services that you want to market.
He said, “Building relevant keywords in your content from the very beginning of your website and having a strong emphasis on SEO starting at website launch will help you generate visitors early on.”
These important on-site SEO strategies can help you move up the ranks as you build your website. You can also pursue offsite SEO strategies.
- Select the best keywords. Choose keywords that are relevant to your business and those that potential customers are searching online. Check out our guide. Tools for SEO small businesses to find the right solution to help you track, analyze, and identify these keywords.
- Create new content. Search engines will notice if your website is regularly updated by adding content to your blog and publishing new blogs. To position your company as a thought leader in this space, choose topics that are both relevant to you and your industry.
- You can place both internal and external links. Your internal links are links that link to pages on your website. External links are links to popular websites with high authority. These links should be placed strategically on your website. You should ensure that your links are clear, relevant, and add value to the reader. Otherwise, linking could be considered against you.
- Optimize imagesReduce images to speed up your site’s loading times. The same applies to video. Make sure any videos load quickly and don’t slow down your site’s overall movement. You can also use images’ metadata (such as captions and tags) to add keywords to tell search engines about the images.
- Speed up your website. Pages should load quickly; it is best to have them load in a matter of seconds. Free site speed testers such as Google PageSpeed Insights To determine if your website is performing at its best.
9. Keep your website updated.
It is vital to stay relevant. Keep your website updated with blog posts about industry events, new products, offers, and company news.
It is important to check your software and add-ons at least once a month. Pheil stated that your software could be hacked if it isn’t up-to-date, regardless of how secure your website hosting is. You can delegate this task to a trusted employee, or a freelance manager if you don’t have the time.
A website can be a cost-effective investment that will help establish credibility and reach more customers than traditional marketing methods. You won’t have to worry about your clients “not being there” if you keep your website current with new content and address technical issues quickly.
Key takeaway: To ensure your website remains professional and relevant to your audience, keep it up-to-date with new content and current information.