You’ve toyed with the idea in the past, and now you’ve finally decided that it’s time to build a business website for your small business. You’re not alone. According to a 2017 survey by Clutch, 71 percent of small businesses– defined in the study as companies with between one and ten employees and less than $1 million in revenue– have a website, 55 percent of which have had it for at least the past year. Another 17 percent have plans to launch a website in 2017, while four percent say that they’re likely to launch one in 2018.
- A website is often the first impression that someone has of your company. Having a good quality, customer-facing website shows potential customers that you’re both professional and trustworthy. Design is important too– while having no presence is bad, having a bad presence (i.e. a crappy website) is even worse.
- In the age of review sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and yes, even GetApp, people are talking about your company online, even if you’re not there. Having a website is a good way to not only present your own version of your company, but to take advantage of these websites and showcase yourself, especially when other opinions are already floating around.
- Without a website, you’re missing out on business opportunities. The first place that people go when looking for a company is Google, and if you’re not showing up in it’s search results, people won’t know that you exist and instead, use alternatives.
Now that you’ve decided to build a business website, there are a few things that you’ll want to consider before you begin. Below, I’ll go through three of the most important things to consider before creating a website for your small business, including:
- Choosing a domain name
- Designing your website
- Optimizing it for search
1. Choosing a domain
You probably already have the perfect URL picked out for your company: yourcompanyname.com. It’s the obvious choice. The problem is that the domain you want might not be the domain that you get– it could already be taken. To check the availability of a domain, you can use GoDaddy, the go-to place for checking whether a domain is available, as well as the leading domain registrar in the online space. This is where you’ll be able to purchase your domain and get suggestions for names if the one that you want is already taken.
Prices range widely, but if your domain name is quite unique, you likely won’t have to pay too much for it (unless someone else is squatting in the hopes of cashing out, in which case things could get tricky). If someone does own a domain that you want to get your hands on, you can use GoDaddy to look that up too, and contact the person to see if they’re willing to sell.
According to Moz, some of the best practices for choosing a domain name include:
- Make it brandable: You want it to sound like a brand name, not a generic product or service.
- Make it pronounceable: If people can actually say it (even if it’s just in their head), it will be easier for them to remember it.
- Make it short: Making it shorter will also make it easier to remember.
- Use .com when available: It’s the most well-known “top-level domain” (the three letters after the “dot”), and like the two points above, is easier to recall. If it’s not available, domains like .net or .co are probably your best alternatives.
- Avoiding trademark infringement: Avoid using anything that could be misconstrued as (or sued by) another company.
2. Designing your website
Web design is important. According to a study by Adobe, 38 percent of people will stop engaging with your website if the content or layout is unattractive, while 39 percent will stop if the images take too long to load. Having a mobile responsive design is a big deal too– not only is it a key factor for ranking in Google (I’ll touch more on that later), but it also affects user experience. Roughly 60 percent of users are unlikely to go back to a mobile site that gave them a poor experience, while 40 percent went as far as saying they’d go to competitor sites instead. Considering that a website is probably the first contact that customers have with your business, it’s important to set a good impression.
Whether you want to build a business website from scratch, or prefer a template that you can easily build from, there are plenty of options when it comes to design.
The word “template” might conjure up the image of a static, lifeless website. Web design templates, or themes as they’re sometimes called, however, have become dynamic and highly customizable, making your website not only look visually appealing, but also professional. Some of the most popular options for building a website include:
- WordPress: As one of the leading online publishing platforms, WordPress is a good place to start because a) it’s free and; b) it’s really popular. While predominantly used for blogs and news websites, it’s a great launching pad for small businesses to get their name out there with simple but effective themes for publishing, selling, or simply showcasing your business. It also offers highly customizable designs: some of the most popular brands include TechCrunch, Vogue, and Mercedes-Benz all use WordPress.
