To build a thriving small business in this digital age you not only need a sound digital marketing strategy and a social media presence, you also need a quality website.
Fortunately, creating a website for your business is easier than ever. It’s better to hire a web design firm to help you build a quality website, but if you don’t have the budget, you can set up a professional website with no coding knowledge using a website builder.
In this article, we’ll show you everything you need to know to get your website launched seamlessly.
If your business has continued to thrive so far without a website, you may be on the fence about investing in a new website. You may be asking why do you need one?
The answer is that you need a website to thrive in the digital age since many potential customers go online to find businesses that offer the products and services they need. A study by Google discovered that 97% of local buyers go online to search for local businesses.
When you have a website, these potential buyers can discover your business and find the information they need to interact with your brand and become paying customers.
The impact of the internet on how customers interact with businesses will continue to grow and you can’t afford to be left behind by competitors that are investing in quality websites and local SEO.
To further emphasize the importance of having a website, here are some key reasons why you need to invest in a quality business website:
Customers use search engines to find local businesses in Downriver and those customers use the websites they discover in search results to get the information they need and engage with the Downriver business of their choice.
Having a website makes your brand more credible with 75% of customers saying they judge the credibility of a brand based on whether it has a well-designed website.
With your website, you can inform potential buyers about your products & services, and show off testimonials and any awards your business has. When customers find testimonials, awards, and reviews on your site, they are more likely to trust your brand.
These customers will go online to find information about their problems & needs. if they discover the information they need on your blog, they are more likely to turn to pay for the solutions offered by your business. A study showed that 67% of customers bought the products and services of brands simply because of website blog content.
All your digital marketing campaigns including email marketing, social media, digital ads, and video will have to direct the leads you generate to a final destination.
That destination will be your website. If you don’t have a well-designed website that is optimized for lead generation and conversion, the effectiveness of your digital marketing campaigns will be severely impaired.
If you own a service business like coaching, plumbing, landscaping, and others, a website can serve as a perfect medium to showcase your work to new customers.
You can add videos, reviews, portfolio pages, and testimonials to your site that will demonstrate the successful application of your skills to meet the needs of many satisfied customers.
With your website, you can create a contact page where customers can reach out to you by phone or email about any complaints they may have.
You can also add a resource page and FAQ page to your site to provide valuable information to customers on how to properly utilize your products and to answer any pressing questions they may have.
There is no standardized template for building business websites since each website is unique. The goal you have for your website will shape the design and functionality of your website.
If you have a service-based business then your website design will focus on showing visitors the services you provide, highlighting your portfolio & customer testimonials, and making it easy for customers to contact you.
If your business is about selling products, your website will need eCommerce functionality and payment gateways. Customers must be able to browse products on your site, pay for them, and track how their purchases will be shipped to their respective locations.
A skilled web developer can build your website from the scratch but a more effective way to build a modern website is to use a Content Management System (CMS).
CMS is software that lets you set up a website using pre-designed templates and plugins without having to code a new website from the ground up.
A CMS can be an open-source platform like WordPress or Drupal with thousands of themes and plugins from various developers and can be customized to suit your needs – or, it can be a closed platform like Wix or Shopify where you are limited to the built-in themes and functionality on the platform and customization is very limited.
Your shiny new website will not exist in a vacuum and your website must be hosted on a server. These servers are provided by web hosting companies.
Your web host will store and secure your website files in exchange for a web hosting fee. Choosing the right web host is crucial if you want to avoid any problems later in the future.
Your brand is unique and the look and feel of your website must also be different from that of your competitors. If you want to take the DIY approach, you can pick from any of the available themes on your CMS platform.
However, it is better to hire a web developer to either build a custom theme for your site or to customize an existing theme to fit your unique brand identity.
The content on your web pages should ideally be written by professional copywriters and optimized for local SEO.
You must invest in website content that can retain the attention of your visitors and convert them into paying customers. All the effort you put into design and website promotion will be for naught if your content can’t provide website visitors with the information they need.
