A website is more than a business card or a brochure. It’s an interactive presence where you can tell a brand story and establish a connection with the people who visit your site.
Building your first small business website shouldn’t be hard! We’ll guide you through step by step, and before long you’ll have an amazing website you can be proud of.
What you should do before building your first small business website
Determine Your Purpose and Goals
The first step in building a website is knowing why you are doing it, what your goals are for this particular business or project, and what you want to accomplish.
For instance:Do you want to store information on it or share stories/information, or are you looking for ways to make money from it (e.g., selling products)?
This will help you make decisions about the content, design style, and functionality of your site. Know what you want to achieve before making any decision!
Think about who is going to be using this website? What do they need from it? How often are they likely to use it? These questions will help you decide what the site should offer, how it will look and behave.
Identify your target Audience
Who is your target audience? Who will be visiting this site on a regular basis, what are their needs and wants from the website?
If you’re designing for an already established company or individual then you probably have some knowledge of who they are.
For example, if you’re trying to sell a product or service related to dogs then your audience are probably going to be people who want information, products, or your services relating to their dogs – so make sure the website has plenty of information on dogs and dog products for them!
Set a Budget
How much money are you willing to allocate for your website? There’s a range of different prices out there so it’s worth getting some advice from us first!
Small business websites can be as low as $500, and all the way up to several thousand dollars. For something like an e-commerce site or even one that has lots of functionality, you’ll want to invest more.
The budget will dictate a lot of your decisions – for example if the site is going to be built on WordPress then it would only cost around $500 whereas an e-commerce site might need a custom solution that could run into tens of thousands!
It’s important not just because it affects what you can achieve, but it will also dictate how often the site needs to be updated and maintained, the number of people that are going to work on building the site etc.
Cost considerations for small business website development:
- Domain Name Registration
- Website Hosting
- Web design services (web developer) or website builder software like Shopify, Wix, etc.
- Plugins and other third party integrations that might be required for your project (e.g. security and payment plugins)
- Ongoing website maintenance and hosting costs
- Cost of other services or software you might need to get the site up and running (e.g. graphics design, copywriting).
Make sure you have budgeted for these as they are often not included in a typical web design package! There’s lots of factors that might affect the cost.
Brainstorm Ideas for Your Site Design Style
This step is all about figuring out your design preferences so that when you start building your site properly, you would be able to make guided decisions swiftly.
You may have seen some websites or enjoyed others’ sites before deciding on one of these designs as your own personal preference, but don’t feel like this has to be an all-or-nothing decision. You get to choose what parts you want and which features are most important to suit your needs or those of the business/project at hand. On the other hand you can talk to a top web developer for insights on designs that work for your industry. Here’s an interesting blog which can help you in finding the top freelance web developer for your project.
- What is your brand personality and style? Is there a certain look that reflects who you are as an
- What colors would you like to use?
- Do you want the website design to include a blog layout or not, and what type of content might show up there (text, photos, videos)?
After deciding on these questions about style preference it will be much easier when we get into actually building out the site.
Determine How You Will Manage Content for Your Site
If you are building a site from scratch you will need content – articles, posts, pictures and videos. Think ahead before deciding whether you want everyone to have access to editing everything (requires more training!), assign certain roles, or create a specific login for each person. All of these options should be considered because they will affect the time it takes to get the site up and running!
Build Your First Small Business Website in 7 Steps
Step 1: Get a domain name
First, you will need to get a domain name. The website domain name is the website’s address. Consider the domain name that best fits your business’s niche market. Also ensure that the domain name is also relevant to SEO and your business goals.
Vital considerations for generating a great domain name
- Use the same word for your domain name that you use for your business..
- Use a keyword term that describes your business and has high relevance to the searcher’s query.
- Use domain name generators to get suggestions and ideas for your domain.
- Keep it short as much as possible and make it easy to spell and remember.
- Choose an appropriate domain extension. “.com” is the most popular extension for websites. Also consider geo TLDs, like “.co.uk” or “.ca” if you’re in the UK or Canada respectively.
- As a small business, you might need to add location information to your domain.
- Don’t use a hyphen. The domain name should not have any spaces, dashes, or underscores.
Next, you will need to register the domain name with a registrar such as GoDaddy or NameCheap in order to control the domain’s ownership. Check for availability of the name you came up with – if it’s available, you can then purchase it. If it’s not, try a different name.
Step 2: Create a hosting account for your website
A domain name and web hosting are two different things. The hosting service will provide your small business with a location on the web and storage space for files like graphics, videos or documents, so the provider should be reputable for providing secure and scalable hosting with round the clock technical support.