- Squarespace: Squarespace is another popular tool to build a business website. Known for it’s streamlined and highly aesthetic designs, Squarespace is a great option if you’re looking to showcase products in a very stylized way. It also gives you access to marketing tools to help grow your audience, details on performance analytics, and integration with social media platforms. Pricing start at $12 per month for 20 pages, 2 contributors and unlimited bandwidth, with an extended Business plan with more functionality at $18 a month.
- Wix: Wix is another free website builder with the option to upgrade. With templates as well as a drag and drop editor, Wix makes use of ADI (artificial design intelligence) in order to build a business website that’s customized to your needs by using your design preferences to suggest the perfect layout for your website. The free plan includes web hosting, 500MB of storage, and 1GB of bandwidth to get you started
A couple of things to note about the above options:
- Once you set yourself up with a theme, you can add your custom domain to your newly created site.
- All of these tools have built-in hosting capabilities, meaning that they will “store” your website for you.
- Most–if not all– of the themes and templates available in these tools are built to be mobile-responsive.
- You’re not married to a template once you choose it. You can change templates, but the more content you publish, the more complicated it will be to change.
Notably, all of these tools are also set-up with eCommerce options so that you can sell products on your website, if that’s what the purpose of your website is.
According to Chad Rubin, CEO of order and inventory management software solution Skubana, getting your eCommerce store set-up right from the beginning is important for the user experience so that customers come back to your site.
“Getting the proper tools in place for any start-up e-commerce business before they launch is very important. You need to make sure that every single customer has a good experience but also you need to make sure you’re collecting the right data to get them to come back and purchase again in the future. So whether it’s tracking your inventory, collecting emails, offering discounts, or even something as simple as handling payments at checkout, making sure you have the right tools in place to make the best user experience before you launch is key.”
Designing from scratch
If you’re feeling more adventurous and want to design your own website from scratch (or get someone else to do it for you), you can use a content management system (CMS) for the design. Keep in mind that if you do design your website from scratch, you’ll also need to set yourself up with a hosting service that will host your website for you. This article does a great job of breaking down what hosting is and what type is best for your needs.
3. Optimizing for search
If you don’t already have an online presence, chances are that you have no idea what the heck SEO (search engine optimization) means. No surprises here– it’s exactly what it sounds like: making your website appealing to search engines so that when people go online to search for something related to your business, it’s your company’s website that comes up.
SEO used to be as easy as stuffing your website with keywords and links, but Google, the undisputed puppet master of SEO, makes you tick a lot more boxes these days in order for your website to pop up in its search results. Things like whether or not your site is optimized for mobile, how quickly your page loads, and the number of links that you have coming into and going out from your website all count for brownie points.
According to William Harris, SEO Consultant at growth marketing agency Elumynt, he reminds small businesses not to get obsessed with SEO too soon.
“When you’re a small business setting up your first website, the only thing you need to know about SEO is that Google’s goal is to give the best search results to the end user. If you can align your goals with theirs, by making sure that everything you do is with the goal of making the experience better for your ideal customers, you’ll have a better chance of staying out of trouble with any algorithm changes in the future.
“Sure, there are definitely ways that you can speak the right language to Google by making sure you use the right keywords in the right places, but you can also spend way too much time here if you’re just getting started. Focus on growing your business by being genuine – then optimize your website when you have the budget to bring on experts.”
As Google shifts towards user experience, the most important thing is to have a website that reflects what your company does while also giving your customers a good experience.
When you do start getting into SEO optimization, you can use some of the following tools to help:
- WooRank: WooRank helps you analyze your website to find opportunities for improvement, including analyzing backlinks, mobile optimization reporting, and keyword tracking.
- Moz: Moz is a SEO and social monitoring tool that handles on-page optimization, competitor analysis, and web page analysis.
- Google AdWords: Adwords is one of the most popular tools for marketing your website, helping you find and track the right keywords for your PPC campaigns.
Build a business website that gets noticed
While it may seem like a daunting task, building a business website has become a lot easier thanks to the availability of platforms and tools that give even the least design and technologically-savvy business owners the chance to create a pretty and professional website.
If you’re looking for more tips on how to build an online presence for your business: