Whether you’re a hardware store owner or freelance photographer, some other type of small business, a great website is essential to your company’s success. As a webmaster who has worked on or marketed over 100 small business websites, I know what it takes to create great and attractive business websites.
If you want to create a new startup website or make your existing site more effective, here are ten essential steps to get begun and help your small business website compete actually in the online marketplace.
#1) Obtain a good domain name
Your domain name, also comprehended as your website address, is often the entry point to your site. It’s essential to make a good impression for usability purposes and search engine optimization (SEO).
Here are some tips to help you get the best domain name:
- Make it easy to spell. Try not to use slanderous, fabricated or highly secretive words.
- Keep it as short as possible The smaller it is, the easier it is to remember and type correctly.
- Use the proper domain extension. Always try to make it a .com domain name (as opposed to .net, .co, etc.) unless it is more appropriate to use another extension such as .gov, .edu or .org.
- Avoid numbers and hyphens. These are harder to remember and less elegant and memorable than just a word-linked domain name and can be misunderstood when pronouncing a domain name.
- Expand the address to facilitate future growth. Amazon.com, for example, is a much broader website address than BooksOnline.com and allows Amazon to sell all kinds of good things to consumers, rather than just books, as its original purpose was.
- Ensure it is memorable. With so many websites on the Internet, the name of your website must be attractive so that people will remember how to access it in the future.
- Research the domain name. Do a Google search to see if a similar website address is already online and search for USPTO.gov without any registered trademarks.
- Check if the price is right. Determine if you can buy the address of your preferred website at a reasonable price since most of the good domain names have been taken and will have to be purchased from the current owner.
- Avoid nonsensical names. Choose a name that carries meaning so that users immediately know your business. Yahoo and Google are exciting names, but they were too expensive for the brand, and your small business may not have the same budget.
- Create an SEO-friendly URL. If appropriate, try to come up with an SEO-friendly website address that includes keywords and geolocation; For example, “www.LasVegasElectrician.com.”
#2) Buy secure, scalable website hosting with good tech support.
A website host (or sometimes guided to as a website hosting provider) is a company that provides the technology and services needed to visit a website on the Internet. You associate your domain name with your hosting service provider so that when users visit your website address, they are shown your website which you save in your hosting account.
Hosting services can cost anywhere from $ 2 to + 100 + per month, depending on the technology and help you choose. You can usually get a discount if you buy an annual plan as a monthly one.
Here are some guidelines for selecting a good website hosting plan:
- Although you can reach a “shared server” hosting plan for as little as two dollars per month, I would generally advise against it. Shared hosting means that you share a server and its resources with other clients, which can impair your site’s performance. Also, if one of the other websites on your shared server is hacked, your website may be infected.
- A “dedicated server” hosting plan is many expensive options – the cost can be around $ 100 to $ 2,000 per month – but it will help your website perform better. Having a dedicated server plan indicates that the physical server machine is entirely dedicated to your site; Therefore, all resources are yours. It is more protected than a shared hosting plan unless optimal technology is. However, it is much more expensive than most small businesses usually offer. Once you have a high-performing site, this may be what you need, but it is mainly for beginners and over-the-counter for small businesses.
- The compromise I usually recommend is a “Virtual Private Server” (VPS) hosting plan that offers the best of both worlds. Costs range from about $ 20 to $ 50 per month, which is affordable for the hosting services you get. A VPS is a machine that is partitioned to operate as multiple machines, which gives it a reasonable price like shared hosting with the same security and performance prospect as a dedicated server hosting plan.
- Unsure your hosting company has the phone and chat support to get help quickly if you have any problems. Email support can often take too lengthy and become frustrating when an issue needs to be resolved immediately. Phone support is best, but chatting also works well.
- It would be best to use a simple service interface like cPanel to access your server. You do not want to use terminal commands to view and modify the contents of your server unless you can hire a professional server administrator to assist you.
- Check to see what kind of server security the server you are considering has. You will want to be able to access your server through Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP). Your server should have daily backups of content being created. There should be a simple, one- or two-click procedure for installing Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates. Make sure the hosting company maintains regular security. Ideally, your hosting provider company has a published security protocol that you can review so you know how they keep their servers secure.
Some popular website hosting companies include:
#3) Prominently display a clear description of your business
It’s important to let people know who you are and what you do right now, so they don’t get confused when visiting your small business website. Make sure your main homepage banner (also known as a “hero image”) and subsequent banners have a visual representation of your services as well as an introductory text blurb at the top of the page describing who you are and what you do.
Additionally, make sure that both your principal and footer menu links to the “About Us” page are easily accessible so that people can click through and read more deeply about your business.
#4) Implement the best content management system
A CMS-content management system is a software application used to create and manage digital content. A good CMS will help you maintain your site and you do not need much technical knowledge to use it. It would be best to choose a CMS designed for your unique needs; Different systems are used for different reasons, such as user-friendliness, scalability, and budget.