The hosting service is what will support your website when it’s live on the web. We strongly recommend you do your research and choose a reputable hosting company with good customer service before you sign up for their services.
Shared serer, Dedicated server, or Virtual Private Server? Which one should I choose?
Dedicated servers are the most expensive, but provide more power and space. A virtual private server (VPS) is less costly than a dedicated server, but the cost and power varies. A shared web hosting service is the least expensive option for small business owners seeking to start their website.
Tips for choosing a good web host
- Choose a hosting company that has good reviews and ratings in the industry, like Bluehost.
- Confirm they provide server security and site back up, and whether they offer easy to install Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates.
- Lookout for web hosting services that provide easy to use cPanel for accessing your server.
- Go with a web hosting that allows for one-click WordPress install.
- Check the pricing. You should find a price that is in your budget and has enough features to accommodate your business needs. Also, choose a hosting company that offers pricing options – such as monthly payments and discounts for paying yearly in advance.
- Look for a hosting service that has round the clock customer support.
- Look at the hosting company’s track record for uptime – they should have a good percentage of availability to be considered reliable.
- Test the customer service on the hosting company’s website and call them directly to ask questions.
- Make sure the hosting company offers a variety of support methods – such as phone, chat and email.
After you’ve paid for a web hosting plan, transfer the domain name from the registrar to the website hosting company.
The registrar is where you purchase a domain name for your business and they should have instructions on how to transfer it to a web hosting company.
Step 3: Choose Your Web Content Management System
The next step is to choose the content management system (CMS). A Content Management System is a system that helps you manage your content on the website.
Depending on your needs, your options include:
With WordPress you have lots of themes and add-ons that you can use to customize your website. It’s also a great option for SEO because it has many features that help with ranking in search engines and driving traffic to your site.
WordPress is a good option for beginners because there are many tutorials on how to use WordPress and get started with your website design as well as troubleshoot any issues you come across while building your website.
WordPress self-hosted is the best option for businesses because you get to own the website and have full control over it.
Step 4: Design, Organize, and Structure your website
With WordPress, you can start with a blank canvas, or you can use one of the pre-built themes and add pages from there. When you’ve decided what your website will be about (ex: home design) it helps to have an idea of how many pages you may need in order to cover each topic fully and comprehensively.
Choosing a Theme:
- There a lots of free themes available to download from the WordPress Theme Directory
- Browse through different templates to see which one fits with what your company is trying to project
- Click on the live preview button next to each design to see how it will look with all of your text and images
- Choose a simple, clean, and relevant template. This not the time to overthink things
- When choosing a design template, remember that you can always edit the theme later by adding your own colors or images
- Decide what the mood of your site should be – playful, professional, artsy? This will also help you decide on fonts and colors to use in your design.
Once you have a template you really like (don’t be afraid to edit them), it is time to design your site’s look and feel by adding text, picking colors, adding images, videos – anything at all on top of the template.
What Fonts To Use:
Be sure to choose a font that suits your site’s content. You want it to look professional and not distracting or unprofessional. We recommend fonts like Roboto, Mina, Open Sans, Merriweather, Helvetica, Montserrat etc.
What Colors To Use:
Be sure to choose colors that suit your brand and site’s content. You want it to look professional and not distracting or unprofessional. We recommend colors like #FFFECC, #0040CC – anything at all on top of the template.
Page Layouts To Include In Your Website
Step 5: Integrations
Apps, extensions, and plugins provide a lot of great functionality to small business websites. Integrate with services like Google Analytics, Facebook, Mailchimp, Stripe or Paypal for payments to mention a few.
Integrations are a way of making sure that the different parts of your business work together in a seamless manner without having to leave the site you’re on. This not only makes life easier for your customers, it keeps them on the site which means more page views and sales. They are also handy when you want to carry out tasks like updating followers with new posts.
Basic plugins your small business website need to get started:
- Page Builder: Beaver Builder Divi, Elementor, SeedProd are all excellent drag and drop page builders to help you create different types of pages without coding skills required.
- Analytics: MonsterInsights plugin for adding Google Analytics to WordPress
- Contact Forms: WPForms
- SEO: RankMath or Yeost
- Security: Sucuri
- Backup: UpdraftPlus.
- Caching plugin: WP Rocket turns on WordPress cache settings automatically and this tool helps improve the speed and performance of your WordPress website.
- Image Compressor: Imagify.
