great website is the backbone of any successful business. Whether you’re a freelancer or a small business owner, your success will depend on how much traffic comes to visit and stay for long periods of time with an engaging site.
There are many steps to take and things to consider when building a website for your small business. This article is meant as a quick-start guide, outlining the key steps that will help you get started on the right track.
Here are the key steps of building a great business website for you:
Obtain a good domain name
Your domain name is often the entry point to your site, and it’s important that you have a good impression for both usability purposes as well as SEO.
- Make it easy to spell. Try not to use slang, made-up, or extremely esoteric words.
- Keep it as short as possible. The shorter it is, the easier it is to remember and type correctly.
- Use the proper domain extension. Try to always 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. They are hard to remember and less elegant and memorable than word-only domain names, and maybe misunderstood when vocalizing the domain name.
- Make the address broad to facilitate future growth. For example, Amazon.com is a much broader website address than BooksOnline.com and allows Amazon to sell pretty much every type of consumer good instead of books only, as was its original purpose.
- Ensure it is memorable. With so many websites on the internet, it is important that your website name is catchy so people will remember how to access it in the future.
- Research the domain name. Google it to see if a similar website address already exists online, and search on USPTO.gov to make sure it does not contain any registered trademarks.
- Check if the price is right. Determine if you can purchase your desired website address at a reasonable price since most good domain names are taken and will need to be bought from the current owner.
- Avoid nonsensical names. Choose a name that conveys a meaning so that users will know immediately what your business is. Yahoo and Google are catchy names, but they were very expensive to brand, and your small business may not have the same budget.
- Create an SEO-friendly URL. When appropriate, try to come up with an SEO-friendly website address that includes keywords and geo-location
Purchase secure, scalable, website hosting with good tech support
A website host is a company that offers the technology and services necessary for your site to be viewed on the internet. You connect domain name with hosting provider so users get shown you've stored webpage when they visit 'www', without error messages or delays in loading time.
You need to take into account the cost of hosting before you make any decisions. Hosting services can vary depending on what kind and level of support you want, but they are typically priced between $2 - $100+ per month (plus additional fees for domain names). You usually get a discount if purchasing yearly plans instead of monthly ones since these deals come with greater savings.
Here are some guidelines for choosing a good website hosting plan:
- Although you can get a “shared server” hosting plan for as little as $2 per month, I would typically advise against this. Shared hosting means you are sharing a server and its resources with other customers, which can make the performance of your site suffer. Also, if one of the other websites on your shared server is hacked, it is possible for your website to also be infected.
- A “dedicated server” hosting plan is the most expensive option—cost can range from around $100 to $2,000 per month—but it would make your website perform the most optimally. Having a dedicated server plan means that the physical server machine is entirely dedicated to your site; therefore, all the resources are yours and it is more secure than a shared hosting plan, as long as the technology is optimal. However, it is much more expensive than what most small businesses usually are willing to pay. Once you have a very high-performing site, this may be what you need, but it is overkill for most early-stage and small businesses.
- The compromise I typically recommend is a “virtual private server” (VPS) hosting plan which offers the best of both worlds. The cost ranges from around $20 to $50 per month, which is affordable for the hosting services you will receive. A VPS is one machine that is partitioned to act like multiple machines, which gives it similar affordability to shared hosting, with similar security and performance potential as a dedicated server hosting plan.
- Make sure your hosting company has the phone and/or chat support so you can be helped quickly if you have a problem. Email support can often take too long and become frustrating when a problem needs to be resolved immediately. Phone support is best, but chatting works well, too.
- There needs to be an easy-to-use server interface like cPanel to access your server. You do not want to have to use terminal commands to view your server contents and make changes unless you can afford to hire a professional server administrator to help you.
- Check to see what kind of server security is in place on the server you are considering. You will want to be able to access your server via Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP). There should be daily backups being made of your server contents. There should also be an easy, one or two-click method to install Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates. Make sure the hosting company performs regular security maintenance. Ideally, your hosting company has a published security protocol you can review so you know how they keep their servers safe.
Some popular website hosting companies include:
Prominently display a clear description of your business
You should always let people know who you are and what your business does on the main homepage banner. Your subsequent banners must also be a representation of all services offered by this company, with an introductory text blurb nearby that describes it in more detail for those interested parties looking further into how they can get involved or buy some products from yours.