Below are some popular systems with descriptions of their strengths and weaknesses.
WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world. It has an extensive, active support community and many useful plugins to increase the effectiveness of your site. (And if you can’t find a plugin that does what you want, it’s painless to find a WordPress developer who can create one for you!) WordPress is free and relatively easy to install. Most website developers are familiar with this so it is not difficult to find a person or organization to work on your site. Due to its flexibility and scalability, I generally recommend that small businesses use WordPress to build their websites.
Of course, the biggest weakness of WordPress is security – because it’s so popular, hackers target it the most. Your WordPress site needs regular maintenance and protection not to get hacked. Also, securing every single third-party plugin is difficult, so ensuring your WordPress site must be an ongoing responsibility through various best techniques (checking to see if your plugins have been updated in the last few months to make sure it’s in an official WordPress repository). Plugins provided, remove unused plugins immediately, etc.).
Drupal is another popular CMS. It offers the same benefits as WordPress with flexibility, ease of use and a large support community. Significantly, it is a more secure CMS than WordPress (protected from malicious activity); However, it does not have any plugin or theme options, making it less extensible. For many years, the White House website (Whitehouse.gov) ran on Drupal but has since switched to WordPress, which it still uses.
Another popular CMS is Joomla! Out of the box, it has better Search engine optimization, security and multilingual abilities than WordPress; However, with the help of a few plugins, WordPress has surpassed the power of Joomla !.
Squarespace is a service that you subscribe to monthly or annually that gives you a simple “drag and drop” experience of creating websites and blogs. It includes website design, development, a domain name with annual purchase, SSL security, software maintenance, metrics, 24/7 support, and limitless bandwidth and storage all in one package. It is particularly suitable for creatives and delivers you with top design templates. If you are on a tight budget and need a simple and beautiful site, but this is an excellent service for you if the website designer cannot afford it.
WordPress, Drupal and Joomla! In comparison, Squarespace has a much smaller learning curve, but it doesn’t have nearly as many extensibility opportunities. However, if you have little or no technical proficiency and are looking for a fast and easy way to set up a website, Squarespace is a perfect option for you.
Similar to Wix Squarespace, but a bit more user-friendly. It offers a monthly but not an annual subscription and includes similar features. Wix is a drag-and-drop creator-you can freely drag and drop elements anywhere on the page; In comparison, Squarespace is more structured where you can drag and drop on the page. The learning curve for using Wix is smaller than Squarespace, so this might be your best option if you need to publish a site quickly.
There are many more templates than Squarespace to choose from in Wix, but if you select a template, you must be the same with it or you must completely rebuild it. With Squarespace, you can change your template while not rebuilding the entire site.
#5) Choose a good e-commerce platform.
If you plan to sell products or services through your website, you will need the right technology to do so. (If you are not currently selling something, you may want to consider doing so because e-commerce could potentially increase your profits.) Business model to take.
Here are some popular small business e-commerce platforms:
WooCommerce is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms in the world — it can turn your WordPress website into an online store. Like WordPress, there are many plugins available, and it integrates with WordPress, which makes it highly flexible. There are many free and premium pre-built themes for WooCommerce (As a rule, it’s best to use a premium theme from a reputable developer as it will provide better protection and support.) If you’re not tech-savvy, you’ll probably need a WordPress developer to help you set it up. And use it. WooCommerce also offers a great deal of power and scalability that your small business needs.
Shopify is a cloud-based e-commerce platform that lets you create and customize an online store and manage products, inventory, payment and shipping. It’s not a WordPress extension like WooCommerce-it’s a standalone platform hosted on the Shopify server, so if you have a significant website, your e-commerce site will be technically different. You can link to your Shopify account from your standard website made with Drupal, WordPress, Wix, etc. unless your main website has a Shopify integration plugin.
Features enclose unlimited products, unlimited bandwidth, fraud analysis, discount codes, reports and much more. The main advantage of Shopify is that you don’t need a developer to set up a store and everything in the backend is already set up for you when you subscribe. The downside is that you don’t have as much control or flexibility over your store as you can with WooCommerce.
Shopify Plus is Shopify, but with a more elevated level of customization, more team accounts and international e-commerce options. It has a high level of support. However, all this obviously comes with a high subscription cost and it still does not have all the flexibility and customization capabilities as WooCommerce.
Squarespace has an e-commerce subscription option, so you can choose this route if you choose Squarespace to create your site and require effortless e-commerce. Business Squarespace charges a transaction fee, but this can be avoided by upgrading your subscription to a primary online store. This includes a free domain, SSL security, SEO, Abandoned Cart Recovery, Discounts, Real-Time Carrier Shipping and more. However, it should be noted that it is not as user-friendly as Shopify. And like Shopify, it’s not as flexible as WooCommerce.