- Social Media: Shared Counts for sharing social proof and adding awesome social sharing buttons on your site.
- Ecommerce: WooCommerce helps you create an online store.
- Payment: WPPayForm, Stripe Payments, PayPal Plus for WooCommerce.
Step 6: Create and publish Unique Content
Regularly create and publish relevant and unique content including copy, images and video. This will help you build a loyal following and keep your site fresh. As a business, it is crucial to also publish user generated content and other forms of social proof. It is a great idea to have a dedicated blog section on your site where you can post content regularly – this would benefit both the reader and you.
The most important thing when it comes to creating and publishing content on a website is making sure you are providing valuable and useful information. It is important to be certain it has the potential to appeal, which could lead someone from being a basic viewer of your site to an ardent follower.
Step 7:Optimize your small business website for Google and other search engines
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your site’s rankings in search engine results pages. Optimizing a web page means implementing practices to ensure that your text, images, and other content will be found by people who are searching for things matching what you offer on a regular basis.
SEO is not an instant solution: it takes time and effort to see results.
Here are some things you should do to make your website SEO friendly:
The following are some things you should do to make your website SEO friendly:
Optimize title tags and meta descriptions
A good way for site owners to maximize the power of their keywords is by including them in both the page’s title tag as well as its metatag description. For example, the keyword phrase “small business website” will be better optimized if it’s used in both instances.
Use keywords throughout your website content
If you have a page about business ideas for small businesses, then the keyword “small business” should be included several times on that particular page and also sprinkled through other pages of your site where appropriate to keep viewers interested and engaged with what they are reading.
Use keywords in your internal and external links
One easy way to let Google know the topic of your page is by including related terms within both the hyperlinks that are pointing back towards other pages on your site as well as those linking outwards to third party websites, blogs or articles with similar information about small businesses.
Include keywords in your images
If you are hosting a photo gallery of small business owners and their achievements, make sure that the keyword “small business” is mentioned at least once within each caption or metadata property to give search engines as much information about what’s being offered on that page as possible.
Create original content with SEO goals in mind
When you are writing articles, blog posts or other types of content for your website, remember to optimize the page with keywords and phrases that will help viewers find it when they search on Google or another search engine.
Make sure the website is optimized for mobile
In addition to the SEO benefits, a lot of people now use their phone to access the internet. If your site isn’t mobile friendly chances are it won’t get a lot of traffic because people won’t be able to access it.
Make sure the speed of your site is fast
If it takes too long for your site to load, people will leave and go somewhere else where they don’t have to wait so long. This would hurt your SEO efforts.
Other SEO tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure you install an SSL certificate
- Get good backlinks from relevant websites.
- Also link your site to major social media platforms (social signals).
- You need to make sure that you’re focusing on the search queries people are using in your area
- Make sure that your site is listed on all the major citation sites like Yelp, Google Maps and Bing.
- Compress images and media before uploading them on your site
- Use only plugins that are absolutely necessary
- Keep your site updated. If you don’t keep adding new content to your website then it will eventually rank lower in the search engine results pages.
Step 8: Website Monitoring and Maintenance
Your website needs to be monitored and maintained to keep it up-to-date with the latest changes in Google algorithms, search engine optimization (SEO) or internet marketing. To get the most out of your website, you need to know what’s going on every day.
Always check your Google analytic reports and the traffic flow on your site. If you see any fluctuations, compare them to a previous date in Google analytics to find out if there’s an increased surge of visits from one day or week versus another.
You might also notice that visitors are leaving before they get to your website content due to some issue like broken links on the page or low-quality content.
If your website is a blog, be sure to post new articles every week that are relevant and current in order for visitors to stay on the site longer. Make it easy for them by including images or videos of things they care about most.
- Website Maintenance should also include making improvements based on feedback from customers and other visitors.
- Look out for errors, broken links, and low-quality content that could be preventing visitors from staying on your site.
- Always keep your plugins up-to-date.
- You can perform a “split test” on your website to see which landing page or advertisement performs better. Split tests are when you test something on half of the visitors coming into your site, and then compare it with what’s currently on the other half.
- Be trend-led and keep up-to-date with new trends on the internet to ensure your site is fresh and engaging for visitors.
- Don’t lose sight of your competitors, and work hard to look out for any new developments in the industry.
A monthly SEO audit from a Cincinnati seo expert is a good way to keep track of any potential issues or changes that might affect your rankings in Google search results pages. Major things like updating content and publishing new posts should be done as often as possible.