Regardless of the type of small business you have, an effective and engaging website is critical to your brand’s success.
With almost 2 billion websites on the internet and U.S. users visiting more than 130 web pages per day, you have stiff competition to not only attract users to your website but convert them into customers as well.
Whether you’re building a new website from scratch or want to improve your existing site, the following are 11 steps to consider.
Lock in a good domain name
“Good” is subjective, but your domain name (otherwise referred to as your website address) can greatly impact the success of your site. It’s often the entry point to your site, so you want to have a domain that’s easy to use and remember, as well as benefits your search engine optimization (SEO).
In general, this means that you want it to:
- Be easy to spell
- Use the proper domain extension, such as .com rather than .net unless it’s more appropriate to use .gove, .edu or .org
- Be as short as possible
- Avoid numbers and hyphens
- Be unique (so that you’re not too similar to another website’s domain or breaching any registered trademarks) and memorable
Dive deeper with our domain name.
Purchase proper website hosting
Simply put, a website hosting provider (or website host) offers the technology and services necessary for a site to be viewed on the internet. Ultimately, your domain name gets connected to your hosting provider so that when users visit your website address, they see (and can interact with) your website, which is stored on your hosting account.
Website hosting services vary in cost from about $2 to more than $100 per month, depending on what you’re looking for.
Essentially, there are three server types to consider:
- Shared server, which can cost the least but can be problematic because you’re sharing a server and its resources with other customers. This can impact the performance of your site. Plus, if another website that’s sharing your server gets hacked, you risk getting hacked as well.
- Dedicated server, which can be the most expensive but offers the best possible website performance. It’s when the physical server machine is entirely dedicated to your site, so all the resources are yours, which offers more security as well.
- Virtual private server (VPS), which is somewhat of a compromise between shared and dedicated servers. A VPS is one machine that is partitioned to act as multiple machines, which makes it more affordable (like shared hosting) but with better security and performance potential (like dedicated hosting).
In addition, you’ll likely want phone and/or chat support available from your website hosting provider in case you experience an issue, as well as an easy-to-use server interface. This allows you to more easily view and make changes to your server contents without having to hire a professional server administrator.
Some popular website hosting providers include (but are not limited to):
Clearly describe your business in a prominent place
No matter how dynamic your vision is for your website, don’t forget the basics. Who are you? What is your business about? How do you help customers?
A business description must be prominently displayed on your website so that it’s the first thing visitors see. All imagery should be visual representations of your brand and services or products. While the text needs to be as concise as possible, visuals can really help convey exactly what your business is about.
In addition, ensure that “About Us” web page links are displayed in both your main and footer navigation menus. This makes more in-depth information about your business easily accessible for visitors who want to learn more.
Select your content management system
To put it simply, your content management system (CMS) is a software program or application that you use to create and manage your digital content within your website. A popular CMS that you’ve likely heard of is WordPress. But others include Wix, Squarespace and more.
A good CMS will help you maintain your website without requiring you to have a lot of technical knowledge. Of course, different systems are used for different reasons, such as available features and your budget.
Thoroughly review available CMS platforms that you find interesting. Will you get all the features you need for a price you can afford?
Pick an e-commerce platform (if you’re selling online)
Not all small businesses sell products or services online, but if you do, you need the right technology to do so. An e-commerce platform allows users to financially transact with you online.
Some popular options include (but are not limited to):
Design your website for engagement, efficiency
Designing your website can feel overwhelming at first, but it’s helpful to do your research first. Identify sites that you like. What aspects of their design can you incorporate into your own website? How do your competitors’ sites look?
Once you have a sense of the design features and functionality you want, keep the following best practices in mind:
- Use compelling visuals and easy-to-read, large-enough fonts
- Avoid any clutter
- Compress your graphics for faster website loading
- Keep your target audience (and what they’ll use your website for) in mind throughout the designing process
- Maintain your branding throughout the website
- Keep your menu navigation system simple and intuitive
- Make it easy for visitors to understand what your business is, how to contact you and where to find you
Optimize for SEO
Once you have designed your website, you’ll want to consider your website’s SEO, which is a set of practices that ensures search engines both index and rank your website appropriately so that it appears when users search for terms (i.e. keywords) related to your business.
The better your website design and content is, the higher your website will appear in search engine result pages.
SEO is an ongoing process. It’s never a one-and-done or set-it-and-forget-it approach, not if you want to be successful.
Check out our 12 SEO marketing tips for beginners, as well as seven tips to improve your website’s domain authority.
Install key webmaster tools
These tools can help you understand:
- How many users visit your website in any given period of time
- The bounce rate of your website, which is the percentage of users who arrive at your website but leave after viewing only one page
- How many views the pages of your website receive
- How long users spend on your website
- If there are any broken links on your website
- How long it takes your web pages to load
- Any keywords that are leading search engine users to your website
Optimize for mobile responsiveness
More than one-third of all American consumers shop online via a mobile device. In addition, Americans spend about 3 hours and 15 minutes per day on their smartphones. These numbers will only continue to grow.
You must optimize your website to deliver a great user experience on mobile devices. If your web pages take too long to load or if the mobile version of your site is clunky, cluttered or confusing, you will immediately lose your visitors.
Create (and publish) quality content consistently
Content is king, as they say. And the days of a static website with little to no content publishing being enough are long over.
Consistently publishing content that resonates with your target audience matters to search engines. This can be done through a blog section of your website, for example.
Content can include customer testimonials, how-to articles and more.
Create a maintenance plan for your website
Once you create your small business website, your work isn’t over yet. Not only do you want to regularly publish new content, but you also want to ensure that everything is in working order and that all technology being used is up to date.
Proper website maintenance is important. This can include checking your webmaster tools data consistently, confirming that your software is always up to date, running security scans to confirm there is no malware or hacking and backing up your website regularly.
Your small business website should be a dynamic representation of your business that engages visitors and easily enables them to find key information about your business or even purchase from you.
Remember that throughout any website creation or updating process, you’ll want to collect feedback from colleagues and customers so that you can tweak anything necessary to improve the user experience. When in doubt, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and look at your website with a fresh set of eyes. What can be improved? What can be made more clear?