Additionally, make sure both your main and footer navigation menus have "About Us" page links so people can click them for more information about the business.
Implement the best content management system
A content management system (CMS) is a program designed to help you manage your website. You don’t need much technical knowledge, but some know-how of how websites work and what kind of site will be created with their assistance can go a long way in choosing an appropriate CMS for yourself or a company that needs one.
The following are some popular systems with descriptions of their strengths and weaknesses.
WordPress: WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS. It has a vast, active support community and many useful plugins to extend the functionality of your site. (And if you cannot find a plugin that does what you want, it is easy to find a WordPress developer who can make one for you!) WordPress is also free and relatively simple to install. Most website developers are familiar with it so it is not hard to find an individual or agency that can work on your site. I normally recommend that small businesses use WordPress to create their websites, due to its flexibility and extensibility.
It must be noted, however, that WordPress's biggest weakness is security—because it is so popular, hackers target it the most. Your WordPress site needs to be regularly maintained and secured so it is not hacked. Also, it is difficult to secure every single third-party plugin, so keeping your WordPress site secure must be an ongoing commitment through various best practices (checking to see if your plugins have been updated within the past few months, making sure it is a plugin provided in the official WordPress repository, deleting unused plugins immediately, etc.).
Drupal: Drupal is another popular CMS. It offers many of the same benefits as WordPress, including flexibility, ease of use, and a large support community. Notably, it is a more secure CMS than WordPress (safer from malicious activity); however, it doesn’t have as many plugins or theme options, which makes it less extensible. For many years, the White House website (Whitehouse.gov) was run with Drupal but has since switched to WordPress, which it still uses today.
Joomla!: Another popular CMS is Joomla! Out of the box, it has better SEO, security, and multilingual capabilities than WordPress; however, with the help of a few plugins, WordPress surpasses Joomla!’s capabilities.
Squarespace: Squarespace is a service you subscribe to monthly or annually that makes website and blog creation an easy “drag and drop” experience. It includes website design, development, software maintenance, metrics, domain name with annual purchase, SSL security, 24/7 support, and unlimited bandwidth and storage hosting all in one package. It is especially suitable for creatives and provides you with top-notch design templates. If you are on a tight budget, need a simple and beautiful site, but cannot afford a website designer, this is a great service for you.
There is a much smaller learning curve with Squarespace than with WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla!, but it doesn’t have nearly as many extensibility options. However, if you have little or no technical knowledge and are looking for a quick and easy way to put up a website, Squarespace is an excellent option for you.
Wix: Wix is very similar to Squarespace, but it is a bit more user-friendly. It offers a monthly, but not an annual, subscription and includes similar features. Wix is also a drag-and-drop builder—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 to using Wix is even shorter than Squarespace, so if you need to publish a site quickly, this may be your best option.
Wix has a lot more templates than Squarespace to choose from, but once you choose a template, you must stick with it or be forced to completely rebuild your site. With Squarespace, you can change your template anytime without having to rebuild the entire site. The following are some popular systems with descriptions of their strengths and weaknesses.
Choose a good e-commerce platform
If you plan on selling goods and/or services through your website, then the right technology is essential for success. (If this isn't something that currently interests or excites you—consider doing so since e-commerce could potentially increase profits drastically!) But before we get into how platform choice matters in an online setting.
Optimize your small business website for search engines
SEO is the process of making sure your website can be found by people looking for information on it.
The first step in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves ensuring that all pages are appropriately categorized and tagged using HTML tags like <head>,<body>, or header(H1). Creating an optimized site with relevant content will make you more likely to rank higher when someone searches for keywords related specifically t0 what they offer, which means their business could get more customers.
SEO mainly includes the following practices:
- Keyword research and implementation
- Optimal website code
- Fast loading speed
- Being secure and having an SSL certificate installed; SSL is the standard security technology that ensures data passed between web servers and browsers remains private
- Having a mobile-friendly site
- Existence of high-quality backlinks (links on external websites with related content) that lead to your site
- Having lots of positive reviews online (Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc.)
- Using internal links throughout your site to keep people clicking and reading
- Using social media to link to your site (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.)
Having these key steps will make your business grow, No hassle, and stress-free. If you need this great website to your business or your freelancing career, check out our portfolio and book a call now and get started today!