Whether you are a florist, own a real-estate agency, or have another type of small business, a great website is critical to the overall success of your business. As a Digital Marketing expert who has developed over 50 small business websites, I know full well what it takes to design an amazing and engaging small business website.
Whether you are looking to hire a web developer to build a new website for your small business or want to update your existing one to be more effective, below are 5 esential steps you should consider to help your small business website compete in the online marketplace with success.
1. Choose a great domain name
Your domain name (also called your website address or URL) is usually the first step in your web development journey. Pick a domain name that makes a strong impression on your users, along with something that will be simple to recognize.
Here are a few tips when thinking of a domain name:
- Simplicity – Make sure its easy to spell and something that is both memorable and catchy.
- The shorter the better – No one wants to write longer than they have to. This implies for everyday life as well as URL names. The shorter a domain name is, the better the user experience will be.
- Always go for “.com” extensions. – Unless you are a government/educational organization, there’s no reason not to use “.com” as your extension. These days, there are a few choices to choose from such as “.net” and “.co”. Make it simple and go with what’s most popular in the online sphere.
- No number and hyphens – Avoid using any numbers unless you have no choice. Not only does Google frown upon using numbers, it’s also much cleaner to have all letters as your domain name.
- Think of the bigger picture – Make your website name general to take into account future growth potential. For instance, a website name such as “Amazon.com” is much broader than “Booksonline.com”. This allowed the company to sell almost every type of product rather than limiting them to only books. (which was their original purpose)
- See if it’s available – The excitement of picking a great domain name is only stifled when you come to realize that its already taken by another company. A website domain checker is a great place to see if a particular domain name is available or not.
- If a domain name is already taken, try to avoid hunting down the owner and making them an offer to purchase the domain. Most times it will result in more trouble than neceassary since you are relying on another person to transfer the domain to your hosting provider (which we will discuss later). Your best option is to start fresh and choose another domain name that has never been owned by anybody.
- Consider SEO Friendly Domain Name – Try to make sure that the domain name you choose has at least one of the keywords you would like to rank for. The way to determine this is to imagine buying the product or service your selling; what would you type into Google to find it. That specific keyword is the keyword to add into your domain name if it makes sense but it is not required. Adding a location within a domain name such as “losAngelesBiking” provides Google a strong indication of where your services are located. However, its again, not required.
2. Pick a great hosting plan.
A hosting company is simply a company that provides the technology and services required for a website to be visible on the internet. Think of a hosting company as a parking lot structure. Your domain name is your vehicle and your parking spot inside a large structure is your hosting plan. Larger companies may purchase a dedicated parking structure if they heed a large amount of space. However, most small companies are fine with just having their own parking spot.
The easiest way to combine your domain name with your hosting plan is to simply purchase your domain name with your hosting provider. This way, when a user visits your website address, they are shown your website that you purchased on your hosting account.
A hosting service can cost anywhere between a few dollars to over $100 per month. It all depends on what technology and support your business requires. For about 98% of companies, a regular hosting plan under $100 a year will suffice. Our Digital Marketing Agency simplifies this process by adding new clients to our dedicated platform (parking structure) to save them some money and also to keep an eye on their website in case of hackers trying to infiltrate their website.
Below are some of the most popular website hosting providers:
3. Use a Content Management System
A content management system (CMS) is an application that is used to create and manage digital content. The majority of websites use some form of CMS because its easier to scale using these programs and doesnt require a large budget.
A few years ago, websites were designed in HTML static form, meaning that if you wanted a small change to your website, you would have to call your web developer. Nowadays, a client is more than capable of making these subtle changes without the assistance of a trained professional.
WordPress: WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS and with good reason. It has a large community of developers and thousands of plugins to increase the functionality of your respective website. The majority of web developers have some familiarity with it so it is not difficult to find an individual or agency that can work on your website. The platform is flexible enough for any type of business to take advantage of.
The only drawback to the platform is security. Due to its size and popularity, hackers target it the most. However, with a professional web design agency, you’ll be more than safe using the platform. Our agency, for instance, monitors all our client’s websites daily, adding several layers of firewall protection and regularly backing up every site in case anything goes wrong.
Drupal: Drupal is another popular CMS. It provides many similar features as WordPress, including flexibility, ease of use, and a large support community. It is, however, limited by the amount of functionality it offers compared to WordPress. Interesting note: Drupal was actually the main provider of the white house website but has recently switched to WordPress.
Squarespace: Squarespace is a service you subscribe to monthly or annually that makes website and blog creation an easy “drag and drop” experience. The problem with Squarespace is that it is designed with only one goal in mind; simplicity. As such, Squarespace is a closed platform that does not take into account different types of unique functions that are required by most small businesses. If you cannot afford a professional web developer, Squarespace may be a viable alternative. However, since your website is usually the first interaction between your business and a potential customer, we recommend not cutting corners here. When trying to make a strong impression, avoid Squarespace.
Wix – Wix is very similar to Squarespace. Wix is also a drag and drop builder that makes the design process simple to learn. However, its limitations are also similar to that of Squarespace and as such, we recommend avoiding these types of platforms altogether.
4. Make your Website Memorable and Engaging
Make sure your small business website interface creates a lasting impression that delivers results. You can do so by focusing on the following areas:
- Choose gorgeous images
- Make sure the file size isn’t too big: any image over 200kbs is considered a large file and should be compressed and decreased in actual size. When a website has large image files, it tends to load slower and is penalized by Google in terms of ranking factors.
- Take a look at your competitors to see how their website pages are structured. What do you like about their website and what would you want to improve upon. See what keywords they are using as well.
- Research your target audience to have a better understanding of what these potential visitors want from your website and find a way to make this easy to accomplish. A good UX (user experience) will ultimately increase your traffic and result in increased sales in the process.
- Make the navigation system intuitive and easy to follow. A simple structure is the best way to go here.
- At minimum, every small business website needs these pages:
- A Home page
- An About Us page
- Products/Services (with descriptions and visually appealing images)
- Contact Us Page
- At minimum, every small business website needs these pages:
5. Optimizing your small business website for Google.
SEO is a set of practices that are applied to a website to ensure search engines such as Google index and rank a website. Every second of every day, Google “crawls” the internet, looking for new content to index. Once your website is detected, an algorithm is then applied to determine where it should be placed in their index once a user searches for specific keywords your business is associated with.
This is why using the right keywords within your website is crucial to the overall success of your business. There are many keyword Tools that will help you choose the right keywords for your respective business.
Here are some things to consider when focusing on SEO:
- Keyword research
- Clean website code
- Fast load times
- Mobily friendly website
- High-quality content
- Writing articles regularly
- Making sure your website is HTTPS (SSL Certificate) and not HTTP
- Having many positive reviews on Google and Yelp
- Creating high-quality backlinks to external websites within the same industry
- Using Social Media to post engaging content that links back to your website
SEO is an ongoing process that, if done correctly, can mean the difference between showing up on the first page of Google and having a good amount of traffic or showing up on page 100 and having absolutely no traffic.
FINAL THOUGHTS: After reading this article, it may become apparent that creating a great small business website may not be so simple. However, if you have the time and patience to follow the steps outlined in the article, you’ll be on your way to reaping the benefits of having a great website for your business.