For many small business owners, creating their first website can be a stumbling block, but you don't have to have a web developer on staff or pay thousands of dollars to a freelancer to build a complex website. If your website needs are relatively simple, there are many tools that allow someone with just a tiny bit of technical know-how to create a web presence that will set your business up for success. Here are 7 steps to help small business owners stop stressing and start building a website for their business needs:
Research - We've seen many small business owners really feel overwhelmed by the prospect of creating a website and that can cause feelings of indecision. The best way to get past that and get started is to research a few options which provides an easy point of entry into a website project for small businesses. When researching focus on website you've seen for similar businesses or website you liked. This will give you an idea of what you want when you research your own. This article from OptinMonster compares a few of the best tools for small businesses. In addition, here are a few of the most popular website builders for small businesses if you want to directly explore your options: -Wix -Squarespace -Weebly -WordPress
Decide on a tool - Chances are that if you are going the DIY route and using a tool like the ones outlined above you are not coding your site from scratch. If that is the case then you will want to rely on a pre-built template offered by one of the website builder tools above. The good news is that no matter which website builder you choose, they all offer visually stunning pre-built templates for all types of businesses. So, unless you have some out-of-the-norm functionality you need to incorporate into your site then you should be good to go with one of the pre-built options with a few design tweaks and your own branding, of course!
Pick a template - I like to start out with a template (or 2-3 if they offer free templates like Wix) I think will work for my website and start customizing the home page and maybe a few other pages to get a feel for how that website template would work for my needs. Once I have those options looking like a rough version of what I would like the site to be, it's a good time to solicit feedback.
Solicit feedback - Once you have a few templates ready, show them to your staff or your friends. Have your website testers click through the rough draft site. Ask yourselves these questions: 1. Does this website make sense and is the layout logical? 2. Is it easy to use? 3. Have you included easy ways to get more information or to make a purchase?
Build out your content - Once you've decided on a theme or template you like you can begin to really build out your content. You likely don't need a huge web presence or a lot of different web pages at first but you can start with the following: -Home page (explaining your business) -Contact page with the hours of operation, physical location (if you have one), telephone and other contact information. -Product or services pages - give these pages names that make sense to search engines. If you own a business that distributes candles to retailers then you could name your product pages things like "jar candles" or "taper candles." You can do a little keyword research if you want to find out what the most popular search terms are for your business type. Also try to target some of the less popular options where the field isn't so crowded. Again, a good keyword research tool (like Google Keyword Planner) can help you choose a good mix of popular and strategic keywords.
Purchase or transfer your domain name - If you don't have a domain yet, take a look back at our post about naming your business which provides some helpful hints on choosing both a business name and a domain name to match. Keep in mind if you own a candle business and your business name is Candles Unlimited you may not be able to get the domain, candles.com. But, if you are set on keeping that business name you could try candlesunlimited.com or yourcandlesunlimited.com ...keep your mind open to the possibilities and to the idea that to get the name you want you may have to be flexible.
Launch your site - Once you've performed these steps you should be really close to having a fully-formed website for your business. Before you launch, be sure to ask staff and friends again to click through your site looking for any typos, errors, missing pages, etc.
Once you've launched your site. Congratulations!
This a great start to your online presence. Keep in mind that search engines love sites that have fresh content so be prepared to update your site at least monthly if not more. Some ideas are to start a blog with content related to your products or services and or updating your product photography to keep things fresh.