In this era, it is no longer feasible running a business without a web presence. People use the internet for everything from product research to location and operating hours. Making your own even just by a simple website can give you an advantage. Especially if you have products to sell, your site can open up new markets and expand your business cheaply and easily.
Here’s a step-by step guide to creating a successful business website:
1. Main purpose of your website.
A business website generally serves as a space to provide general information about your company or a direct platform for e-commerce. Regardless of whether you create a simple website that tells a little about your company or a more complex e-commerce site, the most important thing you must do is say, on the home page in plain terms, what your company does.
2. Domain name.
Your domain name is one of the most important features of your website. It’s the URL you’ll be sharing with your current and potential clients and promoting on social media. Therefore, you want it to be descriptive and easy to remember and type in. Try to keep it short, and steer clear of abbreviations, acronyms and numbers if possible, to avoid customer confusion.
3. Web host
Every website needs a “host,” a server where all of the data is stored for the public to access at all times. As a small business, hosting your own website is simply too large an expense, so you’ll need to select an external host. Depending on your budget, you can follow two different routes. A shared web host, the least-expensive option, means you’ll share a server with other sites. Dedicated hosting costs significantly more, but it means that you get your own private server and won’t have to compete with other sites that could drag down your speed.
4. Build your pages.
A good website is more than a static home page. You’ll want to create multiple pages dedicated to different aspects of your business, such as a detailed catalog of your products or services, or a blog section for company updates. As for your overall website, you want to be sure each page supports the primary goal of the website, has a clear purpose and includes a call to action (e.g., learn more, sign up, contact us or buy this). A contact page, your customers’ direct link to you, is one of the most important sections of a website, so make sure you include as much information as you can (phone number, email address and physical location, if applicable).
It’s also a good idea to include information about the founding team or staff on an “About” page to help customers put real names and faces to your brand. If your business doesn’t already have a logo, hire a graphic designer or create a logo yourself to use on your website, business cards and social media profiles. This will help your clients identify your company quickly and easily on the web.
5. Set up your payment system (if applicable).
While this step won’t apply to all business websites, companies that want to offer the option to pay online will need to integrate electronic payment systems into their websites. The easiest way to do this is through e-commerce software or third-party payment processors.
6. Test and publish your website.
Before announcing that your site is live on the web, make sure it works on all major browsers, like Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Safari and Chrome. Click through each page and feature on every browser to ensure images show up, links are correct and the format looks smooth. This will take some time, but the effort you put in now will save future complaints from visitors who can’t access certain features.
Another important feature to incorporate into your website from the very beginning is an analytics program. Once the website is live, you can monitor page performance and determine why a page is successful or unsuccessful based on your analytics.
7. Market your website (Social Media, Search Engines).
Social media, whether Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest, is the best way to increase your audience reach and alert customers and clients about what’s going on with your company. Whenever you update your website, post about it on your social media outlets — but balance that out with genuine, nonpromotional engagement. Also include links to your social media on your website. The most common places are the footer or the ancillary bar (the extra menu in the top right that often holds login or contact links).
8. Maintain your site.
Staying relevant is important, so update your website frequently with blog posts on current industry events, new products and offers, and company news to keep visitors coming back to the site. You should also check at least monthly to ensure your software and all add-ons are up to date. Pheil said that if your software is not up to date, it’s in danger of being hacked, even if the website host’s security is strong.