Wix actually has a Shopify extension that is very user-friendly. To use it, you need to upgrade your Wix account and subscribe to Shopify.
GoDaddy Online Store:
GoDaddy has a reasonably new e-commerce standalone subscription platform that is pretty easy to set up and use. Launching your store with GoDaddy online store requires very little technical knowledge. The templates are clean and straightforward and somewhat customizable. Features include marketing and Search engine optimization tools, social media integration, appointment booking, SSL security, fast page loading and much more.
#6) Create an attractive, memorable, and engaging website user interface
Make sure your small business website interface leaves a positive impression that drives results. You can do this by implementing the following suggestions:
- Use nice graphics and easy-to-read fonts.
- Make sure your pictures are compressed and optimized for fast loading. If your website is slow, search engines like Google will penalize your ranking.
- Research the competition to see how they designed and optimized their website; Apply similar elements that will work for your small business website.
- Research to see what your target audience wants from your site and make it easy for them to get it done.
- Stay consistent with the brand throughout your website design.
- Design an intuitive navigation system that lets users quickly navigate the pages they need.
- Disclose easily accessible contact information.
- Include explicit call-to-action (especially the “Buy Now” button).
- Create ideal pages for small business websites, such as:
- About us
- Products/Services (with descriptions and visually appealing images)
- Sitemap (for SEO purposes)
- Management team
- Contact us
- Additional pages relevant to your specific small business
#7) Optimize your small business website for search engines
SEO is a set of practices that you apply to your website to ensure a search engine index, rank your website appropriately, and then show it to search engine users. Once your website is “crawled” by search engines, it competes with websites that have similar content. The better your website design and content, the more your site will appear on search engine results pages.
SEO mainly involves the following practices:
- Keyword research and implementation
- Optimal website code
- Fast loading speed
- Existence of high-quality backlinks (links on external websites with related content) that lead to your site
- Having a mobile-friendly site
- Being secure and having an SSL certificate installed, SSL is the standard security technology that secures data passed between web servers and browsers stays private.
- Having lots of positive reviews online (Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc.)
- Use internal links throughout your site to keep people clicking and reading.
- Using social media to link to your site (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.)
SEO is an essential ongoing process that can mean the difference between showing on the first page of search engine results pages (resulting in a lot of free traffic to your website) or page 300 (resulting in no traffic).
#8) Regularly creating and publishing quality content
Regularly creating and publishing quality content and freshness is essential to search engines, so it’s necessary to have a plan in place to publish quality articles or blog posts on your site and external sites linked to your site. If you want to rank high in search engine results and encourage people to return to your site over and over again, you need to update your website with new and relevant content as often as possible.
Testimonials are a great form to post on your website, in addition to static page content and articles. Asking testimonials from your customers and then publishing them on your website is a great way to post new, high-quality content that makes your small business more attractive.
Make sure your content uses appropriate, on-brand tones that people will enjoy reading.
#9) Install webmaster tools
Use essential data to help you analyze traffic and site performance by installing Google Analytics and Google Search Console (both via Google Tag Manager) and Bing Webmaster Tools. These tools can be used to track the following types of information:
- Daily, weekly, and monthly visitors to your site
- Number of views on each page of your site
- “Bounce Rate” – The percentage of users who visit your site and only leave after visiting one page (Google algorithms give high ranking to websites with low bounce rate, on the premise that visitors spend more time on the site and find it valuable.)
- Average time spent on site by visitors
- Crawl errors on your site (errors that the search engines found on your site in crawling its content)
- Broken links on the site
- Keywords that lead users to your site
- Backlinks to your site
- Web page download time
- Other information that can help you enhance your SEO
#10) Implement a website maintenance plan
A website should not be created and then should not be allowed to become stale. To get a successful website that ranks well in search engines and is not hacked, you must ensure that it is properly maintained.
Here are some tips for creating a small business website maintenance plan:
- Check Webmaster Tools data at least once a month and email any significant errors to you in real-time.
- Use traffic data to learn more about your visitors so you can better meet them.
- Use performance data to optimize and fix warnings and errors.
- Make sure all software is always up to date.
- Run a security scan to ensure your website is clean and not hacked.
- Use “split testing” to see if some variations of your website help performance; For example, if you sell a product, you may have two versions of a particular landing page with different images and words — split testing lets you see which version has the highest conversion rate.
- Follow my advice on SEO (see point # 7), and continue to publish quality content (see point # 8).
- Find on-trend and effective ways to market your business online.
- Allow website users to provide you with feedback about your site.
- Keep testing your competition from time to time to see what they’re doing with their online presence and see what they’ve done for you.
- Ensure your website is backed up at least once a day in multiple ways and at least ten days ago.
As you can tell from reading this article, creating a great small business website may not be as easy as you first thought. However, if you follow the steps digested in this article, your small business will have an excellent opportunity to succeed in the online marketplace.