We’ve already highlighted why content management systems are a more effective way to build modern websites and below we’ll outline 5 of the best website builders out there.
Squarespace is an all-in-one website builder that provides you with everything you need to build a professional website or eCommerce store. It comes with a drag-and-drop builder that makes setting up your website a breeze and there is social media integration and built-in analytics.
Although it is a closed platform that limits you to the built-in templates and functionality on the platform, most small businesses will find that the website builder is adequate for their needs.
Wix is a free and easy-to-use website builder that you can use to create a high-quality business website. The platform can be used to build professional websites and eCommerce stores.
It is not an open-source platform and this means web hosting and other backend necessities are already taken care of. Just sign up and you can start setting up your website.
Shopify is an online eCommerce platform that provides you everything you need to build your online store. The platform powers over 1.5million online stores and everything you need including themes, shopping carts, payment gateways, email marketing functionality, and more – are all built-in.
It is a hosted platform and not an open-source software that you can own, and you will pay a monthly subscription to use it.
The WordPress software is free and you will have complete control over your website, but you will need to pay for web hosting.
The platform is easy to customize and there are tens of thousands of themes and plugins for you to choose from. You can set up your professional website with a free or paid theme or build an online store with the free WooCommerce plugin.
WordPress.com is the other free WordPress platform, which is different from WordPress.org because it is hosted by the WordPress parent company but the design and build are similar.
You can use it to create your blog, professional website, or online store for free, and all you need to do is to sign up and get started.
The CMS you choose will depend on the goals you have for your website and your budget. If you want a simple website that you can easily set up and that will be maintained by the software company – you can go for platforms like Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, and others.
You can build an online store with Shopify or set up your store free using the WordPress WooCommerce plugin.
If what you want is a CMS that gives you lots of flexibility and access to thousands of third-party themes and plugins, build your website with WordPress.org.
This is the online address of your website and it must be unique. You should take your time to come up with a name that espouses your brand and includes local SEO keywords.
We already touched on the importance of choosing the right web host to ensure the security of your website and optimal performance of your site.
Your host must guarantee 99.9% uptime, excellent customer service, world-class security features, an easy-to-use control panel, and excellent customer reviews.
Now you have your website builder and you have secured a domain name and web hosting, it’s time to start designing your website.
Putting up a “coming soon” page will let potential customers know your site is under construction and you can also display a countdown timer to generate interest in your launch date.
Website builders come with themes/templates that can be customized to fit your vision for your website.
Themes/templates determine the look and feel of your website. You can modify colors, fonts, pages, sidebars, widgets, and more.
If you use closed platforms like Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify, you are limited to the built-in themes and templates on the platforms. However, if you use an open-source platform like WordPress, you can choose from tens of thousands of free and premium themes. You can also build your own custom theme.
The WordPress platform is known for its plugins while other website builders use apps. These plugins and apps help you extend the functionality of your website and add features that are needed for your online business operations.
The most popular plugins are form plugins, social media button plugins, security plugins, backup plugins, and Google Analytics.
This is where you swap the placeholder content on your theme with the SEO-optimized website copy that you have prepared.
Each business website will have a homepage, About Us page, Contact page, and a product/services page. The content on each page must provide visitors with the information that they expect to find on that page.
Investing in a website that is not optimized for SEO is a waste of money. If your site is not SEO-optimized it won’t rank well in local search, and customers won’t find you when they are looking for businesses that sell the products/services you offer.
To optimize your site, integrate the right keywords in your pages, use a mobile-friendly theme, and optimize your site for speed.
After setting up your theme, integrating plugins, and adding content – you need to test the usability of your website.
Test the following:
After you have thoroughly tested your site and rectified any problems, it’s time to take down the “coming soon” page and let customers visit your site.
You should also generate awareness about your new website through email marketing, social media promotion, and blogging.
This article has shown you why you need a website and how you can set up a professional website for your business. Now, it’s up to you to pick the best website builder for your needs and set up your business website.
Better still, you can work with a professional web designer to help you build a well-designed and SEO-optimized website that will keep visitors on your site and rank high in search results.